After the sleepy north coast we headed inland and over the volcanic mountain range that straddles the middle of the island. On this particular day, the heavens decided to open on a biblical proportion, making the tiny winding roads and sheer drop offs on either side a challenge. By the time we climbed to 2000m, we were truly in the clouds, visibility at about 10m and motorbikes racing out of the fog.
The weather cleared on the other side, giving us an opportunity to visit an elephant safari park, see the show and catch a trek on the back of Puspa, a 25yr old Sumatran male. Ubud awaited us in the afternoon where we checked into the Royal Palace - yes that's right. The Royal family still live there and for a very reasonable price, part of their grounds has been opened up for visitors to stay. An eventful day closed out with an Indonesian tapas menu accompanied by a thunder and lightning show.
Over breakfast, we had a good chat to the guy servicing our room who had worked with the royal family for 65yrs. Great stories about old Ubud and Bali. We hired a motorbike and did what you do in Ubud . . . shop. In the afternoon, we got on the bike and went for a cruise up into the hills and away from the hussle, finding the picturesque, terraced rice patties around tiny rural villages.
At sunset however, we had a big problem. Just as we were setting back and about 20kms away from anywhere, our rear tire punctured. We soon realised that limping back down the mountain wouldn't work as the back of the bike started sliding out everywhere. Then, just as it was getting dark and worry was about to set in, Bali showed us that Karma thing that Bobby was talking about. By absolute fluke, ten thousand to one, there was a motorbike repair shop 100m away!! The mechanic was able to replace the inner tube and get us back on the road with 10 minutes and $5. All the more random as we didn't see any such shop anywhere in the area during our travels. What was he doing up there???
We got back just in time to see a traditional Balinese music and dance show, catch a late bite on a lily pond and retire to "our Palace". We rose early the following morning for a 1/2 day Indonesian cooking course, starting at the bustling food market at 7am. After learning all about the produce, we were in the kitchen making and grazing on our own 6 courses. Wonderful aromas and tastes that I'll no doubt spring at the next few dinner parties.
We shared the class with two great guys from Perth who were staying in a luxury villa down the road with friends. After the class, rain intervened to keep us pinned down there for 4 bottles of wine which turned into a dinner invitation. A quick drive to an amazing villa by the river and a few cocktails later, we were ready for the ensuing feast. The 12 staff looking after this villa had spent the day suckling a whole pig which was duly presented at the table. Amazing food and wine, great company, shooters and a late night swim made for a classic night.
Elephants on show
Baby elephant getting a bit cheeky
Puspa taking a quick dip after our trek
Our royal quarters
Our royal mate - 65yrs at the palace
Time out to catch up on the diary
Rice patties in north Ubud
Traditional Balinese dancing
Discovering the local produce at the Ubud market