Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cyclo-Volcano Trip

Well, a few things have happened in the last week but rather than tediously going through them one by one I thought I'd just describe one day - yesterday. This day involved losing mosquito repellent and meeting someone from close to home at the top of a volcano.

I awoke late in the morning in the town of Ubud still thoroughly absorbed in the awesome book I'm reading, 'Anathem' by Neal Stevenson (it's similar to Harry Potter but with celestial mechanics instead of magic). So I grabbed it after breakfast with the intention of reading it by the pool for the day. However, just as I did this I noticed a mosquito - this insect would have consequences for me (in a causality-type-way, not a malaria-type-way).

I tried to find my mosquito repellent I had bought at great expense back home, but after a thorough search and extreme annoyance I came to the conclusion that I'd left it at the hotel in Kuta. After getting nothing out of calling the hotel I decided I needed to rent a motor-bike (I'd probably be able to figure out how to ride it if my life depended on it) and ride back to Kuta to get it and so negotiated a reasonable price for one and packed my bag... but there was the repellent! Hiding in my day pack with my suncream! So, still in the mood for an expedition, I swapped the motorbike for a pushbike for a Single Day Cycle Tour (or 'bike ride') and headed off in a random direction (north).

Traveling consistently uphill I passed a few villages, the odd Hindu temple, great views of the volcano Gunung Agung and some amazing rice paddy encarved valleys that stretched down to the sea. I would have taken some photos, but it never occurred to me to bring a camera. Occasionally someone passing me would give me a look that said, "You're weird", so I would give them a look back that said, "I'm weird?! You're the one balancing your whole family and three metres of live chickens on a single motor scooter!", which shut them up.

After riding uphill without knowing where I was going for about three hours I could see that I was getting to the top of something. Suddenly, I realised what I was the top of: the rim of a spectacularly massive volcano. There were several small towns perched at the top of the rim, and a couple even at the bottom of the caldera, narrowly missed by a recent PYROCLASTIC FLOW (keen followers of my life and times will recall that this is my favourite mode of death), which had exploded from a secondary volcano inside the caldera of the first. Getting out my GPS I discovered I'd climbed 1200 vertical metres from Ubud over about 30kms.

Sitting down at a local eatery cantilevered over the rim of this vast volcano I bumped into a blonde-haired guy speaking animated Indonesian to the proprietor. As it turned out, he did an Arts degree at Melbourne Uni, like me, and actually lives about 100m from my old house in Port Melbourne, on Pickle Street (he was working for an NGO in Ubud over here), so we exchanged numbers the better to catch up for beers later.

My hurtle down the mountain (taking a wildly different route) was everything I'd hoped it would be on the way up. I flew around bamboo enshrouded corners and overtook motorbikes as the oval shape of my back wheel caused the bike's vertical oscillations to weave in and out of the resonant frequency of my own body. Going past I watched farmers cut the rice with large sickles (I'd previously assumed they were only used for Communism). Every now and then I'd have to stop at an intersection and yell, "Ubud!" and follow the hand gestures.

Back in Ubud, on the other side of the island to Kintamani, as I later discovered it was called, I tried to arrange through the hotel a guide for a trek the next day up the 3km high Gunung Agung, but found that there was a minimum of two people for the trip (this place is too pro-couples I reckon). So I called up Lindsay, the Melbournian, who couldn't come on the trek but helped me hit the local food and drink scene instead.

After a quick road-side meal Lindsay introduced me to some Ubudian friends of his (who were mainly interested in arranging times for me to teach them English), then we beersed it up at my hotel. Interestingly, more out of momentum than absent-mindedness, we both managed to plant our feet on a step containing a coiled and hostile looking snake going down the hillside stairway to my room.

Lindsay had to work in the morning so I got back into Anathem until late in the night, savouring the fact that I didn't have to get up at 3am for the trek (which was also good because it was pissing down with rain all night).

I'm still waiting indefinitely at the hotel for someone else to go on this trek, but it occurs to me that it's in the hotel's interest to keep me here indefinitely so I'll try to find some way of bypassing them.

Until next time!


  1. Yay. Do you actually own a camera yet?

  2. Yeah - I've been taking photos, but I can't figure out how to upload them on this site yet.

  3. Wow and it was all the insect repellent's doing! I'm glad that you're still alive after coming so close to your preferred way of dying.

  4. Ah Felix. You have an inimitable writing style. It's a pleasure to read of your travels.