05 October, 2007

Bali Dancing on a Harley

William and I agreed that I would wait until a week has passed before looking into the possibility of taking the bike off the boat. This would only put me behind schedule by a week. Any more than that, and I can’t tell how I’d make the time back up at the other end. The fuel pump was sent to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, for renovation. It came back by the end of the week, according to the mechanic, but it didn't fix the problem. Meanwhile there were some tasks to perform on the boat.

There was some frustration in me though, the longer the situation continued, the greater my frustration grew and it took me a while to realise what exactly caused this. William and I didn’t mention Indonesia originally because he had no intention of going there. However, the simple fact remained that, having crossed the Timor Sea, I had no further need of the boat. Scotland was only four ferries away, all things being equal, and I had a perfectly well-functioning motorbike that could take me there.

The quandary was that I had made an agreement with William that I would accompany him as far as Malaysia, and having crew undoubtedly made his life easier. We agreed that I would wait a week, before being released from this agreement. I was fine with this, but it would be difficult for both of us if it came to taking the bike off the boat. We’d made pals over the last few weeks and I could see how my leaving would seriously inconvenience him. At the same time, I was looking forward more and more to getting back on the bike. Back to my own life and being in control of my own destiny, instead of being a part of William’s. Giving up control over things is fine for a while, but eventually you need to take back responsibility for your own life.

More boats arrived with familiar faces from Darwin. Most had left there before us but had taken a more leisurely route through the Indonesian islands, looking at komodo dragons and orang utan. I met up with Serge, a Belgian I'd met in Darwin, and his crewmate Emma, another backpacker, as well as the crew of 'The Spirit of Wales' Dave and Chris, a Welsh/Kiwi father and son team. Small social groupings emerged, and this four seemed to me to be the most adventurous.

Emma organised all sorts of outings for them (at the monkey forest) .and I found myself tagging happily along. Crews seem more able to socialise together, free from the hassles of ownership. Owners and captains made up other groups discussing best routes, salty sea tales and the best ways of splicing things. They have all their worries and concerns while we just want to relax and play at being tourists. At a Hindu Temple.

Emma and Serge found the captain with whom they'd sailed from Darwin to be a little elderly for the task he’d set himself. On the route from Darwin they had had a more experienced sailor crewing with them and they had felt more confident. But they had little experience themselves and the next part of their journey was to be much more difficult with more sea traffic, islands and a narrower passage to negotiate. They reluctantly told him that they were less than confident and asked him to find some experienced crew to accompany them. He was naturally unsettled by this.

One night I managed to leave my camera in the marina restaurant. Sadly, it wasn't there in the morning. All the photos of Louise's trip around Australia, as well as those of crossing the Timor were lost. I bought a cheap new one, but the loss is still heavy. I was promised photos from the others at some later stage.

With all this in mind, and little to do in port while things got mended, we looked for other activities to entertain us. It turned out that Emma had been raised in London in a family with motorbikes coming out of their ears. While she’d never passed her own test, she was keen to hire a bike and go for a run. This sounded good to me, especially since she was going to share the rental costs. We had the choice between a 90cc Yamaha moped and a 1580cc 'Fat Boy' Harley Davidson. Emma insisted on the Harley. Not my favourite choice of machine, but certainly more comfortable than a moped for two-up touring. We reckoned on three days to circumnavigate Bali.

The Harley was just immense and was all I expected it to be. Big, heavy, comfortable and very difficult to get around corners . . . basically a big, daft, shiny 1950’s motorbike with some silly wee leather panniers that could carry two people around Bali’s twisty roads in a sort of 'style'. I'm not quite sure what style that was. Not built for speed, this lump pottered us around at very low revs. I was disappointed it didn’t go "potato, potato" as the sound was copyrighted by Harley Davidson. Tongues firmly in cheeks, we leapt aboard and went off in search of air-conditioned accommodation. We both felt we deserved a bit of comfort after so long at sea!

We quickly got lost but Bali isn’t all that big so we were soon back on track and heading north. After some of the marina melodrama, it felt good to be heading away for a while. We soon found ourselves on the north coast of Bali and in a comfortable beach hotel owned by an American and his Jerseybite (from Jersey, Channel Islands) wife. He sat with us a for while and even bought us a welcome drink as he told us about the locality and how he'd come to own the hotel. His staff were lovely and cooked us an excellent meal.

Emma wasn’t too interested in sight-seeing but just wanted to sit on the back of the bike, looking at the fantastic scenery and sunbathing. Once I’d become more used to it, the Harley became quite good fun. It was pinking heavily though, so I couldn’t use its legendary V-Twin torque. In fact, as often as not, the 90cc mopeds were getting away from us at the lights, being nippier as well as more maneuverable. After teenage lassies in school uniforms began getting away from us, and they were two-up, I gave up using acceleration as a means of finding any empty road, and left it to developing speed to get us through the few determined souls who’d ripped us off at the lights. Brightly uniformed schoolchildren waved, screamed and smiled as we passed along the quieter lanes of Bali. In three days we got all the way around the island, including a very high (1700m) pass which was far too cold for t-shirt comfort. (I know, we should have been wearing leather for safety, but we’d have fainted with the heat!)

When we returned, Serge had already "jumped ship" onto the Spirit of Wales, and moves had already been made to ensure that Emma followed. She felt bad about it but had warned her captain and he’d made no serious moves to find more crew. Emma and Serge both got along well with Dave and Chris so the whole move made perfect sense. They didn’t particularly need crew, but were more than willing to have them on their happy-go-lucky boat. There were some people not talking to others and some whisperings of "mutiny" but it was all mainly in melodramatic fun. These things happen, and if people are daft enough to want too much from an inexperienced crew then they can only expect free-thinking individuals to take matters into their own hands.Myself, Emma, Chris and Serge.

Dave appeared to be about the most chilled-out skipper in the marina. He built his own boat slowly over a number of years and knows it inside out. Quietly confident but not one to put his oar in uninvited, he is easy to listen to, and knows much more than he lets on. Emma and Serge will be happy on their new boat and hopefully enjoy the next leg of their journey in a far more relaxed way.

As for Harleys, I can confirm that they (or at least that one) really are rubbish as motorcycles. Pretty to look at, they are absolute murder to sit on and ride. Our initial comfort became a real squirming misery after just two days.
It was difficult to return to the marina after such a freedom as even that bike had offered. I'd had a taste of movement, and I was back spending money but not going anywhere.
We had a few more parties and pleasant evenings in the marina restaurant. One evening while out we tried the fabled durian fruit. This stuff is supposed to "smell like hell and taste like heaven". As it approached the table we began accusing one another of pumping. The waiter just laughed. We grabbed our noses and passed it round for a try. Chris wimped out but Emma, Serge and I all had a go. The taste was truly unbelievable. Indescribable for me. Maybe ours was off but it tasted worse than the smell of a freshly filled nappy, maybe with some sick mixed in. Even worse than that, it kept coming back on us and so we spent the rest of the evening seeking ever stronger mints to try and get rid of the disgusting taste. Indonesians are mad keen on this stuff, and I hear the Malaysians are even more so.

Many skippers seemed to have read the same weather reports and five or six upped and left one morning almost together. The 'Spirit of Wales' was among them, sailing with 'Gwendolyn'. I was left on the quayside waving my hanky and snuffling. Fair winds and smooth seas - aarrgh!


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