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.

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. 



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kuta Lombok





Gerupuk


I wrote this three days ago but have not had an opportunity (ambition? down time?) to post it until now. 

For a while there I was doubting my identity as a surfer. After not surfing for five months, I was beginning to think that maybe surfing isn't worth it after all, that maybe the anxiety and hassle caused by surfing might not be worth it.  These thoughts actually entered my mind.  And then I got to Lombok. 

In Sumbawa we had heard good things about Lombok - that while there are death trap waves, there are also waves mere mortals (such as myself) could surf. Upon arrival we checked in to Tri Putri homestay and for $10/night Kyle and I got a decent room. We promptly rented a motorbike and set off looking for waves. 

Mawi was our first stop, a 45 minute ride from Kuta Lombok. Most of the ride there was beautiful with well paves roads winding through  villages nestled among the green hills, and breath-taking ocean views around every other corner. Only the occasional herd of water buffalo, goats or kids playing in the road got in our way.  A honk, a smile and a wave as we passed through. 

Unfortunately after the turn off for Mawi beach (10,000 rp entrance fee) the road turned to gravel and for the last few miles to the beach and Kyle nearly has bruises on his ribs from me digging my nails into him. I might have been a little skittish from our spill in Sumbawa, and by the time we arrived at Mawi beach my nerves were too frayed to think about surfing. 

I always feel defeated when I set out to surf,  only to chicken out at the last minute - especially when the waves are supposed to be "mellow".  However, Mawi was not particularly mellow. It was dead low tide ad while the sets - which were a bit overhead- broke in deep water, the smaller waves drained across the very shallow reef. I opted to watch from the beach and had to drown my sorrows with Bintangs  that evening.  

Over beers we chatted with other surfing travellers. Everybody told us to go to Gerupuk, where there are five waves to choose from, two of which are "mellow". I didn't really believe this but I was getting pretty desperate to reaffirm my identity as a surfer, so the next morning Kyle and I rode out to Gerupuk.

Gerupuk is a little fishing village that has sprouted surf shops and home stays in recent years because of the waves it plays host to. Most people still opt to stay in Kuta Lombok - where there is a bit more going on - but I really liked Gerupuk. I found it more authentic and less touristy than Kuta, but we didn't bother to get accommodation there. 

The drive to Gerupuk was much easier than that to Mawi so my nerves were not shattered when we arrived. After negotiating a price for the boat out to the waves (90,000 rp) we loaded up and headed to Insides. Although it was crowded, a perfect little A-frame wave was rolling through consistently over a sand and grass bottom. Score. Kyle and I spent the next two hours and then the next four days surfing the hell out of that wave. I am finally getting my paddle power and my confidence back - just in time to surf Bali. 

Two nights ago our friend from UCSC showed up at our door as we were getting ready to go for dinner. We had a great reunion, surfed together and he showed us his pictures of the previous week in Bali, with epic lefts rolling in around every corner. It got me super excited about Bali and made it a little bit easier to leave Kuta Lombok. 

This morning as I was packing my bag I found a scorpion chilling on my frisbee. I screamed (naturally) and fortunately Kyle was brave enough to toss it out the door. When I thanked the lady at reception for out great stay (minus being eaten alive by bugs in our room) I mentioned that there was a scorpion in the room. She laughed and said that they don't hurt people. Right. 

Our stay in Kuta was very enjoyable. The town itself is low key - touristy enough to find bars showing American football on TV but not so over the top that one could forget they were in Indonesia. And while the local surfers were not the most forthcoming with info on waves in the area, I totally understand. It's not easy to have your home break clogged with western tourists learning to surf. Some of the local guys absolutely rip and it was fun to surf with them.  I found them to be far more respectful than some of the other surfers out. 

Kyle and I are now on the ferry to Bali. While we did not see much of the island of Lombok, I saw exactly what I wanted to see there. Mom and Dad are anchored off Lovina Beach in north Bali, and after we make the pilgrimage to the surf mecca that is Uluwatu and the Bukit peninsula in general, we will meet up with them again and head to Kalimantan to see orang-utans.  I like Indo. It's a bit crazy. 

P.S. sorry once again for the weird formatting and grammatical errors... I blame the iPhone. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Broken Boards and Broken Faces (Sumbawa)

Sumbawa is gnarly. Not only the waves, but the whole scene in general.  The backpackers we are at is littered with broken boards and everybody seems to have at least a few gashes and bruises -- be it from surf accident or motorbike accident. 


  Kyle and I got dropped off by Mom and Dad in Bima, an unremarkable city in central Sumbawa.  Not two seconds after Dad took us to shore in the dinghy we were picked up by ojeks - guys on motorcycles who took us to the bus station - backpacks and surfboards and all. 

We opted to catch the red-eye bus across the island which left Bima at 7 PM and arrived in Lombok at 7 AM, except that we weren't going to Lombok.  The bus filled up with locals and, as we were the only white people on the bus, they stuck us in the back next to the toilet.  The ride was uneventful save waking up to man in the seat next to me puking and spitting on the floor. I just pretended it was a bad dream and kept my feet up. 

Kyle and I got off the bus at Poto Tano at 3 AM where we had to wait four hours for the bus to take us south to Maluk. Fortunately there was a bus/ferry terminal where we could hang out. I took my board out of its bag and used the bag as a sleeping pad, but woke up an hour later to chickens squabbling a few feet from my head.  By this time it seemed the city was starting to stir, so I got a cup of tea while Kyle bartered with a taxi driver on a price to take us south. Considering we were tourists with lots of baggage in a remote part of Sumbawa, we ended up getting a pretty sweet deal on rides to Sekongkang, our surf destination. 

Our bus driver dropped us off at Santai Beach Bungalows, where for 80,000 rp they offer huts with beds, some with mattresses and some without. A few guys were hanging out as we walked up. We introduced ourselves and the guys showed us a room. "Just be careful of the monkeys. They will steal anything," they told us. Apparently monkeys love surf wax in particular. 

Bleary eye and hungry, Kyle and I set out to find some food. Santai allegedly had good, cheap food but the kitchen was closed because everybody was at a wedding in Lombok, so we walked over to the next hostel down the beach. 

I might note here that the waves were absolutely massive. The waves on the outer reef were solid ten feet and the shore break was pounding on the sand. Oh shit. I just 



realised that I have not surfed in five months -- let alone swam at a beach with waves -- and these waves could kill me. 

We walked up to Rantung Beach Backpackers.  A few people were sitting around a table having coffee. We introduced ourselves and asked the general questions, where to eat, where to surf, where to stay... Everybody was friendly and helpful. After looking at a room at Rantung we decided we could fork over the extra 20,000 rp for a room with a private bathroom and two beds -- both with mattresses.

 After moving in we got food and set down to business. "So, um, it's kinda big out there today, no?" I said casually to the group of surfers sitting at the table. "Ya," a German dude with huge gashes on his feet replied, "Supersucks should be amazing today." I had read in the guide book that Supersucks is one of the best (and heaviest) barrels in Indo, and could only imagine it would be firing (and gnarly). 

Although we were on the beach there were not really surfable wave around us. Or stores or cheap restaurants to get food, water and other supplies. "How do we get to the waves around here? And how do we get back into town?" I asked. Everybody replied simultaneously: "Motorbike."

Double shit. For the record, I don't like motorcycles. I think they are dangerous. And the roads are rough. And the other drivers are crazy. But, when in Rome... And so Kyle and I set out to find a bike. 

At Yo-Yo's hotel we found a guy who would rent us his motorbike for 50,000 rp/day. 
"Should we pay you now?"
 "No, no, just pay when you bring he bike back." 
"I'm not sure when that will be."
"It's ok, it's ok. Just bring it back safe."
"Um, ok, do you want my name or anything? It's Corie."
"Ok, ok nice to meet you, see you later!"  Right then. 

I let Kyle do all the driving, seeing as how he drove a motorbike once before and that is more experience that I have. I must admit, I did feel pretty damn cool and we loaded up surfboards and rode around town to go surfing just like everybody else.  Aside from one minor spill which left me with a stubbed toe and Kyle with a raspberry on his elbow, we have been doing just fine. And really, the injuries make us fit in all the better. You're not hardcore out here unless you're sporting at least one flesh wound and preferably a few scars. 

I have yet to bash myself on the reef, but that is probably because I've been playing it pretty safe. I only got one real surf session in Sumbawa but that's because I didn't want to die. Even then, I was hesitant to drop into the head high, shallow waves and definitely took a few on the head. 

Yesterday we left Sumbawa with another guy we met from San Francisco and headed to Lombok for more mellow waves. Today we got siiiiick waves followed by the best Indonesian food I've ever had. Yes, life is good. 

P.S.  As a disclaimer, I wrote this post on my iPhone so please forgive any misspellings, grammatical errors, or nonsensical ramblings. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dragons


The massive water buffalo sinks deeper into the muddy pond, seeking respite from the searing sun and relentless flies. Her giant horns are covered in mud and with every flap of her ears a cloud of flies erupts from her face. She lowers her face into the water and her body relaxes. She is hurt.

Behind her, on the edge of the pond and only a few feet away, a three meter Komodo dragon is literally drooling, waiting for the right moment to pounce. He doesn't move save his long, forked tongue that whips in and out of his mouth like a snake, anticipating a meal at hand. The tension is palpable.

Suddenly, the water buffalo rears her head out of the water. Finally, she has sensed the danger. She swings her long horns around and faces the muddy bank where the dragon is frozen like a statue. You can read exactly what goes through each animals' mind at this very moment: Oh fuck.


Komodo dragon, literally drooling

I am not making this scenario up. When I told you that I was hoping to see a Komodo dragon take down a water buffalo I was merely being optimistic (and a bit cheeky). When actually faced with the opportunity to see a dragon rip open the rump of a massive water buffalo, I shook with adrenaline. What would happen? Would the water buffalo, who was maybe twenty feet away from us, take off in a frenzied rampage? Or would the dragon, who was only, say 30 feet away from us, decide that six people were a better meal than one buffalo? There were no fences, no barriers and no weapons, only two guides who both carried big sticks.

We arranged for a walking tour of the island yesterday morning. We arrived at the dinghy dock at 6:30 AM to be greeted by macaque monkeys who barred their teeth at us when we tried to climb up on the dock. Kyle swatted at one with his shoe and it scampered off, but I am not sure I would have been so brave. They are ugly little buggers. We walked up to the ranger station and, along with people from another boat, were assigned two guides. After introductions and opting to do the "long hike" we set off.

Before we had even left the ranger station compound we ran into our first dragon. For being so huge they are surprisingly hard to spot. I could have easily fallen over one before I noticed it. Apparently they hang out in the ranger station because they like the smell of food, and rangers always have to be on guard - even when going to the showers or cafeteria.

I wish I could give you all sorts of information about Komodo dragons but we are out of internet range so you will have to Wikipedia it yourself. I do know that their preferred method of killing is to sneak up behind an animal, take a nice big bite and run off, leaving the poison of its saliva that prevents blood from coagulating to do the rest of the work. Wait for the animal to die, then come back to a nice warm meal. They can also run and swim faster than humans. Several people on the island have been bitten in the past years and some killed. Allegedly there was a Swiss tourist some years back that got separated from his tour group and never heard from again - only his camera and sunglasses were found.

I decided to stay with my group. One guide in the front and one behind. After leaving the compound area we did not see any more dragons, and an hour into the hike through yellow grasslands dotted with palm trees in extremely hot conditions I was beginning to... I wouldn't call it whinge... but I was hot and tired and am totally unaccustomed to any sort of exercise. As far as I was concerned we could have stayed at the ranger station and seen as many dragons.

And then we came across her. And him. And it was the most raw, nature vs. nature, eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, life or death scenario that I have ever experienced in real life. A Komodo dragon will only attack its prey from behind, and especially with water buffalo, will wait all day for the perfect positioning. One misstep and the buffalo can gore, injure and/or kill a dragon, which will be eaten by other dragons with no qualms. Nature is brutal out here.

So we watched. Our guides thought the water buffalo was already hurt because she couldn't seem to get out of the muddy pond, and had resigned to dying with the most comfort possible - in the cool water. Whereas the dragon was probably aware of her condition, he took no risks, patiently watching and waiting. Until their eyes met. She knew she was done for but would not go down without a fight. The dragon backed off and crawled around to the other side of the pond, once again at her back. She snorted, shook her head and settled back into the water. He laid down to wait for the perfect moment all over again. It could be hours, it could be days, but she would be his next meal.

I could have stayed there all day to watch. The only thing that made me uneasy was the fact that there were other dragons in the area, and who knows if one was stalking me, waiting for the perfect position to pounce on me. After a half hour or so the guides decided we should move on. As we were walking down the trail we saw dragons heading in the direction of the injured water buffalo. They were going to help take her down. I kept a good watch behind my back as we hiked back to the ranger station.

Whereas I have decided I do not like reptiles, the whole experience was quite a rush. It is only apt to throw in a Jurassic Park analogy here - I mean, we were hiking around on an uninhabited island full of ancient, oversized reptiles, i.e. dinosaurs. That's crazy. What is also crazy is that we just anchored off a beach on the south of Rinca island and there are Komodo dragons lazing on the beach. All's well in Jurassic Park.
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At 9/10/2013 12:33 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°44.87'S 119°36.66'E

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Labuan Bajo

I lied. Unintentionally, of course, but you can never know exactly where you are going until you get there. This is particularly true of Asia. I know I told you we were going to Komodo when in fact we have not gone -- yet. But we're close.

We arrived in Labuan Bajo a few days ago, which is on the west coast of Flores island. In the past few years it has become a touristy little town lined with dive shops, souvenir shops, western style restaurants and bars. I can't say I wasn't happy about this. LBJ (as it is affectionately called) is the first touristy place we have been to since we left Australia, and while I was almost offended when none of the locals wanted to take my picture, they made up for it by serving me delicious cheeseburgers, eggs benedict, pizza and lots and lots of cold Bintangs.

We ate a lot in LBJ. Not that we were starved along the way, but with so much comfort food at hand it was hard to pass it up. The Swiss bakery and the Italian gelato shop were particularly well visited. When we arrived our first day we were all a bit wide-eyed. You know the feeling when you have been camping for a week and you come back into civilization, bewildered by how fast cars move and how bright the lights are? It was a bit like that. Wi-fi in every bar? Bars themselves?! Amazing. Kyle and I spend our entire first day drinking and playing pool. It was great.

By day two the charm of LBJ (and the slight hangover of too many Bintangs) was wearing a little thin. We both just wanted to get in the water. There is no surf on Flores but there is some of the most spectacular diving in the world, so I bit the bullet and signed up for a dive trip. These days paying $100 US for a 3 dive day trip is a bit steep, but really, it is a bargain.

The next morning the dive boat picked us up from the boat and we headed out to the Komodo national park islands. There are over 20 islands and hundreds of dive sites in the surrounding area, but our guides took us to Sebayur Kecil, Castle Rock and The Cauldron. All of the dives were awesome and different. The first dive at Sebayur had amazing, weird, colorful coral - not the most pristine I have seen but super cool just the same. On that dive we also saw meter long humphead parrot fish and giant travalli.

The second dive was on a pinnacle in the middle of nowhere. We dropped in and swam against the current down to 105 feet, then hung out and watched reef sharks and tuna circle each other. It seemed that the fish know they live in a marine sanctuary and are protected, and have no fear of humans. I swam with a huge Napoleon wrasse for a while and watched a titan trigger fish dig through coral. Our third dive was a current dive in which I hit 10 knots flying through an underwater canyon. It was nuts. Apparently current diving is a big thing around here, and while I went way too fast to see much, it was thrilling to go that fast underwater.

Diving was definitely a highlight of being in Labuan Bajo (at least near LBJ). Another highlight was having Sam, one of the organizers for Sail Indonesia, over for dinner. He kept us entertained all night with stories of growing up on an isolated island off Java, somehow getting a copy of Kon-Tiki and having the dream of sailing ever since. When Dad asked him how he got into sailing in the first place, Sam replied, "I guess I got the wrong book."

Sam also lived in New York for many years. Dad asked him if he ever experienced any prejudice being a Muslim living in America. "That's the good thing about New York," Sam said, "They treat everybody the same. Like shit." What a sharp sense of humor. He kept us in stitches all night.

Last night was (yet another) Gala Dinner for Sail Indonesia. Fortunately, by this time most of the boats of Sail Indonesia had joined up together so the pressure was off us as individuals to get up and dance and eat lots of food and not drink too much. The dancing was very cultural and the food was... Well, the beer was cold and cheap. I think the locals might have enjoyed it more than the Sail Indo participants, but it was all good.

Today we left Labuan Bajo and sailed (motored, actually) to Rinca island. Rinca is right next to Komodo and there are Komodo dragons on this island too. In fact, there are monkeys and crocodiles too. This afternoon we went ashore and met the park rangers who told us never to walk around without one of them. And they all carry big sticks. Tomorrow they are taking us on a hike to see the dragons in action. Unfortunately we just missed mating season but I am hoping to see one take down a water buffalo or a deer or do something other than sleep. As we walked back to the dinghy this evening there were monkeys on the docks. I'm not sure if they were looking for a ride out to a boat or food, but we didn't give them either. Cute little buggers but they are a little too mischievous for my liking.

Forecast for tomorrow: Dragons.
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At 9/8/2013 1:09 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°30.42'S 119°52.39'E

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Monday, September 2, 2013

It's All Good

Sailing away from paradise is no easy feat, but after nearly a week at Taka Bone Rate we finally tore ourselves away. Everybody else left, the fresh food is running out, the Bintang has run out, there is decent wind to get us to our next destination and, frankly, I think we are all ready for a bit of 'civilization'.

Paradise definitely has its high points: the epic sunsets on the beach with cold beer and good friends, kayaking back to the boat after dark leaving an insane trail of bioluminescence in the water rivaled only by the insane amount of stars in the sky… is that a band of clouds? No - no that is the Milky Way and we are staring into the spiral of our galaxy… You could get lost in it forever.

The awesomeness of the sky is rivaled only by the awesomeness of the underwater world - the thriving reefs and exotic and strange corals, fish, anemones, nudibranchs, sharks, turtles… Once again you could get lost in it forever. But sooner or later the warm, white sand beach beckons and a coconut is cracked open, the water refreshing and the meat tender and sweet.

Think I have gone troppo yet? I probably would have had we stayed longer, but as I said, we left this morning. We are now anchored on Pekangkang Island as a stop-over before we sail to Labuan Bajo tomorrow (think Komodo Dragons!). There are signs of civilization here, foremost being the cell towers that occasionally emit service. It is too bad that there is not enough bandwidth to upload pictures and I sincerely apologize but promise I will post photos someday.

I am excited to get to the southern islands. It will mark the second chapter of Sail Indonesia. In Labuan Bajo all ninety boats will meet up - those that did the western route as well as us intrepid sailors that took the road less traveled - and make a massive party as yachties are known to do. It also marks getting into the more touristy part of Indonesia and personally I am looking forward to a little more western influence. Call me a hypocrite or whatever you want, but I would love to drink a beer without feeling like I am deeply offending somebody. And a cheeseburger. I'd love a cheeseburger. I hope with all the resorts in the Komodo area I can get both.

Yes, life is good. Changing, as always, but so far it's been good. It's all good.
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At 9/1/2013 11:38 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 06°34.32'S 121°05.59'E

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