Do yourself a favour and just sidestep straight out to the Mentawais – then there's certainly no roads or traffic to worry about. Photo: @johnnyjungle
Bali’s Other Killer
It’s been a bad month on the roads in Bali. But then, when is there a good one?
The deaths of two tourists at Perennan beach, just north of Canggu, in October, along with Maroubra surfer Javier Silvestre’s harrowing tale of survival, have dropped a spotlight once more on the persistent spectre of motorcycle accidents in Bali.
Emilie Martine Canet, 23, from France and Lovid Vincent Dominique Lazeyras, 23, from Switzerland were driving their bike at high speed when they inexplicably flew off the end of a road at the popular Perennan beach, crashing into the reef and dying instantly. Alcohol was a factor in the crash as was a lack of lighting and signage at the end of the road.
“It’s absolute chaos on the road here,” confirms 20-plus year Bali expat and tube specialist, Tai ‘Buddha’ Graham. “I’ve had a few of my mates end up in ditches dead. It sucks, man. It’s shit and I get pissed off every time someone is like, nah nah nah, I’m sweet (as in, not drunk). Everyone’s guilty of it. I’m not pointing the finger but I’ve definitely gotten a bit wiser.”
Meanwhile, Maroubra surfer Javier Silvestre has revealed how close he came to death after coming off his bike at 90km an hour when a light blinded him, sending him careering into a rice field.
“I knew I needed to go to heaven,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “I felt ready. But then the light disappeared and I realised I was in a rice field and I was in a lot of pain.”
Javier suffered 17 broken ribs, three displaced vertebrae and a torn aorta, which pumped 1.5 litres of blood into his right lung. The 50-year-old father of two was uninsured and after a bad experience at a hospital in Bali’s capital Denpasar, the decision was made by his girlfriend to arrange for an air ambulance to take him to Perth at a cost of $AUD47,500. They’re still trying to pay off the bill. It’s an all too common story, says Buddha.
“I’ve had to get a phone call from some random dude, saying (that my friend’s) in hospitable, he’s unrecognisable,” Buddha says. “We have to get in there to move them from the local ward to the international ward of the hospital. It’s a tough one over here. If there’s no money to pay for it they’re not gonna operate until they get that credit card or travel insurance. It’s a dangerous combo with that sort of thing.”
From May 2015 to May 2016, a total of 59 Australians died in Bali (and a further 164 in Thailand). The combined deaths of foreign tourists in Bali is unknown but one can only assume the number would be staggering.
“People take for granted that Bali has no rules and you can do what you want,” says Buddha. “It does in a certain sense, but if you’re on the wrong side of those rules and that system, it can be life and death. You don’t wanna mess around with it. It’s fun, it’s loose, and everyone is like, it’s free and easy!, but you’ve still gotta be totally respectful.”
Buddha’s Tips For Surviving Bali
1. “If you can afford to buy a surfboard or you can afford two nights out on the piss, you can afford travel insurance. It’s the last thing on everyone’s priority list but it should be the first thing. You can be just cruising on your bike with your helmet on, doing nothing at all and some crazy nut comes around the corner and wipes you out.”
2. “With Schoolies coming up, if I was a parent I’d be drilling into the kids to pay for a driver. It’s 50 bucks for a whole day. What’s the price of a life? You can go out and get as sideways as you can possibly imagine and someone is gonna drive you home. Between two or three or four of you, (the cost) is minor. It’s cheaper than a couple of stitches at the hospital, put it that way."
3. “You’ve gotta be so aware on the roads over here. That’s the difference between Europe or America or Australia. It’s organised chaos and everyone is pulling out and doing whatever. When you’re on the road, you’ve gotta think 100m ahead and 50m behind. Your peripherals are just on.”
4. “You’ve gotta be ready for anything to jump out at you; guys pulling out on streets, cars switching lanes, motorbikes switching lanes, trucks switching lanes. It’s absolute chaos on the roads here. Even if you’re doing the right thing with your helmet on, sitting in your lane, you’ve still gotta have your wits fully about you. It takes a little while to get used to the chaos.”
5. “You’ve gotta just go with the flow. Don’t go thinking you’re Valentino Rossi flying around those corners ‘cos guaranteed some dog is gonna run out in front of you or some 10-year-old kid is gonna pull out in front of you and that’s a recipe for disaster.”