Any Indo mission, indeed any trip anywhere, can go a bit off the rails. Indo it's a bit easier admittedly. Gill went to Lakey's recently and had what's known as 'interesting times'.
The Gill went to Lakeys and let's just say didn't have the dream trip. Weird goings on down in Sumbawa.
So there's me and Steve Hocking, Indo bound. The taxi driver picked us up and we urged him to turn what passed for air con up to full.
'Where you from?'
Hock proudly piped up, 'Wales!'
'Ah, Gareth Bale!'
He knew straight away, knowledgeable chap I thought.
'Have you ever been to Wales?'
'No never been to Australia ... just Bali.'
For my first visit to Bali staying at Johnny and Luke's place was brilliant and settled us into the new world without being immediately ripped off. We surfed Green Bowls down the road from our homestay, which was nice.
Josh, Steve's son, was already in Sumbawa organising our luxury beachfront apartment. So we did the short flight hop from Bali to Sumbawa, much quicker and less stress than bus/ferry/ bus/ferry/bus for 24 hours.
Leaving the comparative safety of the tin pot Bima airport we were flung at the mercy of the pack of porters and taxi drivers eager to make a week's wages by helping you put your own boards on top of the taxi! The cabbie only made a month's wage for the two and a half hour hell ride to the south side of the island. Funny he did it in half the time on the way back?
We were oddly greeted just outside Lakey village on the roadside by a group of non-official chaps. Passport numbers! You want motorbike! In hindsight pre-arranged for later leverage.
Balumba. £18 a night for the three of us, bargain. The manager pushed the key too far into the lock and broke the back window. Peering into the beyond basic box with horror I said, 'What about the toilet door?'
He said, 'What about it?'
I said, 'I want one! Look at the state of that bathroom, I'll have typhoid in the morning!' In a beautiful comeback he said, 'You'll have pancakes like everyone else!'
The sunset was going to be beautiful, so Josh had the great idea to jump on our paid for up front motorbikes and head off in just our board shorts to check Cobblestones.
Fifteen minutes later along the empty jungle road, weaving round goats, cattle, dogs and piles of seaweed drying all over the tarmac. We ran barefoot down the riverbed to the beach. I wondered what lurked in the undergrowth as the sun dived below the horizon. Ah, should have worn my balaclava and onesie, we were now at the mercy of vampires! Quick, back to the bikes! Shrieking like three schoolgirls hurdling over nests of vipers and attacked from above by bloodsuckers in the twilight.
Two miles back wearing only shorts on the bikes dodging creatures on the road whilst becoming a human mosquito buffet. I thought the best way to avoid getting malaria on this island was to cover up and not be bitten. Think that overdose rendered us immune for life.
Next morning pancakes were indeed for breakfast and we paddled across the lagoon to the Peak for the building first swell of the season. It wasn't supposed to amount to much, with all eyes focussed on the next telegraphed one. Only half a dozen of us out, a six foot set loomed and I was in pole position. Miguel from Lanzarote said go! He would take the next.
Rail set, my first proper wave of the trip, but 'Shocking' senior had ideas of his own and thought this was Langland Reef so dropped in. Paddling out, Josh looked on in disbelief as his father faded right across me also putting himself behind in the soup; before ejecting over the shallow coral. I glanced over my shoulder sadly watching the pristine unridden barrel reeling off like the ones I'd seen in videos and magazines many years ago. I surfaced just in time to get a great view of Miguel pig-dogging the next one.
The following day we left Hock senior, him of the dubious wisdom 'the ice and salad won't harm you', lying on his bed writhing in sweat, wearing only a loin cloth. All his underpants had been soiled. We
locked him in quarantine and left to the sounds and smells you can but imagine.
Off on the bikes to meet the next new swell at Periscopes, head high perfection, pity. The before breakfast lot started a mass exodus leaving the lineup near empty, Josh wished he'd had his mal and went in for a few anyway. I sat in the shelter and took some snaps and chatted to the remaining Aussie and his sponger girlfriend. He had a huge blue lump on his nose and eye. Said some Welsh guy's loose board had done it, she wasn't to happy about his now altered Gold Coast looks, saying that they were hoping to have a few words when they ran into them next.
I promptly replied with, 'Gee man that sucks' and continued for the next 15 minutes chatting in my best Californian accent. Luckily the sets just kept getting bigger and they went back in to surf the quiet perfection. I waved Josh in and we darted back to surf the bigger uncrowded perfect Peak.
Shocking senior was still sweating it out in the chamber of horrors. More surfers started arriving from the afternoon flights in anticipation of the six foot at 19 second swell that had already kicked in
“STILL BRIMMING WITH CONFIDENCE WE DOWNED A BOTTLE OF WATER AND WENT OFF TO TRY LAKEY PIPE 'UNTIL SUNDOWN, NOT SO CONFIDENT WHEN THE FIRST BIG SET CAUGHT US INSIDE.”
through the morning luckily for us.
The following morning was a little disappointing as the breakfast tables were empty. Every lunatic and his friend frenzying out on the Lakey perfection, about 30 I counted, surfers, not pancakes.
A light breeze from the north ruffled the pumping peak and after an hour or so the bulk of the pack came in to eat and prepare for offshore Periscopes. The prospect of competing with that lot on my backhand soured my enthusiasm for a Peris session. Josh agreed and opted for solid, quiet cross shore Peak.
Reports of flawless barrelling rights were filtering back to camp, turning Lakey into a ghost town and then the wind died. We gave Hock the camera and paddled to what was to be one of the best surfs I've ever had, Josh and two others going right and me and three others on the left.
After three hours surfing we came ashore eager to see the photographic evidence as promised by the much improved Hock. 'How are the shots?' Was his son's first sentence. I didn't like the way he was holding a large bottle of Bintang.
‘Couldn't see a thing out there, too much glare!’
Josh's face deflated, ‘Didn't you use the overexposure compensation?’
Still brimming with confidence we downed a bottle of water and went off to try Lakey Pipe until sundown, not so confident when the first big set caught us inside.
The surf was perfect again the next day as well but later developments somewhat soured the experience. As Hock was still to ill to surf he lent his motorbike to the Icelandics to go down the coast. They returned on foot. Oh well it was a crap old bike anyway. We reported it to the rozzers who immediately informed the local mafia boys who'd hired them to us.
Negotiations started, soon we somehow became the guilty party for having it stolen. The police and gang members seemed to be on the same side and were threatening to put Hock in a cell and take his passport until he replaced the '06 plate scrapper with a nearly new motorbike ... only £900!
The Icelandics agreed to pay about £700 after a day of extreme pressure and walked off. The aggro mob came round to our place for the rest. I was off taking a few shots thinking that the saga was concluded by the Iceland boys. I returned to our patio to see Hock in full Chuck Norris stance shielding Josh from danger, things were about to kick off.
I shuffled through the gang being pressed for cash and we backed into the room and locked the door. Luckily he restrained from laying them out as I explained that a local massage does not have a happy ending. Better we take our chances in a cells where we might get a decent free massage.
To get out of Dodge Hock had to pay the £200 through the police and prematurely left a perfect swell.
Back in Bali we learned that the bike had miraculously been returned, but not Hock's money. Would you believe it, it's happened before in lovely Lakey were they'll still smile when taking your last piece of bread.
* While the majority of the kids, surfers and residents of the Lakey area are great people as with all areas of developing tourism there are always those in the minority that seek to receive visitors of their money through dubious means because they see them as easy targets. Go and enjoy by all means, but talk to other travellers be aware of the scams and pitfalls. Support those that run legitimate business practises. It would be a travesty if they were to suffer because a of a few criminals.