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By Greg Taylor,
Manager Kuranda Homestay, Koah Bed and Breakfast Accommodation.
Web Site: www.kurandahomestay.com
It was Wednesday 10 February, but a 'very' different day in my life; for starters getting up at 3.30am. All the arrangements had been made: bag packed, shower chair folded and tied, and I was off to Cairns International by 7am for 9am departure with Garuda (Cairns - Darwin - Bali). After deliberating about this whole adventure in my mind for years it was finally going to happen. I have travelled in short interstate hops here but haven't been to another country since being an able bod almost 18yrs ago. Being a C5/6 complete Quadriplegic, it was never going to be simple to travel alone, but I had to prove to myself that it was something that I could do.
8.45am: It was time to board onto that thing they call an 'Airport chair ', which is more like a child's pram with a seat like a slab of concrete; a speedy rush down the boarding ramp; backwards down the isle and a lift into the seat like a sack of spuds ... made it.
Suddenly there are four Indonesian hostesses gathered in the isle speaking rapidly in Indonesian. After 30 seconds or so I heard the word ' toilet ', with one pointing down the isle shaking her head. They were obviously trying to figure out how to stuff me in the loo should I want to go. I said, "it's o.k I won't need it". The head hostess arrived, introduced herself and did my seat belt up. Flying time to Bali 4.5 hrs.
The flight was fairly uneventful until I started shuffling my legs after we'd departed Darwin. The head hostess spotted me, disappeared for a few minutes and came back with 2 Indonesian guys and asked me if I would like to go to 1st class as the seats were bigger and I'd be more comfortable! ... oh? ... OK!
Arrive Bali everybody off. While passengers departed I'm having vivid nightmares about a Balinese 'Airport chair'. The last passenger walked out and suddenly four young Indonesian guys are coming toward me at a fast pace. I think I got out the words 'Hi, how ya goin', but before I could say anything else each one grabbed a limb, lifted me high and horizontal above the seats and proceeded at a fast pace toward the exit. My cries of "where's the bloody chair" going unanswered amid the rapid Indonesian chatter, we launched down the stairway to the tarmac. I'm thinking, I shouldn't have eaten the scrambled eggs, when I see a bus parked at the bottom. No sooner do we hit the tarmac than we're headed up the steps and into the bus. This was an old bus with bench seats around the back half. Still suspended in mid air, we're off on a 30 sec drive with a couple of quick turns. We came to a stop and it's down the steps, off the bus and into the terminal at a fast pace. By this stage I'm thinking these guys ARE the Airport Chair - but where the hell is mine! We race through the terminal past the panicked faces of onlookers. I'm now looking at one of the guys trying to figure out where to bite him when he grins and says, "don't worry"! After what seemed like an eternity, I spotted my chair just before being unceremoniously flung into it.
Off we go there are no pit stops here. One guy has me, the other my suitcase and folded shower chair and before I know it we're outside. I spotted a guy with a turban and a sign that says, Dynasty Hotel. He's with a lady in white who must be the Hotel nurse who has been arranged to assist me. Before I can say anything I'm in the back seat of the Hotel car, luggage in, nurse holding an arm and we're off again! The streets were packed with motor bikes and cars everywhere. It's was chaos. After a 15 mintute drive we pulled into the hotel. Two porters grabbed me and I'm back in my comfort zone. I met the manager and checked in. The nurse drove me to my room and as promised the room is great: lounge, bedroom and ensuite with rollin shower, on the ground floor. I made it. It's time for a beer!
Spent the rest of the day looking around the Resort, lift near my room, ramps where necessary - most too short and sharp to push up - but staff never far away and very enthusiastic to help. The nurse would knock off at 5pm but was available to help me until 9pm as she lived close by. She came every morning at 7am and stayed until not required. When I wished assistance after 9pm the porters would help, which is what I did. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of 2 guys throwing me to bed and getting my gear off, but I didn't go to Bali to be in bed by 9pm!
The reception had safety deposit boxes where you are asked to leave your passport and anything else you wish. The room had a sign not to drink or brush your teeth in tap water (or risk getting Bali belly) - 2 free bottles of water are supplied daily. There's round handles on the doors but they have a latch which I could flip to keep it open an inch. When the door is closed it locks automatically. Staff would help me get in with the key. There was also 24hr room service so I'd take the phone to bed at night just in case I had a spasm and a leg went overboard.
The next day I wanted to get out of Kuta, and up to Buta, to see the volcano in the highlands. The manager organised a cab and driver who would lift me in and out and take me wherever I wanted to go for about $24AU plus a tip. The car was high, like a 4 wheel drive, but no problem. On the way there we drove past terraced rice fields and through rainforest. No one told me there were fifty steps to the restaurant that overlooks it and a crater lake, so we recruited a bit of help. Four guys carrying me got half way up and the front wheel fell off! The driver found some wire and wired it up. It was a great view from the restaurant. The volcano has two vents smoking and black dried lava all around its base from the last eruption. Despite the obvious danger, there are houses at the edge of the lava field. People won't leave because their ancestors have always lived there and because they believe that the gods will protect them. Bali is 90% Hindu and many in the country pray three or more times a day, burning incense and making an offering of rice. Each home has its own shrine where you pray.
I spent the next 2.5hrs driving around looking for bearings and a bolt.
That evening I new something was wrong when my body began to shake and sweat. I checked for injuries but couldn't see any so I took 2 Codral cold & flu tablets. Over the years I've discovered that this alleviates these types of symptoms.
The nurse looked me over the next morning and found one of my heels covered by a large blister. I then remembered my shoe coming off in the car the previous day and asking the driver to stop to put it on, but it must have been off for sometime. I had burnt my heel on the exhaust that ran under the floor of the car. We covered it for protection and headed off to the monkey forest - this time with a sheep skin under my feet.
Purtri the nurse accompanied me on this trip even though it was her day off. We were met by a Balinese girl at the entrance to the monkey forest, a national park. She would be our guide in return for which we would look at some of the souvenirs she sold. The black monkeys were fascinating. I had bought peanuts upon arriving and put a few in my hand and held them out. A monkey about a foot tall came running over, stopped, and gently took them out of my hand one at a time. There were family groups with the largest male in control. Some were in the trees some on the ground. A large male approached me. I held out some peanuts and he greedily snatched them. While I was getting more out of the bag he gave me a nip on the arm as a hurry up. He was as tall as my rear wheel and with a good set of teeth, and had he wanted to he could have put a nice hole in me.
The best time to feed the monkeys I was told is the afternoon as they can be a little violent in the mornings having not eaten all night. Be careful where you wheel, monkey shit really stinks! We headed back after many bags of peanuts to our guide's stall where I bought a nice carving that looked just like that big fella.
That night I thought it was time to check out a local night club. I asked some staff and the words Hard Rock Cafe kept coming up and I figured that's the place. I was told to take enough money for cab fare and just use my credit card in the club. This worked well (no fumbling for money) and one waitress looked after me. I paid the total at night's end. The Hard Rock has live bands every night and the music gets heavier as the night progresses. The crowd was a mixture of Balinese and Europeans. I met only one Aussie all night. The place is in two tiers, the top having a good view, and is easy to move around in, though to get in you need to be carried up a dozen steps then down six.
The next morning Purtri debrided and dressed the wound. By this stage my foot was quite swollen so I spent a couple of days knocking around the resort with my foot up as much as possible. It was then I discovered the Balinese massage. For $10.00AU per hour and even cheaper on the beachfront but there you must brave the hawkers selling watches, sarongs, jewellery, and t-shirts. Mind you I did get a temporary tattoo there for $8.00AU. While hanging around the resort, which was mainly full of Europeans, I did meet some Aussies who the next day I went shopping with and to Jimbaram Bay for a seafood meal on the beach front. There we watched a brilliant orange sun sink slowly into the ocean while a Balinese band serenaded us. I suppose that meeting people of your own nationality in another country is comforting, especially when your in the minority and it seems to bring out the best in people as I became fast friends with these two couples from W.A. The guys would lift me in and out of cars and assist me wherever required and the ladies often told them how. In the few days they were there we had a lot of laughs and we'll keep in touch.
Each village in Bali has its own temple for prayer and two big celebrations a year. The Hindus have one main god but many others as well. Balinese homes are a series of small buildings and all have their own shrine for prayer. Grand parents, parents and children each have their own small building and there is one for the dead which is on the east. The dead are placed there until the holy man of the village says that it is time to bury them. This can take more than several days. The family must then save for a cremation. Hindu culture says that the body must be cremated so that the spirit can move on to the next life. It may take years for the family to save the money. By then, what's left of the body is dug up, put on a bamboo stand in the cemetery and burnt.
I saw many temples in Bali and got around a fair bit, and I met some wonderful people. The shopping is great once you get the hang of haggling, but the best thing for me was that I overcame most of my fears and took chances. After all these years I've rediscovered the thrill of travel and I'm already thinking about a trip to Thailand next year. But I won't forget this one in a hurry - and I'll have the scar to prove it.
Greg Taylor is the owner and manager of Kuranda Homestay, also known as Koah Bed and Breakfast, which he founded in 1993. Greg was directly involved in the external landscaping of the property - and in construction and interior design. A wheelchair user himself, Greg has made accessibility around Koah a priority, ensuring an enjoyable and hassel-free holiday for all. The Homestay is both Greg's own home and a place where visitors can enjoy rest and recreation in a welcoming environment. Accommodation facilities at Kuranda Homestay are approved by the Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Association of Australia. Certified carers and accessible vehicle hire can also be provided by prior arrangement for visitors with special needs.
To find out more, contact Greg by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Kuranda Homestay website.
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