Chapter 6: Nusa Lembongan

Sept 28
The hot water thermos and tea always await my waking just outside my door on the porch with bamboo chairs and a hammock hanging from the posts at the Jungut Inn. I let my tea seep as I enjoy swinging in the hammock while reading about Ishmael and Ahab chasing an infamous white whale through the southern oceans. One of the workers delivers my breakfast of a banana pancake and informs me I will have to pay the owner of the bike for the damage I caused. I inquire of how much expecting something around $100 and planning to offer a fair $50 for only cosmetic damage. He returns and says the owner wants 150,000 rupiah, $15. I am fine with that.

A white van waits for me outside the guesthouse filled with other westerners heading to various destinations at 9:30. Of course I am late reporting and everyone watches me struggling to carry my over laden packs, limping from my foot and wincing from my arm. The van drops me off at Sanur beach where the public boat embarks for the island of Nusa Lembongan. I wade up to my mid thigh in the calm sea and lift myself aboard the vessel, a larger version of the boat we took to the Gilli Islands off Lombok.

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The boat had already been stocked with large water tanks and building supplies for their local temples currently under restoration. A couple from Sweden sits across from me, sharing the same plank for a seat. An Irish girl with beautiful red curly hair and lots of freckles sits behind them, mostly minding her own thoughts. Two surfers from France take the seat behind me. I try to spend the hour and half journaling, but the spray from outriggers keeps causing my ink to run, so I read some from my Moby-Dick now talking of chasing whales and being chased by pirates between the islands of Sumatra and Java, the next two major islands of Indonesia I do not visit.

Nusa Lembongan has beautiful rocky cliffs dropping dramatically into the sea surrounded by small sandy beaches: Mushroom, Cocoanut, and Sunset beach. The calm beyond the crashing surf is crowded with small local boats, fishing and diving boats, fast boats, and two gi-normous structures frequented by large catamaran cruise ships bringing rich tourists to enjoy the snorkeling and sea without having to have contact with the locals on the beach. The boat anchors closer to the beach and I step off barely getting my feet wet, greeted by locals offering to carry bags, carrying signs with western names, and offering transport. I generally wade past these massings of people before I try to decide where I want to go. Apparently the guesthouse I had booked had sent a guy to help me take my bags, but I had ignored his calling my name.

The main road is a surprising distance from the beach, some 200 or 300 meters. I trudge on heavy with my bags, limping with the sting of salt water in my foot wounds. I walk for a ways towards my hotel, but from names I recognize, it is still a ways off. A local on a motorbike stops and asks where I am heading. I cannot remember the name of my guesthouse, but I know the one it’s next to, Puri Nusa Bungalows. The man says he works for this guesthouse and will take me to mine, which is Tarci Bungalows (pronounced Tarchi, as the ‘c’ is always pronounced as ‘ch’).

The room is very nice, clean and white with two beds, one large and one small. Large flat, smooth rocks surround the toilet and shower. The worker showing my room says, “Since you came on the public boat your room is 150,000.” I stop. No, we agreed on 100,000 on the phone. “120,000?” No. 100,000. He leaves, talks with his manager and comes back, giving me the “be quiet, don’t tell anyone else you’re getting this price” sign.

I pack my backpack with my photo gear and head out to explore the island and find some lunch. “Hey, you were on the same boat as I was, weren’t you?” the redheaded Irish girl leans over the railing and calls as I pass by the beachside restaurant where she sits. “Have you had lunch yet?” she adds. “You didn’t have someplace you were headed do you?” Nope, I have no plans. We sit and talk over lunch for some time then decide for sunset to walk along the beach to find the guidebook recommended Mushroom Beach, which is a kilometer or so away. Emma walks barefoot through sand enjoying the feeling of it passing between her toes. She brings no shoes with her, set to brave whatever the path may throw at her. We pass expensive cliffside resorts with infinite pools and fancy restaurants before the nicely paved trail disintegrates to a rocky path; Emma limps over the sharp stones. The obvious trail leads down steep steps to cocoanut beach, a small but beautiful sandy beach with a couple of bamboo huts selling simple food items at the far side, and disappears. Emma sees a way up past the hut and a trail that leads along the cliffs to the right. Mushroom beach unfolds before us lined with expensive resorts and remarkably unspectacular, well to a lesser extent than the guidebook raved. We follow a side trail along the cliff leading to a point that looks over Mushroom beach to the left and to the right a small, secluded beach with large cliffs on both sides. Here, perched over the crashing waves we sit and wait for the sun to give its spectacular finish before fizzling out into the distant sea. Kayakers play in the surf, silhouetted against the brilliant but diminishing light.

A nice place I did not stay at

Emma looking through tide pools

A nice restaurant overlooking Mushroom Beach

Emma and I continue talking till we finally get back to her guesthouse where I met her, exchange quick ‘goodbye, see you later’s, and I set in for my usual early sleep schedule.

Sept 29
My last full day in Indonesia and I have no plan. I go to the restaurant in front of my guesthouse right up against the splashing tide expecting my included breakfast. The worker who had tried to tell me my room was 150,000 now says breakfast is not included. “But everywhere else here breakfast is included?” I try to reason. “None of the inns in this row offer included breakfast,” he quickly responds. Well, it was worth a try. Sometimes uninformed reasoning works, sometimes it doesn’t.

With my backpack straining to hold my camera equipment and showing signs of not wanting to continue with its assigned task, I head out down the beach set to explore the island. Again I find Emma sitting at the same table as the day before, but now joined by two Californians. She asks me to join them for a bit.

Justin, tanned with mixed blonde hair and a ruggedly assured look, has been living on the island for six months surfing and spear fishing. Melissa, skinny and hiding behind huge sunglasses, came to visit Justin with her boyfriend, Jordan, a jovially overweight computer programmer from San Diego. The threesome is going to a secret beach on the next island that Justin knows to snorkel, and ask if Emma and I want to join. Justin takes care of getting us equipment and motorbikes and we head off up through the hills. Emma rides on the back of my bike and I am still nervous from my accident but gaining confidence. By the end of the day I am feeling much better. After the accident I realized how unprotected I am from the road; any unseen pothole or obstruction can send me flying, leaving my skin along the pavement as I bounce and skid.

Passing beautiful scenes of island village life, seaweed farming, and fishing, we cross a long but very skinny suspension bridge spanning the distance between the two islands, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Cenan??. The road disintegrates to a dirt road and gets somewhat steep. Justin stops and tells us to enjoy the scenery. We stand overlooking a beautiful cove with cliffs surrounding both sides, the beautiful blue water interrupted by dark shapes of coral beneath the surface, and a rocky beach taking the constant beating of large powerful waves. To get to the beach we climb through an abandoned skeleton of a beautiful house never finished, complete with furniture covered in tarps and an infinite pool filled with dirty brown water.

We lather on sunscreen then make our way out among the rocks, following Justin’s example of how to brave the waves and slippery rocks and get to the safety of a 10 meter circle of white sand where we can start our exploring of the beauty beneath the waves. To the left the scenes are a bit dark, hazy from the crashing waves, and too far down to explore closer. The further I make my way to the right across the cove the better the scene gets – more color, more fish, more coral. Soon deep ravines add another dimension to the scene, inviting me to attempt to dive, even without the help of flippers on my feet. The beauty persistently increases the further right I go till I am in danger of being pushed into the cliff edge by the crashing waves. I turn into the cove and continue exploring the ravines and the reef, which suddenly get much closer to me. It is incredible, the best I have seen. Suddenly I feel myself being moved this way and that by the crashing and confused waves, coming from many directions bouncing off the different walls. I flow with it for a bit seeing where it wanted to take me, but too soon I find myself face to face with coral and an impending large wave hovers above me. This is going to hurt. I try to keep my hands on the coral at all times while the wave spins me like a washing machine. I try to stand but am taken again by the next wave. This one delivers me far enough from the danger zone I can stand and walk the rest of the way, breathing hard and sore from being bounced off the reef. Bleeding from new wounds, I take a seat on a rock next to Emma who had already retired from snorkeling, staying safely only to the left.

A wave crashes over my head as I hold onto the slippery rock determined not to let go. I use the lull between the waves to pull myself up onto the shelf of sharp rock and allow myself to breath. Justin told me a certain route to climb the cliff and make it to a point some 10 meters up to jump into the crashing waves below. I thought, why not test my apparent ability to get hurt in every situation on this trip? I climb on the sharp rocks thankful I thought to wear my Chaco sandals that grip the wet rock. With Justin intermittently whistling to get my attention and pantomiming climbing beta I reach the summit and find the point from which to jump. I sit taking in the scene for a bit, watching Justin’s friends in black wetsuits dive in the deeper waters with their spear guns chasing after large fish and Jordan, floundering in his flippers, his white back in dire contrast to the dark water, unsuccessfully attempting to load his spear gun. With a quick breath, I jump. Barely noticing the lapse in time between jumping and colliding with the water, I make sure that my body stays shallow so as not to connect with the rocks below.

We wait for Jordan to come in from his unsuccessful attempt at spear fishing and head back to our home beach. On the way I take note of beautiful scenes I would like to photograph, but I do not want to burden everyone else so I wait. I drop Emma off at a fruit stand then take the bike back to a cove full of fishing boats. Then racing the sun I try to find a resort to take some interior and exterior pictures to add to my portfolio. I follow signs to a tiny dirt road leading to Sunset Beach Resort. The scene is nice but the resort does not look like the construction was finished. I hurry back, following signs to Mushroom beach, but missing the proper sunset I make my way to a very expensive looking resort on the far side. I take some photos of the pool and rest area and ask the manager to show me a room, which is amazingly beautiful.

This man really cares about his…rooster. Cock fighting is a favorite pastime of the local men.

On my return after dark I try to find roads that I think lead me in the right direction but find dead ends to wrong beaches and roads tapering off in the hills to nothing more than tire tracks in dirt. Giving in to the notion that I am lost I retrace my path and make my way back to the village that I know leads to the main road. My backpack is sitting strangely on my back and I keep adjusting it. On the final stretch of road before Emma’s guesthouse bouncing down the road between 30 and 40 km/hr I hear something fall off my bike. Looking back I see fading off into the dark my green dry bag, the same green bag I had put my camera in to keep it from getting scratched in my backpack. Hurrying back to the scene of the accident I cautiously touch the dry bag. Two distinct forms tell me all is not ok. My 16-35mm 2.8 lens has forcibly detached from my camera. I pull out the separate pieces, the camera for the most part looking all right, and the lens with the mounting system markedly missing and the green circuit board exposed. I separate the lens’ mount from the camera and set it back on the lens, unable to reattach it. Putting my 50mm lens on my camera I test it to make sure its working. The door on my vertical battery grip will not stay shut, but camera works fine. Though my most expensive lens now lay in pieces I found I stay remarkably cool, going through this with a mechanical calm. I feel that at some earlier time I would have freaked out and made a huge scene. No amount of emotion can change what just occurred and I now just have to deal with it.

Lenses are made modular exactly for this reason. If a certain amount of pressure is applied to any one of the modules it releases from the rest, making sure minimal damage is done to the lens and the camera to which it is attached. The mounting ring unattached saving the camera and the lens from being forcibly ripped apart and irreparable. Now I live only two train stops from the Canon repair center for Mumbai and most of India. It will be ok.

I thank Justin for taking me to his secret beach and bid goodbye to Melissa and Jordan. Emma is not around but had said she wanted to leave on the first boat out in the morning, the same I planned on taking. I ask the front desk to wake me up at six before heading to another early bedding.

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