Bali pt 2: monkeys, scooters and beach football

Halfway across the Bali Sea it dawned on me that, by having no clue where our prearranged hostel rendezvous was, there was real potential of me wandering around Bali in flip flops with everything I was planning on taking to New Zealand strapped to my back.

There was also a decent chance of the bus from the port dropping me right at the door, but, sadly for the health of my feet, the odds weren’t with me and soon after exiting the bus from the port, I was trudging through dusty streets while perspiring my tits off.

Several blisters in I spotted Wheeler and Danielle in a cafe near the hostel where some much needed pancakes and milkshake took the edge off a relatively ropey journey.

We dumped our stuff in the hostel and headed off towards Seminyak beach in search of a couple drinks, a fight with some waves and, most importantly, a bit of beach footie to show the locals what the English game is all about; chops.

My GoPro had got damp while we snorkelled back on Gili Air so I have no actual images of our involvement in a beach match, but I feel the below image is a reasonable representation of the contest.

It may be an exaggeration to say that we went after the locals in the same way we might have approached a BUCS Wednesday away at Cambridge, but such a strategy was still certainly helpful to keep up with our small, tricky Balinese opponents.

The uneven surface made it difficult to string any passes together but it was ideal to expose Wheeler’s notoriously heavy first touch and put in some heavy challenges where taking the ball was entirely optional.

As the sea rolled in the waters washed out the pitch and full-time was called on a match that, while not my finest creatively, was likely the most foreign arena I’ve ever played in.

Despite it getting dark, there was still ample time to take part in one of my favourite water-based pastimes. I called it ‘a fight with some waves’ earlier — an accurate-ish description — yet a fight would suggest we had some chance of winning. Of course we didn’t and more often than not the surprising large swells battered my head and dragged me along the sea floor.

I could stay in the sea getting abused by waves all day but by this time full sunset was minutes away and we couldn’t ignore that lifeguard telling us to get out the water any more.

Again, no images of all that but I’ll chuck one in anyway as people can’t possibly read blocks of text — how were books ever successful?

Accurate representation of wave size

Along with hundreds of others we sat on beanbag chairs with a Bintang and watched the sun properly disappear. There were others setting off Chinese lanterns and it capped a pretty good afternoon at the beach.

Back at the hostel Danielle was feeling a bit dusty, leaving me and Wheeler to embark on a thoroughly amateur game of chess in the common area. Mark claimed he knew what he was doing and therefore brought an ounce of strategy to proceedings, but I could barely see a move ahead and he quickly cleared my board.

It ended up being a sedate evening and we got some early kip in preparation for a lengthy scooter journey the following day.

We sorted the scooters early in the morning and I had my first ever run out on our two-wheeled transport.

I was rather apprehensive about the whole thing as Bali’s mental roads didn’t seem like the best place to learn how to ride. There wasn’t much time to worry about it however and, following a quick tutorial, we were out on the roads heading to Uluwatu to meet some monkeys and watch some surfers who genuinely put up a good fight against the waves.

It’s pretty hard to describe what Bali’s roads are like.

As a pedestrian it seems unfathomable with the mass of cars and scooters guided by no rules, going wherever they like at a fair pace.

Once you’re a part of the mass, however, you realise that despite the absence of discernible rules, it all just works. We never got lost and, as long as you’re assertive enough, other drivers/riders adjust their course for the good, smooth running of the mass.

It was probably just organised chaos but that seemed like an easy cliche.

We made it through the urban neighbourhoods surprisingly easily and within about 20 minutes travel we hit quiet roads right up until Uluwatu Temple.

Enough to turn me to religion

With our purple sarongs fitted we entered this Hindu temple that, while not as overrun as the monkey kingdom in The Jungle Book, is home to a sizeable population of monkeys, all of whom permanently enjoy some of the best ocean views I’ve ever come across.

How they managed to build the whole thing in the 11th century baffles me.

Funnily enough my camera was able to take photos the whole time — hence the pictures not taken from Getty — it was the screen that was damaged, not its ability to photograph.

Good health and safety rope

A short scoot brought us to the next incredible location.

I’ve not been good with names for any of this leg of the trip — I still don’t know what the cove we went to is called — but it looked like this from sea level:

And like this from a couple dozen metres up:

The shacks and modest buildings seem like they’re part of the system of cliffs and coves, creating an ancient village setting that provides an excellent vantage point to watch surfers easily tame the clear waters.

If I’m ever lucky enough to return to Bali I’m sure I’ll try to stay around this area for a couple of days as I don’t think the few hours we had there really did it justice.

On the return journey towards Kuta I felt a little more competent on the bike and could allow myself to enjoy the ride instead of worrying what would happen if a lorry took me out — I had insurance I think so it was fine anyway.

Another mercifully uneventful journey got us back to the hostel where we checked out before heading to the place Danielle’s parents would soon be using once they reached Bali.

We were back pretty late so another game of beach football would have to wait until the next, and my final, day in Bali.

My flights to New Zealand didn’t leave much room for the sort of exploring we’d done the day before, so Seminyak beach was the only place we visited.

It may not have been particularly exciting for Danielle, but getting stuck into some more locals in the sand was a fitting final activity for my last few hours in the country.

As before, myself and Wheeler provided the British discipline to allow the Bali lads to run around as they like and, despite having to man the defence on my own occasionally (this isn’t a brag I was just the only one defending), I still got several late hits in.

The match ran on a little longer than we should have let it, putting a bit of pressure on the ride to the airport but once again the hordes moved easily and I reached my flight with hours to spare.

I said my goodbyes while pondering the inflight films and food to come. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed flying but this time I was hoping the flight was several days later.

Looking at Bali’s map now I’ve barely covered any of that outcrop at the bottom of the island — hopefully there’ll be a part three some day.

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