Sunday , 23 November 2014

Island Of The Gods

Two months into our jobless phase, and John and I f

ound ourselves scrambling for a suitable living arrangement in Bali. Finding cheap accommodations in Bali is not a difficult thing to do. Scattered all along the stretches of Kuta and Seminyak are plenty of bed & breakfasts, new, old and upcoming hotels, and those luscious, luxury-like-but-at-a budget-type villas. Oh no no no..not a difficult thing to do at all! What is mind-wrenching is finding a nice affordable villa that is ideally located near the not-so-crowded surf breaks of Bali. And “ideally located” means not more than a few minutes moped-ride to get ourselves past the Bali traffic on the two-lane, narrow, winding tarmac that they call roads, and paddling out into the peaks we have chosen, before the line-up count breaches forty or before the first ray of light hits the waters. Yes- a massive congregation of men and women, young and old, novice and expert, surfer or standup paddlers all out in the waters by 7am to pay their respects. On any given morning, the sermon seemingly delivered to us by the waves that come a-crashing is that of sharing nature’s bounty. On such mornings, especially, we also learn the importance of the human-imposed rule of priority in surf.

Speaking of priorities, there was some shifting of it to be done in our lives. At least 2 years’ worth of debating and mental preparation had preceded this globe wandering act of ours. We were tired of letting our then-jobs be the gods of our lives, dictating every daylight hour and shifting all our other interests around it. Surfing was one of these other interests which we could only manage on one of those rare extended weekends when a Friday or Monday was a national holiday. Bali’s economy flourished from the contributions we, and many others like us, made on those partying and surfing weekends. But we needed more! Not the partying but the surfing. Despite being new and irregular at it, we both shared an unexplained fascination with the act of catching and riding waves–so why not embark on an adventure of a lifetime to ride all the waves we could find while trawling this planet?

And so it was on the 1st week of September 2010 that we found ourselves, with our lives (reduced to only the bare necessities) in our luggage, straddling the customs lines of Ngurah Rai International airport. As my country is a member of ASEAN, I was granted a free one-month visa pass to stay in Bali while G, being a French citizen had to buy the visa from the authorities. Legally of course. We have heard and read on the Internet of how such visas and subsequent extensions can be easily purchased as long as you had a “connection” within, and other corrupt acts that persons-in-authority were capable of. We, however, found no such thing and certainly had no desire to implicate ourselves, especially since we wanted to live on the island for a considerable period of time. We had both bought a return ticket on Jetstar–one of the numerous budget airlines that ply the Denpasar-Singapore route at not-pocket-emptying prices–with no intention of utilizing the return portion. Well, not at least, until we master the art of surfing or our visa runs out–whichever comes first!

B-A-L-I – is an Indonesian island, lying between Java to its west and Lombok, to its east. It lies there as an anomaly amidst the majorly Muslim archipelago of Indonesia, it is the only island where Hinduism is the main religion. In fact, 92.9% of Bali’s 3.9 million inhabitants are Hindu adherents. Bali is also known as the largest tourist haven in Indonesia, renowned for its arts that include dance, sculptures, painting, leather and metalworking, and music. Of course, it is also known as the surf mecca of Asia. Thousands of surfers make their pilgrimage to this island each year–be them competitive surfers or free surfers–to pay homage to the numerous lefts that peel all along its southern coast. Not to say that there are no right-breaking waves here, but simply an overwhelming number of waves that choose to go the opposite way. Bali is a goofy heaven.

More than 30 known surf breaks are found along its coastline. An important feature that we looked out for was what lay waiting for us at the bottom after the pounding whitewash- was it reef or was it sand? As newly-inducted surfing adherents, we do not downplay the critical nature of this, especially when we read the cautionary tales of reef cuts by other surfers on online sites, or even see these cuts manifested as ugly keloids on the backs, hands, or even faces of the surfers we see on the street. Indeed, it would be a tale of misfortune for our adventure to be cut short by an injury. Thankfully, we found plenty of sand breaks to satiate our addiction to the endorphin-related high we get from riding a wave. Most of these beach’s breaks lie along the stretch of coast that is called Kuta/Seminyak and naturally, these beaches are where majority of the hotels, the bars, the nightlife, and the surf schools operate. And naturally too, we stayed as far away from that as we could.

BERAWA AND CANGGU

We found a nice little villa in the Canggu- Berawa area, nested amongst the locals’ residences. In Bali, most of the so-called villas are built relatively and almost claustrophobically close to each other. But once inside the compound, however, the perimeter high walls that serve to enclose your villa give you an expanded sense of spaciousness, like you are in your own little bubble. It was fairly big, with a picturesque view of a rice field and a nice small pool. But most important of all, it was located a 1-minute ride from the beach break waves of Berawa and a 3-minute ride from the waves of Canggu Beach.

At the sound of my phone alarm beeping at 6:30am in the morning I shook John out of bed, and by 7am we were amongst few surfers ready to begin our worship. I call it worship because you sit out there on your board, usually meditating out into the Indian Ocean and uttering underneath your breath, some words along the likes of “Please come again and soon” or “Please let me ride the next one good.” I don’t know what other surfers could be thinking of while balanced on their boards, but I certainly know that some sort of balancing in the mind is occurring simultaneously for me. Berawa, according to sites like Wannasurf and IndoSurfLife, is a consistent, year round left, and depending on the swell you catch it on it could be a hollow, fast, and really fun wave. Indeed, it was not long before it became one of our favourite waves in Bali. Not only due to the relatively easy paddle out (there is a channel to the right of the peak) but also the friendly locals who became familiar faces at the spot. Being locals, they know the waves best and most times, would almost always be perfectly positioned to rip the big ones that come–but they are not hesitant to let you have one too. Typical boards that you would spot are shortboards, fish–no longboarders or stand up paddlers here.

Another of our favourite spot lies between Berawa and Echo Beach. This spot consists of waves breaking at multiple different places and, if you are not fussy, you could find your own peak there. A multitude of genres of people come here ranging from the residential expats who have lived amongst the locals for decades and who consider themselves as locals, to surf school beginners, to individuals from Germany, Australia, France, Austria, Italy, USA, Japan and Holland. Surfing is the sport where at one location you could hear multiple expressions of “stoked” in different languages. Unfortunately, it is also the sport where at one location, on those bad days when hardly anyone is catching a wave, you would learn the seediest word of each language. Verbal altercations are part and parcel of social interactions, and at this spot we learned a lot about the kindness and rudeness that we are all capable of. The best part about this spot, however, lies on solid ground where the little warung* located on the beach serves the juiciest, sweetest banana milkshake and mie goreng- the typical breakfast of a surfer living in Bali.

Myself along Canggu beach

Those are not seals! This is what the lineup looks like on an ordinary day.


MEDEWI

If you are not averse to driving 4 hours along the narrow Bali roads, crossing scenic and beautifully landscaped rice fields, and overtaking countless lorries, vans, trucks, you could find yourself at one of the most consistent and longest left-breaking wave in the world. It was on one such day that John and I watched the Rip Curl Grom Search competition. While there seemed to be only a small pool of boys competing, it was clear that those that did had a tremendous amount of surfing capability as well as incredibly supportive parents who stood by them, some with telephoto lenses focused on their respective offspring. Rain or shine, nothing could stop these young upstarts from displaying their skills and getting a shot at competing at the bigger surf events. John, being the goofy-footer and seeing the incredible,long, peeling left could not resist entering the water himself for a shot at showing off his new-found riding confidence to me.

Rip Curl 2010 contestant

A very entertaining host

One of the winners

Medewi is not a sand break and he had to walk on smoothed out volcanic rocks for a certain distance before he could start paddling out. As it is far out from the tourist areas and it takes someone with incredible dedication to set himself on the long journey from the airport, we were hard-pressed to find really nice accommodations here. The peaks are thus mostly populated with the local Balinese or truly committed surfers. Nonetheless, a longer-than-ten-second ride on a slow-peeling wave certainly made it worth our journey.

Big, smoothed over volcanic rocks in Medewi

When Medewi peels good

A typical warning sign in Bali

NORTH OF BALI

There are times when during the wet season (Aug-Mar) when the clouds will conspire to rain a whole sea down on you. Those are the times when the rivers would swell and the contents of the drains of Bali would find its way to the mouth of the river and into the ocean. Those are the times when surfing is not impossible but simply not worth the potential skin scrapes and bacterial infections. Those are the times when we organized ourselves in a rented van and drove up north of Bali for some cultural inspiration in Ubud, some diving in Amed or Tulamben, some panoramic views of Mt. Batur, some waterfall hiking and ricefields trekking in Munduk.

All done under the beautiful hot sun and wet, fresh mountain air of this place they call Island of the Gods.

———-

*warung, or waroeng- food stalls
*mie goreng-
fried instant yellow noodles with shrimp and vegetables and traditional sweet Balinese sauce

Format

Two months into our jobless phase, and John and I found ourselves scrambling for a suitable living arrangement in Bali. Finding cheap accommodations in Bali is not a difficult thing to do. Scattered all along the stretches of Kuta and Seminyak are plenty of bed & breakfasts, new, old and upcoming hotels, and those luscious, luxury-like-but-at-a budget-type villas. Oh no no no..not a difficult thing to do at all! What is mind-wrenching is finding a nice affordable villa that is ideally located near the not-so-crowded surf breaks of Bali. And “ideally located” means not more than a few minutes moped-ride to get ourselves past the Bali traffic on the two-lane, narrow, winding tarmac that they call roads, and paddling out into the peaks we have chosen, before the line-up count breaches forty or before the first ray of light hits the waters. Yes- a massive congregation of men and women, young and old, novice and expert, surfer or standup paddlers all out in the waters by 7am to pay their respects. On any given morning, the sermon seemingly delivered to us by the waves that come a-crashing is that of sharing nature’s bounty. On such mornings, especially, we also learn the importance of the human-imposed rule of priority in surf.
Speaking of priorities, there was some shifting of it to be done in our lives. At least 2 years’ worth of debating and mental preparation had preceded this globe wandering act of ours. We were tired of letting our then-jobs be the gods of our lives, dictating every daylight hour and shifting all our other interests around it. Surfing was one of these other interests which we could only manage on one of those rare extended weekends when a Friday or Monday was a national holiday. Bali’s economy flourished from the contributions we, and many others like us, made on those partying and surfing weekends. But we needed more! Not the partying but the surfing. Despite being new and irregular at it, we both shared an unexplained fascination with the act of catching and riding waves–so why not embark on an adventure of a lifetime to ride all the waves we could find while trawling this planet?
And so it was on the 1st week of September 2010 that we found ourselves, with our lives (reduced to only the bare necessities) in our luggage, straddling the customs lines of Ngurah Rai International airport. As my country is a member of ASEAN, I was granted a free one-month visa pass to stay in Bali while G, being a French citizen had to buy the visa from the authorities. Legally of course. We have heard and read on the Internet of how such visas and subsequent extensions can be easily purchased as long as you had a “connection” within, and other corrupt acts that persons-in-authority were capable of. We, however, found no such thing and certainly had no desire to implicate ourselves, especially since we wanted to live on the island for a considerable period of time. We had both bought a return ticket on Jetstar–one of the numerous budget airlines that ply the Denpasar-Singapore route at not-pocket-emptying prices–with no intention of utilizing the return portion. Well, not at least, until we master the art of surfing or our visa runs out–whichever comes first!
B-A-L-I – is an Indonesian island, lying between Java to its west and Lombok, to its east. It lies there as an anomaly amidst the majorly Muslim archipelago of Indonesia, it is the only island where Hinduism is the main religion. In fact, 92.9% of Bali’s 3.9 million inhabitants are Hindu adherents. Bali is also known as the largest tourist haven in Indonesia, renowned for its arts that include dance, sculptures, painting, leather and metalworking, and music. Of course, it is also known as the surf mecca of Asia. Thousands of surfers make their pilgrimage to this island each year–be them competitive surfers or free surfers–to pay homage to the numerous lefts that peel all along its southern coast. Not to say that there are no right-breaking waves here, but simply an overwhelming number of waves that choose to go the opposite way. Bali is a goofy heaven.
More than 30 known surf breaks are found along its coastline. An important feature that we looked out for was what lay waiting for us at the bottom after the pounding whitewash- was it reef or was it sand? As newly-inducted surfing adherents, we do not downplay the critical nature of this, especially when we read the cautionary tales of reef cuts by other surfers on online sites, or even see these cuts manifested as ugly keloids on the backs, hands, or even faces of the surfers we see on the street. Indeed, it would be a tale of misfortune for our adventure to be cut short by an injury. Thankfully, we found plenty of sand breaks to satiate our addiction to the endorphin-related high we get from riding a wave. Most of these beach’s breaks lie along the stretch of coast that is called Kuta/Seminyak and naturally, these beaches are where majority of the hotels, the bars, the nightlife, and the surf schools operate. And naturally too, we stayed as far away from that as we could.
BERAWA AND CANGGU
We found a nice little villa in the Canggu- Berawa area, nested amongst the locals’ residences. In Bali, most of the so-called villas are built relatively and almost claustrophobically close to each other. But once inside the compound, however, the perimeter high walls that serve to enclose your villa give you an expanded sense of spaciousness, like you are in your own little bubble. It was fairly big, with a picturesque view of a rice field and a nice small pool. But most important of all, it was located a 1-minute ride from the beach break waves of Berawa and a 3-minute ride from the waves of Canggu Beach.
At the sound of my phone alarm beeping at 6:30am in the morning I shook John out of bed, and by 7am we were amongst few surfers ready to begin our worship. I call it worship because you sit out there on your board, usually meditating out into the Indian Ocean and uttering underneath your breath, some words along the likes of “Please come again and soon” or “Please let me ride the next one good.” I don’t know what other surfers could be thinking of while balanced on their boards, but I certainly know that some sort of balancing in the mind is occurring simultaneously for me. Berawa, according to sites like Wannasurf and IndoSurfLife, is a consistent, year round left, and depending on the swell you catch it on it could be a hollow, fast, and really fun wave. Indeed, it was not long before it became one of our favourite waves in Bali. Not only due to the relatively easy paddle out (there is a channel to the right of the peak) but also the friendly locals who became familiar faces at the spot. Being locals, they know the waves best and most times, would almost always be perfectly positioned to rip the big ones that come–but they are not hesitant to let you have one too. Typical boards that you would spot are shortboards, fish–no longboarders or stand up paddlers here.
Another of our favourite spot lies between Berawa and Echo Beach. This spot consists of waves breaking at multiple different places and, if you are not fussy, you could find your own peak there. A multitude of genres of people come here ranging from the residential expats who have lived amongst the locals for decades and who consider themselves as locals, to surf school beginners, to individuals from Germany, Australia, France, Austria, Italy, USA, Japan and Holland. Surfing is the sport where at one location you could hear multiple expressions of “stoked” in different languages. Unfortunately, it is also the sport where at one location, on those bad days when hardly anyone is catching a wave, you would learn the seediest word of each language. Verbal altercations are part and parcel of social interactions, and at this spot we learned a lot about the kindness and rudeness that we are all capable of. The best part about this spot, however, lies on solid ground where the little warung* located on the beach serves the juiciest, sweetest banana milkshake and mie goreng- the typical breakfast of a surfer living in Bali.

Myself along Canggu beach
Those are not seals! This is what the lineup looks like on an ordinary day.
MEDEWI
If you are not averse to driving 4 hours along the narrow Bali roads, crossing scenic and beautifully landscaped rice fields, and overtaking countless lorries, vans, trucks, you could find yourself at one of the most consistent and longest left-breaking wave in the world. It was on one such day that John and I watched the Rip Curl Grom Search competition. While there seemed to be only a small pool of boys competing, it was clear that those that did had a tremendous amount of surfing capability as well as incredibly supportive parents who stood by them, some with telephoto lenses focused on their respective offspring. Rain or shine, nothing could stop these young upstarts from displaying their skills and getting a shot at competing at the bigger surf events. John, being the goofy-footer and seeing the incredible,long, peeling left could not resist entering the water himself for a shot at showing off his new-found riding confidence to me.

Rip Curl 2010 contestant
A very entertaining host
One of the winnersMedewi is not a sand break and he had to walk on smoothed out volcanic rocks for a certain distance before he could start paddling out. As it is far out from the tourist areas and it takes someone with incredible dedication to set himself on the long journey from the airport, we were hard-pressed to find really nice accommodations here. The peaks are thus mostly populated with the local Balinese or truly committed surfers. Nonetheless, a longer-than-ten-second ride on a slow-peeling wave certainly made it worth our journey.

Big, smoothed over volcanic rocks in Medewi
When Medewi peels good
A typical warning sign in BaliNORTH OF BALI
There are times when during the wet season (Aug-Mar) when the clouds will conspire to rain a whole sea down on you. Those are the times when the rivers would swell and the contents of the drains of Bali would find its way to the mouth of the river and into the ocean. Those are the times when surfing is not impossible but simply not worth the potential skin scrapes and bacterial infections. Those are the times when we organized ourselves in a rented van and drove up north of Bali for some cultural inspiration in Ubud, some diving in Amed or Tulamben, some panoramic views of Mt. Batur, some waterfall hiking and ricefields trekking in Munduk.
All done under the beautiful hot sun and wet, fresh mountain air of this place they call Island of the Gods.
———-
*warung, or waroeng- food stalls
*mie goreng- fried instant yellow noodles with shrimp and vegetables and traditional sweet Balinese sauce
Path:

About Aslinda Ali

Aslinda is a globewanderer whose primary occupation right now is to meditate on her wave-riding, one swell at a time. She is currently on a worldwide quest to find the best wave of her life

One comment

  1. We are not surfers (but dream to be) however we tend to find places where we can snorkel. We recently have been doing some online research about Bali and found that Blue Lagoon and North Bali has some interesting places to stay and snorkel. My brother is a surfer and he said “go, go, go”. Our bags are packed for the Island of the Gods!