Of all the fantastic and beautiful places we have traveled to, Indonesia is the one destination that lies very close to my heart. I remember as a kid having posters on my bedroom wall of perfect waves breaking in perfect scenery, daydreaming of shady palm trees and ragged beach huts being the place I lay my head for a rest. I always knew that at some point in my life I would find myself in those tropical blue waters. I think the power of day dreams should never be underestimated because this dream became a reality for me, perhaps not at the time I thought I needed it most, but at a time in my life nonetheless.
Nusa Penida reef
The tropical sun welcomed me as I stepped off the plane in Denpasar after a 24-hour layover in Taiwan. A short taxi ride and I find myself in a familiar place, Kuta beach Bali. Kuta is a busy place so I decide to stay here only for the night to catch up on some sleep and then ultimately make my way down to Balangan beach. Once I get to Balangan I don’t leave for 7 days. The waves are cooking for 6 days straight and the coconut water after long sessions in the surf rehydrates my body and soul. The accommodation suits me well. The rustic Indah warung is so close to the water that its almost impossible to fall asleep at night, with waves crashing under my bedroom on the high tide, very few people on this beach and long endless waves I feel like I’m in paradise. The Indonesian sun drenches my body and my mood relaxes into a state of complete calmness. It is only when I remember that I need to fetch my wife from the airport that I decide to rent a car to do so.
My heavenly home for 7 days under the palm trees
Travelling alone can be good for the mind. It propels you toward meeting new people and discovering things that can often be hard when you travel with a companion. I enjoy discovering places on my own, but I have learned on many occasions by now that it is when we share the memories that they end up meaning a whole lot more. To share anything in life for that matter makes the experience of being alive so much more enjoyable. To share the view of the magnificent sunset over Balangan with my wife that first night means so much more to me than when I looked at it alone. To share the car ride back from the airport with her means that I have someone to share a tale about the chaotic traffic with in years to come.
Sunset in Nusa Lembongan
We don’t have any plans on this trip. We have learnt from the previous trip to Indonesia that one can really just arrive and then make some decisions. We stay at Balangan beach for two more nights and then we start our adventure of driving around the island of Bali. An adventure with a mix of stress and clove flavored cigarettes, this was one of the best things we could have done to experience what Bali is really all about. We start by driving up the west coast and the first stop is at Medewi beach to look for some surf. Not looking too great we carried on and found ourselves on a long windy road through the tropical scenery, stopping at a temple that is practically in the ocean. Unlike Tanah Lot temple, temple is very quiet with no foreigners other than us. The monkeys have claimed it as their home and the local kids use the many stairs to practice their fitness. I cant imagine running up and down the stairs in this heat like they do, smiling all they way. Balinese people are very friendly but can come across as intimidating when they are in large numbers. We decide to carry on with our drive and it takes us a few more hours to get to the town of Gilimanuk. In the morning we carry on driving to the town of Lovina and after being there for an hour we realize that we will be doing this drive a whole lot faster than planned. We initially thought we will spend seven days to drive around the island but knowing what the beaches are like down south, we decide to push on.
The scenery on the drive through the middle of Bali is mind blowing. With the spectacular views of Mt Angun at any given point and the loud song of cicadas, we feel like we have stepped back in time and it is almost as if you can expect a prehistoric dinosaur to jump out of the dense forest at any time. We take the windy mountainous pass all the way down to Ubud. After we check into a place for the night we walk the streets in search for a place to eat. Ubud is renowned for its food and we end up at a quaint little restaurant overlooking a paddy field. As usual I order a Bintang and Nasi goreng and this has been one of my missions on this trip; to find the best Nasi goreng in Bali. I can truthfully say that after eating this traditional dish in many towns and warungs in Bali that the one I loved most was in Ubud. As we eat I watch a lady offer prayers and her reflection in the paddy field is as intriguing and picturesque as the fiery sky above. I sigh a sigh of absolute inner peace, and I realize that at some point this holiday will end and that I must take in as much as I can. We finish our meals and head off to a bar to listen to a Bob Marley cover band.
The small island of Nusa Lembongan lies to the south east of Bali. A thirty-minute boat ride gets you to a place where there are no worries and plenty of time for relaxing. This was the only place where we knew that booking accommodation is essential so it was with great relief when we get dropped off at Tarci Bungalows knowing that we have a place to stay for however long we wished. We are in absolute paradise at this spot, our bungalow is 20 seconds from the beach and one of the best reef breaks is only a 10-minute paddle away. I don’t hesitate and grab my board and head out for a surf. As the slogan goes, “Only a surfer knows the feeling”, this can sometimes be more evident in certain places. When I sit out at the back at Shipwrecks and watch these perfect waves break over the reef I think back to when all of this was just a dream. I pinch myself. The tropical fish swim up to the surface and at times it seems as if I am peering into their lives through a crystal clear glass window. The water is unbelievably clear and warm; my t-shirt is the only thing that keeps me cool in the water. I get my share of the shifting wave and catch a boat ride back to shore. When we sit and watch the sun change the sky into what appears to be a massive lava lamp, I give thanks to the forces out there that brought me to this beautiful place. I struggle to find words that can give justice to the beauty of a sunset on Nusa Lembongan. We watch the seaweed farmers tending to their crops at a pace that is similar to that of the breathing pattern of a sleeping island dog.
We end up spending eleven days on Lembongan and eight of those days are filled with endless surf sessions. On our last day on the island we experience the amazing power of the ocean. It is a super moon and the tidal difference is even bigger than what we saw before, throw in some solid swell and the peaceful reef I swam over a day before now turns into a death trap. That feeling you get when a 10ft plus wave appears out of nowhere and you know there is no ways you going to get under it, that feeling you get when you see the locals paddling for their lives, that feeling you get when you see the only girl in the line up crying… The water can change in an instant and before you know it you’re out of the blue and into the black.
Bali grows on you like the moss grows on most statues over there. The longer you stay, the deeper it creeps into your soul. I choose window seats because whenever I fly out of a country I want to get a last glimpse, a last quick view, and give a kind of salute to whatever I did not get to see, or a thank you wave to whatever I did get to experience. In this case however, just a last view of the waves breaking down below, one last mind surf. Just my luck when I get stuck in an aisle seat so no surprise when I act like a child when I struggle to see past the guy’s big head sitting next to me. The lady sitting by the window reads her magazine, not looking out of the window. Even though the seatbelt sign is on I jump up to get a better view and I saw the right hander breaking over the reef, palm trees hiding the location. I find it particularly hard to say goodbye this time, saying goodbye is too permanent, so all I say is “terimahkasi”, and see you in some time when the reef cuts have healed into memorable scars.