Opposites Attract: Elephants, Tequila and Volcanoes

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blogging while I’ve been holidaying with my friends in Bali. I guess its because we were constantly doing something; even just sunbathing usually turned into a bit of a party with those crazy two!

So where was I? Ah, yes. Ubud.

Now if Kuta is full of backpackers getting messy, and the south is full of ridiculously hot surfer boys, then Ubud is full of girls. Not just girls, women. Everywhere. Elizabeth Gilbert should get the Balinese equivalent of an MBE for services to tourism as, the more time you spend in Ubud, you realise these people have inhaled Eat Pray Love and set off on their own soul-searching adventure.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that of course, I’m all for a little bit of adventure.

And a little bit of soul.

Full of temples, health food, great little markets and opportunities to find spiritual enlightenment around every corner, Ubud is a great place to spend a few days being a bit cultured and pretending to behave yourself (the self-imposed drinking ban lasted one night when the allure of a cheap Bintang became far too tempting).

We didn’t find spiritual enlightenment in Ubud. We found pretty sandals and dresses, vicious monkeys, and gecko poo everywhere in our hotel room.

But we also found elephants.

I nearly lost my shit when I saw these beautiful creatures for the first time. Although we were obviously not interacting with elephants in the wild – they were based in a safari park which housed ex-logging elephants – it was the next best thing as were able to get up close and personal with them.

At $90 US it was a pretty pricey half-day (including transport from Ubud to Taro village and lunch) but it was completely worth it. After meeting the elephants and feeding them, we had a 30 minute “ride” through the grounds which was bumpy to say the least, and completely hilarious because our guide was great fun (although I am not sure I can repeat some of the jokes he made) followed by a show where the elephants played football, painted pictures and played around with water.

We did an awful lot of research before heading off on this trip. With the knowledge of how poorly treated elephants are in the name of tourism, we didn’t want to fund this sort of operation. My friend, Alex, had already heard about the Elephant Safari Park in Taro and it had a great reputation.

My advice for anyone wanting to do a similar tour in any country is simply this: Do Your Research. Its important as a traveller – long term or otherwise – to be conscious of the impact we have when visiting another country and that we are aware how animals are often mistreated and exploited.

Knowledge is power after all, and by spending a little time figuring out where the money goes and how the animals are looked after, we can help do our bit to protect these beautiful creatures.

After the laid back few days we spent in Ubud and the – rather short-lived – attempt at being tee-total, the girls and I were more than ready to get travelling again. This time we hot-footed it onto a scary boat which bombed it across to the Gili Islands in terrifying, impressive and lightening speed.

Stepping foot on Gili T is like heading back in time. There are no cars. Or roads for that matter. Just rusty old bones of bikes with bent wheels and questionable brakes, and horses lugging great big traps around. We didn’t once get a horse and cart when we were in Gili. We spent a lot of time complaining about how they never seem to be given water and generally feeling heartbroken that such beautiful creatures are made to work all day in the searing heat. One drunken night I was seriously considering liberating as many of the bedraggled looking beasties as possible.

So Gili.

How to explain Gili T.

Gili T is the party island. It is part of Lombok rather than Bali and is pretty damn small.

There’s not much to do in the day: snorkelling and sunbathing are the main activities and if, like me, you’re a bit of a water baby, the sea bordering the “main strip” is great for swimming on a nice day. On bad days it is spiteful, spewing out chunks of seaweed and shell.

Really, people only trek on over to Gili T for the nightlife. The crazy crazy tequila fuelled, dancy nightlife.

You can’t stay in Gili T for too long.

  1. The partying will take its toll and you will crave normalcy
  2. and 2) you will know EVERYONE on the island and, as people don’t really stay for any more than three days, when the newbies arrive you start to miss old characters and realise that ship has sailed and you weren’t on it.

We spent most of our time on Gili T sunbathing, swimming, eating everything (“what are you having for dinner tonight?” became a key topic of conversation) and partying at Sama Sama reggae bar. We discovered this gem on our second night in Gili and went back every evening even though the playlist was pretty much the same every night. They had a GREAT reggae band and a pretty fun DJ who played reggae remixes of current songs in the intervals.

We also decided to hire bikes one day and cycle the island which was great fun. We stopped a fair few times for beer and sunbathing – it was probably one of the best activities we did on Gili T.

Once we realised it was time to get off the island, we decided to head north to Lovina Beach for waterfalls, volcanoes and adventure activities.

After a long boat trip we found ourselves at the port negotiating with a taxi driver for what seemed like forever before embarking on the four hour journey.

Our hotel in Lovina was amazing. We loved it so much that we barely left the hotel during our three night stay. We ate all our meals there, drank in the bar and sunbathed. I think the only time we left the hotel was to go on the two trips we had booked.

First up was a trip to a beautiful waterfall. After a pretty hairy start – we realised we didn’t have a guide included in the trip price, walked up a scary hill, got barked at by a vicious looking dog, asked for directions from a passed off looking old man who didn’t speak Stupid Hysterical English Girl, and realised we had to climb down 1,000,000 steps (and so back up again) – we made it down to the waterfall, scrambling over precarious rocks before braving the insane water spray to get down to our bikinis and go for a swim. It was freezing but absolutely stunning. Just check out these picture of the rainbow we spotted!

The next day we thought it would be a good idea to get up at 1:30 am and head out for the sunrise trek up a volcano. As you do.

I really surprised myself with this trip. I know my fitness levels are a lot better since embarking on the solo mission back in January, but I was pleasantly surprised by how I felt climbing up a steep, rocky volcano for two hours in pitch black. It was hard work, don’t get me wrong (and we basically couldn’t walk for the next three days) but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t handle it like I have done in the past. Check out new sporty me!

The view from the top was certainly worth the trek. The sunset was spectacular and we could see all the way out to a mountain on Lombok island.

The next day – once we’d all figured out how to walk again – we headed back down to Kuta for a couple of days of crazy party and sunbathing before my friends headed home and I followed a few days later.

Kuta is great for a party if that’s what you like. We were lucky because our hotel had a great pool and the bedroom was gigantic. We spent most of our time chilling by the pool nursing terrible hangovers.

But I think the less said about Kuta the better!

Have you ever been to Bali? What do you think about Kuta? Have you ever headed to the North or the Gili Islands? Have you found that your fitness levels have dramtically altered since you have been travelling?

 

 

 

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2 Replies to “Opposites Attract: Elephants, Tequila and Volcanoes”

  1. I think I went most of the places you went a few days after you were there. I hiked Batur on the 15th, went to Sekumpul Waterall a couple of days later and stayed in Lovina for awhile. I just got home (Taiwan) yesterday so it will take a few days to get the blogging done but Bali was awesome.

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