Friday 12 February
Difficulty - Shan 10, Sam 8
Distance - 10km walking, 70km motorbike
Weather - Cold, rain, hot, sun, humid
It seemed we’d barely fallen asleep when the alarm went off and it was time to get up. We forced ourselves out of bed to dress and wait for our guide. Outside we could hear a light thudding sound coming from the kitchen, and soon the door opened and Wayan’s mother stuck her head out to say “Puggi” (“Morning”). It seems she was still up preparing food for the household.
The guide had agreed with Wayan that he would meet us outside the house since he had to ride past anyway to get to the temple, where the climb begins. We were waiting outside right on time but nothing. Twenty minutes later Wayan’s mother called Wayan out of bed, despite our protests, when she saw us still waiting. Wayan called the guide who said he was on his way. It was annoying having to wait, another half hour in bed would have been nice! While we waited though we were able to enjoy looking at the thousands of stars above us in the clear sky. We could see lightening flashes occasionally and wondered if there was a storm on the mountain.
Eventually we heard the motor of his scooter and he arrived. I jumped on the back of the guide’s more powerful bike and we rode to the end of the road. In the carpark we put our jackets on and pulled out our headlights. It was 2.30am and time to climb.
The first thing was to climb the hundreds of stairs up to the temple. We’d done this the day before but we were much more tired this time and our breathing quickened immediately. Instead of going into to the temple we moved to the left and took a path around the back of the compound. Straight away the path was littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes which meant you had to concentrate with every step to avoid slipping. It was also quickly evident how steep the path was. I was hoping that this was just a small section, and the dirt track of a nice gradient would begin ascending soon. Little did I know that we were on the easiest section of track for the day.
We climbed steadily and stopped every half hour or so to have a drink and often to eat some food. It was hard going, very steep the whole way up, and we needed to keep our bodies fuelled. The guide had brought along some bananas and a Balinese cake which he offered to us each time we stopped. We in turn shared with him our fruit and rice cakes which Wayan had given us to bring. Whenever we stopped we looked at the lights all around Bali. We could see the bright patch that was Kuta, and across the water we could make out the lights of Lombok.
After about an hour we came across another guide with two German trekkers. We stopped with them for a few minutes before they motioned for us to keep going while they kept resting. At this point, although it was grueling work to keep going up, we were feeling very strong and making good time, so thought we’d make it to the top well before sunrise.
Another hour saw us hit an even more difficult section of path. It became even steeper, often at angles of more than 45 degrees, and we spent a lot of time on our hands and knees climbing up sheer rock – reaching for handholds and testing rocks for their strength before climbing on. Luckily it was dark, so I couldn’t see how far I would slide if I misjudged a rock.
Just before dawn, I kept looking up expecting to see the summit getting closer. But each time I could just see the shadow of the mountain continuing to reach impossibly high into the sky. The climbing was tough, my legs were tired and I began thinking I couldn’t make it. The doubts were vocalised but there was really nothing to do but keep moving arms and legs upwards. Fatigue and not enough food started to take its toll and when I smashed my hand into a rock I started to whimper and cry as I kept climbing. Sam heard me and made me stop to rest and eat some food. But I felt sick and fought against eating. Sam persisted and I ate some not very appetizing Balinese bread.
With food in my stomach and new batteries in my headlamp so I could see better we started climbing again. The edge of the sky began to light up and all of a sudden it seemed as though the summit was getting closer. We would make it after all.
We climbed up the last sections of rock slowly and with frequent breaks to catch our breath. Then we were there. On one side we were looking down into the volcano and on the other we were looking at – clouds. The clouds had gathered during the last section of our climb and now we couldn’t see anything.
We started taking photos and within minutes the clouds cleared and we had a spectacular view all around us. The Germans and their guide arrived and their guide (who spoke English, unlike ours) told us stories about lost climbers, mystical monkeys and Hindu worship. He twisted all the stories together, starting one, then continuing another, until we weren’t sure if the monkey had led him to a lost climber or just the body of a dead fellow monkey. Or maybe it was the body of the lost climber?
Looking down from the summit we could see Mount Agung’s large crater. The volcano is still active and often belches smoke and ash into the sky. It last erupted in 1963/64, when it killed thousands of villagers and devastated the surrounding country side. Because of its size it in comparison to the low lying, very flat countryside beneath it, it dominates the climate, drawing the rain to its surrounding area and causing other areas to be barren and dry.
Our guide motioned to us that it was time to descend and we were keen to get back ourselves so we bid the Germans goodbye and started the downward trek. I was not looking forward to this. Climbing down steep volcanic rock was just as hard and sometimes harder than climbing up. Lots of time was spent on our bottoms, using big rocks as footholds as we occasionally slid downwards. I reassured myself that eventually we’d come to the section where I could stand up. Some sections were slippery mud from volcanic ash, and in these sections the guide held my hand and helped me keep my balance. It was daylight now and I could see the life-threatening fall that awaited me if I slipped the wrong way.
Eventually we made it down off the sheer rock face but the track was much steeper than I’d realized, and the shale all over the path made it impossible to stand upright. I had to apply the brakes with every step to make sure I didn’t fall and often I ended up back down on my butt just to make sure I got down safely. The angle of the path was so steep that I felt like gravity wanted to pull me face first down the mountain to the bottom and my balance was thrown completely. Being tired and hungry didn’t help this either. It was mentally exhausting concentrating so hard on every step and I could feel the strain on my legs.
About halfway down we met Wayan coming up with a group of four trekkers. One of the group was particularly struggling and Wayan doubted he would make it up. We spoke to an English traveler for a while and he said the group had met at a retreat where they ‘shake’ for three hours a day. They stand on the ground and (pay lots of money) to shake their whole body for hours – apparently curing all manner of ailments. He recommended it as preparation for our bike ride. We said bye to Wayan and thanked him for allowing us to stay with his family, and we continued down.
Around this time I developed ‘jelly legs’. I was struggling to walk and often my legs would give way under me as I picked my path amongst the rocks. Sam found this very amusing (Shanna’s sookyness) and filmed me stumbling along the path. I was frustrated but had to concentrate on getting down off the mountain! The guide helped me a lot of the way in this last section and eventually we were back at the temple. Walking down the stairs to the bike was difficult, but at least there were no rocks and I could relax my concentration.
We were both exhausted and despite Wayan’s family’s coaxing to stay and eat and rest, we packed our things and got on the bike (not before we had left a gift and some money to say thank you) to ride back to Kuta and get the ATM card. Wayan’s wife told us it had recently been in the news that bank employees were involved in taking ATM cards and stealing money in a massive scandal that involved at least 30 staff. It was raining and cold as we rode down the mountain, but when we finally reached the lowlands it was suddenly hot, humid and dry, and the hot sun seared down on us as we ducked and weaved our way through the traffic back to Jimbaran.
We stopped off in Kuta to pick up the ATM card and were very relieved when it was there. Back at the hotel we checked the balance online and fortunately all the money was there.
The next priority was to set off in search of a cheap massage for our weary bodies. We walked down a beach where we’d been told we could find one but everyone we asked looked at us blankly or said no, there was no massage around here. One guy grabbed his van and offered to drive us “five minutes to massage, $40,000” but wouldn’t tell us where it was. Just as we were about to give up we stumbled upon a place in a side street, where we could get a Balinese massage for an hour for $50,000 each (less than $6). For 60 minutes we were kneaded and pushed and pulled, experiencing pleasure and pain (and Sam was offered a happy ending, to which with a muffled laugh he politely refused…).
During the night we awoke to the scariest noise possible in Bali - the sound of explosions. Shanna awoke first - the deafening bursts disrupting her sleep. Flashes of light were illuminating the sky and the noise seemed to be coming from all around her. She looked out the window but couldn’t see anything. As she awoke fully, she realized the sound was fire works of some sort. Other than the fact that the fire works were going off on the roof, there was no danger after all.
Sam awoke soon after. What’s going on I asked Shanna, ‘there is fire works on the roof’ she replied. Walking outside our room and onto the balcony I realized that the fireworks were next door (although they were so loud it seemed they were going off on the roof), and I marveled at the size and power of the display.
We awoke early to the sun beaming through our curtain less window, ate breakfast and began preparing to drive our little scooter to Selat, around 80 km away and the closest mountain town to Mount Agung. I wasn’t sure that the little 120cc bike we had hired was going to get us there but fortunately, after navigating some crazy traffic and roads, a short stop at a roadside kiosk in the countryside for a bowl of Nasi Goreng and a couple of cold drinks, getting lost a couple of times and a pit stop for petrol, we arrived safely in Selat.
We drove through the town and decided that we still had enough time to drive up the mountain and see Pura Pasar Agung, temple (altitude 1500 meters) built on the side of the volcano. As we drove up the mountain the temperature began to drop and the humidity decreased rapidly as the road, in some parts went directly up the mountain. The closer we got the steeper the road became and the bike was reduced to almost a standstill. I tried going from side to side up the road but the scooter just couldn’t do it and I had to make Shanna get off for two short but impossibly steep sections.
Just as we were approaching the temple a withered old man in a traditional Hindi robe ran from his post at an old gate and preventing us from going any further, made us dismount from the bike and come with him to a statue beside the road and workship in the traditional Hindu/Balinese manner (they perform many rituals similar in style to Chinese Confucianism). Once we had performed the rituals he motioned to his wallet for us to pay him. We asked how much he wanted but couldn’t understand the reply. After some time I realized that his motioning meant he wanted everything in my wallet that he could get his hands on so I gave him twenty thousand and put my wallet away. He still wanted more but I told him no and motioned to Shanna to walk back to the bike. He gave a wry smile and we got back on the bike to drive on up towards the temple.
Just as we were about to get on our way we heard some yelling from the trees to our right. We turned and saw a man high up in a tree just in time to hear a loud crack and see a huge branch come crashing to the ground beneath it. The man was still in the tree and yelled out to us saying ‘climb Agung, climb Aguug?’ We yelled out yes we wanted to climb Agung and asked if he was a guide. We couldn’t understand his reply so we said ‘guide, are you a ‘GUIDE’’? ‘Ya guide’ he replied. We asked how much and he said $300,000. The price seemed reasonable but we tried to bargain, ‘$200,000’ Shanna said. He didn’t seem to understand so we settled and put two fingers in the air to say we would meet him here at 2am. Seeing he understood we left for the temple.
Finally we were at the temple car park. But no sooner had we parked and gotten off the bike that we saw two men drive up on bikes and approach us. ‘Are you climb Agung?’ they asked. We replied yes and were asked if we had a guide in fairly good English. We answered that we did and were asked how much- when we replied 300,000 they seemed surprised and said that they had 22 guides in the company and charged 350,000. They then asked if we had payed to see the temple, we told them the story of the man at the gate and they laughed and said it is 50,000 thousand to see the temple, producing a book with other names and signatures in it. We payed the 50,000 and then asked if they knew anywhere we could sleep that night. The man we were talking to asked his friend and the friend replied in Balinese that we could come back with him after we had seen the temple to see his house and decide if we wanted to stay. We said OK and began climbing the stairs to the temple.
Around 100 stairs later we approached the carved stone gates to Pura Pasar and we were stopped again. Once again we were required to perform rituals and then taken to a mans house beside the temple to have sarongs put on us so that we were fit to enter (we had to pay another 20,000 to hire these). He then took us up to the temple through a different route and we saw some of the beautiful ancient stone alleyways that led to the open air hall of the temple itself.
On the way back down we saw the man who spoke some English and had organized for us to go back to see his friends house. He said that his friend had taken off so he would take us to his house but that we would not like it as ‘it was not nice like a hotel, so you decide when you see.’ He told us his name was Wayan.
While Wayan had waited for us to come down he had collected a huge basket of grass that he told us was to feed his cow. He balanced the basket behind him on the bike, not securing it to anything, and we followed him down the steep hill. As we rode we stopped at the same place we had stopped on the way up and Wayan was speaking to our guide. It was one of his friends and they confirmed details for our climb in the morning.
Wayan had told us that his was the first house from the temple and we quickly arrived there. He went inside the fence and we waited outside while he spoke to his family. He motioned us to come in and we met his wife, his daughter and his parents. His sister was at work but she lived there too. Wayan showed us the bed we would be sleeping in (we susptected it was his sister’s but no one would let on, only insisted that we were welcome to sleep there) and gave us a tray of traditional Balinese food and drink, much of which came from the crops he grew.
Wayan and his wife both spoke good English that they had picked up at school and from the trekkers that Wayan had taken up the mountain and were able to explain to us the different foods they offered us. One was a ‘cake’ made from rice and palm sugar that they can only eat once a year when they make it for the annual offering. We didn’t really like it, but they did, so they were happy to eat it. We also tried some fruit with a scaly peel and a tasty rice cake with palm sugar sprinkled on it. They asked if we wanted to eat with them that night or go to the village – but we insisted that we wanted to share the meal with them and experience real Balinese food. They seemed very happy with this and we spent some time asking Wayan’s wife questions about Balinese and Hindu life while Wayan did the household chores.
There were animals everywhere – dozens of chickens, chicks, kittens, a couple of dogs (not friendly) and of course, the cow that Sam went and fed with Wayan. The family explained to us how they could never imagine having the money to travel, plus there were the constant Hindu/Balinese ceremonies to perform so it was difficult to leave home. Wayan said their lives were simple and family came first. He already had a daughter but having a son was very important to him. They must have a son. During the afternoon Sam went down to a local stall to buy some water and food for our climb in the morning.
When it was time for dinner they all waited for us to eat first. We had rice, spicy pork, noodles, fried tofu, beans and some small fish. The meal was delicious and they kept piling more on our plates. We were very full!
After dinner we spoke to Wayan and his wife about climbing, money, families, education and life. Wayan wanted money only to be able to educate his children and give his parents a comfortable life. He worked very hard as a mountain climbing guide and his climbing boss had recently set up a website to get more tourists to the area. He told us he had had his first booking through the site and the people were coming next week.
Spending time with Wayan and his family really made us reflect on how lucky we are. We have so many conveniences like clean running water, ovens and microwaves, money to buy good clothes and shoes, opportunities to be educated and travel. But it also made us reflect on whether these things really make people happy. Wayan and his family lived a basic life, but were clearly happy and content. Just by sharing an afternoon and evening with them we gained profound appreciation for all that we take for granted back in Australia.
We reluctantly went to bed knowing we needed to be up in just a few hours to climb Mt Agung but we soon found that sleep was almost impossible as the family dog constantly barked and yelped. Amazingly this didn’t bother any of the family and they never told it to be quiet, although Sam eventually got out of bed and said ‘no’ which seemed to work for just long enough for us to get a few hours sleep.
Shanna woke early to see the sun rising over our first day in Bali. She lay in bed for a while watching the world light up, but couldn’t stay in bed when Bali was waiting. So I got dressed and went for a walk.
Our hotel is around the corner from Jimbaran Beach and that was the first stop. Many colourful boats lined the shore and it was a beautiful sight! Exploring the main street, about 600m away was a little scary by myself. Although the people looked with curious if not friendly stares, there was no footpath so I was walking with the scooters and cars. Plus there were stray dogs walking around everywhere – some of them looking quite sick. I'm not scared of dogs anymore but wasn’t sure how these ones would act... And the smell, it was overpowering. Decaying piles of rubbish, strange food left out to gather flies and the remnants of Hindu offerings littered the streets. The main street of Jimbaran was much busier with scooters and cars, even though it was only just after 7am, and I quickly went back to the hotel.
Our hotel is cheap, reasonably clean and has friendly staff. It is US$16/night for a big room, private bathroom (including western style toilet), Wifi, free airport pickup and breakfast. When I got back they asked if I wanted toast or banana pancakes. Pancakes it was. Sam came down and we ate. The food was good and we decided to stay here another night and spend the day exploring.
We jumped on our bikes (which we’d reassembled the night before when we arrived) and headed to Kuta to find an ATM, tourist info and more food.
Riding wasn’t as scary as expected. We quickly realized that amongst the chaos, there was a bizarre kind of order. The lack of road rules, scooters weaving in and out of cars on the wrong side of the road, scooters and motorbikes driving wherever they pleased, cars driving on the wrong side of the road, children driving motorbikes, and cars pulling out on you from side streets, didn't turn out to be as much of a problem as we'd anticipated. After we were got used to it, it became fun to ride along with the scooters and watch the passing homes and shops.
In Kuta we quickly found an ATM and Shanna went in to get money. She put the card in and the screen didn’t change. She tried putting in the PIN number – nothing. Tried hitting ‘Cancel’ – nothing. Panicking she called Sam in. He had the same result so got on the phone to the bank. Meanwhile a local man from a shop who spoke a little English came over. Shanna explained the situation and he called over some security guards from a nearby shop (lots of shops have their own security guards). They explained that the bank branch was around the corner. Turn right at the lights, then 15m on the left. Sam was getting nowhere on the phone as they couldn’t speak English so we rode to the branch. But when we turned the corner – nothing.
Sam reasoned that maybe it was the next side street so we headed back to the main road. When we rode through the lights the bank branch was 50m on the right. I guess they got their directions mixed up.
Inside the branch Shanna was told that the card would be taken out of the ATM tomorrow. And then it could be picked up. But not at this branch. At the big branch in Kuta. And Aussie guy at the next booth who lived and worked in Kuta tried to help with the directions for the other branch. After 15 minutes, three different maps drawn by three different employees, we determined it was on the same road. Back past the ATM where the incident occurred, and further along. Shanna left without any of the maps and a knowledge that in Bali we are better off looking ourselves than asking for directions. Sam used the other bank card to get some money out while we were at the bank.
We rode around in search of food and a free map. We weren’t sure where we were going but it was fun to explore a new place. We eventually found the beach and tourist spots where we were offered sarongs and massages, but settled for a small food stand where Sam got rice, chicken and soup for $15,000rp (less than $2). Then we found a small shop with a tourist information sign out the front. They had no map, and spoke no English, but we looked at the tour brochures and asked about the volcano climbing tour. We couldn’t get any real info about the tour, like how to sign up for it or where it leaves from (just assurances that they would drive us there for small fee) so we left.
We found an internet place for $4000rp/hr (50cents) and decided to look up the tours ourselves. Sam found info on the biggest volcano in Bali, Mt Agung, which is 800m taller than the highest peak in Australia. We skimmed the accounts of some people who had climbed it and read that you could just turn up in the local village and get a guide. We decided to do that the next day.
We hired a scooter for $50,000rp/day (total of less than $20 for 3 days) so we could ride up and back. The guy tried to shortchange us when we paid and when he said $60,000rp/day we went to walk away so he went back to the agreed price. But now we had to get the bikes back to our hotel. Sam would ride the scooter back while Shanna rode her bike, then come back to Kuta and switch to get Sam’s bike back. As we left the phone battery died, so we were without GPS. Luckily Shanna remembered the way (despite Sam sometimes doubting her) until we came to a big intersection. Shanna thought it was a right turn and Sam decided to quickly ride down and check it out while Shanna waited at the intersection.
The smell was the worst of the day. There were big muddy piles of sordid who-knows-what and the stench was overpowering. Plus the sun was burning and we had no sunscreen (a casualty of Australian customs liquid rules). Shanna grew quite dizzy and wondered where Sam was? It should have taken about 10 minutes and it was about 30 minutes. Something was wrong. Shanna found somewhere to sit down and used her bike for shade while worrying about Sam.
Then he was there. Motioning to go down the street. And with scrapes down one side.
Someone had swerved in front of him all of a sudden from out of a side street and Sam ended up in a big ditch. Luckily someone in a house came out to help. They helped pull the bike out (the ditch was almost up to Sam’s shoulder!) put some dettol on the wounds and gave him some water to drink. Back at the hotel the staff fussed over him and gave him some alcohol to clean it out better and some more dettol. They all cautioned “Summa Summa” (“Slowly”).
We still had to go get Sam’s bike. Shanna was very worried about riding the scooter back through the chaotic traffic but we only had time for a quick lesson out the front before we had to go. We still had no GPS but remembered our way back to Kuta ok. We couldn’t find the side street with the scooter hire shop though. We rode around as it got closer to 6pm when the shop closed. We found it in the end and Shanna went to get the bike while Sam waited around the corner. This time we got back to the hotel uneventfully.
We were tired after a strange day but needed food. There were some restaurants around the corner so we headed there. The sun was setting and the boats on the water looked beautiful. We picked a restaurant with a big deck to sit and watch the water. The prices were ok, and the food sounded good (we chose Nasi Goreng and garlic prawns) and were ready for a great meal. But the service was very slow, the food just tasted like smoke, and they tried to charge us extra for “tax”. We paid the original amount and left, going back for some much needed sleep.
Tuesday 9 February 2010
The alarm was set for 6am but Shanna was up before then. Too many things were running through her head.
We finished packing our bags, loaded them onto the bikes, had some food and said goodbye to the girls. It was time to go to the airport!
We had decided to take the train to the airport. So we squeezed onto a train at Barunda, and changed at South Bank for the airport line. Sam almost didn't change though because Shanna hadn't told him to get off at South Bank and we'd had to get on the train via different doors, because it was so full. Shanna managed to run down the platform in time to tell Sam to get off though.
At the airport we got off at the international terminal and set up outside the doors where we had plenty of room to disassemble the bikes. Sam went to Virgin to buy bike boxes (Jetstar don't sell them) and then the task began. Sam did most of the disassembling while Shanna taped over the big Virgin logos on the boxes - we didn't want to risk the bikes ending up on the wrong plane! We did yet more rearranging of our things to condense the bags, and we were ready to check in.
When we went into the terminal though we couldn't see a Jetstar counter, despite the fact that outside the doors the Jetstar logo had been with the other airlines. Shanna asked at the Qantas desk and was told that only one Jetstar flight was leaving from the international terminal that day, and it had left earlier that morning. It turns out our flight was going via Darwin, although in all our correspondence from Jetstar that had never been mentioned.
So we had to get to the domestic terminal. And now our bikes were packed so we couldn't wheel them. And we had to move them and all eight of our bags.
At some airports (like Melbourne) it is a very short walk between domestic and international terminals, but in Brisbane it is a LONG way (a few kilometers). We figured the best thing to do would be is to wheel the gear on trolleys to the bus to the domestic terminal. The bus cost us an extra $10 (annoying since we could have caught the train to domestic in the first place!) but got us there just after check in opened.
We didn't have to wait long in line and it looked like we'd be checked in with plenty of time to buy some food and relax before the flight. We'd just spent two hours taking apart bikes and rushing to the other terminal, so a rest and food would be great!
But when we got to the checkin desk they asked for the itinerary of our flight out of Indonesia. We explained ourselves and that we didn't actually have a flight booked, but we had visas for Thailand and China in our passports so surely that was proof enough we were leaving. It wasn't. They were adamant they wouldn't let us on the flight without a booking, because it was a requirement of Indonesian customs.
By now there was only 30 minutes until the checkin closed, so Sam rushed off to work something out. He booked a cheap flight out of the country and we were ok to go. While checking in our things we tried to keep all the heavy bags with us, but we were still almost 20kg over our limit! For an international flight it was $20/kg! Luckily the girl only charged us for 10kg extra, and she mistakingly charged us the domestic rate of $10/kg. (Thank goodness we were stopping in Darwin first!) So we only paid $100 instead of $400! Our lesson from this is that next time we need to check which airline lets you carry more luggage, and book with them even if the ticket costs more.
We finished checking in with 5 minutes to spare before it closed.
It took about 15 minutes to take our bikes to the oversize baggage desk and then pay the overweight fee (they tried to challenge it because it was an international flight), then we got stopped at the scanners because we'd forgot to remove a set of allen keys from our carry-on bags (so we lost that one) and by then our plane was already boarding. We ran through the terminal and were amongst the last to board.
We survived the flight to Darwin with our ipods and noise-cancelling head-phones, and landed in the airport with about 3hrs to kill before the flight to Bali. When we walked through the scanners in Darwin they picked up a bike chain in our bags and were adamant it was a dangerous item and we couldn't take it on board. So we posted it home.
On the plane to Bali we were sitting in front of the same family with young, noisy children we'd been sitting in front of on the flight to Darwin. Luckily there were some empty seats at the back and we were able to move.
We landed in Bali and all the sterotypes were evident immediately. The friendly smiles greeted us as soon as we disembarked from the plane, and the many polite requests for 'money change' as we left the terminal. However, it took us around ten minutes to find our bags, as the porters had collected all the bags off the conveyer belt and formed a circle around them to try and make sure they carried them for you. Even when we found our driver, two porters took over pushing the bike trolley from Sam and we couldn't really stop them. Despite our email warning them that we had two big bikes boxes, the driver's car was not equipped for it. He and the porters spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the bikes in the car. The end result was that Shanna had to sit on Sam's lap in the front seat.
This felt wrong, weren't we braking the law... but no-one gave us a second glance. As soon as we drove out of the airport we saw a scooter with four young children on it - the oldest about 14. At the traffic lights a four year old girl walked through the traffic to beg from the passengers in the taxi in front of us. We had arrived in Indonesia!
We need to start by saying a BIG thankyou to Kristen, Siona and Courtney for having us in their home in Brisbane. We really appreciate it girls and since leaving this morning we miss you (and the Grey's DVDs) already.
We spent our time in Brisbane getting ready to leave Australia. We applied for (and received) our Chinese visas, got lost on the Brisbane bus system, bought bike lubricant and degreaser and gave our bikes a service, and Sam spent an afternoon in phone shops researching GPS phones and learnt that not many phones can use maps without the internet. We bought a GPS phone, bought foreign $, got the tent fixed after searching lots and lots of different shops, spent hours trying to work out the video editing program on our laptop and organized for our battery to be sent from Bayswater post office in Melbourne to Stones Corner Post Office. We picked out some things from our gear that we didn’t need and sent them home, and reorganized our gear.
But it wasn't all work and no play. We watched Invictus at the movies, swam at South Bank and played in the water fountains, ate Beastie Burgers (almost twice in the same day), went to Rebekah and Marshall's engagement dinner (Mexican delight and Baskin Robbins ice cream), used Macca’s wifi, went to the corner pub with Kristen for dinner, Sam discovered a drink called 'orange cream' and consumed some root beer, Shanna watched the latest BBC version of Sense and Sensibility (and discussed serious Jane Austen topics with Kristen) and she read 'The Lost Symbol'. And to make sure we didn't get soft, Sam went to the gym a couple of times and Shanna ran to Southbank... once... Guess we'll toughen up again in Indonesia!
Difficulty- Sam 8, Shanna 8
Distance- 96km (Sam rode an additional 16km to pick up new tubes)
Weather- Bit rainy, bit sunny, bit cloudy...
We left Burleigh Heads at around 8am, and within around 15 kilometres, Shanna's rear tire was once again flat. Sam tried fixing it but while he was able to find the glass sticking through the tire (the culprit I suspect also caused the flat from our last riding day) we were unable to find the latest hole in the tube. To make matters worse none of the tubes we had left would fit on Shanna's wheel as they were both Shraeder valve (car valve) type, so the valve was too big to fit through the rim of the tire.
So reluctantly I rode around looking for a bike shop (if only we had of had the GPS phone we just bought then...) I located a bike shop, and they had nothing so, I kept riding. Fortunately the next bike shop I found had what we needed, but they only took cash and I had none on me. Fifteen minutes later after locating an ATM I was back with some dollars.
Finally on our way again and we heard the dreaded noise of a tyre rapidly deflating. It was the rear again, but this time in a different place. We got off the busy road we were on, pushed our bikes through a big ditch and onto a patch off grass and started taking off the pannier bags, wheel and tyre. We found the culprit, another piece of glass, but this time it has torn a small hole in the tire. I had a spare tire in one of the bags, but it was a much wider one and Shanna preferred to keep the one she had, so we patched the hole, a put the tube and tyre back in. I soon realised that keeping the tyre on was impossible, with air in the tube it poked through the tyre... Off again came the tyre, and on with the new, bigger, heavier, wider one.
We'd been given instructions from a couple of people of the best way to get to Brisbane without riding on the motorway. Shanna had looked at google maps with Barry before we left and we'd confirmed it with a man at a bike shop along the way (where we'd bought new tubes and a new spare tyre). After a number of twists and turns it seemed we were headed the correct way along the Pacific Highway Service Road, but up ahead we'd switch to the other side of the road. The bike shop man assured me that the road we would hit when we crossed over would take us to Logan Road (and Shanna knew how to get to Kristen's from there).
If only it had been that easy...
To start with, we missed the spot where we were meant to cross over the motorway and ended up further north. We had limited time until it got dark but we quickly found our way back to where we needed to be, after navigating an extemely narrow, steep and rock strewn back-path, and were confident we'd make it before dark despite the mornings setbacks. We found the road we needed... but it hit Loganlea Road, NOT Logan Road. We were lost with no map, and the locals didn't seem to know were we needed to go either...
We took a few turns down some major roads trying to head in the direction we though we should be going, but the road ended up turning into nothing and took us down a local street into a suburb we'd never heard of. In a quiet local street some children stopped and yelled out, 'hey, what are you guys doing?', 'where you from,' what do you think of this scooter?', and finally, 'are you lost or something?' When we answered yes they all took turns trying to help us find our way, and the shouting back and forth was getting a little crazy, so we sent two of them off to get a street directory for us. They soon returned and we wrote down the names of the streets we needed from the ancient book and were on our way.
It didn't take long to realise that one of the streets we needed had changed name and all of a sudden we were lost again. Angry and annoyed as it was getting dark, we were still a long way from our destination and I was hungry tired and frustrated, I located a service station to look up were we were. Luckily we were close to Logan Road and soon we were flying along in the right direction. In a light drizzle, with the light fading fast we knew we had to keep up a fast pace, and so with tired and hurting muscles we averaged over 30km/h for most of the way, with even the hills barely slowing us down. After riding through or being stopped at more than twenty sets of traffic lights (and running a few red ones) we finally arrived, exhausted and big grins on our faces at Kristen's to a meal prepared and ready to be eaten, just as it was getting dark.
It was so nice to not only sleep in a bed - but to sleep in!
We went down to the cafe where Robbie, Laura and Barry's son works with Amber (Robbie's girlfriend) and Chris, and he cooked us up a terrific breakfast - the best scrambled eggs and BLEAT sandwich we'd ever had! What a great way to start the day.
Amber and Chris took us down to Tallebudgera Creek where we jumped off the bridge - something I hadn't done years ago when I'd been there and I was glad that I did it this time! (video will be uploaded soon) We spent some time swimming and enjoying the day.
The evening was spent enjoying the company of Laura, Barry, Robbie, Amber and Chris and talking about many different places they'd each been, and our adventure ahead. It was with reluctance we started preparing for our departure in the morning, including changing Shanna's back tube, as the tyre was flat (which became another saga for the following day...)
Difficulty: Shanna 8, Sam 7
Weather: Rain patches, overcast and sunny, VERY windy!
As we packed up our tent and our possessions the rain continued to fall. It was a welcome relief in the night - slightly drowning the noise of the noisy campers and cooling the air. But as we packed our things it was not so welcome, and we realised that it splattered the tent and our bags with mud.
Sam spent time in the bathrooms drying the tent and tarp under the hand dryers and Shanna packed the bags. We left in the rain, but within half an hour the sun was out and it was as hot and muggy as ever. That pattern would follow us throughout the day, short periods of rain followed by sunshine.
We were headed to Burleigh Heads to stay with the people we'd met in Grafton and initially decided to avoid the highway and take the coast road. Within 1km we were grinding our way up some steep hills, and watching the highway next to us meander up much nicer gradients. So at the first opportunity we switched to the highway.
The gradients and pavement were nice to ride on, but the winds were stronger than we'd faced yet. Although Shanna was riding behind Sam, she struggled to keep up and Sam often lost her to the wind. As we neared the border the highway became wider and busier. We crossed the border in the early afternoon and exited the freeway as it turned into the motorway to Brisbane. From here we would take the Gold Coast Highway.
Barry, who we'd met in Grafton, met us at Carrumbin and led us to their house, taking a series of side roads and riding paths. As promised, they lived at the top of a short but steep hill. We made it up with a combination of riding and pushing and were glad to be welcomed so warmly by our hosts.
We showered and spent the afternoon resting before some of Laura ad Barry's fellow cycing friends came over for a dinner in our honour. One of those we met was Jonah, who has the world record for cycling from Perth to the Gold Coast - an amazing 15 Days!
It was the best meal we had eaten for weeks and it was so enjoyable talking to everyone. We felt so welcome and went to bed having made the commitment to stay another day.
Difficulty- Sam 1, Shanna 1
Weather- Lots of rain, a little bit of sun, mostly overcast and cloudy...
Today we found a caravan park, an expensive one because unfortunately all of the 3 caravan parks in Brunswick Heads are owned the same person. $30 for the night for an unpowered sight was the most we have payed so far.
It was raining on and off fairly hard so we set the tarp up between some trees and tried to fit the tent under (photos for this, and the next couple of days will come soon).
The caravan park was huge and amazingly, considering school holidays were well and truly over, almost completely full. Granted the area is a beautiful one, but we are still amazed to see so many people here, in particular so many people in tents...
In the evening we walked along the boardwalk across the river to the beach, which we followed to the break wall were the river meets the sea. There was a few people out swimming, others had thrown their lines from the break wall, and as the sun set we watched the small fishing birds (we didn't know what they were called) duck and weave and dive into the water with amazing grace and skill. We were unable to figure out just how they were seeing the prey they were diving for or even how it was that they could dive and re-emerge so quickly and effortlessly from the water with the tiny fish they must have been eating.
At around 9 pm we fell asleep in our tent to the sound of a light pitter pattering rain and were glad that such a large caravan park was so quiet. An hour later we were violently awoken to the screams and shouts of teenage girls and boys, and the drunken flirtations of our nearest neighbors.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia