Long time no speak. I am now halfway through the trip and I just wanted to check in with some travel stories, photos, and yes; an END OF YEAR SALE! I've created a 20% discount for all original artworks, which is automatically applied in the checkout process. This discount runs for 20 days only, until the end of November.
BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN As most of you might already know, Indonesia is a really special place to me. It’s where I learnt to surf, where I met my partner and discovered my passion for resin. It was here that I kickstarted what is now my full-time job, thanks to all of you. I called Lombok “home” from 2015-2018... and it will always feel like home every time I return.
Driving around on the bike here and just taking it all in, I recently had a thought that hadn't really come to mind before,
How can a place that is so wildly different from what we know in every single way, feel like home? How can we feel held, welcome and accepted in a place where we have no real roots or ties that are usually associated with 'home'?
Slow days: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
The slow pace has been incredibly nourishing. I'm tapped into my natural sleep and hunger rhythms that aren’t hijacked by screens, have to’s and should’s. Currently our only -luxurious- concerns are:
Where and when are we surfing?
Where and what are we going to eat?
This also means that we often get up at 4:45AM for a sunrise session and hit the bed before 9PM. I don't get up that early EVER - unless it's to catch a flight or good waves... and in warm weather only. That alarm just be hittin' different when you know it's already 25°C, the sky is putting on an art show and there's cute feral puppies on the road.
Dawn & dusk: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
WAVES, COCONUTS, MANTA RAYS
The first week, we spent two days cruising around Bali for a few little missions, reminding us immediately that this is the land of 'abstract traffic guidelines' rather than strict rules. Then we took a boat to Bali's little sister island, Nusa Lembongan.
We actually didn’t plan on taking boards to Lembongan, as the surf forecast predicted a flat spell around the island for that particular week. But upon arrival, we saw Shipwrecks absolutely pumping so we dumped our bags at the bungalow and went straight to the sea for our first surf in bikini, board shorts and 28°C water. This a cry-worthy experience in itself if you’ve been surfing in wetsuits for 3 years. There were only a handful of people out and we both got some sick waves (and got smashed too).
Island exploring: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
The water clarity is to die for, you can see the coral and urchins beneath your board as you paddle, duck dive and even while riding the waves. After our first session, we got a fresh coconut and nasi goreng on the beach at sunset, overlooking Shipwrecks, barely able to grasp that we're finally here... What a way to start off the trip.
We spent five days on Nusa Lembongan just surfing, drinking coconuts and snorkelling to sleep off the work-mode and jet lag. We stayed in a little wooden bungalow near the beach and surf spots, with a pool right out the front, surrounded by the most beautiful lush tropical garden I’ve ever seen. I absolutely loved waking up to huge green leaves taller than the hut itself, fragrant tropical flowers and baby coconuts in the palm trees. My favourite feature; the outdoor shower. There is nothing like having a warm shower while it’s raining slightly, looking up at palms and mango trees with their fruits dangling like a decorated tropical Christmas tree. How I’ve missed those funny gecko noises and cricket orchestras at night. I can't remember sleeping this well in ages.
EAT & SUPPORT LOCAL
We quickly identified our favourite breakfast spot with epic smoothie bowls, coffee and gluten-free vegan waffles (yes, I am one of those white, blonde, vegan, gluten-free, surfing clichés!). We’d cruise over to this little cafe each morning on our scooter to fuel up for a day of surfing, exploring, swimming with manta rays and tropical fish or enjoying a traditional Balinese massage.
Indonesian delights: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
We discovered a bunch of other lovely family-owned restaurants and because Ant and I both speak Indonesian (not fluently but pretty good), we got to learn about their experiences growing up on the island, through volcano eruptions, food insecurity, earthquakes and of course, covid.
Most of the islands’ industries have shifted from fishing and (seaweed) farming to tourism, so when the country shut its doors in 2020, many people lost their businesses and income sources. One particular restaurant owner and an overall amazing character, Bapak Ketut, joined us at the long table and shared stories of how during a huge volcano eruption in the 60s decimated the crops, and his family lived solely off coconuts for a year. The extreme poverty led him to travel from Nusa Lembongan to Denpasar (on the main island of Bali) by boat and on foot with a single cow in tow, hoping to sell her on the cattle market.
Ketut also had an interesting story about Shipwrecks, the surf spot where not one but two cargo ships have crashed onto the reef at different occasions. According to him, this spot is directly in line with a specific Hindu temple on the island, creating a strong energy field. He said that the people who have tried to steal and sell materials (such as metal) from the shipwrecks, have all received bad luck since...
Eating at these kind of places is one of our favourite things to do -(minus the high chance of getting food poisoning due to less than desirable food hygiene standards, which Ant would soon be savagely reminded of)- because A) we know our money is going straight to their families, B) we're getting an authentic experience and C) it makes us feel more connected to the people and place. It's also a pretty good reality check, if we ever needed one...
Lombok: morning commute with my girls Tati and Lucy.
NEXT STOP: LOMBOK
I'm not going to lie: coming back to Lombok for the first time since 2019, I was a little apprehensive. We have a bunch of friends who are still based here and we knew that some things had changed. In the past few years, millions of dollars have been injected here for tourism development. Where there was once a jungle with dodgy, muddy paths and bandits with machetes, now lies a huge moto GP track and brand new asphalt roads. I was worried it wouldn’t feel the same anymore.
Our happy place: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
We soon came to the conclusion that apart from some new roads, the GP track and a few more restaurants, it all felt just as how we left it. Those particular smells, noises, places and 'Indo ways' - all bring a big smile to our faces (except for the plastic pollution... that's a topic for another time). We’ve been welcomed back with open arms by our Indonesian and Western friends and acquaintances. My Bahasa Indonesia is flowing back - although slightly rusty still - I am loving chatting and joking with the locals again.
Although the “raw and rustic” vibe of 8+ years ago was an interesting experience, it also brought with it its dangers and frustrations. I do not miss not being able to drive at night, in fear of being robbed and slashed with a machete whilst driving a motorbike (the struggle was real). I also don’t miss getting stuck in ankle-deep mud in the middle of nowhere. Put simply, most of these infrastructural developments are improving the safety and quality of life... although some kamikaze drivers still don't seem to understand how one-way traffic works on these new roads. You always have to be hyper aware whilst driving here; any moment your path can be crossed by a herd of water buffalo, street dogs, a child on a motorbike, an entire family on a single motorbike, goats, a monitor lizard, stray puppies and bakso bikes driving on the wrong side.
Some random furry friends: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
Basically, we’ve returned with an open mind, aiming to not project our past experiences and memories onto this place and just see and feel it all exactly for what it is. And it has been fucking great.
What's even better, is realising how insanely good the waves actually are. Not that I didn't know that already, but let's just say that surfing mostly inconsistent, weak, cold beach breaks for the past couple of years has made us both more humble and appreciative of actual GOOD surf. I can't even explain how nice it feels to surf perfect reef breaks in a bikini and have channels again. Even just sitting in the lineup watching the local talent shred up their backyard is a pleasure in itself.
Gerupuk-born Juna & Doyo doing what they do best.
We've also been going on a few walks to some of our favourite semi-hidden spots, where we can be completely alone, on white sand surrounded by lush bushes and hills... and monkeys, buffalo and goats of course.
Views for days: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
Apart from surfing, Ant has been like a kid in a candy shop with his new dome port for the in-water camera housing... below is a selection of his snaps of some of our friends and I so far.
Under the sea: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
In between surfs, we've been reconnecting with so many friends and neighbours since we arrived. From old colleagues at the Surfcamp and my boss at Banyu Surfboards to our friends in the village and taxi drivers. We even visited our old jungle shack, which is finally receiving some much needed renovations. There's quite a bit of catching up to do after three years, which we've been enjoying whilst sharing waves, delicious food and an occasional G&T. We were even invited to a friend of a friend's wedding in typical Sasak style (words can't explain, so I'll just add photos) and we got to stay in the bride's luxury villa for two nights with our friends Doyo & Laura and our new friends/the newlyweds Grace and Fi'i.
Like Bali and many other places, Lombok has also struggled massively as a result of the pandemic, with many people losing businesses and their income completely for two years straight. After the earthquakes and floods, covid was really the last thing that these people needed. Luckily, with the borders back open, it seems that things are going back to 'normal'. Places are reopening, our friends have new jobs or restarted their own businesses again and they have hope and plans for the future. Sasak wedding & a sweet upgrade with friends: swipe/tap arrow to view more images.
EXCITING THINGS AHEAD In a few days, we have some friends from Cornwall joining us here for some adventures. I cannot wait to see their first reactions to everything here and surf together. Thanks for reading & until the next update.
Lots of love,