Rumbling to life below me, my dusty, metal, fully-unleaded steed for the day surges eagerly forwards like a particularly strong bulldog just after catching a glimpse of his dinner.
Woah. That’s powerful.
I’ve pulled in to one of the many roadside ‘re-fill stations’ visible every kilometre or so along the country roads in Bali – (can you call them country roads when they’re the only roads around? ) signalled by a bookshelf populated by rows of upturned Absolut Vodka bottles filled with a mysterious yellowy-gold substance.
Usually these ‘garages’ are merely the front garden water-feature of the vendors’ house, and it’s not unusual to see small children playing with spare motorbike parts in the dusty gravel beside their parents’ work station – in this case a faded plastic garden chair and carefully bookmarked porno magazine. Great!
Dropping a clearly unfinished plate of food to the ground, he’s up and jumping to assist before I’ve even tried to remove my helmet, gesturing enthusiastically to the selection of fine liqueors behind him. That’s the Balinese for you.
I nod encouragingly towards my newly acquired bike, hoping he’ll do a girl a favour here and know exactly where the tank is and how to fill it.
Because I sure don’t.
He watches, perplexed as I pretend to rummage in my bag for change.
“I just got it!” I try, sheepishly, letting on again that this isn’t the first time I’ve ever had to fill a moving vehicle with fuel. As he reaches for a vodka bottle, I straighten up and decide to play it cool.
“Make it a double!!”
I laugh at my own hilarity, exaggerated in the heat and reddening shame of my situation – I’m clearly not the cool indie-surfer biking chick I’m letting on to be. I should have just stuck to my yoga mat and pedal-bike.
This humour is entirely lost on my new friend, however, as he blankly holds out the bottle for me to continue.
I prod at several buttons. Nothing.
Flick a switch.
Meanwhile, Petrol Pete’s gap-toothed grin widens, and the petrols’ urine-coloured hue gets a worrying physical manifestation.
“First time?” He chuckles.
With ease, he flicks up the seat and twists a nozzle that clearly states “FUEL TANK” in very large (and English) letters. I laugh nervously.
“New bike! Y’know yourself! – Terima Kasih!”
Irish wit aside and rusty Balinese to boot, the deed is done in a matters of seconds and I hand over several withered bank notes. He then stands back with a smug grin and arms folded as if waiting for an amateur street performer to reach an unattainable punch line.
Here we go.
I truly deliver, surging forwards ungracefully, stirring up dust with my dragging heels and knocking into several bushes and innocent plants along the way. I regain balance briefly only to lose it again to the forces of my other side like an inflatable Mr. Blobby in the wind. Eventually finding the equilibrium through acceleration, I glance back quickly to see the man’s entire family outside the tiny dwelling pointing and chuckling together, shouting out in amusement;