It’s a quarter past midnight when we jump on our scooters in Canggu and hit the road heading east. My friend JP and I decided to leave Bali for a few days to go on a road trip to Lombok. We’ve been thrilled about our upcoming adventure for days, and waves of happiness and excitement flow through our bodies whilst we whizz down unpredictable streets through the night. There are many good reasons for starting our trip at such a late hour.
Driving through Bali by night let us discover a whole different world.
Of course the main thought was to catch the last waves at Tugu for sunset before heading to Lombok to catch the first glassy sets of the morning. And if we’re going to be completely honest, we hoped to avoid to getting stopped by the police, who would probably fine us a ridiculous amount of money for 1. carrying surfboards on waggly board racks, 2. not owning an international drivers license and 3. having the helmets tossed in the foot space instead of wearing them on our heads. Call us rebels, but there is nothing more liberating than the fresh wind blowing in your hair. And there is nothing more uplifting and exciting than driving in the moonlight on unlit streets.
Bali by night
We pass through villages where even at one o’clock in the morning families chat in front of their houses whilst feeding their babies. It seems that people are totally unimpressed by the idea of time. Here, time obeys their personal rhythm and needs – not the other way around.
Who was it that decided 7 o’clock is the right time for dinner, anyway?
Just after we leave Denpasar and take a left onto Jl. Prof.Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra, a pack of wild dogs pound through the undergrowth and chase us growling through the darkness. We discover that Bali by night is a totally different experience than during the day. A little bit uncanny and sinister, yet still beautifully mystic. I notice that I tap my surfboard from time to time like it’s a living thing. It gives me a great feeling of comfort knowing I have it just next to me. Having carried me safely through so many waves, I figure it may save me from crazy dogs and even crazier truck drivers.
Seeing JP’s backlights glowing a few meters in front of me is a quiet reassurance too. Even though it is 1.30am, I don’t feel any tiredness in my body. All senses are sharpened and prepared for what will come next; trucks rolling by with no more than 3 centimetres of distance between their wheels and my leg. From nowhere big excavations suddenly open up in the middle of the street. No warning lights, no barriers, just a huge hole and a few workers moving wheelbarrows around like it’s the most normal thing to do in the middle of the night on a two lane highway.
JP and I keep on cheering every time we escape the next death trap, being constantly reminded how good it feels to be alive. I keep tapping my board. After an hour and a half, we arrive at the public ferry at Padang Bai where two policemen politely wave us down. This was just what I’d been scared of at the beginning of the trip. Though after the ride, I feel like I can deal with anything and smile at them as if they are part of my family. And they do the same. We laugh, we chat. They throw compliments in our direction. We throw money in theirs. And off we go towards the ferry. It’s crowded around us. People run around, shout and make shifty deals. Women carry big baskets on their heads through the chaos to sell drinks and food. We are trapped amongst countless motorbikes and cars, everyone ready to get on the boat.
Getting things done the indonesian way
Suddenly, a young guy jumps in front of our bikes and stops us, demanding 360.000 Rupiah. We have to pay him to get a ferry ticket. Whilst talking on his mobile and giving signs to his friends, he grabs the money and jumps on the front of my bike. Suddenly I realize I’ve become part of a shifty deal myself. Everything happens so fast that I don’t even have a chance to jump off or say something. ‘No worries’ he shouts. ‘Everything good’. I turn around trying to find JP, but it’s pointless. So I hold on and hope for the best. Suddenly my friend appears next to me.
A young Indonesian in a black leatherjacket is sitting in front of him and parks JP’s scooter next to mine. ‘No worries, no problem’ the guy repeats, grinning while he hops off my bike. We endure an endless line of vehicles and scooters to get on the ferry. The tickets we’ve purchased expired two days ago but JP and I keep the faith. We wanted adventure and we’ve got it. We’re in the middle of the Indonesian way of living and my heart is pumping with excitement.
There’s nothing better than the thrill of the unpredictable.
We witness how our middlemen are giving parts of the money we paid to the security guards, the boatmen and the police. When we drive on board, all of them avoid eye contact and pretend we don’t exist. Through all of this, we weren’t quiet sure we would get on the ferry, but in all this chaos lies a very well organized system. Not necessarily a legal one, but we decide not to deepen our thoughts too much given it’s the middle of the night. We sleep in the captain’s cabin, where we got dragged in for 400.000 Rupiah. Both of us are far too tired to bargain and lying down in a more or less decent bed is definitely worth the money.
Arriving in Lombok
Just on time, with a stunning purple-orange sunrise, we arrive in Lombok, just four hours after our manic departure from Padang Bai. Slightly exhausted but still full of enthusiasm, we find our scooters in the crowd and once again hit the road. This time towards Kuta, Lombok – a little coastal town in the south of the island, consisting of 3 or 4 sand roads, some homestays and quite a few warungs and restaurants. In other words, nothing like the Kuta of Bali.
Soon we find beautiful accommodation just a few meters away from the ocean called Sekar Kuning. The rooms are simple but clean. The internet is surprisingly fast and the staff welcoming and friendly. For $15 per night including breakfast for a double room, we’re more then happy.
Exploring the surf spots around Kuta
It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and after three or four cups of Lombok coffee we’re ready to explore the beauty of the island, and of course, have our first surf. Just a 5-minute walk away from our hotel is the beach boys surf shop where we meet our surf guide Martin.
He is 16 years old and has one of the happiest natures anyone could imagine. For the next four days he takes us to the most stunning surf spots around the area. We take a boat to the breaks at Gerupuk Inside, Key-point and Don Don. The swell is big and quite crowded but we still have a blast.
We also drive out to Gerupuk outside right and watch the double overhead waves marching in like a herd of Elephants. It is overwhelming to see them crashing on the cliffs and we sit and admire the surfers who are brave enough to ride those giants.
Surfing Martin’s local break at Tanjung aan is definitely the highlight of the trip. 3-5 foot powerful, clean waves, yet not too fast for an intermediate surfer like me. Martin makes sure we paddle for the right waves at the right time, and thanks to him I ride waves I didn’t know I was capable of riding. We surf until the sun sets and our arms are too weak to paddle anymore. I could not have wished for a better guide.
Living it up in Lombok
After a delicious dinner at Lilipan Warung we meet again in the surf shop, drink beers and listen to music. He lets me drive his self-built motorbike which has a skateboard deck as a saddle. “Careful, it has no breaks”, he laughs as I take off “but no worries, use your feet”. I do use my feet and the sole of my flip-flops are halved by the end of the short test.
Lesson for today: five year olds are the toughest ones to make business with.
While we sit and joke around, kids constantly walk in, trying to sell us bracelets. Every child in Kuta seems to spend their free time becoming a great salesman, and once they have found their new victim, they are relentless.
“Why you no buy bracelet? You Bule!! All Bule need bracelet’, a little girl, no older than 5 says as she realizes I really, really won’t buy one. But then her face lights up again. “ You want to buy mushroom? A ticket to the moon! make you fly hiiiigh!!!!”
We can’t stop laughing. We can’t help it… and end up buying a few bracelets.
Hitting the road again
Time here in Lombok just flys by, and both of us wish we could have had more time to explore the rest of this island which is still so untouched and pure. We both agree it’s the best surf of our lives, and all thanks to Martin.
After a cordial goodbye we get back on our scooters. The moon rises high above our heads when we head back to Bali.
I catch myself tapping my board again; feeling the wax between my fingers and the wind flowing through my hair once again. I can’t help but feeling incredibly thankful for this unique and mind blowing experience.