Mecca and the Soul Brother (Our first trip to Uluwatu and Balangan)

Our weekly day trip and this time we’re headed south. Moped fueled up, supermarket sandwich for breakfast and we’re off.

We followed our well known route all the way down the main road. Turning right at McDonalds and then wow! It’s hill time. Huge long hills and the bike is huffing and puffing. We spot the sign for Balangan beach, our first destination.

We make it to the beach around 11am. It is ridiculously hot. I take my board off its rack. It just fits under my arm. Today in its board bag for sun protection, it is the most awkward thing I could wish to carry. Prior to the trip I even talked to Jen about leaving my board and renting one at the beach to avoid having to babysit. After my first wave I’m glad I brought it.

As we arrived at the beach, the bay opened up. Headlands at either end and a big crescent of yellow sand. The tide is in, the beach is thin and there’s only 20 surfers out. What is most apparent is the amount of plastic on the beach. Tomorrow we will be part of Bali’s biggest beach cleaning event to date. Today, right now, this ocean paradise is covered in plastic.

We progress through a familiar ebb of ‘plastic’ despair and find a spot where Jen can chill while I get my surf fix. The Bukit is the centrepiece of Balinese surfing. The southern end of Bali ‘The Bukit’ is practically it’s own island; linked to the mainland by a narrow northerly neck. I bodyboarded at Balangan 16 years ago. It was so-so. I remember likening it to a powerful UK beach break. Today was completely different. It was certainly doing its thing and from what i’d read, it was only just getting started. Thank god.

There were two groups of surfers out. The first were right out by the southerly headland. The second were just in from there, sat further down the line of the reef where the waves were breaking. I sat outside the second group, feeding off their scraps. It worked well to get a few quick waves and boost my confidence. These were steep waves. I’d been surfing fatter waves recently up the coast at Canggu with the Longboarders. This was different. I got nailed by some bigger waves. My board being whipped out of my hands as I attempted to duck dive through them. I pulled on my leash to reach the surface and take a new breath. Later I felt the grip of my fins catch into the face of the wave as I notched up a couple of intensely fun, short fast rides. It was beautiful. There was an eddy of plastic flotsam floating nearby.

Buzzed off my surf I came in to find Jen on the beach. In need of shade we walked towards the raised wooden shacks that lined the centre of the beach. The waves were breaking between their head high stilts. We timed our move carefully to reach an entry ladder.

Overlooking the sea we had a perfect view of the waves. 2 big Bintang beers and some Nasi Goreng (vegetable fried rice) equals a pretty sweet setup. We must have sat there for an hour and a half at least. Playing with the zoom lens on the camera, watching the surf, and talking somewhat passionately about nothing I can remember. Looking back now, I want to call it Vibing. That’s what we were doing. You might say we were chilling. You could say that. But it was more than that. Vibing. Off my tits on happiness. Of course I can’t answer for Jen.
The energy waned, we paid our bill and headed back up the hill. We explored the empty roads of a bizarre complex of holiday resorts behind the beach. It felt alien and a bit soul-less, compared to where we’d just been.

Finding the coast road once more and I realised we had managed to divert past the beach where I had stayed 16 years ago. We kept on, knowing that we’ll come back another day and have a look.

We passed Padang Padang, another legendary wave and carried on all the way to Uluwatu.
Built into the cliffs, numerous cafes offered incredible views over this impressive setting. Stretched out across maybe 200-300 metres, four groups of surfers were catching what can only be described as massive waves. And It was a small day in comparison. ‘Everybody’s just so freaking good out there’ replied the guy in the carpark as he put his board back on his bike.

For now, I am strictly in research mode. Yes you can surf Uluwatu at any level of experience. Anyone can enter the water. It’s just that I’d rather get a bit more clued up. There’s a lot of water shifting around. Further, entry to the sea is through the infamous cave. And you have to get back in through the cave too. Miss your timing and you have a long paddle back around the currents. It’s a serious venue. Not too mention the reef sitting beneath the waves.

As we passed a monkey eating a banana we made our way to the top of the cliffs. Our zoom lens did us proud and we witnessed some incredible surfing.

Driving back, we found a dirt track that led to an empty beach. We floated in the sea as the sun went down. It was lush.

Bumper to bumper the whole way. We stopped at a mini supermarket after an hour to down a red bull AND a coffee and then inhale a bumper pack of chilli tortillas. That lot sure got us home. Knackered we slumped onto the bed. The next morning we woke up with the sun as per normal. It was beach cleaning time.



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