Jungle on the left, jungle on the right, myself in the middle, somewhere. With my hair flying in the wind, I was running on a scooter drove by a local on a dusty bumpy road. Banana trees with large leafs, some taking a bow and offering heavy green bananas, others, more proud, only red banana flowers, all were guarding the road. It was indescribably green. And wild and untamed. Every single time another scooter or car was passing by, magic was happening: we all became invisible in a thick cloud of dust. No one cared!
– Could you take me after to the Manta Point? and the driver nod his head.
Some wishes are old, other new. Mine was recent and was taking me to that place, Manta Point. I was dreaming eyes wide open that day, on that island: Nusa Penida.
It was evening when I landed in Denpasar, the airport in Bali. Carrying my yellow padded backpack and scratching the allergy on my arm, which I was now officially calling “The revenge of the zebra prawns in Malaysia”, because, of course, of how I got it.
First think I did arriving in Bali was looking in a trash bin in the airport. My huge suitcase was missing and I had picked up the worst moment to declutter my pockets a few minutes before and throw away everything, including my ticket and with it, the evidence that I had another luggage. I’ve managed to find my ticket, ignoring some curious looks and soon after I was reunited with my belongings.
– How much is the taxi to Kuta?
– To Kuta? 20$ The lady answering was organising the taxi drivers waiting in front of the airport exit.
– Too much, it’s not even 4km… Will you drive me to Kuta, I said to a young men I meet a few meters after, following the universal wisdom: the younger, the cheaper.
And so, with 10$ I got in front of my guesthouse in 20 minutes and I booked a trip for the next day. I knew prices in Bali are cheap but I had no idea what Bali cheap means. I was going to learn, the hard way, in the next 24h.
– See ya in the morning, at 7am. The taxi driver left, leaving me with my hosts. I was welcomed in a beautiful garden with warm smiles and the Balinese greetings, joined by a bow. A boy showed me my room which was actually an apartment. Huge. The bathroom mostly. The price: 5$. I felt as if Paradise exists.
I was hungry and it was getting late so I rushed out to check the surroundings in that place named Kuta… and get some food. I kept repeating one mantra to myself: watch your gourmand mouth, stay away of the Bali belly, getting sick while alone here is bad, bad, bad.
Bali belly is just as famous as the Delhi belly in New Delhi. It keeps you in the bed or should I rather say: on the toilet, for a few days. The rules are simple: only bottled water, even when brushing your teeth, no peeled fruits from markets, no fresh anything, and God forbid no street food. That’s the devil. Meanwhile I kept hearing in my head my Aussie friend, Ilana, telling me a few months before: “Don’t worry, you’ll get the Bali belly, everyone does, we all did, but you’ll be fine and enjoy Bali”…
I was so determined to play it safe. Until the first street food stalls I met around the corner. They also had green coconut so who could have resist??? It’s been 24h already since my last green coconut in Mabul. I got fried rice and shrimps, thinking that street food might be ok since is cooked on fire. The lady was way over nice to serve me since they were closing the place. She stopped from what she was doing to take my order and then ask the cook, a guy next to her, to make one last fired rice for me. It was good, quite very, but I was eating and thinking how bad it will be if I will spend the next days in bed… vomiting and trying to live some life out of the toilet. I was quite frightened of this perspective and stopped after a few bites.
– Finished? the lady asked me?
– I am soo full, yes, was super good, thank you… I was so lying considering that I ordered it saying I was starving.
She brought me a spoon to use it for the interior of the coconut, that white soft part which is so delicious in green coconuts. I was alone, sitting on the margin of a long metal table with white plastic chairs. The few street-food stalls around still opened were closing also, washing dishes, throwing garbage, preparing the next day.
Even if I knew I shouldn’t judge Bali by the impression Kuta leaves, I couldn’t stop thinking: what’s all that? A short walk after my dinner on the main street, by the beach, passing by Hard Rock caffe, didn’t help at to to make me doubt my first and bad impression of Bali.
I found the gate to the beach, the famous Kuta beach. Here was started to look just a little bit nicer, with those Balinese high gates of concrete, so representative for the island and the wide beach with palm trees.
I went to my room, took a cold shower (no hot water apparently) and fell into a dreamless deep sleep at the end of a long trip and the beginning of a fantastic new one.
To be continued: Nusa Penida and the famous sunset on Kuta beach