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Published: December 12th 2017
One of the best I have seen throughout my entire trip.
When I was growing up, I spent every Christmas by the beach on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, where my cousin was a surfing fanatic. Which makes it surprising that the first time I ever got on a surfboard was two years ago in South Africa
. For my first time, I actually did alright and I had further attempts in Peru
a few months later. When you're able to catch a wave and stand up, it's a real thrill and I remembered watching the pros go at it in Nicaragua and thinking how fun and exhilarating it would be to be able to surf at that level. To get to that level however, requires a lot of practice. I have since dreamed of living in a beachside shack for week on an empty beach with nice waves, practising my craft.
I knew that Bali was a surfing mecca but also knew it was popular so I wanted to go somewhere quieter and more beginner-friendly. That was when I read about Lombok and its relatively quieter and surf-friendly beaches.
I was originally going to base myself in Kuta but you wouldn't be close to a beach there and you'd
Catching A Wave
A local catches a wave at Selong Belanak.
need a scooter - I was trying to do things as cheap as I could so that wasn't ideal. I'd heard that you would need to buy your own surfboard too, which wasn't really something I could do either and that you also needed to charter a boat to get out to the point breaks. A bit too advanced and expensive for me, I think.
My online research however lead me to the spot of Selong Belanak, a beautiful beach with gentle waves perfect for beginners. There was reasonably priced accommodation close to the beach here too. On my budget however, it wasn't reasonably-priced enough and with board hire and food to take into account as well, my week of surfing turned into just two full days. I sadly just couldn't afford a whole week but also realised that I wasn't exactly going to turn into a surfing pro after just a week anyway, so I might as well just try and enjoy a couple of days of it.
And so that was my plan after eleven days on the Gilis
- two days of surfing in Selong Belanak!
I had run out of sunblock on Gili Air which was the most inopportune
Selong Belanak Beach
One of the best I have seen in Asia. It is beautiful.
time to run out because a) with all the beach time ahead of me I couldn't go without it and b) sunblock is ridiculously expensive! It meant that buying another bottle left me in a really tight spot financially - it was the same price as one night's accommodation in my bungalow at Selong Belanak! This was not a good time to be running dangerously low on Sensodyne and shampoo either!
On Gili Air, I had bought a 200,000 rupiah transfer all the way from Gili Air to Selong Belanak, even though most travel offices said that they could only get me as far as Kuta for that price. The agent I spoke to on the phone however - who sounded a bit sleepy, which wasn't a good sign - assured me that I could get all the way to Selong Belanak for 200k.
Getting the boat over to the port town of Bangsal on Lombok, I then make my way to the travel agent office for my shuttle to Selong Belanak. The guys at the office then tell me that they can't take me to Selong Belanak; they don't go there and it would be two hours out
Farmers lead their buffaloes on their daily trek across the beach.
of the way to do so. I tell them that I was promised a ride to Selong Belanak and that I had paid for a ticket to Selong Belenak and so they called the guy I spoke to last night. They then tell him, and then he then tells me over the phone that it couldn't be done; that I could go to Kuta and that it might cost another 150k to get to Selong Belanak from there. I thought that the deal I cut might have been too good to be true and it was.
I then ask a couple of taxi drivers outside the travel agent office how much a taxi to Selong Belanak from here would cost and the first guy quotes me 400k and then another guy quotes me 300k. I decide to take 300k and I get a refund from the shuttle company who to be fair were pretty nice about it all, realising that I had been lied to by a dodgy/incompetent agent. I passed a couple more taxi ranks as we drove out of Bangsal and I suddenly wondered if I could've have got a better price than 300k - I was paying
Lombok locals lay out their wares along a country road.
100k more than I originally was but from all the prices I had got for transfers to Kuta - not Selong Belanak - 300k was probably reasonable. I'm so sick of my tight budget and so sick of having to deal with all this.
Driving across the island and through Lombok's capital of Mataram, I am a little surprised at the lack of public infrastructure and the level of poverty here. It is almost comparable with India but at least India had reasonably priced transport options to get you around.
After my couple of surf days, I was bound for the island of Flores and I thought maybe I had copped out a bit by flying and also by not trying the bemo
(shared taxi) network here on Lombok, which would have been way cheaper. But at the end of the day, I'm not that
poor (got plenty of credit on the credit card) and almost at the end of my trip, I'm exhausted and just couldn't face having to take any more overnight journeys or hot, uncomfortable rides on narrow, rocky, hilly, winding, island roads that take a few hours longer than they should.
Nevertheless, not having the
Breakfast On The Porch
The best way to start a day.
ability to share a taxi is one of the downsides of travelling solo and going to a place that you can only realistically get to by taxi, the costs were all adding up.
Arriving at my bungalow, I have to say that I was a little disappointed with it despite having my own room and ensuite; I thought that I might have air-conditioning but that expectation was misplaced and I also had a slow-draining sink and wifi that wouldn't reach my room, meaning I had to take mosquito bites by accessing the wifi outside. And then I had bed bugs for the 22nd time on my trip; having had them in Ubud
and Gili Air as well, at this point I had to think that I was carrying some. Cue a painstaking check of all of my clothes and luggage. I've got better things to do, quite frankly.
The nicest part of my stay at the bungalow was having nice, long, relaxing breakfasts on my porch while reading the newspaper each morning.
Every review I had read about Selong Belanak had mentioned that it is a beautiful beach and indeed it is, with soft white sand, turquoise water
No filters here - the sky almost looked like the Northern Lights.
and a gently curving bay with hills at both ends of it. The water perhaps didn't have the clarity that the Gilis had but then again this is a surf beach and it would be churlish to complain. I'm pretty picky when it comes to beaches though but despite the lack of shade on Selong Belenak, I would say that it still is one of the best beaches I have been to in Asia, if not the entire trip.
On my first late-afternoon walk along the beach, the surf honestly didn't look great, even for a beginner, but there were some decent waves to the right of the beach as I went for a long stroll along the shore.
Like there was on Gili Meno, the call to prayer here was very similar and was quite awful - you can get some beautiful ones but this definitely wasn't one of them - and it totally ruined what was one of the most spectacular sunsets I have seen for some time. The sky got so pink that above the surf shacks, it almost resembled the Northern Lights
Well, I should've known that I was being a tad cocky the previous day
A local having an early evening surf session.
when I said the waves here "didn't look great". Hiring a board from a local surf shack on the beach, I made for the more challenging waves and quickly found myself out of my depth - a classic case of underestimating nature and overestimating my own ability. I could barely stay on the board while paddling! So back to the surf shack I went for a wider, thicker and longer board and then back to the ocean I went, amongst the smaller waves. I was still having a hard time of it though and was getting absolutely pummelled by the surf. On more than one occasion, I ended up doing forward somersaults under the water as the waves pounded me into the sandy bottom. This was not fun. To make things worse, the material on the board was so sticky that any movement while paddling ended up taking skin off my upper abdomen. Thereafter, my grazes stung like hell each time water came into contact with them. The pain made things even more difficult, limiting my movement and in particular, my ability to paddle fast and hard. I had managed perhaps one half-decent ride on the waves but the only
Visions Of A Sunset
Spectacular sunset over Selong Belanak.
times I stood up thereafter was when I just missed a wave. When I did catch one, I was simply dumped face-first into the ground.
It was only when I got out of the water the third time that I realised that the waves weren't as gentle as advertised - some were pretty big and they were fast crashers too, which explained why I was dumped so often. The more able surfers however, were having a field day. The majority on the water were beginners however, as this is primarily a beginner's beach.
Before long, I could barely push myself up, my arms sapped of all strength after all the paddling.
Torrential rain started to come down after my last session in the water, which provoked much excitement; I decided to follow most of the other beach-goers by making a beeline for the water, to enjoy the waves as I normally do by diving into them rather than catching them on a board. In the driving rain, it was probably the most fun and excitement I had had all day.
I then retired to the surf shack which was like your base on the beach; you hired your board
Fishing rather than surfing is still the main way the locals make a living here and this is reflected by all the boats both on the water and on the beach.
from there, you rested in the shade there, you ate your meals there and you socialised with other surfers there. It was a pretty cool set up. By the end of the day however, I was left sore, battered and bruised, being thankful that I only had one more day of this.
Thankfully the next day the waves were a bit gentler and I finally got some decent rides all the way into the shore! I knew I wasn't that shit. As the afternoon went on however, the waves became more inconsistent in terms of size and frequency, which was a little annoying. Some once again were dumpy as I got absolutely smashed a few times more by the water.
I wanted to keep going as long as I could but it was exhausting work, particularly for my arms. The grazes on my chest saw me wanting to minimise the amount of paddling I had to do which doesn't help me to catch waves; although sometimes the wave catches you. I would love to really devote some real time into surfing to really improve myself - that was the original aim of my planned surf week. It would be
The Surf Shack
My base on the beach during a day of surfing.
awesome to start surfing waves sideways rather than riding them straight onto the shore but it is a steep learning curve and unfortunately I don't think I will ever get to that level - I am just too far from where I want to be. But this constant desire to improve and have some real fun on the waves is what I guess drives a lot of people to really get into it - if I had the opportunity to do so, I probably would too.
I decided to have one last mini-session before sunset but almost as soon I got into the water, the bay just went completely flat. I managed to get one semi-decent ride into the shore and I thought that that would be the best way to close out my two days on the water. I was absolutely spent and struggled to even pick up my board by the end of it. My body has taken a hell of a beating over the last couple of days.
I spent my last evening drinking rice wine with my surf shack crew of seven Brits; two brothers and the girlfriend of one of the brothers; and
The lights from the boats in the harbour start to take effect during an amazing Selong Belanak sunset.
a family of four. The family were two older parents and their teenage son and daughter and they were travelling for a year on the road. How cool! I wish I could've done that when I was at school.
I finished the night chatting to my Swiss neighbours back at my bungalow about my trip. When I get a really interested audience (and am a little tipsy from rice wine) I really do love regaling in both the good and bad stories from my two years plus on the road; like the glorious trip back in time and the frustrating pricing I experienced in Cuba; the raw poverty but wonderful colour I saw in India; my nightmare in Nepal
. As I told the stories, I found myself having a good ol' chuckle - they were such exasperating experiences at the time but now I'm laughing at them and have some great stories. I really enjoy telling them, if I'm in the mood to do so.
And that's when I realised that this incredible journey only has one leg left - the island of Flores from where I hope to see the incredible Komodo dragons!
Sampai jumpa lagi!
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