Unstuck in Indonesia
Whenever people told me to go to Bali, I got this feeling of a huge hype. But as it lies on the way between Australia and Europe I thought I might as well give it a shot on my way back to Germany. And being able to meet up there with a good friend from Fuerteventura last summer, I was ready to book a plane ticket to Denpasar.
So when the time came to leave Australia, not only was I going to meet my Spanish friend in Bali, but I was also taking with me a very special person who had always wanted to go there and who was only too willing to join me on my travels there. Lucky me!
When we arrived at the airport in Denpasar, we got separated and my trip to the surfcamp in Canggu was not only stressful because of the 1000s of people on scooters covering every inch of the narrow streets, but also because I had the feeling that something with HIS organized pickup had gone wrong. Once at the camp and back online, my fear was confirmed – the pickup didn’t pick HIM up and I had no way of contacting HIM to ask where HE was. What a welcome to Bali!
Apart from this rather stressful arrival (which in the end turned out fine as HE simply got a regular cab and stayed at a really nice place about 10 minutes from my camp), my first impression of Bali was a positive but hot one. The people were friendly (even though their English proficiency is on a quite low level) and the landscape was something I had never seen before: rice fields and hindu temples amidst big banana trees and other greenery! And the people working in the rice fields were actually wearing those typical round and pointy Asian straw hats! It’s not just something you see in movies or as a tourist attraction, but it’s a real thing! And judging from the sun that bore down on us, there’s a good reason to wear these hats! The heat and humidity are simply unbelievable and in our first days on the island, we hardly wanted to leave our climatised rooms. Not even surfing and jumping into the water would cool us down, as the ocean’s temperature was in the upper mid-20ies! On the first day I went surfing in my short 1mm-wetsuit, but even this turned out to be too hot, so from then on I just surfed in my bikini and lycra to protect me from a sunburn on my back. As even though the sun might not be as brutal as in Australia, it definitely did its job, as my friend from Spain had to admit after a day of surfing without a lycra. She was suffering from one of the worst sunburns I have ever witnessed, not being able to sleep as the skin was so sensitive.
My first wave surfed in Bali I shared with HIM at Batu Bolong, which makes it a special wave o remember for the both of us. The water was quite dark and didn’t look too inviting, as there was quite a lot of trash on the beach and in the water and after every surf I felt the urgent need for a shower to rinse myself. But despite the bad water quality, the waves were pretty fun and I caught a couple of really nice rides during my time in Canggu, surfing at Old Man and some beaches around Seminyak. The best surf on Bali I had at Yeh Gangga, a beautiful black sand beach break. It was not as crowded as the other spots and the swell size was just perfect for fun waves! A girl of my group didn’t want to surf and took some videos of us surfing – I do not look anything similar to a great surfer, but it’s always good to see yourself and realize your mistakes. So since this day I have been working on bending my back knee more and turning it inward to have a better stance and more control. Let’s hope I keep this in mind and get better at it over time!
Apart from surfing, we went on little wanders through the village of Canggu, even though there’s not too much to see or do without a scooter and we all were too afraid to drive them in this chaotic traffic. But we also went on day trips to Ubud and Seminyak to explore a little bit more of Bali and what we saw was beautiful. We visited a Hindu temple that looked like out of a Karate movie, and hiked down to a massive waterfall, only to realize that it was a very steep climb up again. We visited our relatives in the Sacred Monkey Forest near Ubud where a small monkey put his tiny little paw on my arm as if he wanted to share some old wisdom with me – such a cute experience! And we had an amazing traditional Balinese dinner amidst rich green rice terraces.
Another day we drove to the world famous surf spot of Uluwatu, which seemed quite scary as one has to paddle out through a cave and to get back onto dry land one has do the exact same thing, only that the current is quite strong and might drag you just a meter too far too the side when you’re paddling in so that you miss the cave’s entrance and have to paddle back out again to give it another try. Definitely too sketchy for me to try, even though the wave itself didn’t seem too difficult. After watching the surfers for a bit, we went to see the Hindu Temple of Uluwatu, which is set atop a massive cliff and was really nice to look at, but unfortunately there were some festivities going on, so we couldn’t enter. It was interesting enough though to see all those Balinese people practice their religion, wearing colorful sarongs and belts around their waist and interesting head fittings. The Hindu religion is very actively practiced on Bali, and apart from stumbling into one of the many little altars that every family has on their land, you really have to be careful not to step into one of the many offerings, that the Balinese put pretty much everywhere to appease the demons. These little square baskets made out of palmleaves and filled with flowers, incense sticks, candy, food, money or cigarettes cover the streets, doorsteps and window sills – and are beautiful to look at.
To see more of the Balinese culture, we went to Batubulan, where we watched some traditional Balinese dances. The choir of about 50 men chanted themselves into a trance and then the female dancers, re-telling the story of Rayamana, made the most astonishing movements with their hands and fingers. All dancers were dressed in golden and very colorful costumes and it was definitely a very different way of dancing than from what we know in Europe. The final fire dance was the most impressive one. After a short time, during which a monk seemed to put the dancer into a trance, he went completely crazy and stomped into a massive fire of dried coconuts with his bar feet until he had to be dragged back and shaken out of his trance. All of these dances are old traditional Balinese dances meant to appease the demons or celebrate the Gods and it was really interesting to watch, as they are not only performed as a tourist attraction but also out of true belief.
After 2 weeks of surfing and some expeditions into the Balinese culture, our time at the surf camp ended and my Spanish friend and I drove to Balangan to catch up with HIM, as HE had left a week earlier to spent a couple of days surfing there. We slept in a little warung (Balinese for a little bamboo hut that serves food and sometimes offers accommodation as well) right on the beach and I wish I had spent more time there, as the beach was beautiful and the wave – a clean lefthander – was really fun to surf in the small swell. Only all the trash, that gets washed into the little bay, made the surf a lot less enjoyable, but this seems to be a common problem of Indonesia and one has to overcome the disgust if one wants to surf here.
Leaving Balangan after just one night was not easy, but we had ferry tickets to Nusa Lembongan and once we arrived at this little island northeast of Bali, we felt like we had just travelled from one paradise to the next. I have never before seen an ocean that blue, the water so clear and the coral reef so vibrant! Arriving on Nusa Lembongan was like stepping into a tropical postcard, only it was real! We got on the back of a pickup truck that was provided by the ferry company and spontaneously decided to stay at a little resort another ferry guest was staying at. It was located right at the beach, with a pool right at the sand and across from the island’s surf spots. Things just went our way, as a local fisherman walked past and offered to take us snorkeling the next morning. And as everybody had told us, that riding a motorbike on Nusa Lembongan was easy as there’s no traffic, each of us rented out a scooter and we explored the island – first heading north towards the mangrove forest, then across a very narrow suspension bridge onto the even smaller island of Nusa Ceningan. Here we headed towards the southern tip of the island, where we found a beautiful cafe atop the cliff – and my Spanish friend mustered enough courage to jump 5 meters off the cliff into the sapphire blue waters! It looked amazing, but I didn’t have any swimwear with me and honestly was a little bit too scared to jump anyways. We drove back over the suspension bridge and the second time I did not feel that I was about to drive my scooter off the side and into the ocean, but it was still quite sketchy. Anyways, we made it home safely and after dinner went to bed early to get up in time for our snorkeling trip the next morning.
And man am I glad we did this! From the moment we jumped aboard the boat to drive around the island to the snorkeling spots, it was simply beautiful! The islands with their lush green and ragged rocky shore were astonishing sights and once we jumped into the water with our snorkels it was unbelievable! 100s of different colorful fish were swimming around the most colorful coral reef I’ve ever seen! And putting a slice of toast into the water the fish were actually swarming around my hand and feeding from it greedily – one fish actually mistook my fingertip for bread and nibbled on it – what a funny feeling! Words cannot really describe the intense beauty of this underwater world, and unfortunately my GoPro ran out of battery right before the most stunning spots, but if you have ever seen those colorful pictures of the Great Barrier Reef, just imagine it like this! Nusa Lembongan is definitely a paradise – and we enjoyed our days there, swimming in the pool, driving around on scooters, sunbathing and relaxing. My Spanish friend left us after two days to travel to another island and then back home to Barcelona, and HE and I spent a couple of days more on Nusa Lembongan, surfing (or better: trying to surf) Shipwreck, which was definitely too big and heavy a wave for me, so we didn’t stay in for too long and instead packed our bags and got on a ferry to Lombok.
To be honest: I was very skeptical about going to Lombok. It’s mainly Muslim, the waves are supposed to be heavier and tourism not as developed as in Bali. BUT: this last week on Lombok turned out to be one of the happiest of my life! Lombok is still so untouched and pure, it is unbelievable how humankind could ever let our world become so destroyed! I’ve seen the most amazing tropical beaches and the most amazing kinds of blue! Life on Lombok pretty much consisted of waking up, having breakfast, driving the scooter for about 20 minutes through rural villages while avoiding as many potholes as possible, getting on a wooden, but colorfully painted outrigger boat, driving out into the Gerupuk Bay, jumping into the water, catching (or trying to catch) some (quite massive) waves, scrambling back onto the boat with arms that would give way if I had paddled for one more wave, having lunch, driving back to our little bamboo bungalow, showering, relaxing, having dinner and falling asleep completely exhausted. Only to do the same thing again the next day. Life was good, and we were in paradise. One day we took a break and HE drove me to Mawi, the most amazing beach I have ever seen in my life. The drive there was quite a challenge, along winding roads and a dirt track that would easily qualify for motocross races, but HE mastered everything perfectly and I never once was scared we would crash. It was the perfect day, chilling at this peaceful beach in a little bamboo hut on stakes, eating Nasi Goreng and a pineapple for dessert. I don’t think I have ever been more relaxed and at peace than on this day and I will forever keep it in my heart.