Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bali: Check one off the life goals list

This past weekend, I finally accomplished one of my biggest goals for my year in Asia: I surfed Indo. To me, this was one of the biggest drawing factors to living in Singapore, was that I would have very easy access to Indonesia, which is home to some of the world's best and most consistent waves. It took 6 weeks for me to get my feet wet and venture into Indonesia, but it was well worth the wait.

I took Friday off from work with Ana De Roo, another PiAer who also has no class on Fridays, and we prepared to fly off to Bali for a long weekend. I had spent the previous night printing out page after page of information on surf spots and locations in Bali, and I knew that my first priority was going to be Uluwatu. I was so excited Wednesday night before the trip that I wasn't able to sleep, and Thursday at work dragged on forever. But finally 6 o'clock rolled around and Ana and I taxi'd over to Changi Airport for our 9:45 departure to Bali.

Our plane landed in Bali 45 minutes late, and of course the pre-arranged free airport pickup from our hostel never showed up. So we taxi'd from the airport to our hostel at 1am, only the taxi driver had no idea where he was going (except he didn't tell us that). We didn't realize he didn't know where he was going until he dropped us off at a hotel and drove off; we walked inside only to find out that we simply were not in the correct location. By this point it was 2am and we were exhausted, so we proceeded to call taxi number 2. 10 minutes into this taxi ride the driver pulled over to call his operator and ask where our hostel was. All I could think was, This hostel better exist somewhere, or tonight's going to be a long night... But the cabbee assured us he knew where it was.

We then turned into a street that was so narrow that the cab had only 2-3 cm of free space on either side of the sideview mirrors. We noticed the cabbee's apprehension about continuing forward, so we asked him how much further to our hostel. He told us only several hundred meters, so we decided to get out and walk down this pitch black alleyway at 230 in the morning, as we received a cat call from a loitering Balinese man. We quickened our steps at this point, but finally saw a sign for "The Island Bali" - our hostel at last! After these missteps, all we wanted was a bed and a roof: little did we know that we had stumbled upon the nicest hostel either of us have ever stayed at.

For only 25 USD a night, we had an air conditioned room, a beautiful pool and outdoor lounge area, an amazing free breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, clean sheets and towels, and a location that was only a 2 minute walk to the beach. I was in heaven.

I could write pages upon pages about my first trip to Bali, but I'll let my pictures do most of the talking. You can check out my first Bali album at http://picasaweb.google.com/sdzoller. But I do want to write about my experience at Uluwatu, as this was one of the biggest goals of my life to experience.

On Saturday morning, Ana and I woke up and met Robbie, our personal driver that we had hired for the day (for a mere 15 USD pax). He drove us the 45 minutes from our hostel to Uluwatu beach, at which point I realized I had just stumbled into heaven. Uluwatu consisted of a small beach village with about 30 small shacks on the side of a cliff, of which 20 were surf shops and 10 were restaurants/bars. The village extended down the side of a jagged cliff and you needed to walk down several hundred steps to reach the bottom of the cliff village. At this point, you find yourself surrounded by surfers from all over the world - I saw/heard people from Australia, Britain, US, Russia, France, Germany, and of course Indonesia. Now the cliff opens up onto a secluded beach surrounded by caves, and at the far end of the caves, the stone walls give way to a beautiful crystal blue ocean filled with stunning coral reef. I could not have been happier.

I then embarked to haggle with the surf shops to rent a board, and was able to bargain with a store keeper for a 6'2" Ed Sinnott Pro series "The Ace," which was the best board I've ever ridden. I got the board for 4 hours for 20 USD, but I think in the future I'll be able to haggle them down a little lower. I then paddled the approximately 300 meters out over 3 feet of jagged, sharp, stunningly beautiful coral reef to the first of the four point breaks. I spent the next 4 hours catching wave after wave of endless lefts, all with a permanent smile etched onto my face (which would later literally become permanent from the sun-burn lines...). I had one of the best surf sessions of my life, as I rode 5-6 foot peeling barrels over a 3 foot drop into coral reef. 72 hours after this surf session, my arms and back are still sore, as I didn't want to take the time to rest or stretch, I only wanted to surf.

After finally exhausting myself in the hot Indonesian sun, and as the tide began to draw out leaving sections of the reef exposed to the air, I decided that it was finally time to call it a successful session. I half paddled/half walked back in along the reef, and then met up with Ana who had been relaxing in the secluded cave beach all day. We proceeded up to the village, where I found that surf photogs had been taking pictures of the surfers all day, and I was able to check out pictures of myself. I will wait till the next time I go back to Uluwatu to make some purchases, as they're able to store the photos indefinitely for you. Our final stop of the day at Uluwatu was at a bar overlooking the steep cliff that dropped into the ocean, where we sat for an hour watching the sunset and enjoying a few Bintangs.

That night, I was in bed and passed out by 9pm. It was easily one of the best surfing days of my life, if not one of the best days of my life.

We finally left Bali on Sunday, and I spent the whole plane ride wishing I had more time to spend in my own personal paradise.

Oh wait, I'm going back in 2 weeks...

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