I arrived in Sanur knowing I would settle here for my final part of Bali.
I had good intentions of jumping on a boat to Nusa Lembongan and also of taking a day trip to Uluwatu and Nusa Dua… but my sciatica was in full force against me, my stomach was still not right and I decided that it was OK for me to just lie on a beach for my last two days and rest, eat well and prepare myself for my journey home.
So that’s what I did. I found a place to stay, opened my suitcase, pulled things out and felt pleased to know I would only have to repack it one more time!
The Lonely Planet coins Sanur as the youngest of the Three Bears – not too crazy like Kuta, and not too sleepy like Nusa Dua. Neither of which did I visit: Kuta didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and Nusa Dua was on my to-do list, but maybe next time.
I enjoyed walking the entire length of the promenade and LOVED that fact that I got hassled twice. Only twice. This may have been due to the festival Galungan which took place on my second day there and meant that many businesses were shut and locals weren’t around to bother me!
I loved the fishing boats stacked randomly on the beach up and down the coast – some looked like they’d been there for so long, but it may have only been a few hours. In a place like that – you feel compelled to eat fish! I wanted to give those fishermen the business of my taste buds!
Sanur and Bali seem so far far away from me now, as I sit at my desk wearing jeans and a long sleeved top. Oh how I loved the food!
Check out this beautiful Mahi Mahi fish I had on my last day, and the beer I rewarded myself with afterwards…
I also made use of very cheap massages, facials and manicures, and let’s not forget that I found Hardy’s supermarket wonderful for all my gifts and nicnacs to take home – I’d only been trolling about 21kg, which felt like more, but I had up to 30kg allowed…
Final thoughts on Bali…
The Balinese are a kind nation, who have welcomed tourists with open arms, and in some places I sense this has been slightly to their detriment. But then Bali is indeed what you make of it – it can be entirely what you want it to be. If you want a resort where you need to do nothing other than change from your bed to your sunbed – you can have that cheaper than in Australia – and if you are game you can venture out for some cheap food, booze and clothes. If you come over with surfboards tucked under your arm looking for the ride of your life, it’s pretty much a given. And if you want to get off the beaten track, sample the cuisine, walk through rice fields, feel the energy in a temple or calm yourself with yoga – you can do all of that too. I don’t think the last option is very advisable when you are a single female, lugging around a suitcase and 2 years of thoughts and feelings to process topped with a bad back and a keen sense adventure without the budget to cater for it.
But what a great two weeks in the end – I was tested a little, I treated myself as much as I could afford to and I was touched by some of the people I met and the moments I shared.
I came home with stories to share, a tan to show off (not easy when you have to dive into winter wear…) and a blog that I think needs to be continued as I find my way around at home in the UK and figure what to do next.
Watch this space folks!
I felt like I found the Bali I was looking for here…
Not too many hassles, no pretentiousness, no over pricing, great beaches.
I arrived on Monday morning and decided within minutes I would settle here for two nights. I had a beautiful lunch with interesting conversations at Zen Inn where I was staying, before taking a hike to the beach.
I thought I had got the directions wrong when I Looked at the steep rocky footpath that apparently led me to Bias Tugal ( White sand beach ). I persevered in the heat in my $3 flipflops and made it to the top breathless from the hike and my breath taken away by the view. A small palm fringed cove at the bottom of the cliff awaited us, with gentle surf and not many people, and out on the horizon a few boats making their way to Lombok or back.
I spent a few lazy hours there enjoying the surf and the tranquility. One lady asked me if I would like a massage, to which I politely responded no, and she left me a alone. An Ice cold Bintang made it all the better too…
Wandering around Padangbai i discovered a charming little village based on fishing, boats to Lombok and diving. It’s a pretty laid back place where ceremonies take precedence and life rolls on. I was disappointed to see where all the obsessive sweeping and countless offerings end up, and you really wouldn’t want to sit on the main beach here…
The Blue Lagoon beach which the Lonely planet recommends was not one of my favourite places. Whilst the snorkelling is very good, you are subject to hassles on a very small beach, or very desperate women wanting to sell you their sarongs and bracelets, and after paying twice what I think I should have for a broken snorkel set I was then sarcastically told I was “very nice English” when I didn’t want to engage in conversation or even look at the sarongs being thrust under my nose. Honestly, yes I KNOW everyone is just trying to make a dollar, but their tactics need to be changed, they have little understanding of how to make a sale in my opinion and thanks to that experience, I didn’t spend very long at that beach. I did a few snorkel sessions, admired the view and then hiked back to my preferreed beach of Bias Tugal. A lady approached me – the same as the previous day, and said she recognised me from the day before, would I like a massage today? I said I wanted to have a swim first and would think about it when I had rested. She waited a considerable amount of time before approaching me again, and I did say yes simply because the politeness and simpleness of her enquiry made me want to give her my business.
We chatted a little before and after and she told me I was a Strong woman for travelling to Bali alone. This was worth more than the massage itself, as the past few days I had started to question whether I was enjoying myself at all – dealing with a poorly tummy, a bad back and a constant feeling that everyone wanted to extract money from me rather than help to enjoy being here. So thank you to the nice massage lady on the beach – such a simple thing to say and such a lasting effect it had.
More of Padangbai
I really did have so much to say about Bali, but racing back to my room each day to write about it wasn’t really top of my priorities! Now back in the UK, suffering from a mix of emotions with a bit of insomnia thrown in, I guess it’s time to catch up!
After a few days in Ubud I was keen to get to the coast and experience another aspect of Bali, so having done a bit of reading and chatting to other travellers I decided to head to Amed and work my way down the East coast to finish in Sanur.
The journey to Amed took much longer than it should have thanks to a ceremony. This didn’t seem to bother anyone at all, and I found this quite surprising as traffic was backed up for kilometres in both directions as a procession was slowly making its way along the road. Sitting in a bus with no air conditioning when the temperature is 30 something and the humidity is high wasn’t ideal. Most people got out of their cars, and I asked our driver how long we’d have to wait. “No idea” was his response. I asked what the ceremony was for ” No idea” was the response again. I understand that it’s perfectly acceptable in Bali for ceremonies to stop everything, and that such ceremonies can occur at any given time, often without much planning or warning…
On our arrival in Amed, as I ranted about earlier, we were dropped off outside a hotel and told we weren’t to be taken any further. You can imagine my horror as I looked at the uneven roads, hoisted my backpack onto my shoulders and wondered how far my suitcase would allow me to walk. To our rescue came Kadek ( very conveniently of course) who drove the French passengers to their hostel and me to his cousin’s homestay. It wasn’t where I had planned to stay, and once I looked around I realised it wasn’t where I wanted to be either, as I had to walk 45 minutes to go snorkelling. However, such is life, and at the mercy of two years of luggage from Australia, I had little choice.
Once I had freshened up and had a ridiculously cheap lunch of omelette and tea cooked at the homestay, I had a look around. I had been invited, and I later realised, possibly caused great offence by saying no, to a ceremony that was taking place on the beach that afternoon.
Kadek told me all of his family would be there and I would be most welcome to join, I could take photos and experience something of true Bali. Yes I was intrigued, but desperate after a week in Bali to immerse my aching body in the sea. I enquired as to what happened in this particular ceremony and was told that thousands of people would go to the beach at 4:30 pm, dressed in white. And what do they do there, was my question. Everyone brings animals which are sacrificed on the beach, to the gods. What?? Yes, goats, sheep and I thought he said dogs, but perhaps he said ducks. Never-the-less – keen though I am to get involved and experience something magical, I just didn’t feel I could support, let alone watch something like that. I hold no religious standpoint in this area, but my “religion”, or at least my way of life, does not agree with things like that. Sorry!
So I walked along the beach, past the angry dogs, and children asking me to take their photo and then asking for money for it, past the nice looking guesthouses on the beach, all the way to Jemeluk to snorkel.
Oh the relief to get into the water, and oh the wonderful things I saw. Ouch, I bashed my knee on the coral and saw blood spilling out as I understood the sign I had read about snorkelling only in high tide. Oops. So I got out, and went further round the bay, refusing a few massages, drinks and beds to reimmerse myself in the refreshing water to watch the underwater spectacular and pass away an afternoon finally doing exactly as I pleased.
I eventually gave in to Wayan, a driver who had accosted me a few days before. He approached me in the street – remembering my name and that I had told him I wanted to walk around Ubud by myself, that I was doing a cooking class, and remarked upon the red shoes I had been wearing that day.
That particular day I had left my room with the plan to go walking in the rice fields by myself. I was wearing trousers, my running shoes ( the closest thing I had to walking shoes – other than a pair of ankle boots and flipflops ) and I had a backpack on – which once it was loaded with two litres of water, my book and my camera- it weighed a fair bit. I really did look like a tourist out for the day, but I had no option. What Wayan didn’t know, and thankfully no one else did was that about a minute before I saw him, I had tripped on an uneven pavement coming out of a minimart – straight down I had gone, and got up as fast as my shaky body would allow me too. I was feeling a little unsteady on my feet so when he approached me offering me a day tour, I was almost relieved not to have to do too much walking.
He pulled out his tatty laminated picture card and map and started listing all the places we could visit at a higher price than two days ago. I reminded him of the price he had offered me and he suggested a less interesting itinerary. In the end we agreed on a price and my requests were simple: I was tired of all the traffic and the tourists and wished to see “real” Bali – rice fields, villages and something local. Apparently my wish was his command and off we went in his hot and stuffy van.
As we drove out of Ubud, I asked him a few questions on how life had changed since the movie and the book Eat, Pray Love. He told me there are so many more tourists now and it’s nothing like it used to be. He also claimed to have met Julia Roberts and had a kiss on the cheek from her. Coincidentally this man was also a healer, a masseuse, a wood carver and yoga teacher and his master was the very Ketut Liyer that Elizabeth Gilbert visited. The man now is quite well known, charges much more than he used to and is extremely busy. Go figure.
We approached the village of Tegallalang – which has a number of tourist shops, cafes, guesthouses and of course tourists running around. The views were spectacular – the sloped rice paddies and lush green valley. We drove through the village and out of it, as I had requested to get away from the tourists. When Wayan parked I informed him, noting the quickly approaching locals with postcards, jewellery and other wares, that would not appreciate being taken anywhere where I was hounded and expected to buy things. I explained I was on a tight budget and just wanted to look at things – that’s what I was paying him for – nothing else. He quickly shooed away the ladies, allowing me a moment to take a few pics, before they started to approach me again. I know they all work together – drivers bring tourists to areas where people are waiting to sell. Again – I made my position clear.
We were joined by another Wayan, with considerably less English, who liked to join Wayan when he has guests. It helps with his English and he enjoys walking through the paddies with him. Fair enough, although seeing that he had a book of postcards I knew I would later feel obliged to buy them. We wandered along the ridges, stopping here and there to admire to view and take pictures. I fell over again! Lost my footing whilst walking on another uneven pathway, coming down on the same knee – this time cutting my trousers and grazing my knee. From then on both the Wayans endearingly ( or just an excuse ) felt it necessary to hold my hands whenever we passed a narrow path or hopped over a paddy.
Through the paddies and up a very steep hill into a small village. On our way up we picked and ate wild strawberries and Wayan tried to explain the process of rice growing to me. I can’t actually regurgitate it, as I have asked a few people and not always understood the answers!
The village was indeed off the beaten track. We sat down at a small warung/stall and I was given a slice of freshly cut watermelon by the locals. I really did feel like an idiot in my New Balance trainers when they were all barefoot or in dirty flipflops…
At the bottom of the hill we were met by one of Wayan’s friends who was ready waiting with two coconuts he has just got form the tree. He hacked into both with his knife, made a mouthpiece and handed me the coconut to drink. I was most honoured, and drank what I could, although i wasn’t very keen on the taste – quite sour and having had a funny tummy that morning was a little wary of everything!
I have ummed and arred about posting the next two pictures, as I don’t like to photograph people and put them in my blog without them knowing, but I really feel it needs to be shown, and somehow I think this man with the large knife and kind eyes wouldn’t really mind.
The next part of the excursion was to an organic coffee and tea plantation where I think I upset the guide by not purchasing any of the overpriced “organic” tea. I thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary tasting, and I knew I would then be walked into the shop and asked to “take a look around” – which really changed the whole mood of the afternoon. Wayan and I agreed on the way back to Ubud that Japanese and American tourists probably DID make plenty of purchases to make up for my lack of.
I did try the Lewak coffee, which I paid 50,000rp for (About $5 AUD). The Lewak is a small ferret like creature who eats the coffee beans but cannot digest them, so they come out in its poo. The beans are then collected from its droppings, cleaned (thoroughly I hope) and processed into coffee which is sold at an extortionate price because it has been through the Lewak’s system. Curious, I tried it and, pardon the pun ( and the language ) I thought it tasted a but shit to me…
Note: Apologies readers, my blogs are not coming out chronologically. I wrote this on the beach yesterday, later finished on my room, as I had had some frustrating moments over the last few days. Take it with a pinch of salt please… It aint all bad!
The highs and lows of travelling alone
Since leaving the life I had made in Barcelona 3 years ago I have been wandering around on my own. After a few months in the UK with mum and dad I had a 6 month teaching adventure in Slovakia and on a very low salary I saw the neighbouring countries on brief weekend visits. I then had a few more months at home to earn just enough money to buy my flight to Australia where I have spent the last 2 years doing my own thing.
The number of people who are surprised to learn I have done it one my own surprised me in fact. Some just couldn’t get to grips with the idea of someone just jumping on a plane and heading somewhere new for a while. They found it strange I had not done it with a friend or a boyfriend, or often asked if I had someone at home waiting for me. Many have even called me brave, but I don’t think travelling to Australia, or any of my Asian stopovers have needed bravery. A little more cash would have been useful and yes, at times I would have like a bit of company, but I have managed it without needing anyone to hold my hand. I haven’t left a trail of destruction or broken hearts in my wake, and thankfully mine hasn’t had any further damage. I have met people along the way: some I have seen again since, some I know I will, and some I am pleased I won’t.
I have worked as hard as I have needed to to look after myself and I have had a pretty good time doing it and for the most part I wouldn’t have travelled with anyone other than myself. Not having to answer to anyone, nor compromise or deal with disagreements has made life a lot easier. I travelled with a then very good friend of mine many years ago – when I was just getting a taste for this nomadic way and I have barely spoken to her since. I am sure I am not the only one who has lost a relationship through their travels. Only yesterday I was sitting in a Warung in Amed having my lunch when two French girls walked in. One had a red face, barely able to hold back the tears and the two could barely look at each other. I caught snippets of their conversation when they seldom spoke but I didn’t need to hear to understand that the strain of travelling had taken its toll on their friendship.
When I first arrived in Bali I had no watch – I’d lost it in Australia a few days before. Although I was frustrated not knowing the time at first, I found being timeless quite liberating. I got up when I woke up and went to bed when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry, and did what I wanted for a few days. I came to Bali with no plans at all – just my trusted lonely planet and a few recommendations and have been taking each day as it comes, at my own pace.
But when you are in a country that has such an abundance of places to go (where doesn’t?) and number of different interests to satisfy – someone to bounce ideas off and help make decisions would be really helpful. Instead I wrack my brains wondering where to go, or whose advice to take and often arriving somewhere thinking the sand is white on the other beach…
I have also felt alone here for the first time in a long time. I thought Bali would be an easy place to get about when you are travelling alone, but perhaps not when you are lugging suitcase, a backpack and a laptop around. I am also paying twice what everyone else is paying per night, as rooms are charge per room, not per person and full price for any travel I do, as I am paying for just me rather than splitting the cost. There have also been times when I have felt vulnerable on my own. Never in danger – don’t get me wrong. I walk down the street anywhere n Bali feeling perfectly safe, but just vulnerable. I suppose it’s still a rare thing for them to see a woman on her own, and I seem to be a target to get hassled. I simply cannot walk past a male (or female) without them attempting to offer or sell me something. Whilst I understand most people are just trying to make a living I wish the colour of my skin didn’t mean there was a dollar sign flashing on my head and the fact that there is no one by side didn’t mean I was an easy target. Having experienced this before, but to a much lesser degree, in Malaysia and knowing how different the culture is here I have taken to wearing a fake engagement ring. This has worked a few times, but the ring is so cheap that I cannot take it off now for the awful green ring it leaves giving me away!
There have been a couple of occasions over the last few days where I have felt frustrated because I have had to ask for help or been put in a position where I am reliant on the help of a stranger – who under the guise of “helping” me has used it for his own gain. Take yesterday for example. I had booked a shuttle from Ubud to Amed the previous night – organised by the helpful man at my accommodation, He gave me the address of his cousin’s homestay in Amed and since he has been o kind I was only too pleased to take his recommendation. I was told to be ready just before 7, and that I would be helped with my case, and dropped at my accommodation. Not was the case. I struggled down the steep steps alone, as the driver waited patiently at the entrance 15 minutes earlier than I had been told watching me struggle with all my luggage he then turned on his heal to walk up the gang to the car! I had to ask him to help me to which he did of course, but clearly felt it wasn’t his job. The “direct shuttle” wasn’t direct, and we had to change buses in Padangbai to one with no air con (later traffic jam was very unpleasant). On arrival in Amed the driver dropped us (there were fortunately 2 French passengers with me) at a hotel in the “middle” of Amed, refusing to drive any further and drove off. Now it’s NOT easy to get around when you are lugging what I am, in that heat with motorbikes whizzing around uneven roads and no pavments. We were all pretty disgusted that he was prepared to just leave us there! A member of staff came out of the hotel, and seeing our predicament offered us to drive us to the hotel the French people had booked, at a steep price. I told him I had the address on the back of my bus ticket which the driver that driven away with. When I told him where it was, he said he would get me a better place, for a better price. Of course I was taken to his cousin’s homestay, which, pleasant though it was, wasn’t where I wanted it to be – It was far from the nice part of the beach, although I was assured this place was “on the beach” it wasn’t. But what else could I do?
Today, in a new location I became frustrated at everyone approaching me offering me a taxi, even after I said no I would often be followed down the street and asked again repeatedly. The same thing happened at the beach. Do I want to go in a boat? No thank you. Then following me, or approaching me again after I have sat down to ask me again, and again, not today? Tomorrow? It’s doing my head in! And much as I would love to go in a boat please, I won’t say yes and pay the same price you charge for 6 people as I am on my own, or get in a boat out to sea with an Indonesian man who is likely to grill me about my personal life (this too is normal and apparently harmless, but wildly frustrating!) I think I actually upset the driver I had in Ubud the other day when I refused to answer his questions about my previous relatonships to which he persistently asked, despite me telling him I was not in the mood to discuss my heartbreak.
So travelling alone? Good or bad? It has its merits of course, but right now perhaps I am in the wrong frame of mind. I am tired, keen to step onto my own turf, keen to have someone by my side and tired of having to struggle when I could do with a hand…
Everyone tells you to go to the Sacred Monkey Forest here in Ubud – it’s in most guide books, on most people’s to-do lists and at a mere $2 AUD it’s well worth a go.
That said – if you don’t like monkeys, they scare you a bit or you are not keen on being ambushed – best to give it a miss…
After checking in and re-fuelling on my first day I tottered down Jalan Monkey Forest, not paying too much attention to my destination, dipping in and out of shops and skimming over cafe menus until I found myself at the gates. I paid my entrance fee and read the instructions and handed over my bag to the security so I wasn’t carrying anything appealing to cheeky monkeys. I had just bought a bunch of bananas and was putting money back in my bag when a monkey raced up behind me, jumped onto the counter and stole the whole bunch! He looked very pleased with himself once he had scampered up a tree to safety and had the whole bunch to himself!
Once in the park you encounter people feeding monkeys left right and centre. I saw a keeper instructing people to hold a banana way above your head so the monkey runs up your body and eats it from your shoulder. Of course I managed to find a bit of banana on the floor to have a go, and up the monkey ran!
Unable to find someone to thrust my camera at, I managed a quick snap myself before the little dude jumped off. Later, finding a monkey with nothing to do and another bit of disgarded banana I tried it again, this time two monkeys jumped on! Suddenly a little scared that this might no go well, I was quickly rescued by another tourist, wanting a monkey photo of his own, he leant in and one jumped off. Banana finished, the monkey on my head then started working on my hair! Perhaps he was kindly checking me for nits? I quickly removed my sunglasses before he could get them, and held onto my necklace as his little hands started trying to find things to steal, I raised me hand in panic and got a little nip on the finger from a monkey who wasn’t keen to hop off any time soon! Eventually he jumped off as I started walking about, and I continued my journey through the somewhat magical Monkey Forest.
Later on whilst walking down the street of the park itself something landed on my shoulder from a great height with a heavy splat which also hit my face. Guess what it was? Monkey poo – from a great height. It smells revolting and of course is probably good luck, although I thought it was pretty shitty luck! The first people that saw me didn’t have any tissues and unkindly carried on walking. Thankfully a few steps later I encountered a gay American couple who went into a shop to ask for tissues and helped wipe me up as best they could before I could find a toilet for a proper wash!
All part of the fun!
Transperth – or public transport in WA to be more general is NOT brilliant. In Slovakia – a country you wouldn’t expect to have a well organised or easy to use transport far trumps what Perth has to offer. In Slovakia I went on a number of adventures – weekends and day trips, and although sometimes complicated ( there are a number of posts offering examples of this in Slovakia Stories ) they were never impossible. My point being that I have found it incredibly hard – in fact impossible to have adventures that don’t require a set of wheels. Places of interest are simply not served by public transport – or at least they are but require a number of changes, lengthy transits or not enough time to meet connections or return trips. In Slovakia I travelled far and wide on a network of trains, trams and buses and never found anywhere I couldn’t get to.
So on Friday night, after pulling my hair out trying to find somewhere I could get to and spend a reasonable amount of time in – I texted a friend on the off chance they wanted to accompany me on a day out… and drive their car there and back. Fortunately the response was positive, making me very happy to set my alarm early for Saturday morning.
I needn’t have bothered as I was awoken at some antisocial hour by an incredibly loud thunderstorm, that seemed to be directly above my head, shaking my little cabin.
Two hours later, when the thunder, lightning and torrential rain had ceased chariot arrived and we set off for Serpentine Falls.
First stop was Serpentine Dam. A vast expanse of water on the Serpentine river whose catchment is one of the major supplies of drinking water for Perth. Do not quote or correct me on this please – I don’t make notes when I go exploring – I remember and recount information and openly admit to getting it wrong sometimes!
This dam was not on my do list – didn’t even know it was there. We stumbled upon it first of all, missing a turning and completely bypassing the falls. A wrong turn worth taking I believe…
Next came the falls. Entering the national park from the opposite side we pulled up into the central picnic area – a smell of sausages on the barbecues greeting us as we assessed the trail maps. There was a damp, yet pleasant smell in the air – of fresh, green plants – ready to spring into bloom. It reminded me so much of Železná studničk – Bratislava Forest Park – and a wonderful day I had spent hiking there at the beginning of Spring some time ago.
We took an alternative path to get a higher view of the Falls, only to realise that the easier, simpler route led you to a far better viewing platform – purposely built with steps into the upper pool for warmer days when the water invites you for a swim. It wasn’t particularly cold – so with a little more planning ( bikini and a towel ) I could have been persuaded to have a dip. I have had a waterfall swim already which was up near Cairns (QLD) last year, so that box had already been ticked. Thankfully.
After an ample amount of time taking in the scene and sitting on a rock that plenty of other people wanted to sit on, we headed off on another trail. A 6km, grade 4 hike up to Baldwin’s Bluff. This very much reminded me of my hiking weekend, again in Slovakia – in Terchova where the weather, climate and hiking grades were similar. Yes – it has been 2 years since I have enjoyed a good hike!
Our trail was a steep, stony path up the side of a gorge to a lookout over the waterfalls and Kitty’s Gorge. It was flanked either side with nature’s display of Spring bursting into bloom. The smell was worthy of being bottled – a fragrant reminder that Spring has sprung and Summer will be arriving fairly soon. The humidity and threat of rain enhanced the aroma and as the climb evened out, the flowers grew brighter and smelt fresher.
I could have joined the masses who stopped to photograph every flower, but I would have bored my companion to tears and I wouldn’t have enjoyed the exhilarating high I got as I sprang onwards – pain in my back or legs totally eradicated as my heightened senses absorbed everything available. I don’t get what they call Runner’s High – but what I feel when I walk or hike in a place of natural beauty is something I imagine can be equated to that feeling.
The walk down had a few slips and slides, but no injuries were obtained other than a large bite I, of course, (wouldn’t be anyone else) received right on the kneecap of my still sore ice skating knee!
I snapped away at a few views and flowers, as an excuse to catch my unfit breath but was disinterested in hiking behind my camera lens so hope the atmosphere has been sufficiently captured from my relatively spontaneous, yet wonderfully rewarding day in the park!
I arrived in Kalbarri without my usual precision planning – aiming to just see what was going on, enjoy the sunshine and some time away from Perth.
The only hostel in town was run by a very friendly couple – Joe, originally from the UK, and his Australia wife Carol. http://www.kalbarribackpackers.com
On checking in, I asked out of concern, if they had any idea what the weather was likely to do, and what ways I might enjoy my time in Kalbarri. The response regarding the weather was not what I wanted to hear – that it had been lovely last week, beautiful today, but was set to change tomorrow. Being from a country of bad weather, I try not to let a bad forecast put me off, but as it was a much needed and looked forward to holiday, I found myself feeling I’d got a bad deal.
Kalbarri National Park is where most visitors go: for walks, amazing views and of course their iconic photograph sitting in Nature’s Window. What a lovely idea – how can I get there? Well, as is my luck, the park was closed to the public due to the re-laying of the road. The only way to enjoy it during the week was to go on a tour. How convenient. So, I paid for 2 tours – one to go kayaking in the gorge and one to see the sights.
Tour one was fabulous. I was picked up in a very old, large 4 wheel drive bus, and driven out to the park. Due to the roadworks, we were escorted through the park, and then drove off road down a private track, where we then scrambled down into the gorge, walked along the river bed to the boats. I got paired up with a Singaporean guy, who behind me in the boat chatted to me about life in Singapore, living in Perth as a student, food, cooking and travelling in Asia. As soon as we got into our boat, it started to rain, of course, but once it cleared up: the sunshine, the tranquility and nature’s great landscape was awe inspiring. After about an hour’s paddling, we arrived on the shore for homemade cake and then climbed back out of the gorge, stopping to admire breathtaking views as the sun graced kissed the cliff tops.
The tour I did later, was met with rain. Lots of it. Not having even a jacket, let alone a rain coat made it a very uncomfortable afternoon indeed, but was assured that I was having a very unique experience as nobody gets to see Nature’s Window in the rain! The Z bend was also on our itinerary, and despite feeling very cold, I was very happy to experience the national park in unusual conditions…
Other things I did, as I often do, was long walks. One was along the cliffs to Nature’s bridge with my hostel roommate, in the hope of seeing migrating whales, but none wanted to show themselves.
I also took a very long walk along the beach, without intending to – sometimes I just start walking, and like Forrest Gump: I forget to stop! So I ended up walking about 5 kms out of town to Red Bluff, stopping to paddle, stopping to think, stopping to pick up seashells, stopping to photograph huge crabs and stopping to breathe and absorb the wonderful Indian Ocean views.
4 days in Kalbarri was enough to clear my mind, refresh my photographs, restore my faith in hostels ( thanks to an awesome bunch of people staying there) and as if I needed to – remind me of what a wonderful land Australia is.
Over a week has passed since arriving back on the Isle and I haven’t had a chance to finish writing about Hong Kong. I’ve been too wrapped up in the cosiness of being home, in the novelty of getting cold and wet and being able to dry off in front of the fire, wearing a scarf and a hat, listening to everyone grumble about the weather, sharing stories, photos, food and laughs with family and friends and it’s not even Christmas yet!
I landed at Heathrow airport at 4:30 in the morning on the 12th to freezing fog and a grand temperature of -4C! I raced through the airport, bustled my way through security and passport control, fought my way to my suitcase and skidded to a halt at the bus stop for RailAir only to find I had to wait half an hour for the first bus which wasn’t until 6am! Back into the airport, nothing could wipe the smile off my face as I wheeled my way into the bathrooms, opened my suitcase and put on 3 more cardigans, the hat and scarf that I had knitted back in the Melbourne winter, a slick of lip balm and made my way back to the bus stop to wait. Arriving at the train at 6:30am station I beamed my way to the desk, smiling to myself that I would be on the train home, racing across the country before mum and dad were even out of bed… BUT Not so fast! “When is the first train to Crewkerne?” I breathed, out of breathe with excitement. The Ticket clerk’s face dropped as she looked at the screen and sorrowfully informed me the next train home was at 7:37am. Nevermind, I wheeled my way to the platform cafe, grateful for my numerous cardigans and £10 I had withdrawn at the airport. Coffee, croissant, magazine, seat and I sit there smiling like a child waiting for the first train to the Westcountry…
That wasn’t the only time I had smiled so hard last week. As I got off the Disney train on Monday and walked down the avenue towards the entrance of DisneyLand Hong Kong I smiled so much my face hurt. I am 28 years old and that day I knocked 20 years off as I wandered around the park, having taken mySELF to Disneyland and released my inner little girl. I few observations I made that day were that little Asian girls dressed as their favourite princess are even more adorable than normal, Mickey Mouse speaks perfect Cantonese, The Lion King spectacular was worth the entrance fee alone and standing in line waiting for a ride by yourself for an hour and a half several times a day, when everyone around you speaks in a foreign tongue, provides a lot of thinking time.
Another thing that made me smile incessantly last week was a walk around The Peak. I took the Peak tram to the top, and paid to go up to Sky Tower, but after that I was wondering what else to do. By reading signposts I discovered a walking route that went right round the mountain, so spent a very happy 2 hours ambling my way along the path, stopping to admire the ever changing panoramic views of Hong Kong and Kowloon as the sun faded in and out and around a bit too. Once at the bottom, with shaky knees from the steep descent, I boarded a bus heading to central, got off it when everyone else did and jumped on a double decker tram to see where that went. Getting off that, I followed my LP map for a bit, then put it away preferring to meander the streets and see what I could find. When darkness fell and I felt I had done enough, I took the star ferry back to Kowloon and sat in wonder gazing at the fabulously lit buildings over on Hong Kong Island. Not hungry enough for dinner, I had just enough money to treat myself to a reflexology treatment before making my way to the airport ready to make my way home.
Now sitting in my bedroom, I am admiring the blue sky, listening to the singing birds who have been hiding from two days of relentless rain and allowing myself to reflect on the fabulous trip I had on my way home.
The next task is a little bit of present wrapping, some baking, perhaps a nice walk in the country b
Our first stop was Hall’s Gap where we stayed the night. The first challenge was getting into the campsite, as we were too tall to fit under the gate, then we had to find a space big enough and easy enough for me to get in and out of as I couldn’t see to reverse, then we had to get some help actually switching everything on and getting it all to function (by watching our dvd several times, and getting a nice man to help)!
Once installed we settled into our house on wheels and enjoyed our first night in the Grampians. The next morning thanks to the tourist information people we found a route suitable for our van and made our way through the park stopping at The Pinnacles, Balcony looks outs and MacKenzie falls before driving through Horsham to spend the night in Edenhope.
Words are beyond me to describe these views, but this is the Australia I came here for for… the great outdoors. I love driving, I love climbing, walking, seeing, doing: travelling. This weekend was all of those rolled into one. I hope my photos do it justice…