Weekends of Exploring
Nusa Lembongan and Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia, 2009-02-23 12:00 by Martin
The previous two weekends have been put to good use. We have been out exploring nearby areas on Bali and the neighboring island Nusa Lembongan. It’s nice to make trips like this, where we pack only a small pack, making travelling light and easy.

We took the ferry to Nusa Lembongan early Saturday morning together with Timo and his girlfriend Olivia. Timo is in Laerkes BIPA class, Olivia is a native from Flores. They met on Sumba of all places! The ferry ride was quite uneventful, it was nice to chat, but everyone was a bit tired from getting up early. Olivia, like many Indonesians, can’t swim, which made her shriek a little when the waves got high. It’s quite curious that in a country that exists only of Islands, most people can’t swim properly. We embarked with dry feet though, the weather was nice and the sun was shining through a light layer of morning clouds. But as Nusa Lembongan does not have a pier, we embarked a few meters from the shore, not arriving with dry feet ;) Laerke was offered a piggyback ride by the crew though, but she politely refused.

After having second breakfast, we set out on foot south along the shore and the main beach, where fishingboats, seaweed farms and ferries crowd the shallow waters. Crossing the lush headlands that protrude into the blue sea, we found some smaller and more peaceful coves with white-sand-beaches and azure waters. Even in the smaller coves, fishing boats are not to be avoided though, but it doesn’t matter much, as they are actually often quite beautiful with their brightly painted hulls and spiderlike outriggers.

We swam and relaxed on the beach the whole day, returning in the afternoon, when clouds slowly began to gather and a light shower reminded us that it is still rainy season. We headed back through the small Kampungs (villages) that dot the coasts and interior of Nusa Lembongan. The atmosphere on the island is much more relaxed than the big tourist areas of mainland Bali, and as many of the locals are employed in the Seaweed farming business, tourism is only a secondary income to most, making the locals less intrusive and more indifferent (meant in a good way). When we returned it was almost sunset, so after a lovely dinner we were ready to head for bed.

The next morning we again had to rise pretty early (by our standards) to take the public ferry back to Bali. We woke by ourselves though before the alarm clock rang and took the 5 steps to the beach. Here the locals were already getting themselves busy with seaweed farming, bringing in groceries from the morning markets in Bali or big baskets of fish caught earlier in the morning. Children were out catching sandworms to use for bait and a few women were still putting out offerings.

On the way back we were lucky to get a good view of Gunung Agung, the tallest and holiest mountain on Bali. Most often it is shrouded in thick mist or clouds, so even though it dominates the landscape of eastern Bali, it is rarely seen.

A week later, in the following weekend, we again took out to explore Bali. We loaded up our scooter and set out on the 30 km drive to Padang Bai in the eastern part of Bali. Together with Petra and Yulun we arrived at the sleepy little tourist/ferry town an hour later, having almost lost Yulun on the way due to a gas-stop she didn’t notice. Yulun racing on while we were stopping forced us to do a little cat and mouse chase on the luckily not so crowded road. Yulun was driving last in line, so when we stopped and she zoomed right past us, she assumed that we had ridden faster than her, and she was dropping behind, therefore increasing her speed – making us now chasing her, and having a hard time catching up. Well in the end we succeeded and everyone was once more driving together. Padang Bai is mainly known as the port for ferries to Lombok and the ‘Gili Islands’, but it’s a charming little town, that has some nice beaches on offer and some small, but nice coral reefs for snorkeling. We stayed a bit out of town, but close to the southern beach, which none of us can remember the name of. The beach is great though; a stretch of white sand trees backing it, giving some much needed shade. A little warung and some stalls selling coffee and sarongs too, and the local vendors aren’t too much of a hassle. The water is clean and turquoise with a fun swell that might be too big for kids, but is really fun when you feel like being thrown around. But only 15 meters out the waves don’t break and it’s good for swimming. I caught a big wave and bodysurfed all the way to the beach; which was a bit too far though, as I got a slammed right down on the sand, scraping my back a little. The powers of the waves are amazing, fascinating and sometimes a bit scary...

A big scar has been made on the otherwise idyllic beach though. What was once a nice backdrop of jungle, has now been transformed into a building site for a major hotel development. The hotel was not approved or licensed though, making it totally illegal. So when one of the Koreans behind the project died, and the project therefore also ran out of money, the construction stopped. What is left now is a construction site, which no one knows what will happen to – a perfect example of Indonesian corruption and lack of control.

We made a little friend on the beach

Most of our two days in Padang Bai were spend at the beach, but we also took a small outrigger boat out to the coral reef and did some snorkeling. It wasn’t the best snorkeling ever, but there were some nice corals and many smaller fish, including banner- and parrot-fish, and I think I saw a trigger-fish as well. In the evenings we gathered with the local guys on the beach and drank some beer and arak, chatted, sang songs and listened to them playing the guitar. One of the nights was full moon, so we watched the older generation walking in a long line to the nearby shore temple. They were of cause dressed in their kabayas and sarongs and carrying big baskets of offerings. They were a solemn but very colorful and enchanting sight under the full moon; but unfortunately it was too dark for taking pictures.

We had our scooter problems on the trip too. Yuluns bike had problems going uphill, which resulted in it stopping half way on a very steep part of road. Not knowing what to do, and unable to hold the heavy bike, Yulun simply let it fall. This resulted in a bent brake pedal and a slightly shocked Taiwanese girl. She was soon better though and with a big wrench, the brake pedal was also fixed without needing real repairs. Our bike had to go to the bengkel (Indonesian for a small bike-repair shop) though, as one of our bearings in the front wheel cracked on the way home; luckily it took the guys at the shop only 20 minutes to fix it, and it only set us back 20 Danish kronor (around 3 USD).