Nihiwatu: heaven is a place on earth

Trip Start Dec 29, 2010
Trip End Dec 05, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday 14th July saw us heading to the Domestic Terminal at Bali Airport, destination the island of Sumba.  Our travel agents booked us a week at the only hotel open to westerners on the whole of the island which is still completely undeveloped and desperately poor.  We knew that the hotel was popular with surfers, classified itself as 'barefoot luxury' and that it was heavily involved in working with the local communities, but that really was all we knew.  We set off full of excitement....

At the airport we quickly found the Nihiwatu representatives who did a great job of herding all their clients (only about 20 of us) into a lounge where we waited with trepidation for our flight on some unheard-of local airline.  Everyone obviously started checking each other out, and we were relieved to see a few other families in the mix. 

We made the first of many introductions and a short flight we arrived in Sumba where we were loaded into cars, followed by a small group of curious children.  Our boys looked out of the car window wide-eyed as we drove through the countryside for 1.5 hours, past houses made of weaved palm matting and straw, markets full of people selling vegetables and live animals, and the odd herd of water buffalo wandering in the fields.  They quickly realised that Sumba is incredibly poor - one of the poorest islands in Indonesia - and made direct comparisons to their own lives.  

Then we arrived at Nihiwatu.  Beautiful, incredible, breathtaking, amazing, all do not convey how utterly blown away we were by the place.  After being there for less than half an hour Brad and I turned to each other and said "when shall we come back?!"  It really was completely our kind of thing, and hopefully these next few blog entries will make you realise why.

Nihiwatu really does succeed in being properly 'barefoot'.  The restaurant and bar are low-key and have sand underfoot, which naturally encourages everyone to kick off their shoes and relax, a good but simple selection of drinks and a kicking stereo.  They have opted for communal dining at long tables, which forces everyone to talk and get to know each other, and this creates a fantasticly warm and friendly atmosphere.  Despite being from countries as far apart as Australia, America, Spain, Holland and the UK everyone got on brilliantly.

The sea and the boat house are the heart of the place and the guys who run it, Christian and Ben, were fantastic, not to mention capable of setting pulses racing amongst the females guests from ages 13 to 63. All the guests are around and about either surfing, diving, fishing or just watching the action which creates great banter that continues over a sun downer and then through dinner and often on into the night.

Being the school holidays that place was full of kids as well with ours being amongst the youngest, Leon and Belle from Australia, a super family of 4 kids from Holland, some teenagers from Spain, and more from the US.  The older kids were all wonderfully confident, yet grounded people, taking the little children under their wings, and equally relaxed talking to the adults around the bar in the evenings.

Jamie and Zach certainly settled into the place quickly, as did Brad and I.  Benjamin unfortunately picked up the terrible cold that Brad and I had had in Bali and (with the exception of the first day) wasn't on top form at all.  His cough and cold became a chest infection and his sleeping patterns deteriorated daily which obviously had the knock-on effect that Brad and I slept pretty terribly too.  We took it in turns to try to settle him, Brad preferring the 4 0clock in the morning stint sitting out on the terrace watching the waves at dawn.  


 Despite Benji's illness we persisted with using Rita the babysitter every night so that we could have dinner with everyone else, although as the week progressed Benji treated her more and more badly.  By the end just the sight of her was enough to send him running, screaming to Mummy or Daddy.  But there were a couple of times when he just had to stay with her, in order to show the older 2 more of what Sumba is all about.  More later.....
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