Published: November 18th 2012November 18th 2012
Wednesday morning I woke up super super early to drive to Medewi, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic. In doing so pretty much woke up everyone else in the hostel super early as well (sorry guys!). It was cloudy so on a whim I grabbed my rain jacket as I was finishing up my packing. I was on the road around six, having looked at a map and with a general idea of which city I wanted to head towards to pick up the main highway. I made a few lucky lucky guesses and got on the highway without actually getting lost once! Before that happened though, it started to rain. And then pour. I finally pulled over and wrapped all my electronics up in plastic and put on my hopelessly out of its league raincoat and then kept going in the rain.
The main highway takes you first through a bit of mountains and large sweeping curves up and down which these massive over-packed trucks struggle on the grades. The traffic was significantly heavier going the other direction so I didn't have to do much passing myself around them but I did have to be on constant lookout for cars passing in my lane to get around the trucks coming towards me. Eventually the road curved down toward the ocean and became the coast road. I was feeling like I was coming down with a cold and the wet, cold rain wasn't helping any so I stopped to pick up some pre-emptory cold meds (mine of course had been left in the big bag in the hostel). I passed Balian, which was supposed to be about half an hour from Medewi and started seeing signs for Medewi Cape and Medewi ...Hotel and pulled over every once in a while to ask people on the side of the road if I had passed the beach yet. I hadn't! I didn't make one wrong turn the whole time and around 8:30 I was pulling down the road right to the beach where a bunch of locals were hanging out and watching the waves.
A local guy offered to help me find accomodation. Took me a homestay about 75m up the road back towards the highway where a lady showed me a room with a double bed, manual flush toilet/shower room with it's own balcony and he bargained the price to 80,000r/night including an Indonesian breakfast. I settled in and while I did so another local hunted me down to rent me the necessary reef booties. Bargained with him for 6 days use for 100,000r for a pair of booties that were falling apart but looked like they might hold up for at least that long.
When I was finally set up in my room room I walked back down to the road and the beach but the tide looked too low for surfing so I just lounged around (and tried to use the closest internet cafe, which remained stubbornly closed all day) and read and waited for the tide to come in. I met a couple of older Aussies who directed me towards the best place for breakfast and eventually when I got tired of lounging I took the scooter down the road to a resort a few kilometers away to use their wifi. The tide finally came in enough and I went out surfing for the first time. The beach here is super rocky but the wave is awesome. It's soooooooo long. If you catch a good one out back you can just carve these long turns and ride and ride and ride, always to the left. It can be hundreds of meters before the wave ends. I loved it and had a really pretty good first session.
That night was super quiet, I just ate dinner and watched the sunset and read my book, then went to sleep super early because of my developing cold.
The next day was literally the exact same as the day before except I didn't have to go as far to find the internet, realizing there was a cheap internet cafe just the next town over in Pekutatan. Read all day and napped and then went surfing in the afternoon. Really good session with one bad wipeout in front of like 30 people who were all sitting below me and as the wave started to close out I looked down to make my turn and there was nowhere to go but a wall of eyes staring at me so I just yelled FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKKKK as I went down hard. Otherwise had some really really good waves. Night was exactly the same, ate, read, watched the sunset and slept early. There really isn't anything to do in or near Medewi at night.
My third day there I finally decided to change things up a bit and woke up for a morning session. One side of my body was so incredibly sore from surfing such long waves always in the same direction that I had to get a massage on the beach afterwards just to get some relief for my poor back muscles. Not that I'm complaining. Then it was back to the internet cafe, followed by a driver through the mountains. I took the road from Pekutatan and followed the signs towards Serririt. It took me past a school as the schoolchildren all got out of class, past corn (the most incredible yellow color you've ever seen) drying in the sun by the side of the road, past views of the beach far below and the south coast of western Bali spread out in the sun. Through tiny tiny villages with little kids waving hello and acting like they had never seen a westerner before.
I couldn't take much in the way of pictures while I was driving but a few snapshots stayed with me in my mind. Hazy mountains and forests. Driving the road through a giant, apparently holy, tree. Four children on a motorbike together, all under the age of ten, one of them driving. Watching a bunch of leaves fall from a tall tree, realizing a man sitting up at the top was trimming it and waving at me. Twists and turns that made me glad I had so much practice riding in the Malibu mountains and cool fresh air.
I had no destination in mind so I just followed the signs to Serririt and then Tabanan until it was time to turn back so I could be in Medewi in time for the second session of surfing. I stopped for gas, which I was glad I hadn't run out of on my drive and then bought myself bread, choco-peanut spread and bananas and when I got back to Medewi made the best sandwich ever. I felt as accomplished as if I had personally invented fire. Then it was back in the water for the afternoon session, with a quiet night to follow so I could wake up early for the coming swell.
The next day was the biggest of the swell I had come to Medewi hoping to ride. I woke up early for a two hour session. I only caught four waves but three of them were probably some of the best I've ridden in my life. Big and powerful and just going on and on and on and on forever. It was difficult to be in the right position, which is why it was about half an hour between waves (plus it was like at least a ten minute paddle back out once you caught a wave and probably longer). I took a few sets on the head but never regretted a thing. To remember it, I bought a cd with pictures of my surfing on it from one of the locals who take pictures from the shore to sell to tourists.
That afternoon I went for a drive toward Gilimanuk, which is the end of the line and the big port at the edge of Bali up the coast road. I went through Negara, the nearest big town, and kept on going. I loved the new perspective I gained of the mountains I had driven through the day before and the green trees that arch over the road so you are driving in a cool green cavern. At some point someone REALLY important drove past me in a motorcade with so many police motorcycles in front and highway patrol cars behind that I couldn't even count them. Then on the way back I passed this GIGANTIC temple I had missed before but didn't get my act together in time to take pictures. Instead, I stopped for a picture of one of the many interesting statues located in a roundabout on the road.
I was back in time for a second session in the afternoon but it wasn't as good as it had been in the morning. I still got some waves though so I wasn't too displeased. I think I was still glowing from the morning session to be honest. I had dinner again at the same place as I had all the nights before but this time made some friends and was actually social, hanging out there until they closed up around 10pm.
My last full day in Medewi I woke up pretty early for the morning session but it just wasn't my day. I was sitting out back on the point but every wave was closing out and the crowd was pretty thick. I kept trying but it just wasn't working for me. Eventually I just went in. I had met an older Aussie guy in the water (who was singing Keith Urban at the time) and he and his friend wanted to check out Balian and see how the surf was there. After a few hours hanging out at the warung we got our stuff together and drove in their car about 30 minutes up the road to Balian. The wind was tearing the waves to pieces so we just got lunch, which they treated me to because I'm a poor student! Then we swam in the pool instead of surfing for an hour or so before heading back to Medewi. On the way back we drove through my first police checkpoint but declined to stop and were passed in the other direction by a large group of harley riders with their own police escort. That afternoon I didn't even bother with a second session. It didn't look that great and I figured my body could use the rest. I spent that evening having a drink with the two Aussies, then watching the sun set and a local who free climbed up the palm tree right in front of us to stand in its branches and tap the sap to make liquor. The night ended with a banana pancake at the warung and packing before bed.
My last morning in Medewi I woke up at five and was in the water by 5:30. Still not the first one in the water but the crowd stayed light for my hour and a half session. I got a few waves but nothing as long as I had been getting a few days before. I came in and finished packing, said my goodbyes at the warung (for an hour or so) and then it was back on the bike.
Overall the Internet was a little overenthusiastic about how remote and free of crowds Medewi is. People really do drive from Kuta to spend the day there surfing and with the surf camp itself there it creates a mini crowd every time they come out surfing. Plus there are the occasional group surf lessons that show up. But it's a really gorgeous wave and I came out of it feeling like I really improved my surfing having the opportunity to ride for so long on each wave. It's relatively cheap there and super super quiet. The roads as well are significantly more quiet than they are in Kuta, even if you do have to dodge the occasional truck traffic jam. The locals were super friendly and the crowd really chilled out. I'm definitely glad I took the time and went out there and at the same time was totally ready to leave when the swell dropped.
My ride back I decided to mix up a little and take a detour up through the mountains. I had seen a sign to Tabanan while I was there before and wanted to see where it led (I mean obviously it led to Tabanan but I didn't know exactly how). I started the way I had before, up into the mountains. The early hour meant I saw fewer schoolchildren but more people out in the villages, thatching with palm to build some sort of scaffolding (later discovered it was for some sort of festival event). Drying spices scented the air as I rode. I thought it might rain but I got lucky and it held off for the most part. I must have missed a turn somewhere because when eventually I did see a sign for Tabanan it was pointing sharply back requiring a turn almost back the way I came. The new road was really good quality and wound its way along the mountain ridge, up and up and up these swooping steep grades that made me glad I was driving an automatic. Nothing to see on either side but mountain dropping away below. Sunlight laying a patchwork quilt across the distant hills and valleys. I drove for quite a while, not totally sure if I was going the right way but pretty sure I was at least headed in the general direction I wanted to be going in. Eventually the elevation began to drop noticeably and the road quality dropped with it and I headed back down towards the coast road. Passed a few incredibl temptes and finally stopped across the road from one, in someone's driveway to take pictures. The resident dog did NOT approve of my presences and followed me, barking incessantly, until I left. After that no more stopping for pictures, although there were some great views as the ocean and lowlands came back into sight and the forest gave way to palm tree groves.
When I reached the coast road I found myself only at Balian, having covered 1/2 hour of driving in 1.5. Now it was just the long slog back to Canggu, which wasn't too eventful. I had to leapfrog a few sections of traffic caused by those ever present overloaded trucks and blew through my first police checkpoint (I assume the officer was pointed to the person behind me to stop). I had realized the day before that at the checkpoints the officers are all on foot so stopping is not strictly necessary and without an international driver's license, and because I'm not a local, I'm just asking for trouble if I stop. I was so burned out from my ride in the mountains that I allowed myself to be charmed by the old gas station attendant who taught me a few words of Indonesian while pocketing 50,000r of my change. Something I realized only when I stopped an hour later for water in Canggu. I got a bit lost in Tabanan, just following the signs to Kuta and hoping I would recognize the way to Canggu, but knowing I could definitely get there from Kuta if that is what it took. I started asking people which way to go and eventually found myself back at surfing dorms after a few out of the way turns.