Thursday, October 29, 2009

our driver hates us

A few days ago Suzanne and Ida were making plans to go to Lovina. Ida wanted to have some beach time and sun before starting a vipassana in Java so she was leaving Ubud to stay a few days by the ocean. They asked me if I wanted to join and I was a bit hesitant. I haven't heard the best things about Lovina, especially its hawkers. But when I woke up the next morning, I felt that some sun would be good for me. I have been on an island for three weeks and didn't manage to get any tan or a good swim so far. I texted the girls to find out the departure point and joined them at 08:30. Lovina is supposed to be 2 hours drive, so I should have some significant beach time to bake myself.


In the car, I figure out that Suzanne and Ida actually planned this day as a tour, final destination being Lovina. Even better! So we first stop by the Pura Aman Tayun (the Royal Family Temple) in Mengwi. It's the day after Kuningan, so it's still a holiday for most of the Balinese and they seem to be enjoying picnics on the temple gardens. Especially the children have a lot of fun. We walk around a little then get back in the car for the next destination. Well it's more like Suzanne and Ida walked around a little and then waited for me to finish shooting photos for ages... In the car, we try to get some information from our driver Dewa but he doesn't seem to be very talkative. Most drivers in Bali are very friendly, they like sharing information about the island, the culture or the religion. In exchange, they also ask a lot of questions so a car ride in Bali is rarely boring.

That day, we were clueless tourists being driven around by Dewa. When we first started the ride, he summarized the itinerary for us, but none of us remembered when, where and in what order. So actually when Dewa dropped us in front of a ticket booth and drove away to park, we are clueless as to where we are and what we are supposed to see. We try to match the Bahasa words on our entrance tickets to the index of the Lonely Planet Bali guide but it doesn't work. We try to read into the signposts but they turn out to be warnings for temple entrance rules. So at least we know that we are by a lake and there's a temple inside. Not a bad start... As I drift away trying to shoot the ceremony that's just starting inside the temple through half-open doors, the diligent ladies figure out that we are at the water temple of Pura Ulun Danu at Lake Bratan. We manage to catch a beautiful ceremony and watch part of it. Balinese are so welcoming, as long as we are outside the temple doors, they do not mind the horde of tourists clicking their cameras to catch some of the most personal praying moments.

At some point, Suzanne tells us “I think our driver hates us” A very unexpected comment from such a positive woman... We dwell on the thought for a while and come up with all sorts of wild explanations but eventually reject the idea by saying he's either too shy or doesn't feel comfortable with his English.


Next is a local coffee plantation site in Munduk. It's already past noon and we stop for lunch. We are high up in the mountains, the weather is dry, there's a cool breeze and the music makes us think that we are in the Far East. A good food accompanies our conversation. One of those moments where everything's just wonderful! As we ask for the check, we realize that all of us ordered tea for drink in a coffee plantation site. Oh well... On our way back to the car, we have a chance to observe how coffee beans are ground manually. We are told that grinding one kilo of coffee with the traditional methods takes about one hour. The aroma is amazing, it almost makes me want to convert back to being a coffee-consumer but I manage to hold myself back.

Back in the car, Ida and Suzanne show active effort to get Dewa to talk. They bombard him with questions, but all we get is one-word answers. Are we that boring?


Since we are somewhat behind the schedule, we skip some hot water spring in our itinerary and head to a waterfall. It's a 30minute walk down from the main road and there are tiny shops selling sarongs, cheap art and whatnot all along the way so it's fun despite the heat. The waterfall is strong and it is refreshing just to sit on a stone and listen to it. But that doesn't seem enough for Ida. She takes off her clothes and gets into one of the pools formed by the waterfall. The current is strong and the water is cool but that doesn't stop our aquaphilic Swede friend from diving in.

We reach Lovina after 15:30. I was warned by one of my former neighbors about the stickiness and the persistence of the hawkers in Lovina so I am ready to reject whoever comes along my way. But Ida doesn't seem to be so lucky. She would spend the night in Lovina so while Suzanne and I go to get some ice cream, Ida starts to look around for accommodation. 15 minutes later we walk back to the beach to see her surrounded by sarong ladies, fruit ladies and god knows who else. They are overwhelmingly persistent. We go to the beach and there is the worst surprise of the day; the ocean is dirty. A lot of stuff floats on the surface and the beach isn't what we would expect after a 7 hour drive. I am determined to get some sunlight so I lay down while Suzanne no longer feels the need to hold herself “this sucks, this sucks, this sucks” is her new mantra. There's only so much one can be positive without losing the sense of reality so I can only agree. I add “and our driver hates us”. By that time I lost all my doubt that he really hates us and start thinking that he brought us to the worst beach in Lovina. As we are the fresh, na├»ve tourists on the beach, we are visited by someone trying to sell us something every 3 minutes. Art, batik, carved wood stuff, massage, ... Then Ida comes, followed by he entourage of sarong and fruit ladies. They are unbelievably pushy and keep saying “you touched my sarongs now you need to buy, otherwise you bring me bad luck... you bad lady, bad bad lady” We came all the way to Lovina for some quiet beach time and we get nothing but... Ida pays the ladies a little just to get rid of them. Given the circumstances, this was the wisest thing to do


We stay on the beach for a total of maybe 15 minutes, and then we pack our stuff and decide to leave already. We hug Ida goodbye, since she is determined to stay and explore the coast for a few more days. We don't don't make any stops but the return journey still takes us over 3.5 hours. For some reason there are traffic jams in every village center. It's probably the evening market, which is right by the road. Shoppers just leave their vehicles wherever and go to buy or eat stuff and since it's a one-lane road, all we can do is patiently wait. And of course our driver does not say a single word during the entire journey. We arrive back to Ubud around 8:00. Suzanne and I get of the car a little far from our places, we both need to stretch our legs and clear our minds before going into our rooms. As soon as Dewa drives away, we look at each other and say “our driver hates us” and break into laughter... That's probably the best we could do after such a crazy day.


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