When traveling to popular destinations, you inevitably get to spend time with other tourists (for example, stuffed next to them in small, Asian airline seats, at a communal breakfast table, or waiting for a boat). Most people we meet usually have a sunny disposition, eager to share stories and tell us that they are having a wonderful trip.
Jyope, a tourist from the Netherlands, had a completely different disposition. And we found it quite entertaining.
We met Jyope in a tour van. It was our second time in Bali and we decided to explore some of the interior, volcanic region. We signed up for a one-day, van and bike tour that started near the town of Ubud.
Jyope’s wife told us that this was their 6th visit to Indonesia. “Wow!” we said. “Sounds like an annual tradition. Do you plan to come back for a 7th time?”
“Nope,” Jyope declared with a disgusted look on his face, his arms crossed.
As the van climbed a ridge adjacent to a volcano, the clouds parted and provided a wonderful view. While the group snapped photos, Jyope shared a story.
“We climbed that mountain 17 years ago. The rocks were loose and you could fall to your death on either side of the trail. It was stupid.”
We joked that he must be happy because, this time, he only had to coast down the mountain on a bike. Jyope, however, just looked forward and shook his head.
“He hates cycling,” his wife said.
Jyope was a rare kind of Dutch tourist indeed.
Later, Jyope shared that he doesn’t like to drink water. Come on, who really hates water? Jyope’s drink of choice was coffee – 20 to 30 cups a day – with milk. He stopped using sugar in an effort to lose weight. That many cups would add up to a lot of sugar!
He also shared other things that he was not happy with: Indonesia’s food and slippery sidewalks and… America. We guessed it was only a matter of time before US politics came up. During lunch, without any warning, Jyope leaned in towards me and said: “You know your country will soon be bankrupt from fighting all of these wars.”
I couldn’t resist and just had to egg him on: “No, no. You don’t understand. Once we win, we will make all of that money back. Can you please pass the chilies?”
But Jyope couldn’t stop us from finding some gems during the bike trip through the Indonesian countryside. I should point out again that it wasn’t really biking. The van drove us to the top of a ridge and we coasted down several thousand feet. I think I rotated the pedals about a total of 60 times. (short bike video)
Jyope: “Good thing this is easy, because Forest is on a bike that is way too small for him.”
On the drive up the ridge, we stopped at a coffee farm. You know the drill… here’s a coffee tree, here’s a cacao tree, and here’s our gift shop. The thrill of the tour was sampling an Indonesian delicacy: coffee made from beans that have “made a journey” through an indigenous muskrat.
Jyope: “Muskrat-poop coffee is stupid. It doesn’t taste any better.”
OK, we had to admit that Jyope was right about that one.
Putting a lot of faith in our bike brakes, we made our way down through numerous villages and rice fields. We saw some beautiful things: elegant family compounds that have been handed down for 10 generations, towering temples that were older than dirt, and enough stone masons to build a small pyramid.
As we wrapped up lunch, our tour guide, Wayan, excused himself.
Wayan was a good guide and very nice man. He was also suffering from an inflamed appendix. On the previous night, he was literally in the hospital when he responded to Annie’s request to book his bike trip. “No problem, I’ll pick you up at 8am,” his text said. With a fully booked tour, Wayan decided that his appendix could wait one more day before being removed. The customer comes first, right? He had taken some pills and told us that he was feeling better.
Jyope: “I don’t believe him. He looks yellow. This isn’t good.”
Well, Wayan lived – at least long enough to drop us back at our hotel – and then we headed over to the town of Sanor to try stand-up paddle boarding. It’s essentially surfing, but you stand up the whole time and propel yourself with a long paddle.
While riding the waves, a huge rain storm blew in. The pelting rain made the ocean look like it was boiling. It felt a little strange and unnerving. We were far from shore, the sky was dark, and it was just the two of us and the guide out there. However, the temperature remained comfortably warm and there was no lightning. The guide didn’t seem to be concerned, so we continued to surf. He later admitted, though, that that was the first time he had ever been caught in a storm like that while paddle surfing.
Annie was pleased to discover that she was better than me (at this activity). Maybe I just didn’t have a big enough board. I would often paddle furiously to catch a wave and then, defeated, watch it pass by me. Meanwhile, Annie would gingerly dip her paddle and then be swept into the curl of the wave and go for a long ride over the reef.
But I got the last laugh. On Sunday, Annie made her way to Jakarta for work, while I settled into a hotel near Kuta Beach. That week, Annie had a busy work week. I had a busy week too – surfing every morning and working remotely from the hotel room. Yeah, it was tough.