Despite what most people think, Bali is not a country, it is a province within Indonesia. We booked our accommodations at Pro Surf Camp right on Kuta Beach. I had surfed before for about 3 hours in Costa Rica but this was my chance to get past the white wash and into the green waves. In true hobo fashion I did not hire an instructor but instead my friend Hobo M (the third musketeer who flew in to meet us) taught me!
A few things I learned about surfing:
- The conditions have to be right. Kuta beach has a sandy bottom (as oppose to coral which can cut you up) and it has beginner waves when the tide is in.
- You need to learn to read the waves. You want to start paddling on your board at the correct time so that you a) don’t miss the wave by having it roll underneath you or b) don’t have the wave crash right on top of you. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way with point (b). I felt like I was in a washing machine and prayed my board wasn’t going to smoke me in the head.
- When you take a wave, point your board away from the curl. The white wash on top of the wave will travel along the peak and as long as you stay a little ahead of the white wash you can keep riding the wave
- Don’t panic! You are attached by a leash to your surfboard. You will always surface because your board will always bob to the top.
- Surfing is addictive! It reminds me of snowboarding in the sense that it’s a solo sport with the social component of chilling with your friends while bobbing out in the Ocean until the perfect wave comes along. The moment you finally do catch that perfect wave is a feeling you want to chase again and again.
So essentially surfing a few times a day was our life for approximately 3 days. In between surfing we would find cheap places to eat, go for morning jogs on the beach, swim in the pool, or investigate other ways to spend our time in Indonesia. It was incredibly hot and humid in Bali during the dry season so other than some sort of water activity it was difficult to do too much in the mid-day heat.
Finally after a few days of searching around we decided to jump to the in-land town of Ubud. I didn’t know this at the time but Ubud is one setting in the book, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Although very touristy, this place had a more cultured feel to it than Kuta Beach. The town was scattered with temples and encircled by green rice paddies. Tourists enjoyed upscale health food and wheatgrass shots in nice restaurants while discussing the latest yoga move they’d learned and mulling over how in line their chakras were.
The three of us Hobos know the benefits of yoga and other zen-like exercises but we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to commit any time to it. We’re girls on the go so we embraced that by signing up for a Bike Tour through the rural rice paddies instead of downward dogging it in the middle of the humid town. The following day we were picked up and driven through the winding roads of the staggered mountain farm fields to have breakfast overlooking Mt. Bantur.
Following that we visited a coffee plantation where we sampled all sorts of coffee and tea including the exclusive-to-Indonesia Luwak Coffee. A Luwak is an animal found in tropical regions in South-East Asia but mainly in Indonesia. The animal eats the coffee flowers and beans but basically digests the bean still intact. So Luwak Coffee is coffee made from beans that have been excreted from the Luwak. It tastes slightly more bitter than normal coffee and is apparently a delicacy.
After we were well-caffeinated we hopped on our bikes and rode downhill for 25 km. We stopped in a village and had the chance to tour a typical Hindu house. The livings spaces houses many generations under one roof and every home has a specially built temple in the North-East corner because that is the closest spot to Mt. Bantur, the highest peak around, which means it is closer to the afterlife. We also stopped at a school, a rice paddy to watch how it is harvested, and a cock fighting ring. Apparently cock fighting is actually a ceremonial part of the Hindu religion but our guide admitted that it is often a hangout for the men to come on weekends and gamble on the roosters.
After our downhill stretch we had the option to bike ride uphill the last 8 km to lunch. The three of us are reasonably fit gals so we thought, “No Problem! Let’s do this!” while the others wisely took the air conditioned mini van to the lunch location. All I can say is we certainly earned our lunch that day. The intense heat and humidity of midday combined with a slight altitude made me almost vomit. The more frustrating part was our guide for that portion of the tour couldn’t have been more than 15 and he was riding uphill passing us with a smoke dangling from his mouth and barely breaking a sweat. I guess the locals are made for those conditions. We enjoyed a delicious feast of local Indonesian food and then headed home for a much needed cold shower.
After eating a dinner of jaffels and banana milkshakes at a spot advertising the cheapest food in town we turned in early to get a few hours of sleep before our next Ubud adventure, climbing Mt. Bantur! Our pick up was 1 in the morning and we were whisked off to the darkness of the countryside. Climbing in the dark can be tough for a few reason. Obviously it is difficult to see where you are going using just a small headlamp or flashlight aa your source of light. In the daytime you can set goals for yourself as you climb (EX: OK, I’m just going to make it up to that tree and then I’ll take a breather), but in the darkness you can’t do that. Lastly, in the dark there is no beautiful scenery to distract you from your beastly breathing. You simply need to put your head down, put one foot in front of the other, and trust that the view at the top will be worth all your hard work. And it was! The sun came up as a huge golden ball over the surrounding mountains and lake turning the sky into hues of brilliant orange and pink.
We were able to relax and enjoy the view with our boxed breakfasts at the summit of the mountain; that is, until the monkeys arrived! Now, I like monkeys as much as the next person but these ones were bold! I saw the evil monkey running towards us first and managed to grab my bag, but the poor German girl next to me was not that fast. Before we knew it the monkey was picking through the girls lunchbox. And it wasn’t just grabbing any food it could find, it was rummaging and selecting what it wanted! Eventually the monkey decided on the banana (no surprise there) and sat on the hill watching the sunrise like the rest of us casually eating the banana. You dared not to go near the monkeys because they were actually quite aggressive. The evil monkey then sifted through the remainder of the girl’s breakfast box and opted for the boiled egg followed by the bread. But the spoiled brat monkey left all the crusts. Later a smaller monkey came for the crust leftovers. The dozens of monkeys that seemed to have come out of nowhere were now in full attack mode and all the tourists were grabbing their bags and lunches in an attempt to save them. The monkeys had taken over! At one point I actually saw a monkey grab a water bottle out of someone’s hand, unscrew the cap, and chug the water as the thirsty tourist looked on in disappointment. Hobo M left her bag on the mountain and as Hobo L tried to grab it the monkey came at her!
All this was hilarious but it was enough to make us decide that we didn’t want to visit the Monkey Temple in the afternoon like we had originally planned. The Monkey Temple is basically an old temple overrun with monkeys in the middle of Ubud. We had seen our fair share of this Planet of the Apes scenario so we started making the decent down the lava rock mountain. The path was slippery due to all the lose rock so it was slow going but the volcanic surrounding scenery was amazing. Upon our return to Ubud we showered, checked out of our homestay, and caught a cab back to the western amenities of Kuta where we could gather our thoughts and plan out the next section of our journey.