So, what did we think Sumatra would be? We feel like we are at the end of the world.
After getting our visas extended we spent two days on the Bukit peninsula to check out the ENORMOUS swell at the famed Bali surf breaks. Seeing a speck of a dude on a 20 to 25 foot wave was probably not the best way to start a surf trip in Indo! But we spent the day cruising around the Bukit on a motorbike (yes moms, we wear helmets), checking out the precarious clifftop Ulu Watu temple, dodging monkeys, and drinking Bintangs overlooking Ulu’s and Padang Padang surf breaks.
We are now far, far away from anything remotely touristy, as we have reached our first surfing destination in Sumatra. It took two short flights to get here…and over nine hours of buses. Our first night in Sumatra was spent in a large city as our flight did not arrive until late afternoon. Upon leaving the airport, we experienced the most harrowing taxi ride of the trip in crazy night time Indonesian traffic, complete with thumping techno-music, sunset prayer calls throughout the city and far too many close calls for an ex-insurance claims rep. We knew the next day would be very long, so we splurged on a “fancy” hotel, complete with air conditioning – deluxe! For dinner, we stayed within our budget, with the two of us spending $2 at a roadside cart – delicious! The next day we departed early on the local bus for an eight hour ride, bumping, swerving and honking through exotic villages, rice paddies, dense jungle of teak, coffee and cacao trees, in a land that suddenly seems so much further away from anything that we’ve ever experienced.
On that long, long bus ride, we met up with another bule (the Indonesian word for “white guy” or “tourist”), David, from Switzerland. He was heading to the same area, so we were all very happy to have fellow travelers. After getting off themain bus, we get in a very crowded, very hot, very sticky bemo (small minibus). No kidding, twelve people and one baby in this tiny bus, holding our backpacks, surfboards strapped to the top, we bumble down another small road for over an hour to get to our destination. After a bit of confusion (always), we find our village and the little place where we want to stay, which is the only lodging for miles.
It is common, for us anyway, to stay in what is called a homestay or losmen Indonesia. These are very simple rooms next to, or attached to a house and include three meals a day, cooked by the family. Our guy here is Cecep (pronounced Che-chep), and he is awesome. He speaks some English, which is definitely more than anyone within miles of here, so we are scrambling to learn Indonesian. Cecep brings us three delicious meals, typically banana pancakes for breakfast, and amazing Sumatran lunches and dinners, all of which includes piles of rice, as they literally eat it with every meal. We have yet to have a bad meal. All this, lodging and food for the two of us, for 260,000 Rupiah a day. That comes to a total of…$28 US a day. Daily entertainment entails surfing (if possible – see last paragraph) and watching goats, cows, ducks, chickens and geese tramp through our yard. Our evenings are spent with Cecep, learning everything we can about Indonesian language and culture, and we feel very fortunate to be able to learn so much from him. We were lucky enough to experience a traditional Muslim Indonesian wedding in the village, complete with exotic music, rich gold woven fabrics draped overhead, piles of food (yes, a few of those cute ducks, chickens, and a handful of goats are missing), and Indonesian men and women dressed to the nines. Something we knew we couldn’t get unless we plopped ourselves into the middle of a small rural village.
We cannot fully express how amazed the locals are to see the bules. The children, of course, are the most bold, running up to get a high five, yelling “Hello Mister”, as we putter past on the little motorbike. Even the older adults stop what they are doing and attempt conversation in a local language that we did not know existed just a few days ago. Rather than our typical Western conversation starters suchas “Hi. How are you?”, most talk here starts with “Where are you going?” followed by “Where did you come from?” The “Where are you going?” doesn’t mean that they want to show you the way or take you there, rather it is a way of determining everyone’s place in the world. We feel like celebrities, but it is exhausting, trying to always enthusiastically smile while using our limited Indonesian vocabulary. Besides, Indonesians would win a smiling contest any day, so we just can’t compete!
Well, we came more than half around the world for the surf, so how is it? BIG. The surf break in front of our first homestay was supposed to be “easy” by Indo standards, but it is anything but easy. We have two choices: 1)The peak of the point which has been breaking consistently in the 12 to 15 foot range, complete with spitting barrels. Awesome for those that earn a living surfing, but not us! 2) Further down the point to the other option where the surf is much smaller, but perhaps no less challenging as the wave is still very hollow and the rides are short as the wave speeds down the line like and Indonesian taxi driver. It’s what we came for, and in a few days hopefully we can more honestly describe it as fun, but right now, it’s just straight up scary. Simply put – we are freakin’ out, man!
So, wish us luck in finding some “easier” waves in Indo! Terima kasih!