Lem lem lem-bongan

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Dec 21, 2009

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Where I stayed
Some nice little hotel at the far end of the beach

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The island of Nusa Lembongan has to be the most chilled out place I have ever been. In fact it’s quite surprising the boats don’t sail backwards and the chickens don’t just sun bathe all day. Sanur where we had initially headed to on the east coast turned out to be a bit of a dump and we met our first unfriendly Balinese person. The fact that we had got up at 2am the previous morning and I hadn’t slept since probably didn’t help with our overall moods but we were both glad to get out of there with yet another early start the following morning. The choice between expensive, fast and touristy boat versus local, cheap and slightly dubious slow boat was unquestionable and so we headed down to the docks in time to get the last two tickets on the local boat/raft thing! It was hilarious. We had to wade almost up to our waists into the sea, rucksacks on our backs and waves coming thick and fast to get onto the boat. We deposited our bags on the underneath of the boat and shimmied around the side of the boat on a narrow, narrow ledge until we found a bit we could step on to then haul ourselves up onto the roof. This was all made all the more interesting due to two facts - one we were the last two on the boat and so they were beginning to pull out as we were navigating our way around the edge of the boat and the other factor was of course the fact that I had not only my pride and joy camera but also my wee little invaluable laptop with me on my back. I wouldn’t have minded falling in but would not have been impressed if my small bag had!

The boat was brilliant though - there were a million surf boards all pilled up, as many people as you could cram onto a boat, chickens, dogs and all sorts running around on the underneath and on the way back they even managed to lift a motorbike onto the boat - which also required to be lifted up high to avoid getting dunked in the sea. It was definitely the craziest boat I’ve ever been on. Add a meter of swell to that and you sort of feel your taking your life in your hands on a Noah’s ark experience.

We fell into the trap of enlisting the help of an enthuastic local when we arrived on the beach. Well it was more like he enlisted us as it was easier just to let him ‘help’ us than to shake him off and so we set off on a trek along the beach with our rucksacks in search of accommodation. It happened to be the softest, sinkiest sand I’ve ever had to walk on and so that combined with about 20kgs of luggage plus my stupid hat I was still carrying around proved to be a rather stressful hike which with the lack of sleep for two night now and an empty stomach made me rather grumpy. By the time we actually found somewhere (the furthest place along the beach) all I was fit to do was collapse in a big heap before finally mustering up the energy to crawl out of our new found humble abode in search of grub and consequently a better mood. The breakfast there did the trick and I found the answer to the Balinese amazing but slightly overwhelming coffee - stick half a thing of fresh ginger in the bottom of the mug and all your problems are solved forever!

To be honest we did an admirable nothing on our first day on the island bar soak it all up, chat for hours and hours and hours and take lots of photos of the amazing low tides that appeared every few hours on the edge of our accommodation.

The second day was slightly more productive. We hired a bike. Only one this time as they were a little more expensive on the island and we had been meaning to share one for a while as it allowed one to drive and the other to take photos. So we got our bike but when we enquired about the lack of helmet we got what we now know as the standard reply of ‘don’t worry - no police on Lembongan - no trouble’ we pointed out we were slightly more concerned about our skulls but from the puzzled look on the guys face it was clear we weren’t getting very far at all and so we set off. Me driving and Miriam the appointed navigator. Which explains why we got lost and ended up driving down the narrowest lanes possible for a while which was interesting. The lack of helmets turned out to be not much of a concern due to the quality of roads. Or lack of. For a time we were wondering if we’d been transported back to Ireland and were navigating our way around potholes so big you’d never be seen again. With a maximum possible speed of about 20k/h our skulls felt pretty safe.

An interesting situation then presented itself at the top of an overly windy narrow hill - we came face to face with a Hindu cremational ceremony and the road was closed off forcing us to take a cross country detour as opposed to going all the way around the island the other way to get to somewhere a few hundred meters the other side of this rather large congregation. So we went cross country. We set off following a dude with a surfboard as we thought that would be a safe bet until I managed to find the only sandpit in this massive field, drive into it and get the bike stuck. The next 20 minutes or so after removing the bike from this pit resulted in Miriam hopping on and off the back of the bike frequently and eventually abandoning it completely as she walked and I navigated the bike down a trekking track. We’d completely lost the surfer after the sandpit incident and relied completely on a few old women sitting in the middle of a field and us saying ‘beach’ and looking lost and them pointing in the general direction of a very narrow track. The embarrassing thing about the whole situation wasn’t even when we managed to drive back into part of the ceremony but it was as boys no more than 9 or 10 whizzed past us on massive bikes - 2 or 3 per bike and hurtled down these paths ahead of us as I freewheeled as slow as possible on my scooter and Miriam walked! One even stopped and with very impressive English for a little Indonesian boy living on this remote island at the age of about 12 explained what was going on and where to go and how to get down to the beach - even the kids are just wonderfully friendly and concerned at the plight of 2 foreign girls driving around random Lembongian field getting stuck in sandpits and clearly having no idea of what we were doing! We found the road again with this kids help and then the beach. At last.

We spent some time on Sunset beach and then Dream beach which was far better for swimming despite the deceivingly shallow coral which was really quite painful to hit. Especially when you knock off all the remaining scars from you knee and it proceeds to start bleeding again. Not clever. It then however started to rain as it had been threatening to since our arrival on the island and so after lunch we decided to head back down past where we were staying and to the other side of the island to see the mangrove jungle. Whereupon it stopped raining. I was then passenger for the first time since sitting on the back of Adrian’s Harley but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would - it was actually preferable to the responsibility you inevitably feel with someone else on the back of your bike. Well scooterbike! We then ended up back in the middle of this ceremony AGAIN but after stopping and watching a few locals brave winding in and our of the mass of people on their bike we reckoned it couldn’t be too frowned upon and so followed suit. We weren’t going to go cross country again that was for sure. All eyes were on us as we attempted to slide as quietly as possible through the slightly obliging crowd on our bike. All we wanted to do was get swallowed up into the ground but once we were in the midst of it all it was too late then and so Miriam crept through with me encouraging her on from the back of the bike.

The mangroves were beautiful and after Miriam doing my trick and burying the bike in a big pile of sand which we found out after constituted the end of the road we were assigned a boat and suddenly found ourselves out in the water. It was so relaxing with the boat driver dude just pushing us around the mangrove with a stick rather than an engine. Wasn’t the most exciting 30 minutes but worth it to experience the ultimate calm that exists out there.

We got a real feel for the way people actually live out there on the island and how hard working the women are. Seaweed cultivation accounts for 90% of income out there and so there is a constant presence of workers out in the sea at low tide which makes up for lack of surfers when the tide retreats and exposes the insurable reefs which are heavily populated at high tide. We did consider and enquire about getting lessons out on the island but it would have invariably resulted in having to surf on reefs so decided to leave that to the professionals although some of the waves out there were so amazing. We decided to let them inspire us rather unnerve us and so we headed back to Kuta in search of some friendlier waves and to finish off our Balinese experience!
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