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Ageing Traveller Series

The Ageing Traveller series is written by Rose Howell, who has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club. Her passion for travel is documented on her website www.ageing-hipsters-travel.com.

Click here to find out more about Rose.

International Travel in the 70s
by an ageing hipster

Washing clothes the local's way 1975
Washing clothes the local's way 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

Staying in hotels that don’t even register one star, sleeping in beds riddled with bed bugs, travelling on overcrowded buses with the locals, hitchhiking on cement trucks over the worst roads I have ever seen, having guns pointed at my face, going over a cliff in a bus and surviving. None of the above is 5 star comfort like I want these days, but each is burned into my memory as an adventure.

That is the thing about travel, even when things aren't perfect, at least you know you are alive.

Those memories are from my younger hippy travelling days. That was in the 70s and I no longer travel like that but they were some of the most amazing times I have had travelling around the world.

The 70s was an exciting time to travel. It was like we were the pioneers of overland travel and it was when Lonely Planet started writing travel books and many of us replaced the "Bit guides" for "Asia on the Cheap" etc.

From my diaries and photos I would like to share some of those stories in these blogs.

I travelled to approximately 57 countries over a period of 5 years with a pack on my back and the main mode of transport was using the thumb to hitch a ride.


I will begin with my trip to Indonesia.

Across Asia in the 70s
“Traveling across Asia is just that – you start on one side and you travel ‘across’ to the other. That is very different to traveling around Europe where you might start anywhere and end up anywhere and hop from place to place in the meantime.” Tony wheeler

On our trip across Asia, we followed Tony Wheelers Lonely Planet guidebook “S. E. Asia on the cheap” and “Asia on the cheap”.

We chose to find our own transport instead of going on a tour. That is the way most overlanders travelled. It was the most genuine way to travel and also the cheapest. But it also was the most uncomfortable, tiring and time consuming. Lucky we had all the time in the world and we were young and reasonably fit.

The benefits were that we could fix our own itinerary, route and time programme. Transport runs everywhere (bus, train, plane, train, horse and carts, Bemos).

The best part of traveling this way, is that we got to enjoy the locals' friendliness and were able to stop as long as we liked in places that were of interest to us.

We met a lot of really good people. Some helped us find accommodation, translate conversations into English and many invited us into their homes.

The day after my 23rd birthday (1st August 1976) my husband (ex now) and I flew out from Darwin on a DC 10 (a propeller plane) to Bali, Indonesia.

Bali was strict on dress code back then, no shorts, sarongs, t-shirts, sandals and hair must be below the collar for men when entering a Government building or bank. They had signs in most Government places showing how and how not to dress. Needless to say coming from Darwin where it is hot and steamy and landing in Bali where the weather is the same it got quite uncomfortable in long trousers and shirts.

Kuta - Bali – Indonesia 1976
An island of magic is how we described it. Our first impression. We didn’t imagine it to be so beautiful.

I had never been in an Asian country before and believe me it was a shock to the system. As I said it was magic but oh what a culture shock I was in for, which probably lasted a month. It was poor, smelly and dirty, plus the locals didn’t speak much English. I was a fussy eater back then so I gagged on most of the food. I am also allergic to bananas, and of course that is a staple diet, bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wasn’t into alcohol or drugs either so the magic mushrooms and other interesting food wasn’t for me. I was also very naïve so I tended to get sucked in by the locals.

The Balinese were beautiful people, so gentle and kind. The Javanese who came to work in Bali, not so nice. Well that is what the Balinese told us. If you get robbed, then it must have been a Javanese.

On arrival in Bali, once through customs and out into the street, the hassling begins. Young Balinese lads thrust hotel/losmen cards at you and try to steer you into their taxis, bemos (they will try to cram 12 or so people in) or buses. We had no idea of where we wanted to stay and how much the ride would be, so we haggled anyway as it seemed the thing to do.

Bali airport 1975
Bali airport 1975
Photo by Rose Howell


Accommodation and food
Hotels and Losmens were the main places to stay and were reasonably cheap and always included breakfast. Our accommodation was $4 a day for two. No high rise hotels, and most of the accommodation looked out over coconut palms, grass huts and assorted tropical vegetation. The fancier hotels were closer to the beach.


Losmen in Kuta
Photo by Rose Howell

Our new friend, a Balinese lad called Secret (now that should have warned us) conned us into paying for his meal at the local restaurant ‘Poppies’ (of which I believe is still operating today). We were on a very quick learning curve of who to trust and who not to.

Not all was bad as the restaurant was out of a fairy-tale, with overhanging trellises, little fountains, ponds and streams drifting through the centre of the area.

So that was our first day in paradise.

Breakfast next morning consisted of Black Rice pudding, bananas and coconut with hot sweet tea. I could see I was going to lose weight very quickly or begin to get brave and eat what is put in front of me (except bananas of course). The more I travelled the easier it got. Either eat or starve, quite simple really.

Kuta beach back then looked a lot different to now. There wasn’t a road, only a dirt track and the drains smelly and open. There were restaurants, souvenir and clothing stalls and juice making shops dotted all the way down to the beach front. One thing that is the same now is the people who continually hassle you to buy stuff on the beach itself. I found that really hard as you had to be quite mean and tell them to go away.

Even back then Kuta was more like a Surfers Paradise than a reflection of Bali. Tourists mainly congregated around this area. The beach was beautiful, surf was good but it wasn’t a good swimming beach because of the strong current. I don’t think I ever saw many Balinese in the water if at all.

Drugs
The place was floating on drugs, on the streets at night you were constantly asked to buy Buddah, Heroin, Opium and anything else popular at that time. Not for us though but many travellers we met were right into it. In fact they stayed in that one spot for weeks/months so they had access to all they needed to get high.

Transport
Traveling by bus was an experience in itself. The buses were small open windowed, gaily painted red, yellow and blue with people crammed in like sardines. There were no aisles, all had bench seats which go all the way across so you have to climb over people. The locals chew beetle nut (similar to a clump of tobacco) and keep spitting it out at your feet or into plastic bags. The moisture they suck from the nut looks like blood and their whole mouth looks like it is bleeding and there are blobs of it on the floor. When they smile at you it’s creepy because many of them are missing teeth. Their breath nearly knocks you over. On a long trip, the locals rest their heads on each other’s shoulders (and ours) and sleep the whole trip.

Travelling on the roads was just as dangerous then as it is now. They pass anywhere and everywhere, and blast their horns to let everyone know they are coming. We saw many accidents and one really close call where a motorcyclist came around the corner and two buses were side by side and he squeezed through the middle and survived.

Bus station in Denpasar 1975
Bus station in Denpasar 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

Scenery was beautiful, in particular the rice paddies which for me had the WOW factor when I saw them. The Volcano area was breathtaking and we stayed near the small village of Penelokan, in a Losmen on the edge of Lake Batur overlooking M. Batur an active volcano. The villagers were extremely friendly and when we went for a walk the kids all smile and follow.

Villager at Mount Batur
Villager at Mount Batur
Photo by Rose Howell

At night we could hear and see the volcano exploding and smoking, but it didn’t scare us, we were just in awe of being so close to it. The town of Penelokan had been destroyed many times. We saw lava flows all down the side of the volcano.  Yes we did climb the Volcano and that was a hard climb but worth it.

Mount Batur volcano 1975
Mount Batur volcano 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

Lake at base of Mount Batur 1975
Lake at base of Mount Batur 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

The Lake looked inviting and we saw there were many dugout canoes but we hadn’t factored hiring one in our budget. In the end my hairdressing skills came in handy and I cut the owner's hair in return for a dugout for the day. They are not easy to paddle so we didn’t last long but it was fun. Of course word got around I could cut hair so I had others asking for a curly haircut like my husband's.

Rose cutting hair in return for canoe hire 1975
Rose cutting hair in return for canoe hire 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

Artis Dewa Made's home
Artis Dewa Made's home
Photo by Rose Howell

Balinese marry young and have children as soon as possible. Pre-marital sex was frowned upon. They felt sorry for me because I had no children so that meant my husband can’t be very strong. We did witness several times male tourists with local girls of the night. Balinese told us they would be Javanese women not Balinese.

Farming was backward. The fields were watered using 2 buckets on a pole carried from the lake, oxen were used to til the soil and hoes to turn the soil. Very fertile ground, you could put a stick in it and it would sprout leaves. I guess that is because it is volcanic soil.

Artist Dewa Made at funeral for his grandmother
Artist Dewa Made at funeral for his grandmother
Photo by Rose Howell

Villagers at funeral. Many had not seen white people before
Villagers at funeral. Many had not seen white people before
Photo by Rose Howell

Funeral in UbudFuneral in Ubud
Photo by Rose Howell

 

The list below has the modern day information about some of the many places we visited in Bali.
Such as:

  • Kuta – Popular beach where everyone hangs out

  • Ubud – cultural town

Lovina beach 1975
Lovina beach 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

Rose at a temple 1975
Rose at a temple 1975
Photo by Rose Howell

 

Rose Howell Biography

Rose has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club.
She has taken all kinds of transport and accommodation from budget to luxury. She has travelled through war zones, survived a bus accident in the Andes and visited areas that are no longer available to tourists, such as the Khyber Pass and Bamiyan Statues in Afghanistan.

Rose wants to inspire others to travel and offers free advice to all travellers in particular those who are embarking on their first travel experience. She has a passion for travel and since retiring from an Adult teaching position with TafeSA, has recently resumed clocking up kilometres interstate and overseas.
Her daughters have inherited the travel bug from their parents. The eldest daughter is a travel journalist/documentary maker based in a beautiful area called ‘Byron Bay’ in New South Wales and with her husband, has two globetrotting toddlers who at the age of 5 and 2 also love to travel. Her youngest daughter and fiancé have recently returned from 2 years working and traveling in the UK and Europe. They have only been home a couple of months and are already getting restless. Oh the travel bug!!!!

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