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Published: July 29th 2010
So, apparently, they have other things in Bali besides surfing. Who knew?
We spent a 5 days in Kuta after the Bingin surf binge. Kuta is renowned for other types of binging. Clubs are open 24 hours. The stumbling mumbling pack of Australians that greet you for breakfast everyday are more than happy to state the fact if you didn't already know. We went out a couple nights from the scummiest skeez club themed like a pirate ship to a semi-underground house-gone-bar that rages only Friday nights (Lorca's friend). I guess there are swarms of people that come here just for the partying. From Kuta, the slummiest spewfest, past Legian, where things start to settle out, all the way up to Seminyak, where people dress to be seen and the 16-21 year old crowd is less likely to settle. The whole area is pretty much a mess. Broken or non-existant sidewalks have you hugging walls trying to avoid the throngs of motorbikes humming by. The crutches market here is huge, as is emergency medicine, funded by incapable/drunken tourists on motorbike (more on road laws later). Hustlers and touts lurk behind every bush; 'no thank you' or 'tidak turima kasih' is ever on the lips. Still managed to surf 2x a day and despite the lack of size (for 3 days), we got super fun waves.
We broke our 15 day surfing streak and took a day off to drive up the coast. Here are some of the traffic laws we have had to readjust to:
1) If you come to a police checkpoint, turn around in the middle of the road and go the other way. Everyone else is doing it. The main purpose of checkpoints is to extract money from tourists.
2) If you are being pulled over by a police officer, look the other way and keep driving. Don't pull over. Speeding up to run away is ok. We heard that parking and sprinting into the ocean is a good means of escape. They will not, i repeat, NOT follow you into the sea. (there are superstitions about wearing green into the ocean, as it is the sea goddesses favorite color and she will keep you there)
End of rules.
Traffic here moves of its own accord. If you find yourself driving head-on into a pack of 40 motorbikes in your lane, relax, just keep driving, they will get out of your way. Motorbikes are like flies. Signal or honk when passing cars but don't worry about the bikes. They can maneuver.
If you are on a motorbike: don't worry about one way streets, just charge whatever way you please and if the street is clogged with traffic, just drive on the sidewalk. Tourists will move for you most of the time.
Drinking and driving. Please do!
No laws against it. You can be blacked out drunk, holding a beer in each hand and tell the officer at the checkpoint you are to drunk to stay awake much longer and need to get home. Just don't except blame for whatever else they try and pin on you. Denial is the key to avoiding police bribes. There are plenty of tourists out there that will give in right away.
(Not that we would have the balls to have even one drink and drive in these Mad Max like conditions. You need all your concentration not to be hit by an oncoming truck)
We made it up the east coast after a quick surf at Keramas, a short fast right in glassy glass. The tide was way too low. One more flesh offering to Bali. On high tides this wave reels for days... but at least the wind on our side. It rained on us for most of the drive (this dry season has not been cooperating very well) and we made it to Tulamben right at sunset. Right offshore sits the wreck of the USS Liberty, a WWII cargo ship sunk by the Japanese. We spent a couple hours the next morning snorkeling the hulk. It sits in 10m of water so you can dive down to parts of it and get a really good view. Just nearby a huge school of 9-18" long fish (tuna lookin' fellers) swam circles around us for a long time, probably well trained by tourist breadcrumbs. We shot upwards to Lovina on the north coast later that day. Its a super mellow little town, the polar opposite to Kuta in every way except the tourist hustlers.
After one easy sunset and a night of rest we were off again. We headed up to a Buddhist monastery so Eric could meditate a minute before the hectic day of driving. Then we charged to a nearby hot spring. Statuary dragon heads spewed steaming water into the pools which weren't too hot (no complaints since it was already approaching 80 degrees outside) They also had a pool filled from pipes, 10ft overhead, offering a sweet pummeling massage.
Next stop was Pura Melanting. A temple set somewhat off the road, it is supposed to be dedicated to success in business. We made an offering and were blessed by the priest in a surreal ceremony, conducted in another language but with wholly positive intentions even to non-Hindu foreigners. With rice stuck to our foreheads and throats, blessed with rosewater, we are now certain to carry success forward with us (or we are going to be incredibly fertile. Not 100% on what the temple was dedicated to).
We drove through dry monsoon forest, savanna and deciduous trees, and circled past the west and onto the south coast (Bali isn't too big). There is a town that hosts water buffalo races each winter (now) where speed counts only as much as style as drivers in makeshift chariots steer their beasts with a twist of the tail. We couldn't get ahold of the tourist office, my Indonesian isn't quite fluent (or existent), and local hotels didn't pick up the phone so we shot for the beach.
Medewi is a long slow left pointbreak but the lack of swell in the water left it lacking. There were still a handful of longboarders outside struggling for scraps.
Swell wasn't supposed to pick back up for a week so we headed to Balian, a section of coast with direct access to Antarctica and the Roaring 40s which sends nonstop waves north to Indo. As we drove the dirt road out to the beach, we were greeted with surf. Real surf. Balian is touted as being 2-4ft bigger than most other spots, never dropping below 4ft. When swell hits this means Balian is way too big. When its flat... it is the spot. Head high to overhead glassy rights and lefts peeled outward from the river mouth. We paddled out and caught a good 10 waves a piece. Good waves. Maybe the most fun I've had so far. Overhead rights and a scattered crowd meant I could surf my frontside consistently for the first time in a long while. It was fast but not hollow. Open shoulders but not mushy. Round rock and sandy bottom and not too shallow. My perfect wave. No fear, (except sharks. River mouths are prime feeding for tiger and bull sharks; a friend told us he saw a bull shark breach while surfing here) only fun...
..and then the rains came down. It started when we first paddled out. Bruise black clouds huddled over the mountains. A flash and distant rumble unleashed a visible torrent to the north of us. As it billowed overhead, the buckets were unleashed. Submerging in the sea would have left us more dry. It was a blinding, disorienting rain; the surf didn't even know how to react and although the wind remained calm, the clean swell we enjoyed before was replaced with lumpy jumping chop. It departed as quickly as it had arrived and a swarm of beach sitting surfers paddled out to greet the fading daylight. As the rains in the hills began to reach the ocean, slick of chocolate that flowed neatly out to sea became a bloated frothy blob, engulfing us all. With the ever rising river came a cascade of debris from plastic bags to large tree trunks. At once all the surfers in the water began to paddle back in, a silent but collective decision. We fought for shore together as the river forced itself outwards in a greater and greater circumference. We all made it to beach safely and looked to the river who had risen 10x its size... and our car was on the other side. What we had once waded across was now a violent rapid. Eric and I decided against paddling the rushing brown and walked a mile inland to the highway bridge and back out to our car.
The surf had been annihilated by the cataclysmic flow but along the shore, locals now thronged collecting coconuts and wood and stacking them in neat piles. A bounty brought to the beach by force of nature.
We found a rice barn turned hotel (a space better suited to 2 families of 8) and crashed out exhausted.
By morning the flood waters had receded and the surf was back to 4 star so we paddled out for a couple hours before heading back inland. We are off to Ubud, artist central or something, and then to the volcanoes. We might have to be away from the beach for 3 days so well see how far we actually get.
Tot: 2.775s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 11; qc: 45; dbt: 0.0491s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb