BUDDHIST TEMPLES, INDO MYSTICS AND A BAY THAT BARRELS BOTH WAYS. WORDS AND PHOTOS BY BRETT WORTMAN
It was always going to be a big gamble. A two-week, Indonesian sojourn right on the cusp of the wet season. However, it had been an exceptional year for waves and hopes were high that the run of swell would continue right through the monsoonal months.
An eclectic crew was assembled and with the aid of travel company, World Surfaris, we plotted a course that would guarantee us waves while taking us via some of Indonesia's most dramatic over-land scenery and one of its most sacred sites. Charismatic Lennox Head surfer, James Wood, was recruited to keep things entertaining; intrepid charger, Andy Scwartz, leant his surf guide sensibilities to the team while top-ranked women's surfer, Dimity Stoyle delivered a certain feminine panache to our adventure.
We initially set up camp at Cucukan, which is about a 15-minute walk north of Keramas on the in-vogue east coast of Bali. However, when Keramas and its nearby cousins failed to re we headed south to Green Bowl, the only part of the island attracting any genuine swell. After a surf, the cunning old ladies tried to convince me I needed help carrying my expensive camera gear up the stairs, only to be told at the top the price had doubled because my gear was too heavy (I told them so). I thought the old woman was going to drop dead at my feet but she miraculously recovered after I paid her.
Back at the beach at Cucukan the contrast was striking. No hecklers, just a few locals basking in the afternoon sun, some strangely buried up to their necks in the black, volcanic sand. Good for arthritis apparently. The few resident dogs paid no attention to the charcoal chicken schnitzels when they emerged from their sandy cocoons and headed down to the water to wash down, this suggesting it was a regular occurrence.
When you're hunting waves all day, regular moments and experiences can slide by in a blur. A few days of lacklustre waves gave our guys a chance to sit back and appreciate Bali life outside the main tourist areas.
One morning we wandered down the beach looking for waves, passing the usual assortment of meditators, yogis, pebble collectors and farmers, when we came across what we later discovered was a mass Hindu cremation ceremony. We had no idea what was going on but we exchanged smiles and negotiated our way through the gathering while trying not to upset the proceedings.