Amy on the Road is a travel fiction series following Amy, a young Aussie on her first forays into backpacking. Follow her misadventures from the beginning at www.annkaddley.com
I don’t know what I was thinking; sure Bali sounds like a blast right, well minus the friends, drinks and budget, plus about a tone of baggage and not so much!
I shared a taxi with a bunch of other travellers heading into the center of Kuta but I had pre booked my first few nights’ accommodation, thinking I was smart, so with some rough directions from the driver we parted ways. Then came the trudge, up and down unnamed alleyways looking for the damm hotel. I was tired and cranky, I had sweated through my shirt instantly, my pack weighed a tone and my arms were aching full of crap. Are we having fun yet? Longest 45 min of my life, I finally found the place, to be greeted with a stuffy little room, stained walls and a basic bed which luckily showed no signs of bed bugs; not exactly 5 star. My shoulders were killing me, I figured a quick cold shower and I’d head out for dinner.
So it turns out Bali seemed populated entirely by drunk ass Aussies. I headed into a clean-ish looking bar for a Bintang and things fried to the point I was almost certain they wouldn’t kill me. Eating on my own has never been my strong point and I scuttled back to my room away from the drunken leers of my countrymen. So it turns out it is pure torture to sit alone in your room and listen to hundreds of others, partying right outside your window, while you stare at the wall. It’s not that I didn’t want to go out I’m just as fond of a few beers as the next girl but there are certain inevitable difficulties to hanging out in in bars and clubs as a single chick, let alone in a strange country. The first night was fine I pretty much crashed, on the second I made it to about 10 o’clock before I gathered my courage and ventured out.
First try was an open type bar with a handful of locals and the ever present Aussie tourists, after self-consciously nursing a Bintang for a while, I decided I had to start as I meant to go on. I entered into a lively discussion with a group of tourists from a nearby hotel, I was feeling okay after a few more Bintangs’ and when Ahmed, a friendly Arab about my father’s age, asked if I wanted to take a walk to the next bar I though why not. Alarm bells didn’t start ringing until he suggested we sit on the moon lit beach and share some chips. Don’t get me wrong he wasn’t threatening or anything, he just had the very very wrong end of the stick.
I cannot accurately explain how awkward it is, to sit on a moon lit beach in paradise and try to politely explain to a perfectly nice man, old enough to be your father that you really don’t need “looking after”. At first I was polite, then I was to the point and eventually exasperated. All met with polite placations and insistent speeches about our future life together. When it became clear that even sharp words wouldn’t deter him, I gave up and faked a particular unconvincing bout of jet lag. I didn’t really want this guy knowing where I was staying but he insisted on walking me home, I was thinking about upgrading anyway. I managed to leave him at the entrance to my hotel gracelessly ducking his attempted embrace and running to hide in my room, half way laughing wiping old man kisses off my cheek, pressed up against the wall so I could see through the crack in the curtain when my over eager suiter left.
After about half an hour, I judged the coast clear and snuck back downstairs cautiously but there were no overly amorous, older Arab gentlemen in sight. I promptly hoofed it in the opposite direction of the pubs. More or less unfazed by my near brush with holiday romance I headed for something a little more my scene. Crossing the gang plank of an honest to god pirate ship, there was apparently a party on the poop deck, a DJ spun from the crow’s nest and the dance floor was pumping with pulsing lights and tourists getting down. Sweat slicked complete with pirate bandanas and eyepatches and the ever present giant sippy cocktail cups. Despite the surreal atmosphere the usual gangs of drunken Aussies were out in force, about two in the morning after fending of a shirtless Spanish man with a well-oiled chest and a gangly ginger bloke from Perth I gave up and retreated to my room.
Bleary eyed from my late night, I staggered out of bed early in order to relocate before my suiter came looking for me. To my horror the right side of my face was a deep pinkish purple like a bruise or a horrible rash, it didn’t hurt though and it wasn’t until I went to jump in the shower that I realized my whole right side was the same unsightly pink. My bloody sleep-sheet brought at a discount, a few days before heading out, had died me pink and no amount of washing or scrubbing would get the colour out, eventually in a huff I gave up and turned to wrestling my crap back into my pack of torture, heading out into the mid-morning heat to find a stalker-less accommodation.
40 min later my thighs hurt, my shoulders where killing me and sweat was dripping off my nose. I was sick of juggling bags to open doors, sick of clerks looking sidewise at my half pink face, sick of drunken smart ass Aussies in the street and hotels that were booked out or I couldn’t afford, mostly I was just sick and tired of lugging all my crap around. Eventually around lunch time I found a place a little further out with decent rooms and collapsed in a heap. From my place on the floor I ripped into my pack discarding a series of not so travel friendly items including; rain coat, blow up pillow, 2x novels, the dreaded sleep-sheet and I hate to admit a hair straightener that was totally redundant in the humidity. A cold shower did little to remove my new two tone look but I thought stuff it and headed to the beach for a hard arvo of doing absolutely nothing.
I had plonked down grumpily on the pristine sand to read my last remaining book and watch groups of happy tourists drink and surf, when I saw a girl a few years older than me discovering another of the prevalent problems of the solo traveller, what to do with your money pouch when you want to go for a swim. The girl was looking slightly perplexed between water and belongings, I decided to take pity on her and called out that I would watch her stuff. After her swim she came and thanked me introducing herself as Erin, a Pom in the last few days of a 6 month trip. She had been travelling with her boyfriend who had headed home a week earlier to take up a job, leaving her to finish the last 10 days of their itinerary alone. She was only in Bali 3 nights and was complaining that her hostel was noisy and dirty. In a fit of inspiration I asked if she wanted to share with me and just like that I had a new friend.
Erin and I hired a couple of scooters and she showed me the basics of riding without dying which is more challenging than it appears. We explored the outer edges of Kuta and watched the sun go down over the beach. Erin though my discard pile was hilarious and happily pounced on the books and straightener. We headed out for the evening deftly defending each other’s honor and discovered a foam party in what appeared to be a wooden castle! It was a tone of fun dancing and goofing round, I did discover that though a room full of foam and dancing people looks amazing, soap in the eyes is no laughing matter. Erin mocked me mercilessly apparently my half pink face was actually a magnet for even stranger admires but with our powers combined we managed to have a pretty decent night.
Tomorrow I head to Java, hopefully with less stuff in my pack and a slightly less pink countenance I will start to get the hang of this travel thing, despite the less than auspicious start.