The Honda scooters that putt around Bali have been whispering my name since arriving on the island. After breakfast of muddy Indonesian coffee and banana pancakes, I finally got up the courage to sign the rental agreement and attempt to grasp the lesson being delivered in broken English. In less than 3 minutes, I learned how to make it start and stop, how to turn on the indicators (but not how to turn them off), and how to blow the horn – every essential. On our first ride around the block, I hadn’t quite mastered the delicate art of accelerating smoothly and stopping slowly. (By this I mean that I was jerking around like I was riding a mechanical bull at one of those country bars back home.)
But by the time we made it to the temple up north, I had it mastered.
We marvelled at the temple for a reasonable amount of time but were both itching to get back on our bikes and onto the road. Colleen navigated me into a righthand turn that would lead us straight back to Ubud. I cruised ahead in the twisting and curving road and eased into the feeling of leaning into each turn like the swallows turning circles in the air above me. My helmet didn’t fit, so with each bump in the road, I felt it jump slightly up and back on my head. Every once in a while, when the road was clear, I’d lift my eyes to the brightly-coloured landscape on either side and feel myself suck in my breath slightly and bite my lip. The ride was a dream. Its roller coaster ups and downs sent me ducking under low hanging, ethereal vines and, for much of it, there was nothing but asphalt in front. Making my way up a particularly steep hill just outside an incense-scented village, I revved my engine and felt my soul whooping like Sal Paradise. Pure, unbridled glee.
There’s something about a bike.
About the wind in your face making you feel more alive. The colours being more vibrant than ever. The smells being thrust up your nose. All 27 Amazonian shades of green before my eyes. All of this added to my complete disregard for the rules of the road and the reckless abandon that comes with being able to weave recklessly between vehicles.
To be honest, I may be exaggerating slightly. I’m not exactly the badass biker chick that I imagine myself to be, nor do I imagine that I would be invited into any biker gang gossip. My scooter was powder blue and white, we never went over 60 km/h, and local kids passed us easily on their own scooters. But my speedometer was broken and, in my mind, I was leather-clad and humming through those streets in the kind of way that intimidates children. Either way, I was visualizing my mother’s face of disapproval the whole time and it made me smirk.
We arrived back in town with sunburnt hands and smiling faces, parked our bikes, and dove in to a steaming bowl of bubur ayam on the steps of the market. The savoury porridge was tucked between my legs on the stones of the second-highest step where we could secretly watch the world go by. Kids tugging on their mothers’ coats hoping for a piece of fruit from the old man with three teeth and, on the flip side, tourists with shifty eyes, their backpacks slung over their bellies.
And me. Tongue burned in my impatience, hands still trembling with the vibrations of the handlebars, eyeing my ride parked in the mess of scooters beside the market. Life in Bali passed before my eyes and I fit right into it.