“Ready?” Bazza turned to me.
I breathed in deeply. “Ready.”
After three days in our cabin (leaving only to fill our 2-minute noodles with hot water), we docked at Lembar in Lombok.
We gathered our gear and headed down to Deck 3. The rest of the passengers had congregated on the deck and made it almost impossible to get through. Somehow, we found ourselves in the crowd being pushed out towards daylight. Baz got sucked right out as though the craft were losing pressure through an airlock, while I was pushed along to the gangway.
“We made it,” I grinned at the blinding sun, welcomed by its tropical heat.
As soon as we stepped off, three bus drivers latched onto us.
“Where you going, Mister?” they said.
“It’s OK,” said Baz. “We will make our own way.”
“$40 I take you to Mataram,” said one.
I cracked up laughing and patted him on the back. “You’re funny.”
“$20,” said another.
“Thank you, but we’re good,” Baz explained, his words falling on deaf ears as the drivers hung around like Outback flies.
As we started to walk up the road in the melting heat to get the public bus, one driver made us out to be a cow-pie and followed us.
“$4 each,” he smiled.
“$1.5,” I said. I was over being ripped off and this sonofabitch was going to take us for just, “$3 for the both of us.”
“$4 each,” he haggled back.
“How much did you pay?” Baz asked one of the passengers.
“$4,” said a man in a yellow shirt. “Local price.”
Bullshit. “$3,” I said again. “You can make money, or you can make no money.”
He drove off leaving us to pool sweat out of every pore under the beating sun. I could feel one uncomfortable drop slide down the middle of my back and into my crack. We reached the main road, every O-jek and bus driver asking for $4.
The same driver returned. “$4,” he said again. “Each.”
“$3 for both of us,” Baz haggled.
And to our surprise he agreed. Baz sat up front while I sat in the packed back, kindly asking the man in the yellow shirt to remove his hand from my knee.
He asked me what religion I was and, forgetting that I was in a nation where lack of religion meant arrest, I found myself explaining to him that I believe in what I see. “If I see God, I’ll believe in him. I don’t see him so I don’t believe.” I explained Karma and when he asked about my sex life in the very subtle words of,
“Do you like to fuck?”
I told him kindly to mind his own business.
We were dropped off at the outskirts of Mataram. We walked a further 300 meters to the crossroads where a police outpost was setup in the shade. The cops hiding from the sun spoke perfect English and helped us stop a bus and negotiate a $2 price each to Sengegigi, where waves were to be found.
After almost losing my surfboard on a tight turn, we made it to the small resort stretch of beach –Sengegigi. Westerners were everywhere and after obtaining some information from Anne, a local working in the Internet\dive shop (who let us leave our gear there while we walked around) we headed off to the surf shop so that I could get some swell conditions.
“No swell this week,” said Jocko, the local behind the counter.
“Shit,” I said, staring at the the Magic Seaweed website showing that my best chances would be Saturday night and Sunday morning.
We thanked him and headed off to find a money exchanger. While we enjoyed the air con, two westerners walked in.
We said, “G’day,” and chatted with Brian O’Brian, an Irishman and Pablo, an Argentinian living in the South of Lombok. They invited us for some beers where we chatted about life on the island. Baz and I explained how we were travelling and by the second beer Pablo looked at us both and offered, “If you want, you are more than welcome to come and stay with me. I have plenty of room but no running water yet.”
Baz and I stared at each other. We couldn’t believe our luck.
“Thank you,” we both said. “Thank you so much.”
Pablo shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.” He even called Suliman, a local friend of his to ask about any swell down where he lives. “Tomorrow big swell coming,” he said. “I will take you there in the morning.”
Finishing off our beers, we piled Pablo’s car with all our gear and with the surfboard in the middle, we drove around Mataram as they had errands to run. It was the first westernised city we had come across since arriving in Indonesia. There was a Pizza Hut, a McDonald’s, a KFC and a shopping centre.
“Disgusting,” I said aloud.
Coming into the island we had noticed the abundance of mosques everywhere.
“There are a thousand mosques on Lombok,” said Pablo. “My house that I am building is right next to a mosque. They face their speakers right into my window. I’ve asked them to turn it away but do you think these people have any regards for me?”
Mosques sound off the call for prayer at 04:00 every morning, then just before lunchtime, just after lunchtime, mid-afternoon and the evening.
We bought groceries at the supermarket as there is, “Literally nothing and nowhere to buy food where I live,” said Pablo.
Baz and I bought a thick crusted $4 pizza which we devoured in the car and our new friends stopped at McDonald’s. Bazza and I had a McFlurry (I haven’t eaten junk food in 8 years) with M & M’s and with the first bite I knew I had made a serious, gastronomical mistake.
As we drove through the dark, unlit streets, Pablo struggled to stay awake at the wheel. “I just landed in the night from 3-months in South America,” he explained as something started to move in my stomach.
I turned to Baz. “Baz,” I whispered across my surfboard, “Baz, I’m touching cloth.”
He could only grin as I clenched every muscle in my lower torso. I breathed in and out slowly, trying to participate in the conversation.
“We are about 20 minutes away,” Pablo announced, answering Brian’s query of whether he was OK to continue driving. “I’ll be fine.”
But my stomach wasn’t. My ass was begging me to let the flood gates open and I was holding on for dear life. I was about to tell Pablo that he needed to pull over when he took a right turn and stopped before a gate.
“We have arrived,” he announced, hoping out to slide it open.
“Brian,” I turned to the front seat. “I need to use the toilet. I’m touching cloth.”
“Touching cloth?” he turned to the backseat.
“I have a turtle head.”
Pablo drove us in and parked in front of the garage. As I stepped out I was greeted by his Labrador, Jupiter, a beautiful beast that had me flashbacking to my childhood with memories of my Belgium Shepard.
As soon as I stood up it was easier to hold off the turtle head and I even helped carry in the heavy bags of groceries.
“Pablo,” I turned to our gracious host, “how do you go to the toilet if you don’t have running water?”
“I’ll show you,” he said – after he showed me the upstairs where he got a flash light.
And then Baz, Brian and I helped him take his outdoor furniture from the living room to the outside patio. Then he took me through the darkness of his huge property and flashed the light on the outhouse.
“That’s the well where you draw up the water,” he pointed to the bucket next to the shallow well, “and here is your toilet. Enjoy.”
He gave me the torch and I breathed a sigh of relief as I released every muscle from my lower torso south as soon as my butt cheeks touched bowl.
An hour later I came back to the house. “This is why I don’t eat junk food,” I announced.
We chatted with our hosts up until midnight before we retired to bed. Bazza and I shared a mattress and at 04:00 the muezzin of the next door mosque blasted his morning prayers into our room.
“The fuck is that?” mumbled Baz.
“Call for prayers,” I mumbled back.
He shut the double-glazed windows and silence settled back in.
“My mate here almost died yesterday,” Baz was talking me up to Lisa (German), Thea (English) and Gabby (American), three girls we met at a roadside eatery.
“What happened?” they gave me the floor.
The girls were staying with Suliman, the local who had told me about the surf and had hired out his bike to us.
“Suliman said there was big swell coming into Desert Point which is a reef break,” I began my story of defying death. “We arrived and there were these beautifully shaped, perfect barrels going left for about a hundred meters. Only thing is, they were breaking on reef and all the surfers were gunners.
This point is for pros, I found myself thinking.
Nevertheless, I paddled out and tried to get some waves. They were no bigger than 4-foot. But then Neptune dropped the bomb – literally. The 4-foot swell suddenly grew to 9-foot. It was like watching a 3-storey house rising up out of the water. Everyone had started to paddle and so did I except I was a lot further back.
I got caught in the impact zone. I watched as this giant wall of water rose above me, blocking out the sun. I ditched the board and dove under. The water treated me like seaweed. It threw me around and I was holding onto the leg leash so that I would know which way was up.
I popped my head above the whitewash and sucked in some air before being sucked under and thrown onto the reef. And lemme tell ya something, reef is fucking sharp. Every time I got to the surface, another 8-footer took me under and threw me over the coral like a soccer ball rolling across the road.
It was a 6-wave set and I copped every one of those 9-footers. I seriously thought I was done. I managed to ride my board over the reef on the whitewash of the last wave, sacrificing two fins. I limped out, almost collapsing on the beach. My feet looked as though they’ve gone through a blender which is exactly what one of the locals said to me as I dragged myself out.
I said to him, ‘Blender? It was a fucking industrial food processor.’
Then I managed to haggle the price of 3 fins from $20 to $15 from Suliman,” I grinned, blood dripping from my feet.
Not that the ordeal was worth it but I was glad that it was only me feet that copped it. My board was still whole and surfable and my face still held its rugged good looks.
The girls sympathised and we agreed to meet up in the evening for beers and music provided by my guitar.
Upon reaching Pablo’s house, I cleaned my feet with alcohol, biting my lip to as the level of stinging reminded me what it was like too accidentally scratch my balls after handling chilli. I spread aloe vera straight from the cactus onto the open cuts.
“I recommend you don’t go into the water for a few days at least,” suggested Pablo.
It bummed me out but he was right. The wounds were open and I needed to wait for them to close to avoid infection.
Later that night, after applying the third round of aloe vera, Baz, Brian and I headed over to Suliman’s with my guitar. We met the girls, I jammed and we shared about 13 Bintang beers between us.
The girls were returning to Bali the next day so we exchanged contact details and invited them to come to Bazza’s birthday bash in Kuta.
“I reckon take your board to Bali,” Baz suggested. “You’ll get your wave there.”
And hopefully, I won’t die.
“Check this out, bro,” Baz stirred me to wake. “Ol’ mate that’s getting married in Singapore lives in Malaysia. His invited us to stay with him at his home after the wedding.”
“Sweet,” I murmured, trying to resume sleep since it just happened to be raining this morning.
When the rain subsided, we rode out to snorkel around the peninsula near where Brian lived. We swam across the channel which was 45-feet deep. I couldn’t see the bottom and, to avoid panicking, I kept my head above the water.
Reaching a small, white sandy beached island, we decided to circumnavigate it – snorkeling. For the most of it, it was tall grass on sandy bottom with hand-sized, black-dotted orange starfish everywhere, looking like specialised cookies.
As we rounded the island, we came across an amazing coral garden filled with small, colourful tropical fish that darted in and out, hiding from us as we approached them from above, like large zeppelin balloons.
A steep drop-off into deep blue waters had me sticking to swimming above where I could see the bottom. We rested in a small hut on the beach before returning to the water to swim back across the channel. The current was powerful and the bottom nowhere to be seen.
Baz was pointing at something, gesturing with his hands that it was big. As I looked down, a car-sized coral reef, from 5 meters below, appearing out of nowhere, took me by surprise. My jaw dropping, I took in seawater like the Titanic.
We made it back to where we started from and we rode back to Pablo’s house, stopping for lunch at the same roadside eatery as the day before.
“Big serving, please,” I gestured to the mama, trying to explain that we had been swimming for a few hours and we were very hungry. She seemed to understand as we were both presented with mountain-sized portions of a vegetarian dish called ‘gato-gato’ – tofu, with clotted, nugget-like pieces of rice, a satay-peanut sauce spread over green beans and bean sprouts with a dribble of soy sauce. I added the spicy lombo and I was in gestation heaven.
We planned our next step. “Tomorrow we’ll catch the ferry to Bali,” reckoned Baz with myself agreeing.
And hopefully find a wave that won’t kill me.