Quick note- I put the all the big crashing wave pictures in the next post.
After my nice detour back to the first world in the form of Singapore, I hopped on my 10th flight in the last 2 1/2 months to head back to Indonesia- this time heading to Bali. I decided to skip the drunken tourist madness known as Kuta and stayed in the area of Sanur instead. Sanur was really slow and quiet- which I like. There wasn’t much to do, so I relaxed, read, wandered around the beach and treated myself to some excellent Japanese food for the monster price of $8 a meal. It was really nice to be back at the beach. There is something always calming and relaxing about being right at the shore of the ocean. I can just sit and stare or read for hours.
My stay in Sanur also coincided with Team USA’s World Cup round of 16 game against Belgium. Unfortunately kickoff was at the ungodly time of 4 am, so I had the dilemma of either trying to sleep for a few hours before peeling myself out of bed or simply staying up until game time- which also meant staying up until 6. The decision was made- staying up all night it was. For some reason the TV in my hotel room didn’t broadcast the game- it was only shown on the TV in the hotel lobby, which happened to be the smallest television in current operation anywhere on the planet. I have no evidence to confirm this, but there aren’t too many TVs ever created that are much smaller. So after reading, watching TV, and surfing around online I made my way to the tiny lobby at 3:59 am for kickoff. One thing I miss big time from home is watching sports on a large TV in high definition. At least I got to watch the game live- better than nothing. The game (as everyone already knows) was a disappointment, but I will never forget the experience. Especially since the graveyard shift employee/ security guard slept and snored loudly on a small couch during the entire game.
Once my 4 nights stay was done in Sanur, I got on a small boat to take me and a group of fellow tourists to the island of Nusa Lembongan- which is technically part of Bali. The boat ride wasn’t terribly long but it was incredibly sketchy. I am not sure if the ocean is always so rough, but it sure was the day of my boat ride. The fiberglass boat slammed into the medium sized waves, making large banging sounds every time and causing me to bounce in my seat. The loud banging sound of the fiberglass boat on water made me picture the front of the hull simply snapping off, sending all of us onboard into the open ocean for a swim. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
The boat successfully navigated the waves in between Bali and Lembongan, dropping us off onto the beach. My hotel was a short way up the road, so I gathered my bags and trekked a few hundred yards to my new temporary home. This hotel is excellent- right on the water, AC, huge windows letting in plenty of natural light, and a large private balcony overlooking the blue ocean.
Lembongan is amazing- my kind of place. A relatively small island with crystal clear water, not too many tourists, cheap food, cheap scooter rental and incredible natural beauty. Granted, there are is a decent tourist population here, but there aren’t THAT many people on the island period, so the level of other tourists never feels overwhelming. On my second day I rented a scooter ($14 for 3 days rental which is really cheap) and headed off to explore the island. A fun aspect to scootering around small islands is you can’t get (too) lost. There aren’t very many roads, so unless I fell into the ocean and drifted away the farthest away from my hotel I could possibly get is a few miles. After riding along the narrow cement boardwalk in front of my hotel for a hundred yards, I headed a bit inland to the nearest street. At that point, I could go right or left. Left it was.
I had briefly checked a map before leaving, so I had a general idea of where I was on the island and what my options were to get around it. There was only one road for most of the time, and based on the map it would dead end after awhile. I continued going until the dead end, passing endless amounts of seaweed drying by the roadside (apparently this is a big export for the island, with most of it going to the Asian cosmetics industry). I made my way past the large mangrove forest, along a quiet stretch of beach, and eventually to the end of the road. After walking up and down the beach a bit, I headed back the way I came, but turned left again before making it all the way back to my hotel. Nusa Lembongan has a very close island neighbor in Nusa Cenigan. I had seen photos of the sketchy, rickety bridge that connected the two, so of course I had to find and venture to the other island.
I wound my way across the island, bouncing over the many potholes in the road. As is the case with a lot of roads in this part of the world, there are many sections that are FAR from smooth. I came across the local dump with smoke rising in the air, passed many local residents, and eventually found the bridge. It is a super cool, small bridge spanning the few hundred yards or so in between the two islands. Before crossing I hopped off the scooter to take a better look as well as some photos. Before walking up to the bridge itself, I noticed how the majority of all the supplies or the island are imported- by hand. Technically by head+hand to be more accurate. Women were lining up to take large bundled boxes of food, water, beer or other supplies off of a boat, loaded them onto their padded heads, and lugged them into a truck or elsewhere in the area. It was impressive to see the amount of physical labor necessary to get all the supplies for the island actually ONTO the island. The unloading also meant there was a loading process on the other end- doubling the work. I counted my lucky stars to not have pulled manual labor duty on Nusa Lembongan.
Once I had spent enough time marveling at the local manual import business and snapped some photos of the sweet bridge, I made my way across to Nusa Cenigan. The bridge is super sketchy, consisting of what seem to be loose wood planks. The wood is thankfully securely in place, but there are a few planks missing, it makes a loud rumbling sound as you cross it, and it just doesn’t feel super safe. I had already seen a dozen scooters make it across, and clearly there were thousands more than went over and back every year, but it couldn’t help me from envisioning the bridge snapping, sending me and the scooter tumbling into the ocean.
I drove around Cenigan for a bit, which is a smaller island than Lembongan. I made it to the ocean, and there were some decent sized waves breaking a hundred yards away from the shore. Then I looked to my right, back to Lembongan, and I saw huge waves breaking right onto the volcanic rock cliffs and exploding into the sky. THAT is where I need to be. I jumped back on the scooter, successfully transversed the sketchy bridge again, and cruised back to Lembongan. There are no street signs, so finding these big crashing waves would simply be trial and error. There were a few dead ends, but eventually I found an area that seemed promising. The small dirt road kept going and going. I made a few rights and a few lefts and I found myself at the end of the road. The scooter got parked, and I went to see if I could view these big crashing waves.
What I found was amazing. There was an abounded villa RIGHT on the cliff- one of the prime locations on the entire island. There were remnants of a once operational kitchen, a bedroom directly overlooking the ocean, and a nearly empty pool. I wonder what happened to this place- if it ran out of money or what. Regardless of what the hell happened to this once beautiful (and livable) place, I had an entire corner cliffside property all to myself. And the view was spectacular.
From where I stood, I could see all sorts of waves smashing into the rock shore, which created gigantic water explosions. I wandered around the corner, and witnessed one of the most epic free shows of my life. Over and over, huge waves would roll to the shore, and there was one shelf of rock where the water would all hit, sending a HUGE fountain of water shooting 50+ feet into the air. It was phenomenal.
After watching these waves explode one after another for at least a few hours, I went to find another outcropping of rocks that were causing water explosions as well. It turned out to be Devil’s Tear, which is a well known site for waves slamming into the shore. I stood in awe, taking photos and watching this brilliant display from mother nature. Every 10-15 minutes, a big set of waves would come toward the shore, sending an enormous amount of water blasting into the sky. The water and waves were so powerful. Relentless. Just when I thought it might have died down, another big set of waves would come in. BOOM. Thousands of gallons would explode once again into the sky. After being mesmerized for most of the day, I headed home after the sun went down. I don’t love scootering in the dark- partly because I can’t see the nasty potholes as well and partly because it is much easier to get lost. Before, I mentioned that it is hard to get lost on an island, which is true. However I managed to get at least temporarily lost. There was one section of roads that forks in 4 directions, and I managed to go on the two wrong roads before finding the correct one. It was a bit frustrating, especially since I was starving, but I knew eventually one road would get me home. My days in Lembongan consisted of eating breakfast, gearing up, and heading to the coast to watch the waves meet the shore. Taking photos of the waves were both fun and challenging, and no two waves were ever the same. Even without taking photos, simply watching this natural display of ocean slamming into rock was one of the best things I have watched in my life. I spent hours enjoying the water explosions. When I got hungry, I would tell myself “ok, after the next BIG one I will get some food.” Inevitably I would be there for another hour or so, finding it hard to peel myself away from the view. It was addicting watching the waves.
It was also a time I was happy to be traveling by myself. If I was with anyone else, they would enjoy the wave show but then want to leave after no more than an hour. I was perfectly content watching the big waves for hours on end.
Oh, and the sunsets were beyond spectacular. I captured some of the best photos I have ever taken in my life. Mother Nature deserves most of the credit- all I did was push a button on the camera. Yesterday, hanging out at my favorite deserted villa, the waves were relatively small (compared to the last few days at least). I was getting ready to head home, since the photos wouldn’t be anything too special. Before walking away, I saw a group of dolphins swimming out to sea. Even though I could only see their fins pop out of the water every so often, it is always a cool sight seeing dolphins in the ocean. Then there were crabs crawling down the side of the cliff. Then I looked back and the sunset was magnificent. Thanks to the dolphins I stuck around long enough to enjoy another sunset show extravaganza.
The 4th of July also coincided with my time in Lembongan. The 4th is one of my favorite holidays back home- a time for cold beer, tasty BBQ and big fireworks. Although I was in Vietnam last year, so I have made a habit of not being in my homeland for the holiday. I did miss being with friends and family that day, and proudly wore a Team USA basketball jersey to celebrate the occasion. I didn’t run into any other Americans, but I did enjoy several Bintang beers at night.
Between the ocean show and the sweet abandoned villa on the coast, I can easily say that Nusa Lembongan is one of my favorite locations on earth. Tomorrow I head to Gili Trawangan, another small island, off the coast of Lombok instead of Bali. Unfortunately there won’t be wave explosion shows on the shore, but living the island life sure is a great way to spend my time.