Day 226: Cowabunga Dude

Only 2 days remain of the Erratic Ramblings guys, get it while it’s hot. Today was a sad day, we lost two more fellow travellers. Yes ladies and gents, both Ann and Simon left us to fly back home to their lives in England. It left a void that we tried to fill with shopping and the beach. With the parents gone we were back to our lazy ways, after going out in the afternoon we remained at the hotel. That’s basically it, but here I go once again explaining everything else that happened.

Our alarm was set for 8:15am, it was Ann and Simon’s last day so it was only fair to enjoy breakfast at a time that suited them. Even though I was shattered because I hadn’t finished my blog until close to 3am, I got up when the alarm rang – and believe me, I really didn’t want to. We knocked for them at their room, then we all devoured a very nice breakfast. It was buffet, and they had everything from bacon to fruit. I had a couple bowls of cereals, some fruit, bacon and egg, a croissant, and some coffee. Needless to say I was full afterwards. Because Ann and Simon only had until midday we decided to spend their final few hours looking around the nearby Carrefour. We quickly popped back to the room to rifle through our bags and see what we could give Sarah’s parents to take home. We both found a few items which cleared a significant amount of space, then the four of us met in the lobby before setting off.

The Carrefour (a word I just learned that day) was all of 500m down the road from our hotel. Inside it sold everything you could want and more. It consisted of three levels. The ground floor sold cars and had a couple restaurants. The first floor had an arcade and a handful of small shops. The second floor contained nothing but local eateries and a few more shops. The third and final floor was a ginormous supermarket. As we ascended the many levels, we lost the girls instantly on the second floor when they spotted a shoe shop. Like magpies to shiny objects, they were all over it. Simon and myself decided to leave them to it and went on ahead to the supermarket. They had a great electronics section full of gadgets, much like the girls to shoes, we found our obsession. It was there I fell in love with a 55 inch 3d television. Never had I seen an image so sharp and clear, nor had I ever seen 3d so perfect. The tv put cinemas to shame. I was both entranced and mesmerised by its beauty, I couldn’t peel myself away, every image looked as though it was coming at me. It only got better from there, we then found another tv that was connected to the Internet, and its remote acted like a wand. Wherever I moved it the sensor on the screen moved with it, I felt like a wizard in that very moment. After we’d spent the best part of 40 minutes looking at electronic gadgetry we decided to look for the girls. They were in the supermarket flitting between the various aisles when we found them, Sarah bought a couple items then we left for our hotel.

The time was getting on now and Ann and Simon had about 40 minutes left before their taxi was scheduled to arrive. That was enough time for us to enjoy some final drinks together. We ordered a few beers and took them to the roof terrace. It turned out the leaking roof in our old room was a blessing in disguise. When we reached the terrace there was constant banging coming from a nearby construction sight, had we still been in the old room it would’ve been too noisy. As we sat around the table we took some pictures in the nice weather and enjoyed our drinks, then before we knew it, it was 12pm. We walked Sarah’s parents to the lobby where we said a long goodbye for a second time. Unlike the time we said goodbye in London before we came travelling, this time around it didn’t feel as permanent. It was a strange feeling, like we’d be seeing them again next week. We waved them off as they drove away in the taxi, we waved until they disappeared from sight, Sarah and I then returned to the room for a short while.

Neither of us had done any laundry for a long time, so it was no surprise that I bagged around 85% of what I owned. Sarah had a few items, but nothing to the extremes of my bag. We were doing it now because we didn’t want to show up at Beth and Adam’s house with a bag full of smelly clothes and be like “hey guys, do you mind if we use your washing machine?” I’m sure they wouldn’t have, but we didn’t want to come across as rude. I was left with only a couple items which were already clean, unfortunately the one pair of boardies I had were too big, it was time to use the sewing kit Sarah’s parents had bought me. Sarah to the rescue, she took them in slightly and they now fitted my slender body perfectly. Our hotel charged per item for their laundry, so that was out of the question for my load. Instead we enquired about places in town that did it by the kilo, they didn’t really know of anywhere specific, but told us there were plenty to choose from. With that we took our bags outside and the security guard helped us hail a taxi. For just over £1 the taxi driver dropped us off at Legian street and we located a nearby laundrette. They charged me only 40,000 (just shy of £3) for four kilos of clothing. Not bad at all. Now we were free of the smelly garments we walked around the neighbouring shops.

Because the temperature in Australia would be similar to that of England, we were looking for hoodies. Nowhere sold them bar the expensive branded shops. It’s not like there wasn’t a market for them, it was mostly Australian tourists in Bali on their holidays, so if they came over during their winter surely they’d want warmer clothing to take home. We spent a couple hours scouring the streets, stopping in various skate shops admiring their items, but not actually wanting to pay their steep prices. After many shops had been entered and exited we found a little restaurant to eat lunch. Our meals were tasty, as was the added tax and service charge on the bill. After we paid the high 15% tax and additional service fee we went to the beach. The one thing this beach had that the others didn’t was entertainment. In the waters riding atop the waves were hundreds of surfers. Some were pros, others were just learning, but it was fun to watch regardless of their skill level. Some of the bails made us wince, it didn’t look pretty any time somebody face planted the shallow water, or received a surfboard to the back of the head. We sat for a while before moving down the beach a little farther. On the way we passed countless surf schools, all of which asked us if we were interested in learning. I was, but couldn’t afford it. The beach was full of people for some unknown reason, at first we thought there may have been surfing competitions, but there wasn’t. Many people were just taking pictures of the surfers for their own purposes. The whole time we were there Sarah kept comparing her tan to other girls.
“Gah, look at her tan, she’s so brown. Tomorrow I want to spend the whole day on the beach!” – terrific news for me! After a couple hours passed, we stopped in a nearby shop for snacks before catching a taxi back to the hotel. It took a few before we found a driver willing to take us on the meter, then the second we got into the car it began raining. Perfect timing.

The driver missed our hotel and began driving back down the road. As soon as we told him, he smacked on the brakes and came to a grinding halt beside the road. He apologised sincerely, we told him it was fine, paid the money, then walked 10m back to the entrance. The pair of us returned to the room to relax for a while, where we ended up staying until 8:30pm. It took me a lot longer than expected to read through the previous day’s blog, around 2-3 hours. I was so tired when I’d written it the previous evening that I pretty much had to rewrite all of it again. It was about 7pm by the time I’d finished and uploaded it. I then Skyped my mum to see how she was doing, thankfully everything was good and we had a great conversation. Afterwards Sarah and I went back to the Carrefour for something to do. We bought a delicious strawberry fruit shake to share, then spent the rest of our time in the supermarket. I went back to the new love of my life… the 3d tv, and took some pics for the blog. Sarah bought a couple more items, including crisps to replace the ones she’d stolen from the room’s minibar, then we bought another shake and returned to Sun Boutique Hotel.

Because we still hadn’t eaten tea yet, we ordered food from the hotel’s restaurant. What a smart decision that was. I chose the spaghetti bolognese, and hands down it topped any others before it. The chef had even chopped up the noodles to make them more manageable, as if I were a child. It was so flavoursome that I could’ve easily eaten 6 servings. Sarah was chatting with her sister the whole time she ate, and was practically in tears every time her niece made her laugh. When we’d finished eating we tried to take the conversation upstairs, that way Sarah wouldn’t have to shout over the top of the passing traffic outside. Unfortunately the Internet didn’t work in our room, but because my Skype was still signed in from earlier that evening, Sarah noticed my nan was online. I then had the pleasure of running around the hotel trying to find a good enough signal to speak with the queen of the family. Ground floor, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd all offered zero bars. Eventually it dropped off and none of them were sending out any signal at all. I tried one last trick by restarting my device, voila, it worked. I got ahold of my nan and spoke with her from the comfort of the bed in my room. My uncle happened to be around her house at the time, so I briefly got a chance to talk with him too. He wound me up by saying he was enjoying the lions share of nan’s baking now that I was gone. Her cakes are the best things since… her sliced bread. The time was 11:20pm when we said our goodbyes, Sarah and I then attempted to watch a movie, but both of us were far too tired. Somehow I managed to find the energy to write my blog, then got to bed around 1am. Sarah had demanded that an alarm be set for 8:30am, not a minute later, as all day tomorrow she wanted to get sunburnt like the many Aussies we’d seen at the beach today… Oh the joys of travelling with your girlfriend (I’m aware I’ve probably used that line before, but at least each time you know it’s justifiable).

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Day 221: All About The Benjamin

It was finally here, my birthday! And with it came the arrival of my Nintendo 3DS XL, although, I didn’t play on it as much as expected. Today was the first time I’d ever celebrated the feat of gaining another year older, abroad. And it was the first time alcohol wasn’t involved. The perks of getting older and more mature eh! To celebrate the wonderful life of Ben Norris, we did nothing, just the way I liked it. Instead we spent the day beside the pool, visiting our very own private beach, then going out for a lovely evening meal. It really was a great day, and now you lucky people get to read all about it.

Unfortunately, even though today was my birthday, I didn’t get the luxury of a lie in. Nor did in get the immediate attention of my girlfriend. The second she woke up she asked for my phone instead of wishing me a happy birthday. I didn’t mind, as I’d actually forgotten what day it was myself. It took her 10 seconds to realise her mistake, then I got a big cuddle and a kiss. Today saw us leaving Ubud to move on to greener pastures. We were scheduled to catch the first fast boat of the day to Lembongan, a stunning island where we’d all relax and chill out for the duration of our stay. First things first we needed breakfast, so at 6:30am we got up and went about getting ready. Sarah and I packed our final things away, then went to knock for her parents. SHOCKER, we were ready before Ann and Simon, but not by much. We all then went for breakfast. After that we moved our bags to the reception area and waited on our driver. To pass the time we made small talk with the hotel manager.

The driver was running half an hour behind schedule. It was around 8:15am before he showed up, the boat left at 9:30, and the port was a good one hour drive away. Ann, more so than the rest, was paranoid we weren’t going to make it in time. Even more so when Simon asked the driver to stop so he could make a withdraw. The driver spoke extremely good English, and he was asking about what sort of cars we drove back home, he then explained how his son is studying to become an accountant, he was a very friendly and chatty man. I enjoyed listening to him talk because of the way he rolled his R’s. Every so often he’d say the name of a place like Sempur, but when he said it, it came out as “Sempurrrrrrrr”. At 9:20am we had arrived, but narrowly missing the boat was the least of our worries when we saw what waited for us up ahead.

The fast boat we’d be taking across the sea to Lembogan, floated atop the passing waves in an uncontrollable manner. Each wave was around 5 foot high, and forced the boat all over the place. Ann was really worried by this. There were porters whose job it was to carry everyone’s large holdalls aboard the boat, but they expected a tip upon their return. The way people got aboard resembled the two pence machines at an arcade. The ones where the shelve moves back and forth casually pushing any hangers on off the edge. As the tide went out, it was do or die for everyone. I found it slightly amusing as I saw Ann run on behind Sarah, I don’t know why, maybe it was the swaying boat that made everyone look uncoordinated that did it. I climbed aboard after them, but because the wave was going out as I climbed on, there was no issue. The hardest part was walking down the aisle to my seat. When Simon sat down beside me I looked out the window, that’s when I saw it. There was an upturned boat, which had clearly been there a while. Not the best sight to see given the circumstances. Just when we thought we were safe, it got worse. I didn’t learn of this until later on when Sarah told me, as the last few passengers climbed aboard, the anchor rope snapped. The anchor at the back of the boat, which was holding it to the beach, now served no purpose. The only one keeping us from washing up on the shore was the front anchor. As I looked around the boat I could see these worries and scared expressions on the passenger’s faces. At first I wondered what the big deal was, until I noticed the back end of the boat tipping over on itself. Fortunately the wave passed, and the boat levelled, but there was one particular passenger who feared for her child’s safety. She asked a man if he’d mind swapping with her, but you could tell he was also scared. He shouted back at her saying “yes, just give me a minute”. Wimps, the lot of them. There was nothing to worry about, even if the Lonely Planet had printed horror stories of the crossing on its pages. After a nauseous half an hour voyage, the boat parked safely alongside the shore of Lembongan.

When all the bags had been offloaded by the friendly Balinesian staff, we were escorted to a small truck for a free lift to our accommodation. We shared the truck with a cool looking surfer dude, who had with him a really lightweight board. For all I knew he was a world famous surfer, he certainly had the build for it. God I wish I could surf… Sorry, I went a little off track there. Our new resort was just as pretty as the last (which you’ll see in the pics) but for different reasons. Inata had more of a modern meets traditional vibe, whereas Nanuk was comprised of wooden huts, giving off the more authentic island experience. Surprisingly each hut had a/c inside. Up until now, all the huts we’d stayed in were fan only. There was a small pool to cool down in, a restaurant which sold food throughout the day, and lovely grounds to explore. It was definitely worth the price we were paying. We were given a welcome drink each by the staff, and when Sarah told them it was my birthday, they said “we’ll party later” – we never did 😦

After our drinks, the guys told us our rooms were ready and walked us to them. It took a while for everyone to get sorted, but around midday I was finally given my presents. I was like a kid at Christmas. All those items I’d ordered on eBay had gone from digital images to real life tangible objects. For my birthday I received the Nintendo system from Sarah (much to her concern, she feared I’d give it more attention than her… she thought right). I got a few cards from my mum, nan, and Sarah’s parents. My mum also got me a new Starbucks card to replace the one Sarah and I had rinsed. After I’d unwrapped everything and read all my cards, I spent a while playing on my new toy as the others sat by the pool. Eventually I left the Nintendo to charge in the room, then joined Sarah and her parents. After a short time swimming around, we moved over to the restaurant for some dinner.

Before we ordered we spoke with Jacob, he was one of the staff members who spoke excellent English. Jacob told us of the many day trips to do on Lembogan, and reinforced my decision to snorkel with the others rather than do a dive. He told me it worked out cheaper to do it as a group, and because I was the only one with a diving license it meant I’d have to pay double the price for the privilege of going under. When we learned all there was to do we had dinner, followed by a walk. It was a hot day, but a nice kind of hot, either that or Sarah and I had well and truly acclimatised. Poor Ann and Simon hated it, the pair of them nearly melted into blobs on the floor every few feet. The first beach we located at the end of our resort was kind of dirty. This was because all the boats were docked there, the fuel and oils stained the water. Instead of going there, we located a hidden gem off the beaten track. It was stunning. The beach was guarded by two colossal mountains at either end, the sand was white, and the sea was crystal. The best thing was, because it was hidden, we had the whole thing to ourselves for the length of time we were there. After a while Ann found the heat too much, and had to sit it out in the shade. Sarah and I took a final stroll up and down the shore, then we all left together. On the way back I spotted the most adorable calf I’d ever seen, its eyes were so big and shiny that I just wanted to give it a cuddle, but I didn’t think mummy cow would have been too pleased with that, so I settled for a picture instead. Back at the resort, Sarah and I got back in the pool to spend some time floating about, before getting out to dry off in the sun. Every year on the 24th of May it’s always sunny, and today was no exception. Until around 4pm that was. Out of nowhere the skies filled with grey clouds, making Sarah and I come to the conclusion that staying on the sun loungers was probably a redundant idea. That’s when Sarah came up with a brilliant idea, to get some beers and return to the room.

Just as we were about to climb the steps of our hut, we saw Sarah’s parents in the chill out area below, so we did the same. The huts were divided between an upstairs and a downstairs. Upstairs housed the bedrooms, downstairs had two chill out beds to relax on during the day. This is when I began playing on my new toy. The 3d effects were great, if not a little disorientating. It came with warnings to take breaks every 15 minutes when using the 3d, but what do they know… Just kidding, eye care is a very serious matter. After an hour or so, Sarah and I returned to our outdoor bathroom, tucked away behind our hut, to shower. We had plans that evening, which had been arranged in advance during dinner. Sarah really wanted it to be perfect for me, so she went online to reserve us a table at a fancy restaurant which had 5 star reviews. When I was dried and dressed, I told sarah she’d have to hurry up if she wanted to see the sunset. In the end she told me to go on ahead and she’d catch up – she didn’t. Instead I went with Ann and Simon. There was nothing to see though, the sun was now masked behind the large dark clouds, and one ginormous thunderhead. That made for spectacular photos whenever I caught a lightning bolt tearing through its dark colour. After that we returned to the resort, where only 15 minutes later our reserved restaurant’s shuttle had arrived to pick us up.

The restaurant was amazing, everything was top notch, from the look of the place to the quality of the food. The only downside was the time we had to wait for it to arrive. Although there were storm clouds overhead, it still wasn’t raining, instead there was a nice cool breeze. Our drinks arrived in reasonably good time, but when you get through a milkshake and a jug of water before your food arrives, you get a little irritated. After a while the rain just couldn’t hold off any longer and began falling all around us. It wasn’t fast, or heavy enough to warrant moving tables like we did, but after seeing others beginning to evacuate the outdoor area, we did the same. It took over an hour for our meals to arrive, and all I ordered were the ribs. It was a good job the salad was an all you can eat sort of deal, otherwise we’d have started eating the decorative table arrangements. The food was lovely when it finally arrived, but because of how long it took, it made Sarah feel bad. She kept apologising on the restaurants behalf, but there was no need, I wasn’t bothered at all. I was just frustrated by how long they took to serve us. At just gone 9pm we were able to get the free shuttle back to our resort, where I then spent the next hour and a half skyping my mum and nan. Because it was so dark out, it was difficult for them to see me. Disturbingly, the only place they got a good view of the birthday boy was in our bathroom. The lighting was slightly better beside the toilet, so at least I got to sit while we spoke. Whilst I was there, I figured I’d introduce them to the greatest bathroom gadget of all time.. the bum hose. This device cracked them up to no end, mostly because of how powerful it was. If you weren’t careful you could do yourself some real damage, I’m pretty sure it was capable of cracking the porcelain, it was that powerful. I thanked my mum and nan for my birthday gifts, then said my goodbyes. I was so tired by the end, yet I still managed to write the days blog. Even on my birthday I didn’t give myself a day off. To conclude my evening, I went on Facebook to see if anyone had wished me a happy birthday – they had. Even as I checked it, the wishes kept coming. At last count I had over 35. I truly am loved, for all those who sent your kind words, I love and miss you all.
Happy Birthday to me.
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