Back to Driving on the Wild Side

Back to Driving on the Wild Side

By Hannah Black

I used to think buzzing around on my 125cc scooter was really the best thing in the world, but oh how my feelings have changed in the past few years.
This week I’ve been relegated back to the bike from my lovely, comfy air-conditioned car and I can tell you with total confidence it is not the best thing in the world.

My husband and I decided to sell our car before we disappear off to the UK for a year, and right now all the scratches, bumps and dints in the beautiful metallic paintwork are being fixed, so it looks less like the bumper car I seem to have created over the past year.
Back on the bike I reminisce on learning to ride it and how excited I was.
It was about four years ago I felt free and excited to be able to get around on my own after relying on a boyfriend to pick me up and drop me off for so long.

It was completely terrifying, of course, but after the initial couple of trips out I was just too excited to be scared.
I even bought my own beautiful pink and white Honda, which I loved and was pretty heartbroken when I got pregnant and had to sell it.
When I had my daughter two years ago I refused point-blank to take her on a bike and we bought a car with a whole lot of help from my darling parents.
No one in my family has ever had a new car, so it was a pretty major thing to have a spangly new-car-smelling (without the new car smell air freshener) vehicle.

It wasn’t exactly the height of motor vehicle technology or power, but for our family and us here it was the ultimate luxury.
All the kids were ecstatic with such a shiny new toy and wanted to be chauffeured everywhere, until a couple of them got carsick and had to vomit at the side of the road.

For the past year I’ve learned the (non) rules of Bali roads and how to stay cool when people drive like complete brainless twits around me. There have been a few times when nasty words and hand gestures were part of the learning process.

Being back on the bike again I feel as if I’ve gone back to being one of the underdogs as the cars zoom past.

I think about the people sitting in their pleasant soft-backed seats not smelling the swampy smells from the gutters, rubbish dumps and mangroves.

You almost forget when you drive a car how foul the air in Bali can be when you’re sealed up in a self-contained car with the air conditioning blasting and iPod blaring.

As if the smells weren’t enough to make me mourn the loss of my car, it’s also cold, dirty and I feel like I’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes from inhaling truck fumes by the time I get to work.

When I was riding the bike regularly before, I made sure I had a well fitting, tough helmet, but when it was stolen a couple of months ago in Ubud I didn’t replace it and am now stuck with a free Honda helmet that wouldn’t save my head if I tripped and fell at a slow walk, much less at 60 kilometres an hour.

It also ends up wobbling around at the back of my head on a long straight like the bypass, which I happen to be on for most of my trip to school.

After a year of being in a car I’m a much safer bike driver than I used to be. Feeling so vulnerable not having anything surrounding your body, even if it is cheap Japanese plastic car body, can be pretty scary.

It does have its advantages, though. It’s fantastic being able to weave through traffic and not get stuck behind people driving their big, fancy Mercedes at 30km/h or truckloads of police or construction workers winking and blowing kisses.

There are pros and cons to about everything in Bali and car versus bike is no different, but I think the skin, lung and sense of smell-protecting features of a car makes it my transport of choice.

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