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.