For every surfer, this is one of the ultimate destinations. Guaranteed perfect waves, warm water and a welcoming culture in which you can immerse yourself. I'd been surfing for a few years and I told myself I wouldn't go to Indo until I was ready, until I could really appreciate the waves. So now was the time, and I was super excited.
Travelling with established surf travel company Ticket to Ride, I booked onto a 4-week Indonesian Adventure.
First stop was the hippie surf town Canguu. Images of this little bohemian town are splashed all over social media - beautiful eclectic people living the idealistic hedonistic lifestyle... and of course the waves.
Waking up to the glorious sunrise with fresh coffee and a tropical fruit plate we readied ourselves for our first surf. Boards freshly waxed we walked down to Old Man's Beach in boardies and bikinis. The water was already a little crowded, but there were fun little peaks on offer. Paddling out to feel the warm water was freedom defined. The waves were super fun giving long rides, lending themselves to smooth turns and our enjoyment. We surfed everyday, twice a day, hopping down the main road, chasing shadows and trying not burn our bare feet on the hot tarmac. Life was simple, easy, bliss.
The line-ups were however very crowded. We woke earlier and earlier each day trying to beat the mayhem, but there were always heads bobbing around whenever we got to the beach. There are a number of waves on offer, but we stuck with Old Man's. Known as a less challenging wave this isn't always chosen by experienced surfers. But the wave was clean, the crowd less aggressive and more welcoming, and so we ended up here most days. Surfing is after all for enjoyment.
We explored further to the world famous break Uluwatu about an hour's drive away. The surf was smaller which is not the norm, meaning a few of the group could head out down the steps and under the famous tunnel to walk over the reef to this awesome wave. A few caught waves, most came back with souvenirs from the reef - little reef cuts. All in all it was a surreal day.
Canguu offers so much more. Dozens of delicious little restaurants ranging from local shacks on the beach cooking up the best Nasi Goreng for £1, to the more well known such as Deus Ex Machina for those days you want to splash out and mingle with the cool kids. Watch the sunset in the evenings from the beachfront sipping ice cold Bintangs and watching those last few surfers throw spray out into the burning sky.
The region is host to a number of active volcanoes, many of which can be explored and hiking tours are numerous. We took one morning off to hike Mount Batur, an active volcano in the Kintamani District. We bundled into our van at 1am and drove for a couple of hours to the basecamp. Here we met our guides and commenced on our hike to the summit. The terrain started of fairly easy, but the higher we climbed the gentle slopes turned into large boulders and loose stones. Encouraging each other we pursued the climb. It was well worth the effort. Resting above the clouds still in the dark of night, we could see the sun's rays starting to penetrate the sky. I have never witnessed such a spectacular sunrise. It is understandable why this mountain is sacred in Hindu culture.
Canguu awakened all of the senses. It's easy to see why so many people from far and wide have chosen to make this little town their home. Living the life of Peter Pan... this could be the modern-day Neverland.
After two weeks amongst the hustle of Canguu, we caught a plane over to the island of Lombok. A complete contrast, this island had a much slower pace, was quiet and seemingly untouched. We stayed in the quaint fishing town of Grupuk in a little hostel which was right on the shore. Countless little dugout fishing boats were moored infront of the hostel, and it was these that we'd be venturing out on to the surf breaks.
We surfed a couple of spots during the week with local surfers as our guides. The energy in the water was electric, and this was because of the awesome group of locals who were with us. They were pumped to share their waters, shouting us into waves and cheering from the line up. This is the spirit of surfing. Being able to share in a passion with people from across the globe, barely being able to understand each other's languages, but recognising joy and delight in each other's eyes as we caught wave after wave together.
Back at the hostel we relaxed on the veranda, drinking beers, surfed out and mellow and reminiscing our waves from the day. During downtime in the day we watched the fishing boats heading out to sea and children playing on the shoreline infant of the hostel. We hiked through the jungles to hidden magnificent waterfalls, and explored some of the secret beaches - soft white sand and turquoise blue water as if in a dream. We ate fresh fish caught that day grilled with rice and veggies, arguably the best meal I had on the entire trip.
Time really slowed down in Grupuk. We lived the simple life, nothing more, nothing less - perfect. It was difficult to leave this place and these people with their beaming smiles and endless laughter. It will definitely be a place I will return to... and very soon.
Our final destination on this trip was the island of Nusa Lembongan with her infamous surf breaks - Playgrounds, Lacerations, Razors, Shipwrecks. Anticipation and excitement was in the air as we raced over the seas on speedboats. We arrived hot and dusty after the journey to our hostel - on the beachfront with Shipwrecks to the right and Razors to the left.
The first day was flat. We recharged relaxing by the pool, stretching out with a yoga class and soaking up the little yogi town. It was nice to wind down after three fairly hectic weeks of non-stop watertime. But it didn't take long, as we woke early the next day looking out onto the ocean, before our limbs started to yearn for the swell. The waves began to roll in. They were steeper, faster and breaking over shallow reef. But our surf skills had improved and our confidence boosted by weeks of excellent surf coaching. It was awesome to see the group charging. We surfed every spot, even heading out to Ceningan Point when the swell has eased off.
The highlight of my trip - one single wave at Shipwrecks. Notorious for being a local break where only experienced surfers will paddle out. It was nearing the end of the day, the swell was smaller and as we were riding back on our boat our coach Jarred noticed that there were less people out at the infamous Shipwrecks. He said "this might be the only chance you have to get a wave out there". We paddled out into the line up and straight away I noticed the difference compared to the other breaks we had surfed during the trip. The atmosphere was serious, focused, intimidating, and even moreso because I was the only female in the water. Discreet encouragement from Jarred, and after a while I paddled into one of the smaller ones, took the drop and sped down the line until it closed. Subsequently I got a set on the head and spent the rest of the session getting back. But sometimes... it only takes one wave.
Before heading out to Indo, I had read a lot about the environmental impact of tourism in the region. I had seen photographs of tractors scooping up heaps of plastic waste from beaches cleaning them daily to keep them looking 'pristine' for the tourists. I was expecting the worst and had prepared myself for a daily beach clean up. I was pleasantly surprised. The beaches were fairly clean, and more importantly the communities seemed aware of the problem of rubbish and plastic pollution. Most of the restaurants/bars offered paper straws, and several had clean water dispensers where one could fill up their reusable water bottle for a very small cost.
However, if you looked for it the plastic pollution was there, and heartbreakingly it was seen in tandem with nature's wonders. On a surf out at Razors one morning we shared the water with 5 dolphins circling around us for what seemed ages as time stood still with the magic. But in that same session I ended up coming back to shore with 2 plastic cups which I'd collected from the water. Similarly, just after seeing a magnificent manta ray when snorkelling in Nusa Lembongan, I surfaced and found a big black plastic bag floating around the dive site. There were countless others snorkelling who I'm sure would have seen the plastic bag - why was I the first to scoop it up back onto the boat? It remains therefore to say that we must travel responsibly to protect what we find so mesmerising.
This trip to Indo was once in a lifetime. Four weeks of non-stop surfing in perfect waves, not often possible with busy lives at home. It will be one I remember for a long time. The coaching by Jarred from TTR was epic and cannot be recommended enough. New found skills to work on and take me to the next stage in my own surfing. Indonesia is an intriguing place, mix of old and new, ancient and modern, traditional and contemporary. It takes time to absorb it all, and I guess that’s why I will definitely be returning.
Deepa travelled to Indonesia with Ticket to Ride www.tickettoridegroup.com
Surf photography by Luke Geldenhuys www.instagram.com/lukeg_88
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