Being Beachy in Bali

My Easter trip to Bali mostly consisted of sitting by the pool and on the beach in the north of the island while alternating between studying and revising. I knew even as I was booking that I would have little time for anything else. However, rock fever had taken hold of me and I needed a change of scenery from the cityscape of Singapore that a hike along the Southern Ridges wouldn’t satisfy. Fortunately, on my last whole day I arrived back in Denpasar early enough to make the short trip to Uluwatu beach.

Cave or beach?

This idyllic tourist trap of a beach runs straight onto a reef, creating paddling pools for all in addition to fabulous waves that the surfer in me wishes I was brave enough to surf. Descending into the initial amalgamation of beach and cave, I was a tad sceptical but as I emerged into the sunlight, the reef stretching before me, the view blew away the final cobwebs that the routine of Singapore had weaved in my mind.

A small part of me is very jealous of the surfers who had enough experience to hire a board and surf here, even if I know I would have barely lasted five seconds before being spat back onto the reef.
I eventually made it away from the majority of tourists.

Keen to stretch my legs and get away from the biggest throng of tourists, I meandered along the reef to the end of the beach, enjoying the sun and waves. I normally find the waters of South East Asia leave a slight residue of grime and pollution on my hair and skin, at fact that means the beaches here hold little appeal for me. Uluwatu beach was a rare exception to this, although I did not go out any further than the tidal pools. With sunset still a little way away, I headed back up the cliffs to a café perched precariously above the rocks below and devoured some delicious fried rice, looking out over the ocean and, eventually, the sunset.

Perhaps I should have studied geology, then I could explain how this rock formed. Instead I can only admire it.
Precariously balanced. I’m not sure this would pass health and safety muster back home but can’t quite bring myself to be concerned.

Uluwatu beach and Bali in general was a wonderful balm to my soul. The only downside was the taxi service of Uluwatu who possess a monopoly of the area, not allowing other companies, including Uber and Grab, to operate out of the area and so charging a premium which was twice what I paid to reach the beach. The only exception to this being the hotel cars who naturally match the taxis in price. The taxi service wouldn’t allow me to ride with a lovely couple who suggested I share the cost of their private driver from Denpasar with them, after I found out just how much they wanted to charge. With the driver unable leave with me in the car, I was forced to get out and walk until I was able to arrange a covert pick up further down the road with the asistance of an extremely kind chap at a cafe.

The end of a beautiful day.

Operation Extract Tourist went off without a hitch. A short motorbike ride further up the road to a darkened layby. A black car pulling in smoothly (after a slightly awkward U-turn). The door being opened for me. Tinted windows concealing me from prying eyes and we were off. Total time: three minutes and twenty two seconds. Next stop: the airport for a night on the floor. The kindness of the people who had helped me overshadowing the blatant extortion and monopoly of the taxi drivers.

Walking the Dragon

When I first came across the urban trail in Hong Kong called the Dragon’s Back, it would have taken me the same amount of restraint not to walk it as is required to prevent me from entering every bookshop I pass. That is, a level of discipline I do not possess was needed, so from day one I knew I would be winding my way along the Dragon’s back sooner or later.

The Dragon’s Back is a part of the eighth and final section of the Hong Kong trail. This section stretches from To Tei Wan to Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay) and was the route I walked today. While the official site considers the route as very difficult and taking 3 hours, I would say it is only moderately hard. As for time, it took me two hours but I was pushing myself as I enjoy the challenge of maintaining a faster pace.

But I digress, let us return to the beginning. My day did not have an auspicious start and I ended up take three buses instead of one to get to the start of the trail. This was – in part – my fault as the nature of how to ride the Hong Kong Public Light Buses still eludes me and I am terrible when it comes to shouting for anything, let alone demanding a bus pulls over because it has missed my stop. Ah… these English sensibilities of mine. Clearly this is something I must learn to overcome in the future – I cannot forever be adding hours to planned travel times just because of a dislike of “conflict”. Sometimes I fail to understand my brain.

Anyhow, after making it to the stop, only forty minutes later than intended, I embarked on my quest to climb up to the Dragon’s Back. Years of walking the wild(ish) cliffs of Guernsey had prepared me for this moment and I bounded up the first hundred and fifty steps before slowing to a slightly more maintainable speed. After all, it is important to pace oneself I wasn’t tired.

Making it to the Dragon’s Back, or rather the connecting ridge of the trail, I was transported for a moment back to Sarnia cherie and the sweet cliffs of my homeland. For that precious second, as I gazed down at waves crashing on granite, I saw not the bamboo and machilus trees but instead was surrounded by brambles, gorse and wind swept blackthorn. It was naught more than a fleeting fancy, but it invigorated me nonetheless, and I mad my way along the ridge with renewed vigour.

What goes up must come down, and so it is with any hike. All to soon I found myself descending from the Dragon’s Back and into the tree lined second half of the trail. This section of the route was extremely pleasant, with the worst of the sun blocked by gordonia trees and a few streams crossing it here and there.

Eventually I hit the road and followed it until I finally reached the last descent to Big Wave Bay. This certainly lived up to its name, with a large number of surfers all gathered in the shallows. The extremely jealous part of me tried to console itself by pointing out how the waves broke too soon but in truth my heart sang out with longing for the ocean as it always has and always will. Instead I was forced to merely walk the beach in search of shells and lost treasure

My quest over, I returned to the hostel, catching the correct bus this time, and enjoyed a little Lord of the Rings before eating a well deserved bowl of wanton noodles at Mak’s Noodles.