Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
35Trip End Dec 29, 2006
Our driver took us from Ubud for a very reasonable price. Of course he had to ask for directions a few times and I helped him with street signs. This is par for the course and taking it for granted that the driver knows where he is going is like assuming your students are listening to your lecture. We tried to bargain at the Uluwatu Resort but they were inflexible so we had the driver wait for us until we found cheap accommodations with AC. Christy demands this as the hot days are wearing on her and by her, me.
The hotel, Sandat Mas, was more of a compound with five small rooms linked in a line terminating at a small villa, a central building with a kitchen and a small eating area. Our room was attached to the dining area and used to be part of the old kitchen which explained the little random room with big sinks which turned out to be an excellent place to keep my surf gear.
One morning I had coaxed the Swiss guy staying next to us to get up very early and surf with me. We had met him earlier in Mendewi under stressful circumstances. I was trying to take off on a wave and the bump caught me as he paddled below me. When the collision was unavoidable I jumped off my board and plunged for deep water. I came up to see our tangled boards but luckily neither the boards nor us were damaged. That's how we met but now we were comrades ready to tackle a new break.
It was small and as we were paddling around I kept feeling a stinging sensation like a stinging needle on my arms and legs. Looking around I saw floating on the water hundreds of jellyfish the size of a toddler's fist. Taking a stroke forward I could feel their gelatinous mass hitting my wrist and back of my calves and then a stinging itchy sensation
Afterwards I showed Christy the patches on my skin as testimony to our intelligence by staying out in small poor surf. But I did get a tube ride that the Swiss guy saw so I could claim it and also tell Christy. She looked as interested as my students but perked up at the sight of my blotchy red skin.
Later on as we sat on the beach I saw a French guy who also was out in the early morning. I asked him if the jellyfish were gone
Before you descend down cement stairs that lead to the ravine, which in turn ends at the beach cave, there is a little hut. This hut is a wood platform with a mat and a wood roof. On the mats sit and lay several ladies that are like the gatekeepers and sirens of folklore that try to coax you in. Instead of luring ships to their ruin these ladies want you to buy t-shirts. We see them so often we know their names and take their badgering in good spirits. If I say I want to buy a t-shirt with someone else their tanned faces crinkle up and show an incredulous look of disbelief as they swiftly and angrily exchange a few words in Indonesian with each other
The wildlife here is a constant reminder that we are in a distant land. I get up near dawn to avoid the crowds and as I descend the cement staircase when the shadows are long and blurry it is not uncommon to see whole families of monkeys hanging out, fighting, or sitting in quiet repose. As I pass them their brown eyes follow me and I clutch my wetsuit vest more tightly in case they take a violent and sudden interest in it. I cannot stress enough that there is a significant difference in seeing a wild animal in a cage and seeing it within leaping distance. As we know, little hands like to grab.
After a surf session, I was making my way through the cave and looking down to make sure my already battered feet did not hit more coral when I heard something scurrying and scratching. Started I looked up in time to see a lizard the size of my leg rambling away. Luckily we were equally scared and he sought sanctuary in a nook of rock. I could imagine the bacteria growing in its mouth like a middle school science project.
The water is startling clear, and the reef and the multi-colored fish passing over it can be seen underneath my feet as I sit on my board
We are now mentally stuck in Uluwatu. The room is air-conditioned, the surf is good, we have made some friends, and we can't think of a single reason to go anywhere else. Most of the time we don't know what day it is and it is hard to keep track of where our time goes, if it goes at all. Our routine is now firmly planted. I pass the monkeys and surf from 6:30 to I get tired. We eat breakfast at the hotel (banana pancakes and fruit. Then we lounge around away from the heat. Lunchtime we pass the t-shirt ladies at the top of the hill who always give rousing hellos and often look like basking seals lying on their mats. However the loud barks are replaced by croaks of "Want to buy a t-shirt" or "You buy something from me today". There is a long cement path full of tables and chairs that clings to the contour of the cliff overlooking the surf. Along this is a long line of wurongs. A wurong consists of a small kitchen nestled in the back, then a glass counter with a variety of items for sale like t-shirts and surfing wax, and a big platform covered by a mat. The fronts are all open and they are nestled so closely together it is hard to distinguish one from the other. We always go to the same wurong for lunch
After the about the second day, I had lost all sense of time so this is an estimation, we meet the couple who owned the small villa attached to the hotel. He was from North Carolina and had a slight Southern drawl and a wicked cutback (Ashley); she was from Taiwan and four months pregnant (Johanna). To say they were nice and generous to us is an understatement
We became more acquainted with Ashley and Johanna when we had decided to go to the restaurant down the road. Having received a ride there we had brought the stroller to walk past the dry hot landscape back to our room. Across the street from the restaurant situated on the corner rested a raised wooden platform covered by a bamboo mat. It was open on one side facing the street and had a corrugated metal roof. Spray painted on the side in fat letters was "the Uluwatu Street Boyz". A group of three to eight guys hang out here drinking beer, hooting at friends passing by, and doing absolutely nothing productive. The throb of techno music and very bad pop music could be felt and heard at our table across the street. After our meal they asked us if we needed a ride. Greatly underestimating the distance home we declined. On the way back we had passed several stores that were really part of people's houses that displayed and sold a random assortment of goods
We asked Ashley about the offerings (see Ubud) and he explained that a lot of them were dedicated to things that are mischievous or that can cause grief. For instance there is a rock jutting out above the cement stairway leading down to the cave that is exactly at head level
As time went by Collette became infatuated with Johanna and we started to use her name like we use ice cream. Collette if you come here right now you can see Johanna (have ice cream), Collette if you change your clothes then we can see Johanna (have ice cream). We even went as far as saying, "do you think Johanna would like that?" Even now Collette asks in a sad voice, "Dada where is Johanna? She's far away right?"
The surf at Uluwatu was good but never great like the visions of tropical reefs I think about during teaching seminars
The only other place I surfed was a right-hander that Ashley drove me to. It was fairly close to shore and hollow. Six to eight local guys sat on the peak exploiting all of their local knowledge at my expense. I distinctly remember watching one of them drive to the bottom on a pitching wave as it drove across the reef and his buddy saying, "Do something." What I would be doing is just trying to make it. I was downgraded to left-overs but it was great to see a classical reef break doing what the surf movies and magazines always depict
In the end we were sad to leave Bali. My feet looked like Frankenstein's face from the reef but we developed a deep appreciation for Bali and its people. The people of Bali were some of the most friendly and non-imposing people I had ever met. It made me question and revaluate our lifestyle and perceptions in the US. I felt ashamed of my behavior in contrast to their constant waving, smiles, and acceptance of us. The only thing I noticed was that being nice was exhausting. So we said good-bye to Ashley, and Collette in particular said a very reluctant good-bye to Johanna (yes they drove us to the airport too) and we headed to Australia.
A heartfelt thanks to the people of Bali for being so generous and kind to us. Thank you.