Things you should have when driving a scooter for the first time:
- an understanding of how to turn the scooter on
- a good fitting helmet with no cracks
- practice with someone who is familiar with driving scooters
- familiarity with driving on the opposite side of the road if you are not from the country where you will be driving said scooters
- knowledge of how to operate required driving functions such as: turning signals, horn, lights
- a functioning cell phone to use in case of emergency
Things that are nice to have when driving a scooter for the first time
- an understanding of how to open the seat so you can put things in it
- a working speedometer
So with none of these things, I hopped on a scooter for the first time and zoomed (err… putt putted) off to see a Shaman in the hills of Ubud. How did I drive there without knowing how to turn it on, you may be asking - well, the scooter rental guy opened the seat for me so I could put my towel and swimsuit in it, then turned it on and handed it over to me. I got on and with a hasty goodbye kiss to David, took off onto the busy streets of Ubud. Scootering is a legit way of life in Indonesia, and it’s so cheap to rent one. A taxi ride (i.e riding. on the back of a local’s scooter) costs $50,000 Rupiah/$3.50 US to get from the central part of Ubud to our hotel. Renting a scooter costs $50,000 Rupiah/day. Gas to fill the scooter is $20,00 Rupiah.
I had memorized the directions to the Shaman from a text message from the Shaman to David, and they were based on landmarks, my favorite part being “once you get to the top of the hill I’m the first house on the left with the palm tree.” Using any kind of flora in this jungle climate to differentiate yourself is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Anyways, off I go onto the streets, taking my sweet time, and since people don’t mean-honk here it was not too stressful to go slow. I chuckled the few times I looked down at my speedometer to see I was going 0 MPH since it was broken, because that’s how it felt most of the time. Once I made it through some crazy intersections, made some right turns that I was very proud of, and got a little out of the city, I started to go up a hill. Then it was a really windy hill, on a 2 lane road, and I wasn’t so great at turning yet considering I started driving the scooter 8 minutes prior. Thankfully I was able to take wide turns when needed, and cutting into oncoming traffic is totally normal here, AND they’re used to seeing tourists driving silly. I made it up the hill, promptly zoomed passed the palm tree which was not distinguishable at all, turned around at some point (another adventure) and then I got stuck on a little bump in the driveway, turned the scooter off, couldn’t turn it back on so had to kind of nudge push with my legs to get it in and park it.
But, I couldn't get the seat open to get out my swimsuit, which she (Shaman) said I will need for after the session. I went in to the beautiful property and found the Shaman, promptly bragged about my scooter escapades that got me there, and then shyly asked for help with getting my seat open. Oh, and I couldn’t get the bike to restart, so I asked her to check that too. She hopped on it, started it immediately, but neither of us could get the seat open (it turns out there is a separate key hole to use to open the seat, which is in the side of the bike, not near the ignition; this was different than any other bike we were familiar with).
Except for the seat, everything went pretty smoothly, and I was ready for the session. I started exploring shamanism a few months ago, and while I have 1 month off of work I dove right in to finding a wise local healer, which led me to Malaika. The session was epic, and included a didgeridoo, drums, and lots of sweat. After the sessions she encourages her clients to go down to the river and stand under a waterfall as a final cleanse. She was kind enough to lend me her swimsuit that had leopards on it to use to go on my solo quest. I climbed down many stairs to emerge into a big river with no one in sight. She gave me similar landmark-based instructions to find a place to cross the river, then walk upstream until I found the waterfall, which I was then supposed to stand under and scream/release everything from the session so I could start afresh.
I found the waterfall, I loved it, and I was very proud of myself for doing all of these things by myself (swimming across a river, walking barefoot in the jungle, not freaking out about bugs, getting under the waterfall, etc).
Feeling fully alive and powerful, I made my way back up to change and then hopped on my scooter, ready to take the Ubud streets on with confidence.
The scooter didn't start.
I know the foot stand has to be up and you press the ignition button…. but nothing was happening. I tried for a good 15 minutes, before feeling confirmed that my scooter is faulty, and I go find Malaika to ask for her help again. She hops on it, and it starts right up!
“It must be the Shaman’s magic touch!!” I exclaimed.
"You had both of the handbrakes in, right?"
Of course not, no one told me that! With lots of lovely goodbyes and a bit of embarrassment, I started putt-putting my way out of the driveway, almost nailed the driveway door to which Malaika called out to make sure I was OK with driving back alone, I assured her I was good, and zoomed out to go back down the windy hill and into the busy streets of Ubud.