Adventures

I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Celebrate!


We were gathered there that day... "to celebrate not only their wedding, but to inaugurate their marriage based on their long and happy relationship."

My brother Ian and his partner Sean were married in a beautiful, thoughtful and intimate ceremony at our aunt and uncle's house overlooking the city of San Francisco last Saturday.  To be fair, I have not been to many weddings, but based on my experiences, this one was different.  

While most weddings are momentous occasions -- the joining and expanding of families is generally a big deal -- this one had an air of history in the making, an air of the completion of an insurmountable task, an air of gratefulness and relief that I had never experienced before.  

Last summer Ian and Sean were forcibly separated as Sean was required to leave the country after finishing his PhD at UC Berkeley. Because gay marriage was not recognized by the federal government, Ian could not sponsor Sean for citizenship.  Even though they had been in a relationship for eight years, when his student visa expired, Sean was effectively kicked out of the country.  Sean returned to the UK and Ian stayed in Berkeley.  

To think that two people who love each other were separated because of their sexuality and because of other peoples' prejudice is disgusting and heart wrenching.  Their lives and relationship were in a state of angst and unknown, as Sean's returning to the States depended on a professorship, or the Supreme Court decision of DOMA, for which we all waited anxiously.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional.  As I jumped for joy on the deck of the boat in a very remote part of northern Australia, Ian called Sean in Europe, and they asked each other to marry the other.  The ruling of DOMA is one of the most influential court decisions of our generation.  Never has a Supreme Court decision made such an immediate impact on my family and friends.  We were all elated (and fxxk anybody who wasn't!).

Sean reentered the country and he and Ian planned a small ceremony at our aunt and uncle's house.  While they would have rather waited until summer to have a big, outdoor wedding and invite all family and friends, the urgency of the situation required them to tie the knot ASAP.  Thus, the small celebration last Saturday.

I have heard it said that your wedding day is the happiest day of your life, though until last Saturday I had not really believed it.  But when I saw Ian and Sean beaming at one another, on cloud ten, I began to believe.  Because as I said before, this was not just any wedding.  This was a wedding that would not have been recognized by the United States six months earlier.  And perhaps because nobody took this momentous occasion for granted, because everybody in attendance recognized that they too were a part of this historical occasion, the day felt surreal.

Ian and Sean said their vows in Ellen and Michael's living room as the setting sun cast a golden glow over the city of San Francisco.  We laughed, we cried, we praised the powers that be for the opportunity to witness these two people, so deeply in love, have their love recognized by the legal institution of marriage.

And so, this concludes a harrowing story -- with a happy ending -- which in turn creates a new, happy beginning.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Week 2 Check-In

(Written predominantly while standing in line at the post office.)

I've been in California for exactly two weeks today and I already feel myself taking things for granted that a week ago blew me away.  Here is a friendly reminder of just how good we have it. 

Number one: Friends (and family but they count as friends). Part of traveling is meeting new people and making new friends. But there is something to be said for the friendships that last through months without communication of any sort, only to be picked up in a matter of seconds upon reunion. My friends have made my homecoming a celebration and have reincorporated me into their circles without a hitch. Thanks guys -- I'd be seriously depressed without you!

Number two: The stunning natural beauty of San Diego (and California in general). I know it gets tiring to have your breath taken away every time you come up over the hill in Point Loma, but it's impossible not to with the entire expanse of the Pacific Ocean in your vista. Especially when you know that this is the same ocean that is dotted with pristine, tropical pin points of paradise, it becomes all the more enticing. 

Which brings us to  number three. Although the surf in San Diego has been extremely weak save one little swell over Thanksgiving, there are some really sweet waves in the area. And by sweet I mean not super heavy death trap reef breaks.  Which, in my opinion, is nice. However, the water quality in Southern California leaves something to be desired. Go Surfrider foundation!!

Basically, California is such a nice place to live because things are easy. The weather, albeit cold, is manageable. We have great infrastructure. Amazing food. Resources. If you are so fortunate to have a washing machine in your house you can do laundry in a matter of minutes!  Your car will take you anywhere you wan to go!  Missing somebody who is far away? Call, Skype, FaceTime.. It's so easy!  

But it's also easy to forget -- I know. I've only been home two weeks and I am already taking so much of the luxury I missed for so long, for granted. What can I say? It's a good life we've got. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thank You


How does one begin to thank somebody for life?  How does one thank somebody for a lifestyle so incredible, so full of adventure and leisure that dreams pale in comparison?  How do I convey my thanks, the fact that I am so incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I have had these past three years (not to mention my life)?  I guess it would start something like, "Dear Mom and Dad, thanks for everything."

I don't want to get all mushy on you.  But sitting alone in my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur the night before I fly home after an epic three year journey across the Pacific Ocean, it's hard not to get a bit sentimental.  I mean, really.  This adventure has far surpassed all expectations I ever possessed.  I never though -- in my wildest dreams -- that I would swim with humpback whales, surf Cloudbreak, drink kava with a Fijian chief, dive with sharks, stand on the rim of an active volcano, crew on a super yacht, shake hands with Kelly Slater, hold hands with an orangutan, become a local in Sydney, meet some of the coolest people in the world, be treated like a rockstar... the list goes on and on.

But really, the thing I am most grateful for is the lessons I have learned, both personal and worldly.  One of the most important things I have leaned is how to communicate better -- be it with the closest people in my life or somebody so different to me that I might as well be from another planet.  I have learned just how far a smile, or a nod, or a slight bow can go with somebody with whom I share no common language or culture.  I have also learned not to be quite so self-conscious.  If a whole village comes out to watch us dance then I had better well get up and dance, even if I look like a total kook.  I know they are not laughing at me, they are laughing with me (I hope?).  It is human nature to be endeared to people who put themselves in awkward situations for others' entertainment or to respect another culture, and endearment goes a long way.  I have learned to eat some really weird food, but have also learned to put my foot down when I've had too much, which can be hard to do with an entire village watching.  

I have learned how to navigate through an atoll, I have learned how to say hello in 12 different languages, have learned how to entertain myself for 19 days at sea,  how to identify tropical plants and husk a coconut, have studied the coastline of the entire eastern side of Australia (Melboune to Cape York) and have sailed nearly 20,000 nautical miles of open ocean.

However, the most important lesson I learned -- and will forever be learning -- is the importance of respect.  Respect for people of all ages, genders, religions, sexual orientation and beliefs; respect for the ocean and the absolute power of nature; respect for fishes of all shapes and sizes, from clown fish to tiger sharks; respect for poverty and respect for wealth, respect for ailments and respect for health; respect for women's bodies -- particularly my own, and most recently, respect for my home.

I started writing this post in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but have since traveled about 8,000 miles and arrived home in San Diego yesterday evening.  What a trip.  It is good to be home.  I can't wait to spend time with friends and family, reconnect and share memories.  Aside from the fact that it is ridiculously freezing (particularly after three years in the tropics), California is beautiful and I am lucky to call it home.  

And although I am home, I do not intend for the adventure to stop.  I am and will always be salty -- and will do my best to continue to entertain you with stories of whatever crosses my mind.  Which brings me to my last point: I want to thank you, my faithful reader, for following my blog all these years and supporting me through high times and low.  It's been quite a trip, made all the more sweet because I've gotten to share it with you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bangkok

Bangkok. The name alone suggests debauchery, intrigue, erotica and exotica.  And true to its name, Bangkok is filled with dark alleys filtering into bright and busy streets lined with food stalls selling roasted chicken and pad thai.  Inhaling the occasional cloud of chilli oil might sear your nose and throat -- an unintentional pepper spray attack.  Yes, Bangkok is the Thailand that I had envisioned for so many years. This isn't to say that the azure waters and sheer limestone cliffs of the south are not just as much Thailand, but I guess I wanted I see her nitty gritty side. And I did. But first, let us return to the paradise of Phi Phi.

After recovering from the stomach bug which put me out for a few days, I was finally able to start my advanced open water dive course. Whereas I am glad I did it, I have decided that PADI is nothing more than a brilliant pyramid scheme. You could have 1,000 dives and yet, if you have not paid the $300 to do the course, you are not an "advanced" diver.  Regardless of my feelings towards PADI, I was stoked to get back under water. Phi Phi doesn't hold a candle to what I saw in Indo (there I go whinging again) but I really enjoyed the dives. Our "Fish ID" dive was the best - we saw an octopus running along the reef as well as a big morey eel swimming around. The night dive was also cool. 

But perhaps the best part of being in Phi Phi was when Emma finally showed up. We were supposed to rendezvous in Phuket but neither of us had heard great things so Emma decided to meet me there. She, Kyle and I spent the next three days getting into all sorts of trouble - from fire limbo and fire jump rope to snorkel trips to "The Beach" to eating and drinking copious amounts. Yes, we had fun. And we could have stayed in Phi Phi a long time, had Emma quit her job and I blown off my flight home.   Neither of us really wanted to do this (although we seriously considered it) and so we hopped on the train to Bangkok.

One thing about Southeast Asia is that land travel is cheap, easy and comfortable.  Emma and I were able to take a ferry, a bus and a train to Bangkok for 1,400 baht each -- about $40.  I have grown quite fond of sleeper trains over the past few weeks because they are a clean and comfortable way to travel overnight.  Sure, the train is swaying and clacking and whatnot, but it is a piece of cake compared with trying to sleep on the boat during a passage.  

After a restful night sleep, we arrived in Bangkok the next afternoon.  Having no idea where to go we took the guide book's advice, and headed to Banglamphu.  Of course it is the most touristy part of Bangkok, but it also has the widest range of accommodation and lots of sights nearby.   After getting our room sorted and freshening up, Emma and I set out to see the town.  We didn't get very far as we had to try food from various stalls all the way down the street.  I must say I was disappointed with the food in Thailand.  I know this was my fault -- I stuck to the touristy parts rather than seek out the offtrack culinary gems -- but in the two weeks I was in Thailand I never ate a meal that blew me away.  Sure everything was good, everything was cheap, but I can't pick out one meal that stood above the rest.  I guess I will have to go back.

It just so happened that Emma and I arrived in Bangkok on the full moon festival of Loi Krathong.  We walked down to the river where thousands of people were setting tiny boats made of banana leaves adrift, adorned with a candle and incense.  We bought one and set it out into the river, ensuring a prosperous and lucky year.  The most magical aspect of the evening was the lanterns -- hundreds of homemade lanterns like mini hot air balloons floated in the sky -- like shooting stars hung in midair.  The mix of the chaos of the city and the serenity of the lanterns floating in the night sky was enough to give me the chills on a warm evening.

The next day Emma and I set out to see the city.  We were nabbed by a friendly tuk-tuk driver who offered to take us around the city to see the sights for a very cheap price, so long as we agreed to stop at his friends' shops along the way.  We agreed, and along with seeing the tallest Buddha in the world we also got to see many shops selling trinkets.   Neither of us minded blowing off the tailor who was in cahoots with our driver because we were having too much fun being carted around by tuk-tuk.  Finally, our driver got fed up with us and dropped us off at the Grand Palace before zooming off.  

Of course he could have told us that the Grand Palace was closed that afternoon, but never mind, so we walked around until we came across a ferry building.  We hopped on a ferry having no idea where it was going, but it was cheap and a good way to see the city.  Somehow we ended up at Siam Paragon, a massive shopping mall that hosts both a Rolls Royce and a Lamborghini dealership.  You know, just in case you are in the market.  I don't like driving in flip-flops so I didn't ask to go for a test drive, but next time I'll wear my driving shoes.  Emma couldn't be bothered and so we moved on.

That night we went out in Silom with friends we met over dinner.  Silom is known for gay clubs, strip clubs and a night market where you can buy remarkably cheap Prada and Gucci handbags.  We stayed out until the wee hours of the morning shopping, drinking and dancing, but steered well clear of the strip clubs.  Men standing outside the clubs offered a menu of the things we could see inside while whispering "ping pong?" but they were a little too seedy for my taste.  

And then came the dreaded day that Emma went home.  I spent the day moping around but was cheered up by the friends we had met the previous night.  They invited me out with them again which I decided was better than hanging out in my hostel room alone, so I took them up on the offer.  We ended up having a rather debaucherous night which I will refrain from describing here.  It will make a good story to tell you over a beer.  

The next day I left Bangkok (alone) and made my way back to Pangkor via a 24 hour train ride followed by a three hour bus.  Mom and Dad met me at the bus station and took me to dinner before going back to the boat.  The boat has been hauled out of the water and living "on the hard" really sucks, so I can't say I was sad to have missed it.  I spent two nights on the boat and packed up three years worth of stuff in 12 hours.  Of course this was more difficult than I had anticipated -- how am I to pack two surfboards, a guitar, ukulele, clothes, souvenirs, dive gear and so much more?!  Oh the woes of being a pack rat...

Somehow I managed to stuff most of my belongings into five bags and then again managed to stuff them all on the bus.  We are now in Kuala Lumpur, enjoying the sights for a day before flying back to California.  What an amazing trip it's been.  But the adventure won't stop here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thailand Tourist

I've been in Thailand for over a week now -- but I don't really think I've seen Thailand -- unless you count boozy backpacker bars and tours filled with westerners.  Don't get me wrong, it's been awesome, but something tells me that in order to see the real Thailand you have to venture off the beaten path, which I have yet to do.  But even the beaten path in Thailand is a trip. 

After spending a few days in Krabi Kyle and I took a longtail boat to the Railay peninsula. We were recommended by friends to stay in Ton Sai, a tiny beach village nestled among sheer limestone cliffs and frequented by rock climbers.  Ton Sai has a much more rustic, hippie vibe than the flashier Railay beaches, which suited us. I found us accommodation at Chill Out bar and bungalows for 300 baht per night (about $10). 

Ton Sai was a fun spot. Good food, good people, good vibes... It kind of reminded me of the surf scene on the Bukit peninsula in Bali, except with climbers. And I felt like the kook, the odd one out, because I don't climb. However, when in Rome.. so Kyle and I signed up for a "Deep Water Soloing" climbing tour. 

The day of the tour a group of us piled into a longtail boat and headed out into the bay dotted with tiny islands with massive limestone faces soaring straight up from the water. We soon came up on Poto island, where ladders from the base of rocks dangled into the water. The boats anchored and our guides lit up spliffs while they waited for us to get ready. 

I watched as the first crew was ferried by kayak over to the ladders. Deep water soloing is rock climbing on rocks over without ropes, so when you fall you fall into water. No problem, right?  Only thing is, it's not hard to climb up 10 meters, but jumping off a 10 meter cliff into water is, well, a bit scary. 

I stuck to the lower shelves, reminding myself once again how much I dislike heights and how hard climbing is. Over and over, I watched really good climbers who had never deep water soloed before, easily climb up 25 or 30 meters, before looking down and realising, "oh, shit, how do I get off this thing?"  Quite entertaining, really. Our guides were amazing, climbing higher and faster than anybody else, only to do a backflip off a tiny ledge into the water. They make me believe that Thai ninjas might still exist. 

The tour wasn't all climbing -- we went to a beautiful beach for lunch, went kayaking and snorkelling -- all the things that I generally laugh at people for paying heaps of money to do when I am on the boat (Rutea). Fortunately Thailand is cheap and laid back and the whole travel by land gives me a different perspective on things. 

Take for example, Chill Out bar. Chill Out is a great place to chill, have drinks, meet people and party. It is not, however, a good place to sleep. After two nights of bands playing until 5 AM we had to change venues because I could not sleep. And I need sleep.  We had a great time in Ton Sai and learned a good lesson: don't shit where you eat -- don't party where you sleep, and were well prepared to head to the island of Ko Phi Phi.  

Phi Phi is known for three things: partying, diving, and where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. I (obviously) was most interested in diving, and with dive shops lining the streets, figured it would be a good place to get my advanced certification.  Upon arrival we, along with the hundreds of other tourists getting off the ferry, were inundated by people trying to get us to go to their hotels. Kyle and I decided to take our chances and set off alone, walking to the far end of town. We found a nice (relatively) quiet guesthouse to stay at. After getting settled we set off to see the town and to check out dive shops. 

My first impression: Phi Phi -- where Thailand meets Disneyland. Shops selling trinkets and clothes, dive dive dive shops, restaurants, bars.. And a loose party atmosphere. But I hadn't seen anything yet. 

In the evening, after finally choosing a dive shop to do my course with (, Kyle and I went for another cruise around town. I didn't want I party because started my course at 7 the next morning, and because I had a bad rumble in my belly. Regardless, I was fully entertained by what we found.

Has anybody really written about what the night life in Phi Phi is like? Because it is kind of insane. The bars, of which there are tons, are packed. Vendors on the street sells buckets of vodka and red bull or whatever else you could want. A man with a monkey will let you hold it and take pictures for a few baht. Want a massage? No problem. Weed? Ask at the bar. I am sure you could get harder drugs if you were looking. 

At one bar there is a Thai boxing ring where they encourage drunk people to get up and beat the crap out of each other. After all, each contender gets a free bucket of drink, and if that is not incentive then I don't know what is.  The entertainment and gimmicks go on and on. And that is just the bars. 

If one manages to find their way through the shit show and down to the beach, they will find a full on rave scene. The bars pump out techno from huge amps while Thai boys spin fire. A massive jump rope is lit on fire and people are encouraged to jump in it, and the same with a ring of fire. People swim in the water and run down the beach naked. Anything goes. It's like Las Vegas, except they don't have to worry about law suits. 

Around midnight, just as the party was picking up, Kyle and I headed back to our room. I was looking forward to a nice quiet night sleep -- my first in about a week. Except that at 3 AM I awoke to find that the rumble in my stomach had turned into full on warfare and, sparing you the intimate details, I was very sick for the next 12 hours. Food poisoning? GI issues? Stomach flu? I'll never know, but it really sucked. 

Fortunately the people at Aquanaut dive are super relaxed and I was able to postpone my course a few days so I can fully recover. 

This brings us up to date. The weather is hot and beautiful but I am keeping an eye on the massive cyclone that just hit the Philippines and is headed toward Vietnam and north Thailand.  If anything, we might see some rain and wind -- a minor inconvenience. My heart goes out to all the people who lost family, friends, homes and livelihoods in the Philippines and elsewhere. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Singapore Sling to Maitai


Singapore feels like a long time ago now -- especially after 36 hours of traveling and two countries later -- but I'll recollect as best I can. 

We crossed from Indonesia to Singapore in rather uneventful fashion, with the crossing of the Malacca Straits quick and painless. Immigration was the easiest I have experienced -- a customs boat came up along side us and we dropped our passport and papers in their fishing net to be stamped and processed. After a few minutes the documents were returned and we continued on to the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. 

Oh the joys of being back in a marina!  The last marina Rutea was docked at was in Darwin, and it felt extremely luxurious to be able to get to and from the boat without getting wet and salty, never mind the air conditioned gym, infinity pool and wifi. 

Kyle and I ventured into town the first afternoon we arrived. My first impression of Singapore was, "wow, this would be a really fun city if I had a lot of money."  As we walked down Orchard Rd we noticed store after designer store. Somebody should tell them that when there is Prada on every street corner it isn't impressive anymore -- not to mention Gucci, Versace, Rolex, LV, Armani to name a few -- all of which were packed with shoppers. 

Fortunately shopping really isn't my thing, but I love eating so the next night the four of us headed to Little India for dinner. Nobody told us that Sunday nights every Indian man in Singapore converges on Little India to walk the streets and meet up with friends, and we were baffled and amazed at the amount of people on the streets -- but only men. 

We had a delicious and reasonably priced dinner at Lagnaa, and then walked the streets around the neighbourhood. I've never been to India but I can only imagine the people-packed streets lined with shops selling everything from clothes to cellphones to spices must be something like the real thing. People seemed to be in a festive mood because it was the start of Deepawali, the Hindu celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, and the streets were lit up like Christmas. (Is that a PC comparison?)  Regardless, it was refreshing to see a part of Singapore that wasn't totally polished. 

Because we had so much fun in Little India, Kyle and I decided to check out the Arab quarter the next night. While it was not as convincing as Little India, we had a nice time smoking a hookah on the sidewalk and watching the street scenes. As for food, I refused to dish out $10 for a plate of hummus, and the cheap food we got was unremarkable. I heard from other (wealthier) people that the food was great. You get what you pay for. 

Chinatown was another highlight of Singapore. It rivals that of San Francisco or any other in the world. It was really the Chinese who established Singapore as a trading outpost in the eighteenth century, and those influences can be seen throughout the city. In fact, due to the international history of Singapore, there are four national languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. 

Right then. We spent a week in Singapore. In that time I decided that I would get off the boat with Kyle, and spend my last few weeks in Asia backpacking around with him. Whereas I wanted the closure of sailing all the way to where the boat will be berthed for the next few months in Malaysia, it is a 300 mile slog through the Straits and frankly, I'd rather go play in Thailand. 

Which is exactly what I am doing now. On Sunday Kyle and I took a taxi to the Singapore MRT, took two light rail trains to the Malay border, hopped on a train to Kuala Lumpur, from there took an overnight sleeper train to Hat Yai, Thailand, and from there took a six hour bus ride to Krabi. Sure, we could have hopped on a two hour flight, but even 36 hours of land travel is much faster than sailing.  And it was actually pretty fun. 

From what I've seen so far, Thailand is awesome. The food is amazing and cheap, accommodations and backpackers plentiful and the alcohol runs freely. I already had my first (and last) encounter with Chang beer -- the bottle with the cool elephants on it -- and urge you to avoid it at all costs. 

And so, for the next few weeks I will be enjoying my last bit of traveling for a while (maybe?). If you have any suggestions or helpful advice (like not to drink Chang beer), please let me know

Friday, November 1, 2013

End of Indo


This is my third attempt to write in the past week.  I've had writer's block -- or rather, writer's traffic jam -- whatever it is the words don't seem to pour out on the page like they have in the past.  Perhaps this is because we are now in the bustling, entertaining and slightly overwhelming city of Singapore, or perhaps this is because I can't find the right words to convey my gratitude for and awe of Indonesia.  

Sail Indonesia is over.  Sayanara, sampai jumpa, hasta luego and see you later Indo.  It was rad.  I have been thinking about how I want to sum up my three months in Indonesia -- best, worst and funniest; top ten; favorite places and the people I met -- but really, in an act of laziness (not to be confused with apathy) I will let my previous posts speak for me.  

I will say this: Sail Indonesia was an incredible experience highlighted by overwhelming gratitude, enthusiasm, and curiosity from local Indonesians we met, and I felt undeserving of all the luxury and expense lavished upon us from day one.  But really, Sail Indo did itself no favors, because by the time we reached Bintan it was hard to impress us.  After seeing 12,000 dancers dance in your honor, do you really care about ten or twenty dancers doing a traditional dance?  Maybe not so much.  And after being fed fried bananas by a cute girl of marriageable age, why would I want to feed myself -- even if the food is good?

Ok, now I am just being a brat.  But I hope you get the idea.  I do, however, feel the need to give a shout out to every amazing person who made my Indo experience so incredibly special.  In Saumlaki we were greeted by Desi and Grace who patiently took hours of their time to teach us how to say "terima kasih" (thank you).  They were my first friends in Indonesia.  Their colleague Boby invited us to our first party in the country.

In Wakatobi our steadfast guides not only treated us royally but also invited us into their homes.  Cayu, Dian and Sesi were great guides -- taking us to their school and to meet their families -- and we will be friends forever.  Aldi was there too.  We also had a special dinner at Ade's house (and Cayu drove me there -- my first scooter ride!).

Buton was outrageous because we were not only treated like royalty but like rockstars as well.  My best friends from Buton were Tati, Tika and Salam, the three guides who helped me and Kyle to fit in a little bit better.  They also protected us from the mobs who wanted pictures taken with us.  Tika and Salam sent us gifts after we left the island via another boat, which was very sweet, although they shouldn't have.  At Sagori island Ralf and Adi were excellent tour guides and we had interesting conversations trying to understand one another's culture.  In Bintan we had a great time with Zul, who came out to the boat and took beautiful pictures of Rutea.  

I also have to give a massive thank you to Sam, the organizer of Sail Indonesia, who made the whole thing possible.  He took on the daunting task of organizing 80 boats to sail two different routes through Indonesia, which is like trying to herd cats through a fun house.  Regardless, he put up with whingey yachties and all the challenges that Indo can throw in the mix with a smile and a dry, witty comment to follow.

These were the people who made the Eastern route so special.  I thank each and every one of you for your genuine friendship and wish you the absolute best.  I hope that you come visit me in the U.S. someday.  

As you might be able to tell, I fully endorse Sail Indonesia.  Sure, you could cruise Indonesia on your own, but even with 13,000 islands it is tricky to find good anchorages -- let alone pick which islands to visit.  Sail Indo takes care of everything, including parties, tours, safety and making sure you get a full on Indonesian experience.  And while I found Indo to be some of the trickiest navigation that we have encountered, the diversity -- both geographically and demographically -- is worthy of a lifetime of exploration.  

I love Indonesia.  From epic surf to cheeky oragnutans to incredible underwater scenery, Indo has it all.  I can't wait to go back.  Someday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Woe Is Me Pt. III



The last of a trilogy, I hope.

I know you're sick of hearing of our mishaps and misadventures.  Or maybe not -- maybe you are smirking smugly to yourself thinking, "that's what they get!"  Either way, I am not sure what is up, but in the past few days we (Rutea, more specifically) has been a magnet for rocks, coral heads, squalls and, most recently, a fat ass piece of something that got stuck on the rudder.

There we were, sailing down the Straits of Malacca, 1.5 miles away from our anchorage at Bintan Island.  The morning was rife with rain squalls and freighters, but the current was with us so we were making good time.  The Strait was filled with trash and random floating objects, so Mom was watching the water keenly as Dad was at the helm.  I was down below doing a crossword puzzle.

All of a sudden: CHUNK.  CLUNK. BANG.  THUD.  There is that moment when you hit something as you are sailing along that makes your heart absolutely drop, followed by the thought, "Oh fxxk, not again."  I dashed up into the cockpit but Mom and Dad looked as bewildered as me.  They had not seen anything in the water.  When Mom tried to put the engine in forward the prop made a horrible clunking noise, so Dad went below to check the engine.  

We could all feel something banging at the stern of the boat, but Dad came back up and said nothing looked wrong with the engine.  Then he checked the stern of the boat: "Ha! Guys, you gotta come look at this!  Bring the camera," he shouted from the aft deck.  I grabbed the camera and ran out, only to find  four beams of wood sticking out from under the boat.  It looked like we had effectively docked ourselves.  


Effectively dry-docked

Here we were, in the middle of the Straits of Malacca with squalls on the horizon and three feet of wind chop on the water, a current pulling us towards the rocks and 1.5 bloody miles away from our anchorage, we get caught up on these massive pieces of wood.  (Any words come to mind?)

Dad decides to jump in the water to see what exactly is going on (in the middle of the busiest waterway in the world).  We tied a line to the stern so he wouldn't get swept away with the current, but I was more concerned with him getting bashed in the head by the boat, which was heaving and dropping in the choppy conditions.  He jumped in and, after a minute or so (maybe even less), decided that we would have to sail into the anchorage, beams in tow.  The four beams were connected by two iron rods, the square of which had managed to wedge itself over the skeg and rudder.  How is this possible?  I have no idea.  I just know that it happened.  

Fortunately, because we are all such competent sailors, and because we miraculously still had steering, we were able to sail up to anchor.  Soon after anchoring Dad jumped into the water, hacksaw in hand, and in 15 minutes sawed the iron rod that connected the four beams together, freeing the beams from the rudder.  He said there was minor damage to the skeg and hull of the boat, which was extremely lucky.  

We are now anchored off Nirwana Resort on the island of Bintan.  Singapore is a mere 20 miles away, and the prices at the resort reflect that.  We are definitely (almost) not in Indonesia anymore.  However, they let us use the pool for free and give us as many fresh towels as we want.  There are also showers galore.  I intend on making full use of these luxuries before we check out of the country and move on to Singapore.  And hopefully, HOPEFULLY, our encounter with the beams was the last misadventure for a while (although I kind of doubt it).  I mean really, we have hit more things in the past three days than we have in the past three years.  What is up with that?!

P.S. I thought it was very mature of me that I didn't mention to Dad that the Straits of Malacca have the most deadly and the highest population sea snakes of anywhere in the world.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Woe (Whoa) part. II

Two of my very least favorite ways to be woken on the boat are by: 1. lightning and 2. crashing into something. Yet both of these unpleasant ways to get me out of by bunk in record speed have happened in the past, oh, say, three hours.

Early this morning I woke up to an electrical storm. Call me a weenie, but I guess I didn't grow up around enough lightning and frankly, it scares the hell out of me. This could be because I sleep under a rather large metal pole (the mast) and should lightning strike it I am pretty sure my brains would be fried. I was consoled by the fact that there was a large cell tower on shore not a half mile away, and hoped the lightning bolts would head for that instead of Rutea. But you never know. As the flashes and BOOMS got closer and closer together, I thought of our evacuation route.

You see, we were anchored off a nice white sand beach lined with coconut palms. Earlier in the day after we got settled in, Kyle and I went ashore to stretch our legs, play some frisbee and get off the boat for the first time in four days. After we dragged the dinghy up on the beach and stripped down to our swimsuits, we were promptly attacked by mosquitos. I could actually feel the little buggers bite, they were so big and vicious. We both jumped into the water to escape them, but still had to drag the dinghy down the beach and back into the water to make our escape, and of course we were eaten alive in the process. So I had to weigh in my mind the thought of being marooned on a mosquito infested beach versus having my brains fried by lightning. I decided to take my chances with the lightning.

Fortunately, the electrical storm passed and my brains remain intact (relatively speaking). I fell back into a nice, blissful sleep, although I woke up half way when Mom and Dad started the engine and pulled up the anchor. I lazily stayed in bed and dozed for a while as we motored along longer until CRUNCH.

"Corie get out of bed now!" I heard Mom yell as my feet hit the cabin floor. "I'm up! I'm up!" Dad rushed up forward to see if water was gushing in from anywhere and I went up on the bow to see what we had hit. The water was not very clear but I could see the shape of a coral bommie about six feet under the surface. Of course there was no indication of it on the charts - or anywhere for that matter - but there it was. The depth went from 40 feet to 6 feet in a matter of seconds. Scary.

From inside the boat there was no evidence of hitting anything, i.e. water gushing up under the floorboards or a huge dent in the side of the hull. We will only really be able to tell the extent of the damage by jumping in the water and checking out the hull and keel from underneath. Dad is pretty sure only the keel of the boat hit the bommie and there should not be too much (if any) damage to the hull. Whereas the sickening crunch of fiberglass mashing into a coral head is a horrible way to wake up, it is very effective. I'm awake! I'm up! And in fact I'm writing you!

But really, this is getting ridiculous. We are fifty miles south of Singapore and I would like to get there intact. At least we completed our last overnight passage two nights ago, which wasn't fun either. Between the lightning (yes, more), the squalls, the erratic courses of dimly lit fishing boats and the massive freighters steaming along at 15 knots that wouldn't even notice if they ran over us, it was a bit... harrowing. I might be overly dramatic but I am pretty sure I sprouted my first gray hair during that watch. Hooray for no more night watches - at least until we get to Singapore. Who knows after that.

Can't you tell how much fun we're having?! Don't you want to be here too?! I won't even begin to delve into the topic of fresh food (or lack thereof), or how bloody hot it is. Just do me a favor and remember me as you bite into that tart, juicy apple after putting on a sweater on a crisp fall afternoon.
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At 10/19/2013 9:34 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 00°28.48'N 104°26.38'E

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Woe Is Me

I shouldn't complain. I mean, I REALLY shouldn't complain. But - I am tired. Everyone is tired. Even the boat is tired. Not only has Sail Indonesia been an exhausting adventure, but it started long before that: since we left Sydney at the end of March we have covered around 5,000 nautical miles (roughly speaking), and have not stayed in any one anchorage, marina or port longer than three weeks. That is seven months of go, go, go - through some rather serious stretches of water if I do say so myself (Great Barrier Reef, Torres Straits, Gulf of Carpenteria, the Arafura, Banda and Java Seas to name a few).

The vibe throughout the Sail Indonesia fleet has become rather subdued. I can't help but feel sorry for the good people of Belitung who hosted the most recent event. Just as with all the other places we have gone, there was cultural dancing and a traditional feast, all of which were poorly attended by us yachties. You KNOW a yachtie is burned out on nasi goreng when he or she turns down a free meal. Fortunately there was a little warrong on the beach that sold cheap beer, so most of us hung out there in the evenings drinking and sharing stories of woe about how our boats are falling apart.

Like I said, not only are people exhausted but so are the boats. Everybody seems to be having some sort of failure - be it autopilots, engines, rigging or refrigeration. People (ourselves included) are looking forward to getting to Singapore - where apparently you can get anything in the world, and then to Malaysia - where we will berth the boat while we go back to the States and where Mom and Dad will have some serious work done when they return in the new year. (I plan to stay in the States and get some of that.. what's it called again.. structure - yes, that's it - structure in my life.)

However, it's not over yet. We still (only?) have 300 miles to get to Singapore, which ironically, is through the busiest waterway in the world - the Straits of Malacca. That should be yet another adventure. In the meantime, we are slowly making our way north toward the equator, and I feel it. Whereas the sun might gently kiss your bare skin in northern California, on the equator it bites you. We all crowd in the shade of the cockpit or try to lie as still as possible under the fans but even then we sweat because it is so humid. Everything feels wet all the time. Thankfully, the squalls that bring lightning and thunder also bring rain and a cool breeze, which is a relief.

And so, although we might be a little cranky and whingey and tired, all is well. Really, the past few months (not to mention years!) have been amazing. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
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At 10/15/2013 1:02 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 02°31.03'S 108°59.64'E

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Ooo-Ooo-Aaa-Aaa (Orangutans in Borneo)



Possibly my favorite photo of the trip, taken by Dad

To be completely honest, I've had a hard time writing this blog. It seems that the more awesome an event, the harder it is to convey. How does one describe the feeling of thrill evoked from holding hands with an orangutan? Or waking up to the silent beauty of the Kumai river deep in the jungle of Borneo? I don't want to leave anything out, but to report on all events and emotions would be impossible. I'll give it a go but try to stick to the highlights, or else this epic epic will end up a bit too Homer-esque.

We, along with five other boats, were picked up from our boats in the Kumai anchorage by a klotok on Monday morning. A klotok is a traditional Indonesian wooden boat with two decks, brightly painted and more like a houseboat than anything else I can think of. The upper deck is open but shaded, with chairs and a table like a living room. This is where we ate, drank, slept and watched the world go by (i.e. lived). The lower floor contained the galley (if you can call it that), sleeping quarters for the crew and a head with a western toilet (yes!). There were 16 of us yachties on the boat, although we split up at night and slept on other klotoks.

After we were collected from our boats we headed up an arm of the Kumai river, headed toward the orangutan reserves in Tanjung Puting national park (insert Heart of Darkness reference here). After a few hours of motoring up the river we stopped at Tanjung Harapan, where orangutans are rehabilitated and orphaned orangutans are raised. We walked for about twenty minutes -- the perfect length of a hike through sweltering, sauna-like jungle -- to a feeding platform where orangutans congregate at 3 PM every day for lunch.

As you probably know, an orangutan looks like a hairy, hunchbacked, red-head. Aside from this and the fact that their arms are as long as their legs, they look quite human-like. So to see one hang from a treetop is a bit strange -- until you see her lean out and grab another branch, swing gracefully onto the next tree which leans way over, allowing her to access the next tree, shimmy down the trunk using her hands and feet, only to land gracefully on the feeding platform and start gorging herself on bananas, all the while her baby clutching her long red hair for dear life. There is reason behind their name: orang-utan, meaning "man of the jungle".

At 3 PM a ranger dumps a backpack full of bananas, coconuts, cassava and other treats on the feeding platform. There is no mad dash for the food as one might expect, but rather a cautious mama and her baby approach from above, always keeping an eye out for trouble. Others watch on as she eats her fill, and once she leaves another descends from the trees to grab a few snacks before jetting off. Obviously there is a hierarchy and the most dominant eat first, leaving scraps for the others if they are lucky. At Tanjung Harapan feeding time is civil, interesting yet mellow. Things were not quite as civilized at Camp Leakey.

After a night of playing cards, an average dinner and sleeping on lumpy mattresses in mosquito nets in our living room, we awoke to the shrieking of proboscis monkeys and the roar of other klotoks heading toward Camp Leakey. Soon we were underway to our next destination where our guides said we were sure to have some exciting encounters with orangutans. They were right. Upon arrival at Camp Leakey we tied up to another klotok which was tied to the dock. Most people went for a walk but I decided not to, and kicked myself when they came back saying they had a close encounter with the orangutan Percy, who got annoyed when he couldn't find the peanuts in the guide's pocket and proceeded to rip his shirt. And I missed it. I wanted to go for another walk right then and there, but we had to eat lunch first.

As all 16 of us were eating lunch on our boat, we heard a commotion and yelling coming from the boat we were tied to. Apparently Percy -- who is a very cheeky orangutan -- snuck onto the other klotok and stole a can of sweetened condensed milk from the table, right behind the backs of the other guides. When they saw him they charged and Percy took off, scrambled up a tree and sat back, gleefully enjoying his can of sweet milk while we took pictures, laughed and made wily comments. But the coolest experience of the trip, and possibly one of the top five coolest experiences of my life, was yet to come.

After lunch we set out for the 2 PM feeding. As we walked down the long, wooden walkway (like a dock above the jungle floor) a large orangutan swung herself onto the path. We all stopped. Cameras clicked away as she did a walking somersault not 15 feet in front of us. Then she stopped in the middle of the path, effectively blocking us from crossing. "Just keep walking, just go around her calmly," our guide told us. Oh, right, stay calm while this 200 pound orangutan, who could tear your arms off without second thought, watches you pass within inches of her.


No glass!  No walls!  No fences!

Naturally our guide was right and after passing her she slunk away, uninterested. It is bizarre to see orangutans walking around freely after being separated by the thick glass of zoos in all other encounters I have experienced, but I guess this is why people come to Borneo. One orangutan in particular was walking in the direction of the feeding platform. "Just follow her, she knows where to go," our guide Febri told us. We walked along, being led by this hairy, short little thing with an awkward gait.

Kyle and I were in the front of our group as we were walking and our guide, Joe, walked up along side us. "Hey, you want to try something?" he asked. "Ummmm, OK?" we both said, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. "Come here, just walk along side her," and he indicated toward the orangutan. Kyle walked up along side of her and I did on the other. She looked up at Kyle and, with her gorilla-like hand, grabbed onto his arm. Then she did the same to me. I can only describe holding hands with an orangutan as like holding hands with a cheeky, unpredictable, extremely hairy troll that has superhuman strength.


 As Kyle and I walked hunched over, in the iron grasp of this creature, I was not sure whether to laugh or scream. She did not hurt me, but she did not seem keen to let go, either. While her leathery hand was wrapped around my arm I took the opportunity to feel her wiry orange hair. I was tempted to touch the baby that was clutching her, but refrained with better judgment. We walked along for a minute or two while people laughed and snapped photos, until she got tired of me and Kyle, let us go, and grabbed onto the next two closest people.

Except this time, not only did she grab them with her hands, but with her feet as well, making the two people carry her. She looked back at the rest of us with a cheeky grin on her face, well aware of the fact that we were carrying her to lunch. People took turns carrying her most of the way to the feeding platform. Of course everybody wanted to be able to say, "I carried/held hands with an orangutan", because aside from being a bit smelly afterward, it was pretty damn thrilling.

Feeding time at Camp Leakey was exciting. Once we arrived at the platform I stopped and looked up in the surrounding trees (hard to do when you are walking for fear of tripping or stepping in a swarm of fire ants) where I noticed no fewer than eight orangutans waiting for lunch, most of them females with babies. Once the rangers had unloaded food the first orangutans approached the platform. They came from all directions, often sneaking up behind tourists who were taking pictures of orangutans already at the platform and pushing them out of the way to get by.

In one incident one mother with her baby drank all the coconut milk out of a bucket, which pissed off another mother (with her baby as well). There was a bit of a confrontation on the platform before the first mama took off, running through the crowd of tourists who parted quickly to help her escape. She passed right by me and I could hear her baby whimpering as she bolted up a tree. The other mama followed her, charging up the same tree. We all held our breaths as we watched the action above us. It looked like a one-way tree -- there were none others close enough for the first mama to get to. As the second mama approached closer and closer, the first mama leaned way out. The tree top swayed and bended and leaned way over into the neighboring trees. The first mama gracefully grabbed onto the next tree and swung herself into it, sending the other tree with the pissed off mama flinging back into place. The crowd below cheered and then released a collective sigh of release that she made a safe escape.

Exciting times in Tanjung Puting, my friend. We went on to see a "king" or alpha male orangutan, complete with the big, flabby cheeks that alpha orangutans have; we saw tons more proboscis monkeys; had another fun night of drinking and card playing and so on and so forth. Ironically, one of the most entertaining aspects of the trip was little Braca, my two-year old buddy from the boat Atea, who kept everybody on the boat on their toes. He was nearly as entertaining to watch as the orangutans -- never knowing where he'd go or whose face he would thrust his toy crocodile in next. I obviously have a soft spot for animals and babies, so the trip was a pretty massive score in that sense.


Me and my buddy Braca rocking out

Alas, one journey over and another begun. We left Kumai yesterday and are now headed to Belitung (wherever that is). We have just over two weeks left on our Indonesian visas (time flies, right?!) and have about 400 miles left to sail (or motor) to Singapore. We are at 2 degrees south of the equator, there is 8 knots of wind, flat calm seas, we are cruising at about 4 knots with the spinnaker up and it is 91 degrees in the cabin. All is well.

P.S. I promise I will post pictures someday!!
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At 10/11/2013 4:07 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 03°07.84'S 111°32.26'E

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bali Bye

Bali exists in a time warp where ancient coincides with modern, where the people seem to be timeless because nobody realizes that the days have melted into weeks, the months into years and the years into eras. While one could spend a lifetime time-traveling through all the nooks and crannies of Bali, we were not given the luxury of infinite visas - in fact we have to be out of the country in about three weeks - and there is still so much to see.

A few days ago Kyle and I were sitting at the top of the cliff at Impossibles, watching the wave work her magic. "Dude, how long have we been here?" Kyle asked. "I dunno... a few days? A week? I really can't remember. We should probably find out when we need to be back on the boat." I replied. After talking with Mom and Dad we realized that we only had a few days left in Bali, and somehow over two weeks of our epic surf backpacking trip had passed.

"Ok, now we have to figure out what to do with our last few days. I mean, we have not seen much of Bali. But I feel like we are currently seeing the best of Bali, so is there really any reason to go anywhere else?" I asked pragmatically, still buzzing off the fact that after taking beatings at Impossibles for four days I finally got one of the perfect ringers of a wave that had been taunting and eluding me for days. "I kind of feel like we should see some other part of the island, you know, like Ubud or something cultural like that, although I agree that we probably won't see anything better than this," Kyle reasoned. I agreed.

We got the motivation we needed to leave the Bukit peninsula in the form of a message from my very dear favorite German surf buddy who I spent my entire study abroad surfing around northern Spain with. Ralf just so happened to be Bali and staying in Canggu (pronounced Chan-gu), and encouraged us to meet up with him for waves and beers. Kyle and I made arrangements to leave our beloved Padang-Padang and were soon on our way to meet Ralf on the beach at Canggu.

I can't tell you how sweet it was to meet up with my old friend on the beach in Bali after five years of little to no contact. We immediately fell into filling each other in on the past five years of our lives, lamenting how our surfing has not progressed as much as we had hoped, reminiscing about freezing our asses off surfing under the snowy Picos de Europa and planning future surf trips together. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling, but there is something about being reunited with a good friend in a foreign country that makes it all the sweeter.

Ralf, Kyle and I spent the afternoon and evening swapping stories and drinking excessively. Kyle and I were very impressed with Ralf's accommodations at Bali Surf Camp, where they provide three meals a day, guides to take surfers to the best waves, film all the sessions and provide all transportation. After shouting us dinner at the surf camp, Ralf promised to text us and tell us where the guides were going to take them in the morning for surfing so we could piggyback on their local knowledge.

The next morning Kyle and I walked 20 minutes down the beach to Old Man's, where Ralf said they would be surfing. The waves were glassy and overhead on the sets, but it was so crowded that I didn't expect to find Ralf. Of course I did - sitting in the line-up grinning from ear to ear - typical Ralf. For the next few hours we call called each other into waves and cheered each other on. After surfing Impossibles, Old Man's felt gentle and aptly named, and I surfed until I thought my arms would fall off. I am not sure there is anything in the world better than surfing good waves with great friends.

I spent the rest of the day eating and sleeping, catching an evening surf as the sun went down. The eat, sleep, surf, repeat lifestyle in full effect. So good. After a nice dinner we said goodbye to Ralf, as the next day we had to leave for Lovina Beach to get back on the boat. Our visit with Ralf was short and sweet, but it was the icing on the cake to an epic surf adventure.

Yesterday morning as we were packing up our bags to head for Lovina Beach I got an email from Mom saying that she and a friend were going to Ubud and, if we met them there we could catch a ride to Lovina with them. The idea of making the three hour drive in an air conditioned car rather than a hot, crowded bus was much more appealing, plus the opportunity to see Ubud, however brief.

We ended up sharing a car with two other backpackers to Ubud, where we were dropped off with our surfboards in the middle of the city in the middle of the island. It is always funny to walk around a landlocked city with a surfboard, and as we walked to find Mom taxi drivers incessantly offered us rides: "Where are you going? Padang-Padang?! Uluwatu?! I take you there!" Thanks buddy, very tempting, but we just came from there.

It was fun to meet up with Mom in Ubud. After being gone over two weeks I missed her a bit! We all did some shopping and had a nice lunch before heading back to Lovina. Ubud seemed like a very cool city - not the sleepy, quiet, monastic place that I imagined - but interesting and worth a few days visit all the same.

Last night we celebrated Dad's birthday with pizza but didn't party too hard because we pulled up anchor (or rather Dad did, I slept) at 4AM. It is very nice to be back "home" and sleep in my own bed, although it was hard to leave Bali and today I have to regain my sea legs. We are now headed to Kumai on Kalimantan, island of Borneo, where we are going Heart of Darkness stylee and going up a jungle river on the boat to see orang-utans. How crazy is that? How crazy is this life!?
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At 10/2/2013 5:13 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°18.69'S 114°32.22'E

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Bali


The cave at Uluwatu

There's something about Bali...

It's indescribable. I feel it when I wake up in the morning, I see it around every corner, it keeps me up at night. But what it is I can't exactly say. 

There is an energy about Bali that makes me kind of frantic. In spite of the laid back atmosphere, the 'no need to wake up early to surf because the wind will be off shore all day' fact of life, I feel like I still have not grasped what is Bali. Maybe it is because I have not caught one of the bombs peeling off the reef in front of the surf house  we are staying at, or maybe because my time here is so limited. Regardless of my feelings, Bali kicks ass. Let me give you a few reasons why. 

The big picture - Impossibles

First of all, let me paint you a picture. I am sitting on the top floor of Buffalo Surf House, built right into the sheer limestone cliff looking west into the blue of the Indian Ocean. Reeling off the point to the south of the house is the famous Padang - Padang - a world class wave that has been firing 6-8 foot barrels the entire time we've  been here.  Across the small channel is Impossible Rights, where all the beginners hang out on the inside.  The beach on the inside of these waves is full of vendors selling cold beer, coconuts and the obligatory "I've been here" t-shirt (I got one, of course).

Waves line up and barrel down the reef from Impossible Rights all the way to Impossibles, a beautiful left that I have developed a love-hate relationship with. I could watch Impossibles all day. And in fact I have. But it is more with the intention of psyching myself up for a beating and telling myself that 8 feet of water on the head really isn't that bad. 

You see, whereas Bali is a picture perfect paradise, she will also call your bluff. We've all oohed and aahed over the pictures of Uluwatu's perfect barrels in the mags and surf flicks, but when faced with that set wave coming, watching the green face suck up over the reef and explode into sharp and shallow water, what will you do?  I for one, scratch for the outside, arms shaking and heart pounding. And really, it's not even that big. There is just something about seeing that set looming on the horizon that scares the hell out of me. 

I have to laugh at the irony: here it is, the wave of my dreams, right at my front door. A long peeling fast left with the occasional barrel section, and I am too scared to surf it. It kills me.  Actually, to be fair to myself I have surfed it. Kind of. I have paddled out three times and today I finally got a little one, but was more proud of myself for making it out than catching the wave. Like I said, Bali will call your bluff. She will give you the waves of your dreams but you have to take them. Even Kyle, who was so amped to get waves, hasn't been charging. Go figure. 

In my humble opinion, to really connect with Bali one needs time. It is an investment. Not only with the waves, but with the people, places and culture. I get the feeling that so many people come through this small island that it is awash with influences from everywhere, including the drive and desire for more and newer and flashier things.  I guess this is the same everywhere. I shouldn't have been surprised to walk around Uluwatu and find swanky surf shops and cafes.  While the wave still lookes the same as when Gerry Lopez ripped it in "Stylemasters", the surrounding area remind me a little too much of a California beach town. However, the sacred temples at the top of the cliffs at both Uluwatu and Padang Padang - guarded by monkeys - remind the visitor that he or she is in a very special corner of the world. 

In the past few days here I have learned that Bali cannot be rushed. You can't paddle out once and expect to get the bomb of your life, you can't show up at the bar and expect everybody to treat you as a best friend; you can't find the cheapest, best warrong for your first meal. But, in my humble opinion and with my limited experience, I know that all of these expectations are reasonable - especially in a kick ass place like Bali. 

Just a side note: I say "Bali" but I really mean the Bukit peninsula, because I have yet to see much more than that - aside from a pleasant trip to the hospital. Which reminds me that when I told you I was eaten alive by bugs in Lombok I was lying, and I was actually covered with a rash affectionately known as "Seabather's Eruption". Apparently jellyfish and sea urchin larvae in the water can cause this. And I must say that if you are in Bali and need medical attention, go to the new hospital in Nusa Dua. It was the nicest hospital I have ever been in with the most attentive staff. It's not cheap, but a great option. The end.