Like my daughter, my travelling career started in the womb. My parents were seasonal workers, going from place to place to find work for my father. He worked on sheep and cattle properties, wheat farms, the Snowy Mountain Scheme, cut sugar cane in Queensland, and picked fruit in Victoria. I was expected to be born in South Australia but didn’t come out to the light for three more weeks in Kyabram, Victoria. The name of my birthplace has Abram in it, meaning high father. But the Aboriginal meaning is actually thick forest. One day soon in these posts we are going to visit Abraham in the Bible because he is much more significant and interesting than most people realize.
Apart from all the travelling I did before being born, my first destination outside Australia was Singapore for a week, then the popular little island of Bali, in Indonesia. While there, I experienced my first earthquake. It hit another island called Lombok nearby but we felt the tremor at Kuta Beach where I was staying in a losmen. I thought someone was jumping on the tin roof. All the guests rushed outside their rooms. It subsided after a few terrifying seconds.
The year I went to Bali was a good one for me. I got my driver’s licence, bought my first car, and had my first overseas holiday. My best friend, Debby, and I went together. The package to Bali included the use of motorbikes. But we were responsible to get the licence over there ourselves. We were permitted to practise for a few days first, neither of us having ridden a motorcycle ever before. During one of these sessions, Debby somehow managed to ride her motorbike up a tree. The wheels were left spinning as it came to rest in the fork of two branches.
Taking the licence test was another matter entirely. The police had a series of stakes in a row in the ground, about a two or three feet apart. We had to do a figure of eight around them to the end then back again to the start. I somehow managed to pass this test; maybe I had prayed the night before. But Debby didn’t. However, some money changed hands and we both got our licences. In retrospect, it probably would have been better for my health if I HADN’T got mine. However, I was relieved it wasn’t me who was faced with the decision of whether or not to bribe a police officer, as I seriously doubt I could have done it.
Meanwhile, Debby and I spent the next few weeks having a wonderful time, circumnavigating the island, visiting the massive extinct crater of Mount Batur, washing in the hot springs there, and climbing up to peer inside the still active smaller volcano inside. Then there was another mountain that takes the prize for being the coldest I had ever felt in my life. I have lived in London in snowy winters that froze the pipes and were 20 degrees below zero in the wind, but there I HAD CLOTHES ON: coats, leggings, earmuffs, beret, a woollen scarf and jumper my mother knitted for me, gloves, the works. In Bali coming down that mountain on a motorbike with thongs and light summer clothes on I thought I was going to snap-freeze and remain there forever as an ice sculpture.
I finally did make it to down to the heat and sweat of Bali’s usual climate, and with Debby and our small group we returned to Kuta Beach. To our breakfasts of banana on toast and the little chattering monkey chained to its tree outside our room. A few days later, Debby and I decided to go out to see the famed Hindu temple of Tanah Lot, which sits on a tiny rock island attached to the mainland by a rock pathway at low tide I think. While I rode my motorcycle, Debby doubled with her friend Graeme on his bike.
As we were closing in on this well-known tourist destination, we rode along a narrow bitumen road that looked to peter off into a dirt track through the grass. Graeme and I were having a drag along the bitumen road when, uh-oh, I saw that the road had a hairpin bend just as it met the track. Trying to turn into this bend, I overcompensated, with the result my handlebars and front wheel headed too far to the left and locked there, so the bike came to an abrupt stop. Too bad I didn’t stop too. Instead I somersaulted over the handlebars.
It really is an incredible thing Father looks after His own, isn’t it? And that He’s faithful, even when we are unfaithful. Or being pretty stupid. If drag racing on the narrow busy little lanes of Bali with no helmet, thongs on our feet, and maybe a tee-shirt and shorts is not pretty dumb, well I don’t know what is. The Almighty didn’t, however, catch me. He preferred to let me learn a painful lesson about how hard a bitumen road really is when one has just somersaulted over the handlebars of an abruptly stopping motorbike. I AM sitting here writing about this 34 years later, so I didn’t die. Good thing. I would have gone to Hell for past sins.
I landed on my left side. From my big toe to shoulder, skin was scraped off and bleeding. Debby and Graeme had somehow negotiated the turn without consequence; they were behind me–yeah, I was winning the drag– and saw my mistake in time to not also make it themselves. After they stopped, Debby rushed over to me. I had no serious injuries, but my knee was ripped open at the site of a recent minor operation. Being a nurse and knowing a thing or two, Debby hoisted my left leg high in the air to stem the bleeding. I was still in the middle of the road.
After a little while a beamo came along and very nicely took us to the local hospital, Graeme following along behind. We left the motorbike beside the road as it was a write-off. The handlebars and front wheel were twisted and bent back in on the rest of the bike. At said hospital I was sadly informed no doctor was in attendance there that day. We caught a minibus back to Kuta after the nurses had bandaged my wounds. The minibus driver dropped me at a doctor’s surgery. Looking at my wounds, the doctor also informed me I was beyond his help. I’d have to go into Denpasar Hospital to have the wounds scrubbed out. There was still half a gravel road in my knee.
At Kuta, at our losmen, we found Michael, one of the Sydney surfers staying there also. Michael was with a group of four friends in Bali and he and I had begun to be close friends. Upon learning of my by then desperate situation–I was becoming quite depressed by it all–he wanted to help. We discussed options. How to get into Denpasar. It was late in the afternoon, almost dark by then. Michael suggested I double on the back of his bike, but I couldn’t bend my leg. It would be sticking out and maybe get lopped off by a passing truck.
Anyway, someone managed to arrange another beamo which came and picked up Michael, Debby, and me right outside our accommodation. Into Denpasar Hospital which has played such an important part in the probably thousands of Aussie tourists lives when they have bounced on Balinese roads after they have come off motorbikes. Not to mention their part after the indescribably tragic Bali Bombing of 12 December 2002.
Michael waited outside like a prospective father awaiting the birth of his child, listening to my groans. I don’t think I screamed, though I desperately would have liked to. Debby held my hand as the several lovely young Indonesian doctors injected my big toe and knee with local anaesthetic that didn’t work. Then they scrubbed out my knee with a brush before stitching it up. Having worked in Emergency and seen this, and stitched wounds myself, I knew exactly what was happening without actually watching. I HAD watched my knee being stitched back in Brisbane when it had broken open once before, but that time the anaesthetic did work. They also removed my toenail as it was broken and half ripped off.
Contemplating the writing of this story, I wondered what I was doing at that time to deserve this treatment from Father. I had never considered it before. Having an accident like that in which I could have easily died, and some have, was a strong warning from the Most High. There was nothing then in my life that was particularly sinful except perhaps drinking blue meanie soup at the restaurant next to our losmen. But in Bali blue meanie eating was as legal as walking down the street. Mind you the first time I did this, I was sick all night with Bali belly. I attributed it to finding a hair in my blue meanie pancake. Thereafter I prefered the soup which I found to be delicious, particularly when accompanied by neverending milkshakes, blue moons, snapping turtles in the water at the beach, and so on. If my readers don’t know what blue meanies are, don’t worry about it. It’s not a good thing.
Eventually I realized I was going to a Hindu temple when I had that accident. A place full of idols and the most, to my mind today, obscene sculptures imaginable. I went to many such places on my travels. I wish I had known the truth about them, that they are devoted to devils and are profane. When I later became a committed Christian, I repented and broke the curses over me for doing this. In fact, I had two statues of Balinese gods and a chess set with the pieces carved in the images of demons. It was beyond me how I had felt comfortable with these hideous objects in my houses all those years.
Well, it could have been any or all of those things. Those people who have been brought up to know the difference between what YHWH approves and what He loathes so they may avoid it are truly blessed. I hope they can appreciate it. They do not have to stumble through life trying to find their Way as most of us do.