Our original plan was to fly from Labuan Bajo to Kuta on the island of Lombok. However, we left it until the last minute to book a flight and there were no seats available. We decided to settle for Kuta in Bali for a few days instead. It was close to airport and we would wait until there were seats available to fly to Kuta, Lombok. We had heard many mixed opinions of Bali’s Kuta in the very short time we had been away. Its large strip of bars and clubs are known as party holiday central for young Australians, and essentially equates to what Magaluf is for the British. All we heard of the place were Marmite-like opinions, people either loved it, or hated it. There was no in between. I did not arrive with high expectations for the place, but it would turn out that this unwanted alternative would become one of the highlights of our time in Bali. All because of the French Canadians that we were about to meet.
Nightmare the Third
But before that, another unwanted event transpired against me. A relatively simple one, but a pain nonetheless. We decided to book a delightfully calm and modern hostel on the outskirts of Kuta. The reason being for this that we were told to beware of the mass thievery problem in the centre of Kuta, aiming at the possessions on you while you were out during the day and night, and the possessions you left at the hostels at the same time.
We arrived back at Denpasar Airport in Bali in the afternoon and I was ecstatic to see that my bag was one of the first off of the plane. No drama this time. We arrived quickly at the hostel and decided to have a nice quiet evening to recuperate. There’s not much else to say about the day apart from the fact that in the evening our room flooded through a window that leaked from the heavy rain. All of the water pooled into a single locker under one of the beds. It was my locker. Under my bed. My bag was soaked much to my own frustration while everyone else’s were nice and dry. It was almost as if my bag was both a magnet and a sponge for all the water that came into my room. Fortune certainly did not favour me on this trip.
The next morning though, I awoke to a string of emails on my phone telling me that I was making purchases on my Playstation account using my Paypal details. I most certainly was not, so I quickly checked if it was my brother back at home. It was not. I had been hacked. So while eating breakfast with one hand, and my phone in the other, I desperately tried to shut down my accounts and go through the process of claiming the stolen money back whilst racking up an enormous phone bill because I was calling from abroad. Eventually I had to leave the table to deal with the problem further, so Anya took the opportunity to talk to a guy who had sat down on the next table over. It was one of the French Canadians, but the one who was the least confident in his English. Anya described the task of talking to him as hard work, and it highlighted the ignorance that we had in assuming that everyone can speak perfect English. I could relate to it as well, because after I concluded the pressing issue with Playstation and Paypal, I ran into him in the elevator and also just assumed he could speak perfect English. It turns out his English was just fine, he just wasn’t sure of himself without his two friends about, who were much more confident in speaking it.
We quickly met the other two as it turned out that they had just moved into our room. We got along with them instantaneously. It seemed mad that we became such great friends with them in a matter of minutes. It was so easy for them to make us laugh (admittedly, a large part of that was due to their accents), but we were able to respond in kind. Who knew an English accent could make someone laugh? It wasn’t long before we agreed that we would go out that evening to see what Kuta had to offer us. We had a plan.
So in the evening, after we got ourselves ready, we met upstairs in the common area with our drinks and playing cards so that our night could begin. Another two English people joined us, and it was at this point that I decided to teach everyone how to play ‘Fuck the Dealer’. The game was a success, and within a couple of hours we were all evidently drunk (but thanks to the brilliance of the game, some were more than drunk than others, providing everyone with even more entertainment) … so it did not help when we finally got an Über to the strip that we managed to land ourselves in a bar with unlimited drinks. The only problem was that there was only one hour left of the unlimited drinks offer, so for some reason we all came to the conclusion that we had to consume as much alcohol as humanely possible in that hour. It’s safe to say that I do not remember much past that point, but I certainly enjoyed the night. I loved it. We all did.
The only problem was the hangover the next day. Mine must have been worse than everyone else’s as Anya and the French Canadians went to the town centre to explore while I stayed back to recover. Eventually they returned and we all agreed that we were exhausted. No drinking was required that day. It was at that point that I remembered that there was a projector on the roof of the hostel. So I downloaded Superbad (because who doesn’t love Superbad?) and in the evening, everyone pulled up a bean bag, had some McDonalds delivered, and enjoyed the movie. The perfect hangover day. The only problem for Anya and I was that this was supposed to be our last night in Kuta, but the French Canadians still had another day. We didn’t want to part ways with them soon, and we couldn’t believe how much we enjoyed their company after such a short period of time, so there was only one thing we could do. We extended our stay by one day. Lombok could wait.
The next day we all went to the beach to soak up some sun. Kuta’s beach was grand and littered with people trying to get us to go to their little pop-up bar or to be given a lesson in surfing. But the French Canadians were insistent on going to one bar that they had already been at. They were right to be, as the bar was in a prime location and belonged to an overly-friendly local called Bejo. We stayed there for hours, listening to great music while drinking one ice cold Bintang after another. We took the time to appreciate where we were, far away from the working life that home would have offered us.
After a delightful lunch near the beach, and it being the last night in Kuta for all of us, we all came to the conclusion that there was only one thing we could do that evening. Repeat what we had done the before: get drunk and go to the strip. So we did. And once again, we loved every second of it. However, we were granted a bit of a bonus gift this time. Before we headed out we noticed that a Columbian had moved into our room and he looked strangely familiar. It was one of the guys that we had got drunk with the very first day with before we went to Bali Ultra. We couldn’t believe that through no planning at all he wound up in the same room, of the same hostel (of which there are many in Kuta), at the same time. He had no choice but to join us all that night for round 2.
The next morning came too quickly and this time Anya and I had not left booking the flight to Lombok until the last minute, so after we bid farewell to the French Canadians and the Columbian, even though neither of us really wanted to, we made our way to the airport.
Nightmare the Forth
Even though I had my locker flooded in Kuta and I had an account hacked at home with money stolen from it, it turns out that another bout of unluckiness was heading my way. Because my short time in Kuta, Lombok would have me fall off a moped not once, not twice, not even three times. That’s right, I managed to fall off a moped four times. Four times. Looking back at it now, it may seem like a funny story. But at the time, I had never held so much hatred for something in my life. Mopeds, in my eyes at least, were utterly stupid and pure evil. I felt like such a fool for attempting to ride one.
We arrived in Lombok with no issues whatsoever, and we quickly found ourselves a taxi to our hostel. We learnt that the hostel we had chosen to stay at was a bit far out from the centre by the beach. This seemed to perfect to us, as the roads in Lombok were not too busy and would be perfect for us to finally give mopeds a go in preparation for Vietnam. The only problem was the road quality, it was a strange mix of perfect roads, rocky and potholed roads and areas which were just sand or mud. We concluded that we would probably need to learn to deal with such conditions anyway, so we decided to rent one to give ourselves a taster. But before we departed, we met an Englishman at our hostel who had also rented himself a moped. He only had minimal experience so far, but it was still far more than we had, as we had none whatsoever, so we departed the hostel together. I was on one moped and Anya was on the back of his one.
We managed to get to the centre with no problems and we all decided that we should go somewhere for lunch. So we started to look for the best restaurant, we passed one that looked good so we had to turn back. Now at this point, I had about 10 minutes of experience on a moped, so when I tried to make a U-turn in the street, I tried to do it too slowly. Not too quickly, too slowly, and so I fell over, but as I had been going so slowly there was no way I could have injured myself. The only damage sustained was in the form of a hole in my shoe, and this upset me.
Due to our exhaustion and hangovers, we decided to return to the hostel after lunch, with me driving and Anya sat on the back while the Englishman decided to explore the island. We set off, and ended up on the main road leading to our hostel. We had to turn right into a dirt road to get to the hostel, and as we approached the dirt road, I started trying to turn but found myself almost physically unable to. The extra weight on the back of the moped, in the form of Anya, meant that I could not get the bike to lean far enough, so as we turned into road, we did not turn far enough, and the bike slid out from underneath us and straight into a ditch. We both stood there, still on our feet, amazed at how it had managed to slip out from under us and we hadn’t even fallen to the floor. In the space of an hour, I had managed to crash twice. Again, I sustained no injuries, and neither did Anya. Regrettably, this meant that neither of us had yet to learn our lessons.
Now that we were at the hostel, we decided we would relax for the rest of the day, so that we were ready for the some exploration the next day. We had heard tales of a woman at the hostel who had fallen victim to a bike crash and now was bed-ridden and in severe pain. We were even told that she couldn’t actually walk, so had to be carried to and from the bathroom whenever she needed to go to the toilet. At one point, we were sitting in the common area when this woman was carried in and made comfortable, she was awaiting some medical professionals to visit her and check on her wounds. Her foot and leg had large areas of skin torn off, and she suspected that she had a broken bone in her foot too. When the medics arrived, they begun to remove her bandages and clean her wounds. As they cleaned her wounds, the woman began to scream out in sheer agony. It was difficult to hear. She would scream, then breathe heavily as she tried to recoil the pain only to find herself screaming again at the top of her lungs. No one in the common area dared say anything during that time, there were a few that wouldn’t even look in her direction during the ordeal.
At that point, if the minor crashes I had already experienced were not enough to deter me from getting back onto a moped, then surely she would right? Wrong. I was proving to be a perfect display of human nature: that somehow, someway, I was unique and above it. There was no way it could happen to me. The disaster stories are what happen to others, not yourself. It was one of those situations where until something happened to you personally, nothing anyone said to you, and nothing that you saw would put you off from what you had already convinced yourself to do. All because you genuinely believed you were somehow different. At this moment, anyone would have been able to gauge the grand scale of my stupidity, and could easily predict what laid ahead of me. In reality, I was no different than anyone else.
There was one thing that I did manage to get through my thick skull though, and that was the importance of clothing. After the ordeal of cleaning the wounds of the ill-fated woman, the medics left and the woman asked me to help her up into a more comfortable position. After I helped her up, I started to talk to her about what happened and I learned that she had only been wearing a t-shirt, a sarong, and flip flops. I knew that I couldn’t make that same mistake, so I told myself that I would make sure that when I got back on my moped I would wear long jeans and a hoodie. It did not matter how hot I would get, it was not worth the risk. The other thing she told me was a tale I had already heard too many times on the short time that I had been away: it was the sand. The sand is what nearly every person I had spoken to about their crashes had told me. The sand made them lose control. Once again, I thought that I would be above it somehow.
The next morning, Anya and I left the hostel in search of breakfast and this time Anya wanted to drive while I was on the back. So we set off down the main road towards the centre. Along the way were some road works going on, and there were a large pile of rocks on a part of the road that needed to be avoided. As we quickly approached them, I started to become increasingly alarmed at the fact that we did not seem to be turning, but instead, were heading straight for the rocks. I was mentally preparing myself for a third crash when Anya managed to swerve out of the way in the last moment. When we finally reached our restaurant of choice for breakfast and got off the bike, I asked Anya as to what happened back there, we had nearly crashed after all. Her response was almost identical to the one I gave when she asked about the crash the day before: she struggled with turning the moped as we approached the rocks, because of the weight that was I on the back. I was almost glad that it had happened at that point, because she now knew exactly what I meant when I tried to explain myself the day before. Yet again, this should have been a moment of clarity for us where we would come to our senses and realise that scootering was not for us, but did we? No. Instead we decided that we just needed a moped each of our own. So after breakfast, we went back to the hostel and rented a second one.
Back at the hostel, we asked the Englishman from the day before about where he went when he went exploring and decided to set off in the same direction after he told us about how beautiful the scenery was. He was not lying, the scenery was beautiful, but this was our first extended drive on a moped so it was needless to say about how nervous we both were. The route we needed to take was a long winding route through the mountains to reach one of the often spoken about beaches of Lombok. It was going to take us the best part of 40 minutes to reach it.
Believe it or not, we actually made it in one piece, without a single issue to write about. There was one hilarious part when we were going downhill along a windy stretch of road, where I was taking the lead, and I suddenly looked to my left and saw three wide-eyed cows running parallel to me along the side of the road, followed by their owner in sprint. It did not take me long to work out their intentions. They wanted to cross the road, so I began to pray that they would not cut out in front of me or it would certainly spell out my doom. I sped up in the hope that my prayers would be answered, and instead they decided to cut across the road after me, but with enough time for Anya to slow down and avoid an unfortunate encounter with the side of a cow. Apart from that, there journey to the beach was a breeze … well apart from the roosters that kept running out into the road meaning that I had to swerve around them.
The beach was peaceful and picturesque, so Anya and I took our time and relaxed on the beach. I even treated myself to an ice cold Bintang to compliment it, but eventually the weather turned and it began to rain slightly, which was our cue to head back to the hostel. The journey back home was even better, as I began to feel more confident in riding my moped, all the fears and doubts that I had in the back of my mind began to melt away … and soon after that it went all wrong for me.
The majority of the journey back was downhill, once again I was leading, and about two thirds of the way into the journey we came across a fairly sharp bend with sand strewn across it. As soon as my tires touched the sand, I lost all control, and came flying off the bike before connecting with the road. I rolled, and the back of my helmet smashed into the road. My bike flew off into the bushes at the side of the road. Thankfully, the helmet I wore saved my life and had even prevented me from getting a concussion. I was in shock, and Anya had witnessed the whole thing. She quickly got of her bike to see if I was okay. She had seen the force at which my helmet had connected with the road and she was worried about the injury to both my head and my neck. Not even my neck was injured however, but I had torn off some of the skin from my right hand. I had even managed to somehow tear some of the skin off of my right arm without tearing a hole in my hoodie. To this day, this conundrum baffles me.
One of the areas on my hand looked especially damaged, and it didn’t take Anya long to conclude that it was most likely going to scar. The most surprising thing however, was not the hoodie conundrum, but the fact that after the crash, the first person to reach me was not Anya, but a local woman and her two children who wanted to see if I was okay. She had even helped me to get the moped out of the bushes and back onto the road again. She could not speak a word of English, but she refused to leave until she had seen me get back on the moped and leave safely. I couldn’t believe that she cared about a foreigner crashing so much. In fact, I would have expected her to be laughing at the stupid foreigner who had tried to get on a moped with no experience.
Eventually, two westerners drove by and stopped to help. They gave me some tissues to stop the bleeding and gave me some water to drink before going on their way. I was still in shock, but nonetheless, I had to drive the moped back to the hostel so that I could return it and pay my due diligence in rent. So that’s exactly what I did, I drove it back and hated every second of it. I got onto the main road leading up to the hostel, and ended up at the turning onto the dirt road that ended at our hostel … and that’s where crash number 4 happened.
My mind was frazzled. I could not think properly anymore and when I tried to turn in, I almost collided with a local woman and her baby on their scooter as she tried to overtake me. Thankfully, I did not, but the near miss in my state of shock only decayed my ability to think further. I apologised, and then proceed to turn into the dirt road, but I did it too quickly. I tried to slow down but as I hit the brake, I failed to realise that my hand was still pulling at the throttle. I flew straight into the ditch next to the dirt road, with the moped falling on top of me and crushing my leg. I wanted to vent my frustration but I only managed to expel a few swear words. I was exhausted, and at that moment I knew that I was done with driving mopeds.
The local woman that I nearly hit came running over to see if I was okay. She gave her baby to a random local person who was walking by and told him to look after her child. She helped to get the scooter off of my leg, and helped to get the scooter back onto the dirt road. Mercifully, my leg was okay. A bruise on my knee was all I had to show for it. The local woman checked to see if I was okay, and I began apologise profusely, again and again like a broken record. She laughed and said that there was nothing to worry about, she just found it funny how time after time she saw non-experienced westerners have a go on mopeds only to always end up the same way. She told me people needed as much as 3 months to get used their roads. I thanked her, and started to push my moped down the road towards the hostel. It was no more than 20 or 30 metres away. The local woman then asked me why I wasn’t driving it down the road and I told her that I had enough of mopeds for a life time. She laughed again and then hoped on the moped and drove it down the road for me to the hostel. I thanked her again when I reached it, she bade me farewell and went back up the road to find her baby. Anya just got to watch this all unfold in front of her yet again.
I returned the scooter to the hostel staff and was told to pay for the rental once we left, so Anya then helped me clean my wounds and bandage them up. The pain was starting to set in, and I decided that the day was done for me. I only left the hostel again that evening to go for dinner in the centre, but without a moped, Anya and I were forced to walk there. It was terrifying. The local wild dogs were extremely territorial, and we both were genuinely concerned that all of the aggressive barking and displays of dominance would conclude with an attack. Fortunately, they did not. So once we reached the centre, we ended up at a restaurant with a Volkswagen camper van for a bar. The Englishman from earlier was there with some friends, so we joined them before the evening proceeded to questions about why had bandages on my hand and arm. After dinner, and after another terrifying walk home. I resigned myself to bed.
The next day, the radiating pain from my wounds only intensified, so I told Anya that I was going to have a rest day and take it easy. She completely understood and joined me in not doing very much at all. Then we started talking, and remembered that our Canadian friend had come to Kuta in Lombok after we separated from her. We were curious about whether she was still there, so we sent her a message to find out. It had been a week at this point since she had left for Kuta, so it had seemed unlikely, but her response confirmed that she was still in Kuta. She had loved surfing there so much that she was still about for one more night, just like us. We suddenly had a plan for the evening. We would be reunited with our Canadian friend. Something good could still come out of our trip to Lombok.
With that, in the evening, we met up with her and some friends that she had made in the restaurant of her choice. It was great to see her again, and after a drink or two we found that our next destination was the same as hers: the Gili Islands.