When I left Amed, I was forcing myself to get back on the road. I remembered the rather fierce, equanimous woman I had been a year earlier, and I missed her. Now, all I really wanted was existential anaesthesia, but you can’t always have what you want, so I made myself go anyway. One foot in front of the other.
* * *
It’s the wet season, I ride out of Amed in the rain. I’m keen to get out of Bali, onto Java, onto the next thing, and the main road across the top of the island is an easy ride. The first couple of hours to Singaraja are familiar from my visa renewals – up and back from Imigrasi twice every thirty days. But then I ride past that squat concrete office building and it’s into the unknown again. Finally.
Paddy fields on the right, ramshackle buildings on the left; the rain is drenching, and nobody is selling by the roadside in the late afternoon. Everything is just dimness and mud.
I am close to Permuteran when I come across the flooding. It’s not unusual for this time of year – every now and then there’ll be a downpour on the mountain, and a torrent of muddy water and debris will crash across the coastal road in fiendish abandon.
I’m happy enough with the floodwaters – honestly, they’re fun to ride through and I have to restrain myself to avoid hooning along and soaking the passing locals with plumes of water. It gets trickier where the torrents cross the road; the water is fast moving and you can’t see the rocks and branches freshly strewn across the tarmac.
My main issue, though, is momentum: if I ride too slowly, my bike will fall over… Although this is an excuse that I like to give policemen, it’s also true. My bike is tall and with all my gear on it, it’s heavy; there’s a long way to fall, and nothing stabilises like a bit of throttle. But the scooters waddle through the floodwaters at about 4km an hour, and that’s a problem for me.
I need them to get out of my way. But every time I stop before the flood waters – to let a gap open up ahead of me – some more scooters will overtake me and fill the space. I shake my head.
‘Tunggu, tunggu!’ I call – wait. Eventually a gap opens up and I fang through it. Mission accomplished.
Dusk always seems to come earlier on a rainy day, and I feel inexplicably tired. I had expected to get to the ferry port today, but I left late and… and, well, whatever. I’m tired. I’m a little cold. I don’t feel great. I ride through the floodwaters that cut the town in half, then start ducking down side streets, asking for prices at the homestays.
One of them charges 25,000 rupiah – nearly $25 Australian – but when I turn to leave, the price drops dramatically. It’s rainy season and they don’t have many guests.
I feel a little bad, because I hadn’t meant to beat them down on price; it’s not the proprietor’s fault that I’m unemployed and penniless, and honestly, the place is far too nice for hobos like me. But they insist, and I accept. And it’s beautiful. There are flowers in the garden, fresh white sheets, and flower petals on the bed. My outdoor shower is not hot, but it is warm. It’s beautiful.
* * *
After I’ve covered and secured the bike, I walk into town and find a cheap warung, buy stir fried vegetables and rice for dinner. Later, I walk back along the road, see people drinking beer. I want one so badly. I buy myself a small Bintang, and ask to sit at a long table with some relaxed-looking Europeans. They are here to scuba dive, and they graciously accept me into their circle. The night ends with long conversation into the night in the bar of their hotel across the road. We bond over metal music festivals, diving and beers. It’s a treat, and a welcome relief from the space inside my head.
* * *
The next morning, I go for my breakfast. The proprietor’s husband is there, waiting to cook for the few guests who might show up. He asks me if I would like sarapan, and I am confused: makan pagi, I ask him? He smiles broadly and explains; it turns out that both terms mean ‘breakfast’, and so I add another word to my vocabulary. This is how I learn bahasa Indonesia.
When I finish breakfast, it’s after 10am and I feel so tired, still. I ask if I can stay another day; yes, of course.
Great. I go back to my room and cry for a long time.
* * *
Later, I decide that I haven’t been eating enough, which probably isn’t helping my emotional state. Food in Bali – in places where there are tourists – is relatively expensive, so I don’t buy too much of it. But that’s false economy if you feel sick and cry every day. So I go down the road and buy myself chicken, and vegetables, and then fried bananas for desert, and another beer.
I immediately feel better.
* * *
The next day, I pack everything back on the bike. It’s expanded again, in tortuous defiance of physics. But the sun is shiny, the last stretch to the ferry terminal is beautiful smooth tarmac, winding through jungle.
I only have a short time to wait for the next ferry; I park under the shade of a palm tree, and take a photograph of the blue sky.
I’m at the edge of Bali, and my spirits are light.