Lombok TRANSIT

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I thought I’d try to smuggle the last quarter of my breakfast burrito through customs. Down my dacks. Better not, I’m thin on time before my flight. Aah fuck it, I wanna know how possible it is to smuggle something in my pants, a test run. In the toilet, burrito at my gooch I remember I’m not wearing underpants. Another time.

It’s not until I arrive at the domestic terminal in Denpasar that I realise I have to wait eight hours for the connecting flight. Mega, the man at Garuda’s help desk, tells me their earlier flight is full, the best he can do is put me on the waiting list. When the boarding gate closes I’m to check if there are any no-shows. If not then I’ll just have to wait until the later flight.

Damn it’s lucky there was space; I get to meet Lombok in the sunlight. She’s beautiful. Tess (my sister) runs up from behind me before I’ve even rolled a cigarette. Driving along through rubbish-smoke under banana trees past stalls selling bottles of petrol and snacks, dodging stray dogs and scooters and kids reminds me of South India immediately. After a few kilometres it’s like I never got off the bike. Less than half an hour from the airport we reach the small town of Kuta and Tess directs me down a back alley and through the backyards of some local mud huts to her bungalow.

A dusty sun sets behind a mountain. On the balcony of Full Moon café facing south overlooking a white-sand beach coved by rocky outcrops we toast.

 

Lombok SETTLING IN

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Ninja’s been put at my feet. He’s a nosy little tabby cat, wakes me up. I’m in Lombok the moment my eyes open, there’s no delay for remembering I’m in a different country than yesterday.

“This is amazing,” I say to Tess who is pottering around.

“What? Your bed?” she asks.

“No, everything. I was lying here reading last night, I just thought, ‘damn this is perfect’.”

And it is. I had a good sleep, feeling wholesome surrounded by a blanket of drowsiness. Wearing a goofy half-smile.

Writing an assignment after breakfast a classmate reviews my court story then tells me it’s not due until the end of next week. If I had known that I would have left it until Friday and had it hanging over my days. Instead it’s done and nearly ready for submission. Tess is back from running errands so I’ll finish it and submit it tonight.

Just down the road from breakfast we organise a scooter for me to hire for the next week. There aren’t any motorbikes for hire in Kuta, just 100cc Yamahas with board racks sometimes. More than good enough.

With my Lombok life sorted Tess and I ride east for a swim at a pretty, long beach. She gets us a bit lost on the way, never seems absolutely sure where we’re going but finds it in the end. One of the boys in charge of motorbike minding seems to think I sure, points further east and says,

“Good surfing wave there Gurupuk, you go surfing?”

“No, not today, wind is bad,” I reply.

“You hab surfboard?”

“Yes, in Kuta.”

“Ooh, you hab,” He mumbles and turns back around. I may as well go have a look though, could surf there in the morning if I don’t go to Deserts. Tess desperately wants to swim so I go alone; it’s only two minutes away. In a micro-harbour full of skiffs and outriggers I have to squint to see a few thin lines of white water on the other side of the bay, doesn’t look promising. Now I desperately want to swim.

By the time I get back from submitting my assignment, buying cigarettes and fuel and shopping for fruit and veggies it’s apparently time to go get a drink with this guy Josh. He’s been here for a while, two or three months, so he knows where to surf when the forecast says this, that and the other. He’s offered to help me ‘make a plan’ and he knows how to get to Deserts from here. The three of us eat dinner at a dingy restaurant across from Kuta Beach, Josh and I discuss Deserts for a while. Looking at the forecast it appears that Wednesday and Thursday will be better than tomorrow, it’s not too hard to get there but it takes two and a half hours. It’s still bloody hot yet it’s been dark for an hour.

Saturday night, I figure if I’m going to party while I’m here it should be tonight. Josh says he’s keen. Tess will come down for a beer. Bus Bar gets a good crowd on a Saturday.

After a bunch of beers the music and atmosphere have livened me up. Even though she’s yawning and stagnant Tess has a good time, stays longer than I expected. It’s loud, small, comfortable and vibrant, with just the right amount of tackiness thrown in. Everyone’s smiling; two local lads are shaking cocktails and slinging beers from a repurposed Kombi van, a couple of guys walk around selling cigarette packets and balloons of mushrooms. Easy to tell who is on the mushies. A smorgasbord of European women step and jive on the dance floor while two young Swedish guys take turns mixing house music. Not all the chicks are conventionally attractive but they’re all having fun and that’s attractive enough for me.

Lombok BANGKO BANGKO

SCN_0114The air’s warm, still. A light waft of smoke enters my sleepy nostrils as I lie under the mosquito net staring at the Birds of Paradise in the front yard, letting my brain stir. It doesn’t take me long to get ready. I pack most of the things I’ll need into my small backpack. A notebook, camera, trunks, sarong, medical stuff for my leg wound, a packet of chips, bottle of water, cigarettes, weed, sunscreen, my Swiss-army knife, a pen and enough money for the two day expedition. I’ve got to pick up a book from Alice and Stew’s villa after breakfast and buy a block of wax.

The directions to Bangko-Bangko (Westerners call it ‘Desert Point’) are written down in my notebook. The trip should take two to two-and-a-half hours on my bike, if everything runs smoothly. Supposedly it takes an hour-and-a-half in a car. There are 17 steps to follow: from Kuta, past the airport, across the island, through jungle and steep hills then around an inlet to the western tip of Lombok.

45 minutes in heading west on a highway I stop for petrol and to refresh my memory on the next few steps of the journey.

Driving behind a military police Jeep I remember I’ve got a few grams of East Lombok’s finest dope in the middle pocket of my bag and remind myself not to do anything too bold. I wouldn’t want them to pull me over for a traffic offence, check my bag and find the packet. The middle pocket isn’t obvious, and the packet itself is underneath a book and a bottle of sunscreen. If there were a place they would miss, it’d be where it rests right now. Still, better to just sit a few scooters back from them like a good little tourist. Damn it’s hot. Why are we going so slowly? I hope they turn off soon so I can get back to full speed. We drive past a pulled-over police car, then another on the other side of the road. We’re stopping. I realise I’ve ridden straight into a police checkpoint, seconds later a cop is waving me off the road. I pull over and look up at his face.

“You speaking Indonecian?” he asks me. I shake my head. He points at it and says something I don’t understand, then points to the place where my left mirror should be only it isn’t there. I turn the bike off and look up at him again, wondering what he wants me to do, trying not to think about the little brown paper packet in my bag so as not to give anything away on my face. I look around and see that everybody else is wearing helmets. The policeman takes my keys out of the ignition,

“You have lissen?” he asks, obviously unsure of his English pronunciation.

“What?”

“You have lissens? Lissens,” he asks again, tone rising.

“Oh license, yes but not here.”

Internasonal lissens, regishration papers?” he adds. I shake my head. He motions for me to go with him, takes me across the road and hands me over to an officer with an offence pad and a plump, kind round head. The new cop tells me to wait a few minutes.

“Can I smoke a cigarette?”

“Yes sure.” I wander a few meters away to assess the situation. There are pigs everywhere, in both directions. Escape is off the cards. I didn’t bring enough money to pay bribes but I don’t really have a choice. The new cop calls me over and asks if I speak Indonesian. I say a little bit, “sedikit”, and he asks where I’m from. He says I have to wear a helmet.

“You no hab helmet?” he speaks English more comfortably than the first guy.

“No, in Kuta nobody wears helmet so I didn’t think I had to.” My mind thinks back to the packet of weed but I quickly flick the thought away. The cop puts his pad on a car’s bonnet and asks my name. I tell him. He suppresses an embarrassed smile, hands me the pen and shows where to write it. Looking into my dumb eyes he warns me to wear a helmet next time, says I can go.

“Thankyou sir, what’s your name?”

“Me? My name Putu,” he answers. I look into his big brown eyes,

“Thankyou Putu, thankyou,” then walk back to my bike and get the hell out of there.

“Once you’re on the dirt road, you’ll come to a junction. You don’t turn right like you think, you go left up and around a hill and then you’ll come down to Deserts,” words Josh said to me the other night spring back into my head as I hit the shocking, rocky, dusty path. It all happens just like he said it would and I pull up to the famous lefthander feeling falsely like some sort of pioneer, there’s no one else around. I wonder how long it took me to get here, feels like around two hours. The waves are small, waist high. A very slight wind blows from behind the waves, ruffling their lips. A few young local boys are surfing the end section.

After a late lunch I walk out onto the now-dry reef up at the take-off spot to smoke a spliff. It should be about low tide now. I’m sitting on a rock only twenty meters in from where the waves start, a couple of nice ones run by but a few crumbling sections are separating the clean, tubing sections. The long chain the waves form across the barrier reef is broken in some places. I stand up to walk back, but stop to watch a set of three waves, slightly bigger than the others I’ve seen. They break cleanly, hollow tubes uninterrupted for a hundred meters. With a life of its own my mouth opens and twists up in the corners, freezes in an expression of wonder and disbelief. The three waves I just watched were only small, maybe chest height, but they were beautiful. Watching the second and third waves was like watching the first wave on repeat. I’m standing on dry reef, a little stoned, on the edge of an Indonesian island staring at a wave that has defined perfection for surfers since its discovery 25-odd years ago. No more waves immediately after them I turn and walk lightly over the reef to the sand. When I get to the beach I face the ocean to watch a head high wave running along in the reef shelf. For 15 seconds I keep my unblinking eyes on the wave and it doesn’t stop barrelling once. She’s starting to wake up.

I paddle out for an afternoon surf, there are only a few guys out and conditions are stellar. The big waves are a decent size but most waves are small, not worth looking at. My first wave is juicy, sweet looking, not working too far away from me so with gusto I stroke in and spring to my feet early. A short section steepens up ahead. I go to it with speed, a little too much, and whizz by ahead of the barrel. To lose speed I draw a high line and come out of it pointing down. An almost identical section to the last presents itself, I turn up from the bottom of the wave to the middle and get shot along ahead of the tube again. The next section is far too long so I push up and off the back of the wave. A bit nervous and a little jittery, I’ve made a mess of my first wave out here. Was a gem too. Back at the top of the reef I swim down for a look at the bottom. Even out past where the waves start to break it’s only a meter and half, two meters deep. The tide is still quite low but it’s on the way up, the waves are less frequent than an hour ago.

The ocean almost stops. I get to know a couple of young guys from Adelaide and an older guy who is also from Margaret River. I sort of recognise his face. I don’t get another shot at redemption, there are one or two more waves but it’s not my turn. I paddle in while the sun dives.

According to the forecast the swell will fill in tomorrow morning.