June 16th was a day to remember. I don’t want to forget anything that happened. And so I write.
After our less than perfect day of getting robbed, losing our money, disagreeing, crying, and returning to an apartment we didn’t feel comfortable in, we decided to wake up early to find some of Bali’s secluded beaches.
At 7:00 am we walked to the scooter rental and shared a cappuccino at Pearl. We rode through many jalans, which means “street” in Indonesian. Then, once again, we merged onto one of Bali’s busiest highways. Luckily it was early, and the flow of traffic was pretty steady.
There is so much freedom in exploring with a scooter because we can make random stops if we see something that entices us. We saw some bakeries and thought it would be nice to start the day with breakfast.
At Cafe Moka we shared a cappuccino, fresh papaya juice, homemade toast with butter and jam, eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit.
We rode the scooter for an hour and a half to the southern most areas of South Kuta. Our first stop was Green Bowl Beach. We parked the scooter on the bukit (Indonesian for “hill”) under the shade of a tree. The Pura Batu Pageh temple stood to our right and a couple little shacks selling fresh coconuts and snacks sat to our left. Wild monkeys peeked at us from inside the temple while others gathered around local women weaving souvenirs.
We paused at the top of the cliff before descending 300+ stairs to access the beach. There was a sense of anticipation, but we took our time to take in the atmosphere. Every now and then the curtain of trees would open, showing us glimpses of the sea.
Families of long-tailed macaques with mothers holding their babies crossed our path. We observed quietly with smiling faces.
When we reached the bottom of the stairs we got our first panoramic view of the sea. The tide was high. Waves crashed against rocks. Natural caves sunk into the curves of limestone cliffs. It was beautiful.
We spent the morning sitting in the sand, leaning against the surface of a bluff, watching the waves.
Eventually the tide rose so high that it wet the sarongs we were sitting on and almost carried away Eric’s shoes. We hiked back up the 300+ stairs.
When we got back to our scooter we found a macaque sitting on a scooter beside ours. I watched it watch Eric. When Eric put the backpack down, the monkey jumped right in front of him and snarled its sharp teeth. I jumped back. Eric imitated its attempt at intimidation and made himself bigger than the monkey (which wasn’t hard). The monkey didn’t budge and made a motion like it would attack. I wish I had this on camera.
When Eric’s intimidation failed, he took a step back. The monkey jumped down to our backpack and started pulling things out. We began yelling at it, but it was on a mission and ignored us. Out of nowhere an elderly local man appeared with a slingshot. He didn’t hurt the monkey, but you could tell it recognized the slingshot because as soon as he saw it, he ran off. True life.
We thanked the old man, hopped on the scooter, and rode away like nothing happened.
“Did you just have a showdown with a monkey?” I asked.
And we both laughed as we rode along the edge of the island.
* * *
Next we drove to Pantai Ganung Payung. (Pantai means “beach,” payung means “umbrella.”) Once again, to access the beach we had to walk down many stairs. And once again, it was a beautiful walk. Unlike Green Bowl Beach’s stairs, these were not enclosed with walls of trees. With each step the view of the ocean got bigger and bigger. We were present for every step.
When we reached the bottom, the beauty magnified. Azure waters painted the shore in shades of blue. Behind me, emerald vines weaved down the surface of the steep cliffs that loomed over the beach. And Eric, my deepest, truest love stood in awe with a glow in his eyes. Am I dreaming?
It was the most beautiful, breathtaking beach I had ever seen or been to. There were maybe six other people there. It was quiet, secluded, and heavenly. There weren’t any locals trying to sell things to us. We could just be.
The golden sun appeared and disappeared behind floating clouds and kissed our skin. The wind and the waves soothed me with their serene sounds. The sandy Earth absorbed me, and like releasing a clinching fist… I felt myself let go. The elements fulfilled their grounding magic and peace was returned to my heart.
We stayed at Pantai Ganung Payung most of the day. Eric went all the way up the steps to get a young coconut drink for himself and a chilled Bintang Radler. (Bintang is Bali’s renowned beer and radler gives it a twist of lemon or grapefruit.) It was probably the best beer I had ever tasted. We shared the coconut and a pandan sandwich.
Hanging a sarong on the branches of a leafless tree for shade, we laid together on the sand. I kept thinking, this is a place people might see once in a lifetime, maybe for a honeymoon. I felt so grateful and closed my eyes on his tanned chest.
It was the most natural, secluded beach I have ever seen or felt. I could really feel the grounding, yet elevating effects. We worshipped the sea, the sun, and the sand. Gratitude and love overflowed from our spirits. Our auras radiated gold.
I didn’t want to leave. But we wanted to continue our adventures. So we climbed the steps, paused at the top to see it one more time, then hopped on the scooter.
* * *
Next stop.. Nusa Dua, an east coast beach 45 minutes away. We walked to the end of a rocky pier. It was the golden hour. The sunshine was perfect. I spun around in a circle, letting the wind wrap around me. Eric expanded his arms, opened his heart, and lifted his smiling face to the sun. We embraced the moment.
Somehow we got lucky and found an outdoor bathroom where we dusted off sand and changed out of our bathing suits for dinner.
We couldn’t stay at Nusa Dua for long because we wanted to get to a beach on the west coast to watch the sunset.
“Let’s go chase the sunset,” Eric said. As if our day could get any better…
He loved driving the scooter, and l loved holding onto him. Here we go again.
* * *
We opened google maps on my phone and scanned the southwest coast for beaches to watch sunset. Although our Airbnb was on Kuta beach, we wanted to spend our last night somewhere less populated. We chose a random beach, Bingin, and once again… everything was falling into place.
We got there just in time to see the fading sun splash colors of pink and purple across the canvas of the sky. We walked down another mountain of steps and shared an ice cream on the way. At the bottom we found a sweet beachside barbeque.
It was the perfect last dinner in Bali. Fisherman had their coolers set up so you could choose what you want.. tuna, snapper, prawn, squid. They grilled it on a fire right there on the sand and served it with vegetables, rice, and Indonesian spices. We also ordered some chips, which were fresh potatoes sliced and fried.
It wasn’t a busy, touristy restaurant that has a bunch of reviews on google. It wasn’t playing loud western music. It didn’t have white tablecloths. It was a hidden gem, like all the pantais we saw today. We enjoyed our dinner at a table on the sand with the ocean before us. I sipped my Bintang. A single candle flickered.
* * *
We were an hour and a half away from the apartment. It was now dark, and we only had 27% of battery left on my phone. We had been using it as our map and needed it to find our way back. There was an initial, “Oh no we better hurry.” But we quickly realized that there wasn’t anything we could do about it, so we should continue embracing each moment. Nothing could spoil this amazing day.
We probably should have went straight home, but it was our last night.. There were so many foods we still hadn’t tried. So we made some random roadside stops to get street food. First we got Gorenga. Then we stopped for dessert.
I watched the lady prepare our dessert from her cart. She put fried bananas in a box then grated a block of cheese and a block of chocolate which coated the bananas. Then she added sweet milk and spices. It was an explosion of flavors. We stood there in the parking lot, still wearing our helmets indulging in the street dessert.
Then my battery died.
We basically winged it. I told Eric, worst case scenario, we could get a taxi to the Airbnb, and he could follow on the scooter. Eric’s phone still had a bit of battery left, but his didn’t have a SIM card so we needed wifi. We drove in the general direction and stopped at another random cafe to get gelato and use their wifi.
After using wifi we had screenshots of the map. I tried to help navigate, but somehow we ended up on a toll highway. Cars were zooming by. Eric ended up in the lane that said NO SCOOTERS OR MOTORCYCLES. But it was too late to turn around.
I held on tight.
It was dark. To my right were speeding vehicles. To my left was the dark ocean. I didn’t know where we were going, but there were no exits in sight. Not to mention we were the only two-wheeler in this lane. A thick rail separated us from the scooter lane. My heart was racing.
“I’m scared,” I told Eric.
It was the longest road over water I have ever been on. It was insane.
Eventually I started to be in the moment. Miles and miles of dark ocean surrounded Mandara Toll Road. The wind blew against us. We started laughing at the situation.
“What the hell have we gotten ourselves into!?” we laughed.
We ended up on one of Bali’s most dangerous streets, “Sunset Road.” Eric weaved in and out of traffic.
Finally we pulled over and asked for help in a closing tour guide booth. Luckily, the employee knew how to get to our Airbnb, showed us on a map, and gave it to us. After a two and a half hour scooter adventure in South Kuta, we arrived at the apartment.
* * *
Riding the scooter all over Bali with Eric is one of my best memories from all of our trips. We were doing something new, something risky, wandering with freedom, figuring things out as a team, seeing beautiful places, making random stops, tasting exotic foods on the side of the road, seeing true Bali.. Going over the sea on the tollway road, searching for secret beaches hidden away from tourism, chasing the sunset…
The exhilaration and adrenaline we felt was incomparable.
* * *
I didn’t want to leave Bali. But I look over on the airplane, and he is beside me. There are more places for us to see and explore together. There are more foods to taste, and so much more for us to learn. We are getting better at this traveling thing. Finally getting the knack of it. We are learning. We are living our dreams.
This week when we return to Thailand, we will be moving into our condo in Bang Na. Another chapter begins in our story. Words cannot express the gratitude in my heart for this partner I have. He’s my human ally. I love him from the deepest realms within my heart, to the tips of my fingertips, and it can’t be contained… And so I write.
May our honeymoon continue.
“We were both wild birds chasing the stars. We’d lose our way and find new places, close our eyes and fall back towards a constellation of dreams. We wrapped ourselves in a blanket of passion and each night we fell deeper without control, into this strange space called love.” -Robert M. Drake