Tag Archives: uncomfortable

Cycling Bali


Finally the day has come where we feel prepared enough to cycle Bali. Theoretically we could just go east towards the ferry to Lombok but as we want to see a little bit more of Bali we decided to make a loop in northern direction.


Finding our way out of Ubud takes a bit of time bit it is very much worth it as we land on tiny pathways in the middle of rice paddies, a few cafes and houses.


I love being surrounded by so much green!

On the first day of cycling we have a big climb of about 1000m ahead of us which is a bit daunting at first.


But being well rested and on such beautiful tiny roads it’s not too much of a challenge.


We land in a small town overlooking Gunung Batur and are planning to cycle around the volcano next to a beautiful lake. In the middle of the night our plans evolve in a rather different direction when my stomach protests against dinner. As the protests keep on coming violently we’re forced to stay here for one more night which sucks as we just started cycling again. But I’m not going anywhere like this.


A day later I’m feeling better albeit weak. The owner of our guest house advices us not to go along the lake as the road is supposed to be really bad and steep after the lake. As he is a cyclist himself we take his advice and go in the opposite direction. That means more climbing and weak as I am it is tough going. At one point about 2k after starting I feel like I’m going to faint and force myself to eat something although I’m not hungry at all.


Luckily we soon reach the highest point and it’s all downhill from there.


We stop at a small shop/eatery with lemonade in recycled bottles (cool!) and I force myself to eat some fried rice. Which is good because I need some energy for what lies ahead. This night we end on  a road next to a beach and accommodation is on the luxurious end of things. So we ask around and as it is already getting dark a local tells us a about a room which is in our price range. What we don’t know is that the room is kind of in his home but kind of not. And that there is no running water and we will end up taking a shower on the beach with some local audience. Let’s not speak of our toilet related needs here ;). In the middle of the night someone tries to enter our room and just smiles at us awkwardly when we talk to him. Our Indonesian is not good enough to ask him what he wants in our room and neither is his English.


All in all it was a bit of a weird experience. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind not having running water or finding alternative toilet solutions – we’re well used to the camping lifestyle by now after all. But there was a lot of stuff going on that night and I didn’t even understand half of it. Maybe it was about language barriers, maybe there were some local or family customs involved which I knew nothing about. Maybe we should have said no from the beginning. But I guess sometimes stuff like that just happens. In the morning I’m very glad to cycle off and the next few days are very different, once again.


We cycle along the coast to Amed, originally a fishing village and now well known in the tourist world for its diving and snorkelling opportunities. After last night we want to take it easy and rest for a bit.


Unfortunately it’s not that easy to find affordable accommodation but in the end we settle for a bungalow near the beach. It’s a bit expensive, a bit further away from eateries than I’d like and doesn’t have cellphone reception which is nice for calling families once in a while and to do some blogging and work. But oh well, the view is beautiful, the wind from the sea is refreshing and so we decide to take a short holiday here. There is time to bake and eat lots of pancakes…


… and to do some good old washing.


On top of that we rent snorkelling gear and explore an old shipwreck and some coral reefs. I’m totally and absolutely blown away by the underwater world. I have snorkelled in Croatia before and this is just nothing like that. There are so many colourful fish here and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some have stripes, some have dots, some come in swarms and some rather stay solitary. It’s mindblowingly beautiful, this other world.


Our last day of cycling in Bali takes us along the coast to the port town Padang Bai. After tackling some serious hills with the steepest gradients we have had so far, we get rewarded with beautiful views.


It is over the top exhausting but I’m fascinated that I actually manage to cycle up those hills instead of pushing. On our way to Padang Bai we buy snorkelling gear – we’re not going to be far from the ocean for a while!


And then, very soon, it’s only just a ferry ride which separates us from leaving our first Indonesian island! Lombok, here we come!

Refugees welcome: on racism and the usual challenges

While we had a wonderful few days with Kay and Mozzy in Townsville, the next few days would bring quite a few challenges – mentally and physically. As we still had some time left before flying out of Cairns we decided to do a little loop over the tablelands west of Cairns.

p1120144 So we cycled from dry dry Townsville into Tully, the wettest place in Queensland. And what do you know – it rained! A lot. But since it was still warm we didn’t mind too much. And we passed some seriously stunning scenery and  fell in love with all the green around us.p1120156p1120200Some time after Tully we turned inland and thus the climbing up to the tablelands began. The first day was gentle and we found a nice camping spot next to a river.

The second day would bring over 1200m of climbing which is the most I have ever done on a loaded bicycle. Somehow most of it wasn’t that bad though. It was only in the end when I suddenly got ravenously hungry (cycling uphill burns a lot more energy than cycling on flat terrain) that it got a bit exhausting. And we must have searched at least an hour for a place to camp. A farmer turned us down and all the land around us was fenced off. So we settled for this:

p1120328A tiny clearing in a dense forest but it was good enough for a night. And we really needed to rest after today. Not only did we climb a lot, we also had  a very memorable encounter that took me a long time to write about. When we stopped at a small store to buy some fruit, the clerk who attended to us asked us where we are from and upon hearing that we are from Germany started a conversation about the horrible refugee situation in Germany and Europe. Initially I agreed but it turned out that we had quite different things in mind. He was convinced that refugees are basically bad cowardly people and should not be allowed to entry Europe. Or Australia for that matter. Once again we tried to argue, tried telling him about (australian) refugee camps in Papua and how refugees are treated there. I tried talking about reasons that force people to leave their home country. But once again this was not a conversation. This was about him expressing his point of view and honestly, I just can’t listen to that any more.

My heart aches when I read about refugees seeking a place to survive, to live. And not being able to do something as the situation worsens in Germany is really hard. And I’m grateful that I have friends who are active in supporting refugees wherever they live.

So, forgive me when I say that I’m sick of listening to some arguments which I have heard a thousand times before. When someone says that criminality is higher now with all the refugees around, why not have a look at the statistics? The media raved so much about that argument that the German police felt compelled to publish a statement that crime rates have NOT gone up.

When people talk about muslims not respecting women why not criticize that in our own (western) society? And why don’t people think about the fact that refugees are trying to flee from some extremists (not respecting women)?

When people complain about the government providing for refugees and not doing enough for you I want to scream. Really? These refugees had to leave their homes because there is a WAR going on. Sometimes I really doubt that people get what that means. Bombs falling, guns firing, kids being left so traumatized that they start to cry when they see a glue gun.

In the end I think it’s a lot about the feeling of security and stability. Things in the West seem seasonably good as they are so why change them? But things aren’t good for a lot of people on this world. When you buy a cheap shirt from H&M you are supporting incredibly inhumane working conditions and climate change is starting to show its impact. And then there is war.

So I urge you to think about the privilege of being born in places like Germany and Australia, the privilege of being white. It’s nothing you did, it just happened. So don’t pretend you’ve earned it.

In the end, I sincerely believe, we all want similar things. Marshall B. Rosenberg even based his theory of Nonviolent Communication on that assumption. And when I asked refugees in Germany during the research for my thesis what they really wanted, most listed a job/occupation, being able to provide for their family and just living a happy life. So why not think about feelings and needs we have in common instead of things that draw us apart!

But as uncomfortable as that conversation made me once again, I was glad that it ended differently this time. I managed to speak up and we did not buy any fruit from him. A small thing maybe but important nonetheless.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King Jr.



Uncomfortable in Bowen

p1110929Our host Peter told us that the only place to experience the Great Barrier Reef directly next to the coast would be Bowen. Usually you have to go with a tour and pay for a boat to take you out to snorkel or dive. But in Bowen you can snorkel directly from the beach as the reef is very close! Sounds great!

p1110908So we cycle north, find beautiful back roads for the most part, camp once with about 50 other campers and once alone in a dried out river bed. We fight a lot with headwinds and I have a hard time cycling into Bowen. Dealing with my motivation is getting better, but at some point headwinds are just no fun. Period.

p1110949In Bowen we head to a camp site as the local council is pretty strict about free camping. Once we arrive we find out that the town is quite touristy which reflects in the high prices for everything. We settle for the cheapest camp site only to find that reception seems to be closed and no one answers the phone either. It’s not a nice camp site anyway – there is almost no space and it looks more like a crowded parking lot. But we have to stay somewhere. So we wait for about half an hour and still nothing. That’s when we start to get a bit frustrated as we want to get settled in, leave all our stuff here and go to a different beach to snorkel. I try to call a second time, but again no one answers.

So we decide to make some coffee and have a little snack. And to use the shower. I’m a bit concerned that it might be rude to just use the facilities without having checked in but Torsten is unconcerned stating that we are going to stay here anyway. So we shower and that was the best idea in a long time!

After about one and a half hours of waiting we finally decide to leave. We don’t like it here anyway and it’s quite expensive on top. So we plan to go to the other beach, snorkel and then just cycle out of town and free camp somewhere. Of course, just when we cycle out, the owner arrives and nonchalantly asks if it was me calling about staying here. However, I still ask about prices to stay here only to find out that they have even gone up. No thank you.

p1110951So, off to the beach it is and once we arrive I can only laugh about everything: We talk to some people who just snorkelled and they tell us that the water is murky and you can’t see much. Well, so much for that plan.

It’s funny sometimes: We usually don’t go for touristy things or for the must-sees because we care much more for all the small things and encounters by the road. We both really like being spontaneous and being surprised by what the day brings. Still, sometimes we get caught up in the must-sees and dos and snorkelling in Bowen was one of those things and it got us all stressed out.

Once we ditch that plan it’s actually kind of nice. The beach is not too bad and after a snack we go for a nice swim and talk with a local who just loves living here and going for a swim every day. And just as we  decide to leave we meet another local who invites us to set up camp in his backyard. We enthusiastically agree and thus this weird day continues.

p1110952Over the course of the next few hours we make dinner for ourselves and our very helpful host, get talked several ears of and listen to his view about the second world war and how the holocaust was all a masterpiece of Jewish propaganda and completely untrue. He is a Jew himself by the way.

We try to discuss, try to understand where his views come from, but it’s like talking to a wall. At some point Torsten just leaves but I stay listening politely, trying to argue, trying to find a way out of this conversation. I get this churning feeling in my stomach as my core beliefs are attacked and I feel increasingly uncomfortable with our host. Finally I manage to say that I heard enough and we say good night.

I just want to go to bed with a pillow over my head but Torsten convinces me to go to the beach and talk it out. And we do talk and it’s really good. We talk about where our boundaries lie and how it’s hard sometimes to hold those boundaries when someone invites you into their home and you feel grateful for that. We talk about how we want to learn from many people on this journey and how sometimes it’s important to listen and how sometimes it’s important to say what we think and need. We’ll have a long way to figure all of that out.

p1110954For now, with the crushing waves and the sand under my feet, I feel calm again and for that I’m grateful.