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Published: April 26th 2015
Motorbike delivery Nusa Penida style
They carried elderly ladies, fishes, mattresses, bananas the same way
Nusa Penida is an island 18km South East of Bali and it might as well be a lifetime. Whilst every other person on Bali is a tourist on Nusa Penida there was only a handful. We had been told to wait four days for our visa extension by the Denpasar Immigration Office and decided to heed the advice of guesthouse owner: 'why don't you go to the islands'. We could have gone to Nusa Lembongan, Penida's smaller neighbour, and opted for Penida when we found out it was less developed.
Just getting there was trial. Getting tickets was easy and we loaded up our stuff on to the high speed ferry over the stern outboards straight from the beach at 8am that morning. There was plenty of space at the front seats and we soon discovered why the locals were sitting at the back. The sea was rougher than we thought and the boat driver did not let up with his three powerful outboards. Away from the coast we bounced hard off every wave. At the front you moved the most and your spine compressed a little more with each thump. By the end you were just willing
Gunung Agung in Bali from the beach on Nusa Penida
This was taken from the end of the road where the Nusa Penida guesthouse is
the boat to get there. We discovered that the afternoon boat did not make the whole trip and stopped at a harbour closer to the mainland because it was so rough. It was nice to be on tetra firma.
We had booked in by phone with Augus at the Nusa Penida Guesthouse. This consisted on two simple ensuite rooms at the back of a shop on a quite street in the main town of Sampalan. The big appeal to us was the kitchen we could use. When you are travelling so long it is a real pleasure to cook for yourself. The town market was only 300 metres along the coast and this was our first port of call so we could buy stuff for dinner. The paths between the stalls presented many trip hazards and the store holders, behind their neat piles of vegetables, fruit or clothes were very friendly.
As we walked up the coast to the market we came across the extraordinary sight of an informal ferry being unloaded. It was carrying all manner of things from mattresses to bananas, chicken, people, a motorbike and fish. It was parked stern end
to the beach and men carried the contents (including the women) to shore on their shoulders. It took five of them to carry the motorbike!
Jane rested from the journey and I went for a walk along the coast road. On many shore lines they are farming seaweed. I was amazed to see that they were harvesting it by hand and putting it into large baskets they carried with them. Once this was full they spread the green seaweed on sheets in the sunshine until it had bleached white. It was packed into lorries and set to Bali on the main car ferry. Currently it is the main income for the island.
On two occasions I watched a local boat, narrow like a canoe with two outriggers, arrive from Bali with baskets of fish. In each case the baskets were distributed to local women who later sold them in the island's markets. The fish was all so called 'mackerel tuna'. We persuaded one lady to sell us two fish there are then for 10,000INR/50p. It was a great accompaniment for our 'nasi gurung', fried rice that evening. We found it strange that at the
These two fish straight off the boat cost us 10,000INR
We fried them for dinner with home made 'nasi gurung'/fried rice
market the next morning they still had not gutted the fish. Was it too good to waste?
The following day we hired a scooter, a trusty Honda Vario we have come to learn to love, from Augus (60,000INR per day). This being Nusa Penida there were no helmets. To be fair the roads were so bad you could not go fast at any time.
We went along the North coast and eventually found the important Pura Penataran Ped temple. We were only allowed so far. The temple was very ornate and colourful. It is visited by many Baliese to protect themselves from disease. We used towels as make-shift sarongs as they are compulsory within most Balinese temples. We were soon to discover that Nusa Penida has many temples throughout the island. There are also many festivals. Throughout the island households and village seem to be preparing for another one. Ladies were sitting at the front of their houses or in temples like Ped folding palm leaves into offering baskets. Villages were setting up flags and stages. Apparently this was all in aid of the festival of Buda Cemeng Klawu coming up on April 15.
It is dedicated to Lakshmi, Shiva's consort, who is the Goddess of prosperity. Locals who live away will come back to the island and many Balinese will visit the Ped temple at that time too.
We continued on to the West coast, the road getting more pitted and rising steeply over a ridge. The fuel needled dropped quickly and we stopped at a road side shop/shack for a litre of petrol in a plastic bottle. Our destination was Crystal Bay a white sandy cove with good snorkelling. It was like Spain in the sixties. There were a few tourists. We could get a simple lunch from the beach front (fried rice/fried noodles). They also rented us masks so we could see the excellent sea life. You need a boat to get to the famous Manta Ray Point further on round the island.
The next day we did a long loop to the Eastern end of the island. Almost by luck (nothing is sign posted) we found the Goa Giri Putri temple. You climb up stairs on the side of the hill where you are kitted out with a sarong and splashed with water in
exchange for a donation. You enter on all fours down a narrow entrance. It quickly opens up to a long large chamber, similar in characteristic to other caves we have seen in South East Asia. As you walk through the chamber you pass shrines and then stairs lead to other alters high on one side. It was sad to see one family visiting with a very tearful female member. We kept our distance.
We had been given instructions on how to get to Ahau Beach. With a combination of GPS and asking locals we managed to find it (some had taken two hours). On several occasions Jane got off the bike because the road had disintegrated completely. Eventually we parked the bike and walked down a steep path. This lead to a point with fantastic views of the cliffs and Ahau Beach below. To get to the beach there were 163 precipitous steps down the cliff. It was not for swimming. There was an awkward swell and it look like there could be some nasty currents. If you were swept out the next stop was Australia.
We returned via the village of Tanglad to
Sightseeing Nusa Penida style
No helmet available so buff needed to keep the sun off
see the local hand weavers and then over the spine of the island. From the central peak (more temples) the road dropped steeply back to Sampalan round pot holed hairpins.
We celebrated our safe return with Jane drinking her Christmas Southern Comfort and me making a cocktail from the local palm leave brew, 'arak', and honey (we made our own ice). We made a dish of water spinach (kamkung) and bean sprouts and accompanied it with fried Tempe. It was an excellent way to finish off our visit.
We were relieved that the next morning the seas were flat and the boat ride smooth. We had to get back early for our second Immigation Office appointment and are happy to recommend our choice of location for waiting for it.
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