In accordance with my new “conquer all” attitude, this afternoon I decided to try riding a motorbike. It wasn’t the actual riding that scared me so much – I’ve ridden that pony before – but I’ve never ridden one in what I like to call, “an area of consequence” (i.e . The Road). And here, they drive on the other side of the road, which I have definitely never experienced.
Not to mention that, in contrast to their otherwise slow pace, the Balinese drive like maniacs, especially those on motorbikes. And there seems to be no rules about passing, so at any given moment, a truck could pass by you on the right with barely inches to spare as you try like hell not to brush elbows with someone walking on your left (no sidewalks). In addition, the roads here are tiny, and sharp turns and steep hills are commonplace, which means there’s no such thing as training wheels before you get on the big girl bike. Instead, you’ve got to get right up on that two wheeler and start bombing down the hill.
Despite these obstacles, I wasn’t too worried, because Jacinta promised to show me the ropes on some of the roads less traveled. Being in Nyuh Kuning (which I found out means Yellow Coconut, but I digress), it is drastically less touristy than other parts of Bali, so it is possible to have quieter local streets. Ekka offered to let me borrow her motorbike, as she is 8 months pregnant and not using hers, so by about 3:30, Jacinta and I were off.
…And by off, I mean I was jerking up the road trying to maintain a constant speed on the bike and avoid whiplash. It occurred to me as that perhaps Ekka didn’t fully realize the favor she was offering, as there was a distinct possibility this bike was not going to return in its original glory.
This suspicion was validated for me on only my first turn, which I took too widely and ended up riding off the road into the dirt. I didn’t crash, but my bike did require a stop and some repositioning back onto the asphalt. After that, thankfully, I only got better. Jacinta was an excellent teacher, taking me on as many turns as possible on the quiet roads by the clinic, before challenging if I was ready to take a ride to the grocery in Ubud. I reluctantly agreed, knowing that I would be no more prepared tomorrow, and as we traveled along a windy road past art galleries and warungs and through rice paddies, I was further delighted by the scenery and encouraged by my growing confidence and skill.
At one point along the way, just before we came upon a steep uphill, Jacinta pulled over and motioned me beside her. “Remember when you get to the top of hill to release the accelerator a bit, otherwise you’ll speed up over the hill out of control, and then we’ll have tears,” she cautioned. “And we don’t want tears, now do we?” Jacinta not being one to coddle, I laughed out loud at her delivery and thanked her for the heads-up.
On the way home from the grocery, I was feeling better than ever. I was not quite one with the bike yet, and I knew that most of my confidence came from knowing that there was an experienced rider leading the way, but I was taking the corners with more ease and felt as though I’d be a sure bet by the end of the week.
However, my hopes of being the next badass biker were all but dissolved as, on my right, a girl about half my age and size came whizzing past at almost twice the speed and with exponentially more grace. Damn, I thought, I was so close. Then again, I was riding, which was more than I could say more than I could say when I got up this morning. So I guess for now, that’s badass enough for me.