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JOURNAL  

Kuta to Ubud, Bali, 25th January

From hectic and intense Kuta, I cycled to the peaceful and stress free sanctuary of Ubud. But the journey there was exciting...

Traffic flows in Kuta in a constant stream in both directions, so its a matter of throwing yourself into the frenzy and hoping for the best. Bali is full of one-ways, but for a cyclist this is not such a problem. If you take a wrong turn, just cycle against the traffic. Everyone else does!

Bemos are minibuses which which dart round on the lookout for passengers. They are on the top of the Traffic Food Chain and have no natural predator. Keep your eyes peeled for them.

On indicating. If anyone indicates, it's probably an electrical problem rather than to signal the intention of turning. Don't be mislead.

It's all MAD! CRAZY! FUN!

Once out of Dempesar, I took a much smaller and quieter road up to Ubud, stopping now and then and saying, rather pathetically, "Ubud,Ubud", like it was the only thing that would come out of my mouth. This would be replied with smiles and gestures to keep going. It seemed every road led to Ubud. When I did stop to consult my map, which seemed remarkably inaccurate, someone would inevitably sidle over to offer some advice and then try to sell a bracelet or watch.

The quieter roads in Bali are the touring cyclist's dream. Good quality surfaces with a few holes here and there to keep you awake, beautiful scenery on either side and lots of action on the road. Animals wandering aimlessly, people walking with baskets balanced superbly on their heads, sweeping bends around rice paddies, steep drops down to gullies, steep hikes up again....

Arriving in Ubud the impression is of a touristy town without the ferocity of Kuta. 'Transport, transport', the call that seems synonymous with Bali, can still be heard as you walk around. People eagerly offer their services to drive you round or rent you a moped. But here its done in a much more relaxed way. You might be followed for a few paces rather than half a street! Kuta felt like it was an ever hungry monster, uncontrollable. It's alive, but a few days is as much as most people can handle. Ubud is also expanding, but it's soaking up the neighbouring villages in a far more gentle fashion.....One big eating festival, full of delicious and cheap eateries all over town, the most demanding choices are where to eat next or which sarong to buy from the infinite patterns available. As touristy as it is, it's not hard to quickly feel very much at home. There's a peaceful library, colorful markets and ornately decorated rooms to stay in for as little as a dollar and a half, including a delicious pancake and fruit salad for breakfast.

I visited Ubud's Monkey Forest Park with Dawn and Kerry, the crazy San Fransisco girls. But be warned. These monkeys know what they want. Hold out a peanut, and they'll go for the bag, and there's no stopping them till they've got it... Kerry tentatively offered one a nut but he had spotted the ones she was holding back. Leaping at her spectacularly, he soon prized them out of her hand. We had a good laugh as she ran screaming in the opposite direction... In the park are temples and stairways with ornate and sometimes gruesome statues, like the baby-devouring monsters in the inner temple. Later, we ate at a simple restaurant,seated on cushions and watched the sun go down over the rice fields whilst sipping ginger tea...

Ubud, 27th January

This morning I rose early and cycled to a spot I had been recommended which gives onto the river. In fact, I couldn't find it and ended up taking a small track which promised a 'Good View 500m'. This track turned into a footpath which crossed a wooden bridge and passed through an ornate archway. What I saw before me was breathtaking.... a panoramic view of the river far below, rice paddy fields descending in steps down to the water's edge and a forest full of palm trees all around. I found a little ledge perfect for yoga and stretching. I don't think I've ever done the Sun Salutation in such a magnificent place. The sun was still rising and there were a few Balinese dotted about in the fields below, constantly stooped as they picked the rice.

Cycling here is a real adventure. The smallest trip is exciting and eye opening. The attitude seems so different towards you. People wave and smile, and I tentatively test out my first words of Indonesian on them. I've set up a base in Ubud to explore the countryside and temples In the next couple of days, I'll set off into the mountains on a route I've been suggested, then circle round the island to the East. It's very exciting. The bike is light and speedy, I'm even thinking of investing in a new T-shirt and buying a sarong! Met a couple of Dutch tourers who have suggested a couple of good roads and some big, real big, hills!

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