Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kuta, Lombok

So far we've been in Indonesia for 3 weeks and we've met heaps (as the Aussies and British people say) of people from France, England, Switzerland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, and of course Indonesia, but only a handful of people from the US.  It gets kind of weird to hearing so many different accents and languages, but never any American accents.  We try and teach most of the people we meet how to say "ya'll" and they think it's hilarious.  Interestingly enough, the Aussies say "you's" in place of "ya'll" or "you guys".

We finally decided to escape the hustle and bustle of touristy Bali in search of a more laid back and real experience.  While Bali has a lot to offer, we've heard it's changed much over the years due to the explosive growth of the tourist industry.  Almost every place we've been in Bali has had locals that speak pretty good english, but it's probably due to the fact that we've stuck to the coastline where the best surfing has been and many people have gone before us. 

Armed with our Wavefinder Indonesia and Lonely Planet guidebooks, we left Bali and headed further east toward the string of islands known as Nusa Tenggara.  Our first stop, the small island of Lombok.  We negotiated transportation from Kuta, Bali to Kuta, Lombok which involved multiple bemo (local trucks/vans) rides and a 5 1/2 hour ferry crossing.  Finally arriving in Lembar which is a a small picturesque harbor surrounded by palm trees, white sandy beaches, turquoise tinted water, and small lean-tos, we hopped on another bemo to our next destination -- the small village of Kuta.

It's said that the island of Lombok is in some ways a flash-back to Bali in the 70's.  It is considerably less developed for tourism, which is exactly what Jed and I have been looking for.  We surfed on the first morning after our arrival near a small fishing village call Grupuk about 9 km north of where we are staying in Kuta.  Reaching each surf spot is an adventure in itself.  First, we bargained for a motorbike for a few days then drove to a few basic surf shops where we negotiated for our boards.  In Indonesia everything has been negotiable thus far.  Next, we hopped on our bikes (Jed opted for the pink scooter with purple flames while I chose the one with the flaming skulls and Hell's Angels artwork) with our boards and took off down the pock-marked back country Indonesian road.

The scenery is breathtaking.  Mount Rinjani (the 2nd highest in Indo) dominates the entire island.  The semi-arid landscape with aqua-marine tinted water makes for an unforgettable backdrop for our mini-excursions.  After dodging hundreds of potholes, huge water buffalo, and their massive dinner plate sized poos (the water buffalo have taken the place of Bali's traffic jams), we arrive at Grupuk Bay.  There we pay some locals to watch our stuff and hire a local fisherman to take us to the breaks by boat.  There are four different breaks in the bay called Outsides, Insides, Don-Don's, and Kids Point.  The swell has picked back up and Insides has been breaking pretty big in the head to head and 1/2 high range.  Insides is a nice right hander (finally!)  which peels down the coral reef pass opposite Perigi Island.  Our driver anchored us up and we paddled over to the main takeoff spot.  It was super crowded when we first got in.  We were thinking, "All of this work to get here and there are already 20 guys on it?"  Luckily as the tide came in, the waves picked up even more and many of the people left.  Apparently Insides is considered an intermediate level break, but when the swell hits, many of the beginners leave.

My fourth or fifth wave ended up being a death bomb (at least in my standards) -- a double overhead wave jacked up out of nowhere and I took off late on it.  Surprisingly, I landed the free fall drop, but got absolutely pummeled by the freight train of white water when I kooked it and lost my balance.  I was going so fast that I skipped across the face of a wave a few times before taking what i felt was the longest hold down of my life.  This might not have been the biggest wave I've ever surfed, but it was one of the most powerful. The best part of my beat down was that Jed was paddling back out and saw the whole thing so we had a good laugh.  I give much respect to the Indian Ocean and its massive waves.  After my lashing, I saw a pretty good New Zealander do the same thing twice in a row so I didn't feel as bad.  Many more fun rights were had that day and at the end of the day we hopped back in the boat with "King", our boat driver. King's job is to drop people off at the breaks and he gets to surf while waiting on his customers.  I'm sure it doesn't pay much, but it sounds like a pretty fun job -- at least it beats untangling fishing nets.

After surfing Jed and I explored on our motorbikes and checked out various single-track dirt roads leading to different bays.  Enough cannot be said about the sheer God-given beauty of this place.  Since I'm not the greatest writer, I'll try to emphasize my point with a good description from Lonely Planet: "Lombok is languid, empty and stunningly gorgeous, with white-sand bays that lick chiselled cliffs and rugged hills, and world class surf."  If only it weren't a +25 hour flight, a 5 hour drive, and a 5 hour ferry ride away.

On one of our motorbike adventures we turned off an already desolate road onto another smaller dirt trail engulfed on both sides by thick shubbery.  We flew down the trail until coming across another massive water buffalo in the brush, which scared the previous night's Bintang out of us.  Jed dared me to drive around it so I did and he followed with no problems.  Apparently they are pretty mild-mannered, but they can be pretty intimidating if you're right next to them.  After continuing on, we were yelled at by some smiling kids in a tree house they built.  We were surprised to see them since we were out in the middle of nowhere.  We stopped and tried talking for a awhile and just hung out.  It was awesome talking to them because of how shy and interested they were.  We took a few pictures of them and showed them what they looked like on camera and they thought it was hilarious. 

Later we stopped by another group of people herding water buffalo and tried talking to them.  They spoke little to no english, but the one thing the girls did know was "Hey babies," after which they just giggled and ran away.  One major difference between Bali and Lombok is the difference in religion.  Bali is mostly Hindu while Lombok is mostly Muslim. 

We are in the Gili Islands now and I'm getting behind on my posts.  There are many many more stories to come so if I get time I'll post some stories about the Aussies we hung with for a few days and my invitation to an Indonesian wedding that actually turned out to be a circumcision ceremony.  I should also mention something about the time I flew off my bike when heading to a remote surf break, breaking my board and borrowing a local's prehistoric board to surf some of the biggest and best waves of my life.  I also just uploaded more pictures under the "Pictures" section so make sure to take a look.  Thanks for reading.

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