Kamikaze Maniacs!

I should have stopped with the first cup. I shouldn’t have drained the whole pot. Coffee. It gives me the jitters, and I did not need a panic attack perched on the back of Ketut’s motorbike in the midst of a traffic jam on Jalan Raya, the busy main street of Ubud central.

Days ago I had mentioned that sometime I would like to explore the area of Ubud that lies south of the palace. I’ve walked the village for a couple of miles in all directions, but I know there is more to see. Touring the streets by motorbike seemed a good idea. This morning when Ketut brought my breakfast he inquired, as he always does, “What is program for today?” I told him I was going to work hard, write-write, all day. “Oh…no program?” he asked. Obviously writing does not qualify for program status in his world. In the next moment he was making a circular gesture with his arm saying, “Go look Ubud?”

A few hours later I climbed on behind Ketut, fastened a death-grip around his waist, and we were off. Okay, this is why I am determined to learn Indonesian. I pictured a leisurely weaving back and forth through narrow streets just south of the palace, up one, down the other, and getting a general lay of the land. I had also mentioned finding the large Delta Dewata Supermarket and the Seniwati Art Gallery, all well within the general area of my frame of reference.

As we pulled into the congested flow on Monkey Forest Road Ketut hollered something about did I want to see Bintang Supermarket too…big big? “Sure!” I hollered back. A big big supermarket would be fun…right? We rounded the corner onto Jalan Raya and were absorbed into the teeming sea of motorbikes, tourist buses, mini-vans, bicycles, and clueless tourist pedestrians. It isn’t a total free-for-all like the kamikaze maniac drivers in Sicily, but it is cause for hyperventilation if you’ve had too much coffee.

For what seemed like hours we squeezed through openings that I would have sworn on my life were impassable. We challenged tour buses for our right to the road…I would have slunk, cowering behind them, sucking up the noxious fumes, grateful to be alive. Not so Ketut! Then, suddenly we were free, speeding along an open road, breathing great gulps of clean air. And on we went, and on, and on…. After several more miles I asked Ketut, “Are we still in Ubud?” “Yes, yes, very good area,” he assured me. And on…and on….

The landscape began to look rural, and as we rounded a tight curve I gasped…”Stop!” Before us were rice terraces, those ethereal masterpieces of agriculture that seared their beauty into my memory when I first beheld them in Bali three years ago. “I take pictures, Ketut!” I explained as I clambered off the motorbike fishing for my camera.

My heartbeat triples its cadence whenever I see the terraces. I don’t know what it is about them but to me they are the essence of prayers.

Ketut and my chariot patiently waited. Then I resumed my perch and off we went. Bintang Supermarket is huge compared to CoCo’s and small compared to Sam’s Club or Costco in the U.S. I took a quick swing through, didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without, and was back in the saddle in no time, still headed farther away. Then, without explanation or apology, the road made a giant loop and, yes! We were going back toward Ubud!

Upon re-entering the part of the city I recognize (I used to call it a village…it has today, in my mind, graduated to city status) we finally began the weaving process I had originally imagined. But it wasn’t easy. There are north-south streets but very, very few east-west connectors. And sometimes what begins innocently enough as a road, ends as a trail through the rice paddies.

The road above with no warning became the trail below.

We turned down a street. It became a bumpy lane, then a cart path, then the trail you see here, and then…we turned around. With expert maneuvering Ketut got us to Delta Dewata, but today Seniwati Gallery was nowhere to be found. It was totally my fault for not having an address.

Our adventure had taken two hours. Where were we? I have no idea. But I saw new sights, took some great photos, bonded with Ketut and the motorbike, and made it, once again, safely home. What could possibly be better than that?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Barb Garland
    Aug 01, 2012 @ 09:16:54




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