Tonight will be my 6th night in Nias, and it has proved to be an incredibly relaxing stop on my journey. There are barely any tourists here, and the few that are here have made the trip for the surf. I am one of the very rare tourists to visit without spending the majority of my time surfing.
I have settled into a nice routine, as has happened anywhere I have stayed for longer than a few nights. The bed at my home stay is miles away from comfortable, so I unfortunately don’t sleep great. Only having my bed liner (basically a super thin sleeping bag) to work as my sheet AND blanket doesn’t help. Thankfully I don’t need to get up and work, so a nap during the day is always available. After I wake up, usually around 9 am, the family at my home stay brings me a breakfast of scrambled eggs with toast or a large banana pancake with some coffee. I enjoy the view from the balcony for a few hours, maybe edit some photos from the previous day, or do some writing. Sometimes I zone out, listen to music and watch the waves crash a few hundred yards away.
Anytime I poke my head over the top of the balcony, one of a variety of locals chats me up- all trying to sell something. “Hey, BEN!” is a common occurrence around here. The kids are selling fruit, donuts, T-shirts or surf gear. The adults are selling books, local statues or bracelets, or rides to other parts of the island on their scooter. Almost all of the time, my answer is no thank you. Once I say that I don’t want to buy something, the next question is usually if I have extra board shorts to give them. Uh, no thanks to that either.
A guy from Hawaii, Bob, moved into the home stay a few days ago, and he filled me in on a lot of info about Nias. He has visited Nias 10 or so times, so he knows the area well. Bob said that the local island people of Nias have a different attitude than the rest of Indonesia, and that the various surfers coming through the island have jaded the locals even more. Many visitors come to the island for 5-10 days, and act like “week long millionaires,” throwing their Indonesia Rupiah around like nothing.
Having another native English speaker has been a welcome change from my broken or barely English conversations with the locals. It is nice to actually TALK to someone instead of just saying I don’t want to buy something, or how much something costs. Most of the time, the solitude on this trip has been exactly what I needed, but there are times when having a full conversation with someone is a welcome change from the alone time.
In the early afternoon, I have either been going to the internet cafe for a bit or taking a long walk down the beach. It is definitely weird having NO internet after having it 24/7 for a long time. In some ways it is nice untethering and not obsessively checking Twitter/ Facebook for no good reason. However, the power of the internet does make life a lot easier and more efficient. Even to book my flights from Nias to Medan and then Medan to Bandung I needed the internet cafe. To share this post with the world, I need the internet cafe. At the same time, the “internet” at the cafe it is far from first world speeds. I didn’t prepare well for a week with no internet, so while at the cafe I tried to download a few books from iTunes. Unfortunately, the slow internet tubes here meant that even a 10 mb book file was going to take hours. Ugh. My face may melt off when I am back in the States and I can instantly stream any TV show in HD. I WAS able to stream this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so I can’t complain TOO much about the speed of the internet tubes.
Walks out into the huge volcanic tide pools to photograph the massive waves has become one of my favorite things to do here. The tide pools go several hundred yards into the ocean, and never get deep enough to even go up to my knees. There was a big earthquake in the area around 10 years ago which raised the floor of the beach several feet. Once I get closer to the breaking waves, there are large canyons in the volcanic rock that could swallow me up, or at least do some serious bodily damage, if I’m not careful.
I have spent hours watching the huge waves breaking at the end of the volcanic rock shelf, and taken hundreds of photos of those same waves. It is pretty mesmerizing watching these gigantic waves continue to roll towards the rock, slamming down one after another. I definitely don’t have enough courage to go super close, since I never know how far the water from the breaking waves will roll toward the shore. The last thing I need is to get washed out to sea or get knocked on my ass. Taking photos of the waves is a bit addicting, as I am trying to capture the “perfect” wave picture- whatever that means. Because each wave is completely different, it offers an opportunity for a new and unique photo. Being out on the volcanic rocks totally by myself is also pretty amazing. Every once in awhile a fisherman with a net comes fairly close. Besides that, I am completely alone out there close to the breaking waves.
Lunchtime is around 2 pm, and afterwards is probably a nap unless I have found some sort of second wind. Later in the day is a combination of more writing (like what I am doing right now), editing photos, or chatting with Hawaii Bob. Dinner time is 7:30ish, and after that is probably a short walk to a local shop for some large Bintang beers. As is fairly normal around these parts, the shop is also someones house, so there are people laying on a mattress watching TV right next to the fridge with some cold beers. All of the meals are included in the $35/ night home stay cost, so my only other expenses have been a few beers at $2.50 each. A week in Nias will be amazing- however being anywhere for much longer without any internet access would be hard. Even as a means to check in with friends and family, and make sure that the US hasn’t gotten attacked, is something that I miss. For better or worse, a big part of my life is reliant on the internet these days so completely turning it off is hard.
Staying in fairly shitty accommodations does make me appreciate all the things I have grown accustomed to. A flushing toilet, instead of dumping water into said toilet, would be pretty nice. Regular internet, watching my favorite sports/ TV shows, and staying in touch with friends/ family are the first things that come to mind. A washer/ dryer would be great as well, but that would be like expecting the keys to a flying car in this part of the world. I am not sure that a washer/ dryer even exists on Nias. Hand washed clothes is the name of the game out here.
I have one more full day in Nias before flying back to Medan. After spending one night in Medan, I will fly about 2 1/2 hours to Bandung, which is on the island of Java. I will be visiting some cousins of mine in Bandung, which I am really looking forward to. It will be the first time in over 6 weeks that I will see someone I have ever met before. Spending time with some Indonesian locals will be a great experience as well. I also have a feeling I will be missing the island life before long.