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  • Writer's pictureBil

Island Time

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

It is time for us to get back to the beach so we are going to spend a little time in Nusa Penida & Nusa Lembongan. Our Ubud hosts arranged the trip for us, starting with a madcap drive south to Sanur where we will board our "fast boat", the Mahi-Mahi Dewata. The whole process of collecting passengers and herding them to the beach is an interesting exercise in chaos theory. After waiting about an hour we see our boat returning from a previous trip, preparing to back into the beach. The captain maneuvers the 90' hull with six 250HP Suzuki outboards backwards into the beach, against a stiff starboard breeze. Many helpers throw anchor and beach lines to secure the craft, which blows into the next downwind boat anyway. Deck hands on both vessels scramble with bamboo poles to try and prevent serious damage.

Finally time to board, so about 75 people deposit their shoes in a couple of bins & wade to the rear steps of the boat to climb board. Helpers stack luggage in empty seats and wherever they can. Finally we depart, with more pushing & shoving between the neighboring vessels, breaking clear at last. Moving through the harbor inlet the pilot picks up speed as the waves increase rapidly. The boat cut through the 3 meter swell pretty well with minimal pounding, making about 15 or 20 knots, and pulling into Nusa Lembongan about 30 minutes later. Half the passengers depart & the other half remain with us to make the last short hop to Nusa Penida. We move to the smaller upper deck and watch the captain as he blasts Linkin Park (in Indonesian) while again backing into the beach between two other large vessels. What a trip!

Our accommodations are a bit different - a small resort called Ring Sameton a couple of kilometers from the port. Nice little bungalows with a common pool and dining area, across the road from the beach. We head that way for some early bird drinks & eats at Penida Colada, enjoying the amazing view of the volcano Mt. Agung on Bali across the Badung Strait, celebrating Susie's birthday. Happy Birthday my love!!!

Saturday morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the resort common area, and talk to the office women about diving and touring options. We decide to hire a local car & driver to see the west side of the island today so he picks us up about 1300 and off we go in his Daihatsu minivan.

So here's the thing about Indonesian drivers - they all drive as fast as they can until they get to the vehicle in front of them - which usually takes about 60 seconds. Then they follow that vehicle using the "1-per" rule: keep back 1 inch for every 10 kph! Unless you're on a scooter. Then you just charge on around either side of the autos and keep on going.

And driving on Nusa Penida is very similar, except as soon as you get inland the "roads" turn into 1 lane with no markings. If they are paved the shoulder drops off about a foot. About half are not paved at all and the holes and bumps are worse than anything I have seen before. These folks must replace tires and shocks every other week! Susie and I both were looking for the airbags after meeting large oncoming trucks on hairpin turns. Did I mention this is a very mountainous, volcanic island?

First stop was Angel's Billabong, a natural infinity pool framed by rock cliffs, which hangs out over the ocean overlooking Manta Point Beach. A walking path crosses a natural arch which allows the surf to enter a small enclosed beach with steep rock walls. The ocean still had a heavy swell going and the tide was up, meaning no swimming in the tide pool or beach around this area. The crystal clear water took a royal blue color from the depth, contrasted with the white foam and lighter blue aerated water near the shore, as the giant waves dashed against the cliffs. Don't stand too close!

Back on the bumpy road and on to another famous beach - Kelingking Secret Point Beach. More stunning views of volcanic cliffs framing gorgeous sand beaches. The thing that has made this place not-so-secret anymore is the resemblance to a T-Rex head & tail, if you squint your eyes just right. There is a rather arduous trail down the beach which supposedly required rope climbing - we did not try it. Some have reported amazing surfing on the break here when the waves were right.

Speaking of crowds, there were actual traffic jams getting into the parking lots at these places, with white minivan tour groups lined up all over. One Asian group had a woman with a bullhorn and a whistle trying to herd her group around. Sheesh, shoulda come here 20 years ago...

Last stop was Crystal Bay, farther up the coast on the west side. The roads were just as bad, but there were more shops and eateries on the way, and several concessions on the beach. The surf was fairly mild here so this place is popular for swimming and snorkeling, or just lying on the beach, which was pretty well populated with humans. I had a grilled ear of corn & Susie paid 5,000 IDR (35 cents!) to use the head, which was basically a hole with a bucket of water next to it. For some reason the ocean here is cold (about 79 degrees), which makes no sense as we are very close to the equator. Research required here.

Back on the road - would be nice to see the sunset from Crystal Bay, but driving on these roads at night does not seem so nice. So - back to the bungalow & out for a bite nearby, and watching the light fade over the ocean. Love the smell of salt in the air.

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