Our trip to Nusa Lembongan actually involved going back to Gili T on the boat, and despite it having been only three days since we'd last been there it felt like a world away. We arrived on Lembongan how you always do, wading through the swell attempting to stay as dry as possible. That evening we ate on the beach marveling at the slightly hazy but beautiful view back to Bali.
Our first morning was spent attempting to find the centre of the village, which as we found out doesn't exist. Despite being more than double the size of the Gilis, the island is yet to develop all its commodities and the one atm on the island didn't have any money in it when we visited. In the afternoon, we treated ourselves to a spa day, as the rain and a five hour power cut put an end to any other ideas.
The next day we faced our fears (and our parents' wrath) when we decided to rent a moped to explore the island. We headed up north, to the Mangrove forest then through the back lanes to the bridge across to the smaller Nusa Cenida island, and stopped nearby for lunch. By this point Sofia had mostly gotten into the swing of driving the bike and Martha was enjoying not having to worry about anything while safe on the back. That being said we did find ourselves at one point unable to turn off the indicators, so pulled up on the side of the road. A girl who couldn't have been more than eight years old came running up to us and showed us the ropes, after which we thanked her profusely. Clearly they start learning to drive young in this country. We'd decided to spend the afternoon on the beach, but found the incredibly choppy sea on that side of the island rather off putting. Instead we watched the waves crash against the cliffs at the aptly named "Devil's Tears". We did find a beach eventually, though the number of boats made swimming slightly less appealing. We drove back towards the village, mostly downhill, and Sofia was very relieved when we returned the bike and she no longer had both our lives in her hands.
It only took us half an hour to whizz back across to Bali the next day and we immediately headed down south to the Bukit Peninsula. We spent the afternoon on Padang Padang beach, which is reached by going through a temple and then down steps carved out in a crack in a massive rock. No longer a secret, it was packed. However the beach itself is stunning: crystal clear blue water, rock formations, places to lie in the shade and thankfully (unlike everywhere else) no sharp coral under foot. Despite the number of people it was the first beach of the many we'd been to that felt like it was purposely for swimming.
That evening we headed to the famous Ulu-Watu, a temple which sits high above the waves on a cliff. We made it just in time to catch the sunset, along with every other tourist who lined the wall facing out to sea. We were then rushed into an overcrowded amphitheatre for our second traditional dance show of the trip. In contrast to the Barung style in Ubud, Kecak dancing is accompanied not by a gamelan but by a 50 strong all male choir who act as a form of Greek chorus and also the set. This made for an incredible sight and sound, but the dancing itself was not quite so interesting. At risk of sounding like reviewers, it was lazy and felt half-hearted. It was redeemed slightly at the end, when it suddenly became a fire dance, one dancer being surrounded by a ring of fire and the performers dancing through embers.
The next day we headed to Seminyak. We'd initially agreed to avoid the hectic lanes of Kuta and its counterparts, but in need of somewhere to stay on our way north, we decided to investigate. We thought if anything it would make a nice beach stop. We were wrong. The beach is grim, not polluted necessarily but just one long strip of dull sand, huge dark waves and overpriced restaurants. So after paying over double our average for a room in the Bali equivalent of Holiday Inn, we headed off on an afternoon visit to some temples.
First stop was Tanah Lot, a complex of temples on the coast, the most famous of which sits on top of a rock in the sand so that at high tide it's unreachable. We then headed to Taman Ayun, which sits further inland. We'd been told about an incredible water temple north of Ubud, where there are pools in which you can be purified, and had somehow come to the conclusion it was this one. It turned out to be a completely different temple, but still a beautiful one, surrounded by a ring of water. Back in Seminyak we headed for a night out in Kuta and to the famous Sky Garden bar. It's quite possible that Kuta is the most lit up place we've been in four months of travelling, with every shop and bar blazing until early hours of the morning. Our night ended with a ride home to Seminyak on the back a moped, taking short cuts down alleyways and feeling much safer than when Sofia had been driving.
Our next stop was perhaps the exact opposite of Seminyak. Munduk sits in the mountains of north Bali, where the temperature is notably lower. In the afternoon we headed down into the valley to see the waterfalls. We passed through plantations that seemed to grow everything imaginable: from coffee and cocoa beans to avocados, mangosteen and nutmeg. The village was peaceful as we sat on the balcony of our homestay and watched yet another impressive sunset.
The next day we continued north to the coastal town of Lovina, originally the major tourist town in Bali. However perhaps due to the recent popularity of the south, this is no longer the case. This meant that it has all the gimmicks of a tourist town - a souvenir market along the seafront and travel agencies everywhere - but none of the tourists. This made for an understandably hassley atmosphere as everyone was desperate for our custom, as it was genuinely possible nobody else would come along. Queue somebody following us down the street on a motorbike to try and sell us a dress we'd looked at briefly. To avoid the calls from the local sellers, we instead spent our day lazing by our hotel pool which was something of a novelty.
On our last day in Bali, we finally got our first bemo (the local form of public transport). This was a complete surprise to us as we'd paid a local tour agency for a tourist shuttle bus, but we accepted what turned up. We were probably paying more than all the local passengers in that minibus put together. However we managed to jump off at the right point in Permuteran and found our hotel without a problem. Most people come to the village to snorkel or dive, however we spent most of our afternoon there desperately trying to figure out how on earth we were going to get to Java the next day. As there were no tour agencies in the village to help us, we gave up completely and just decided to wing it, so after one last meal in Bali, we had an early night in preparation for the adventure to come.