“And suddenly, out there where a big smoker lifts skyward, rising like a sea-god from out of the welter of spume and churning white, on the giddy, toppling, overhanging and downfalling, precarious crest appears the dark head of a man. Swiftly he rises through the rushing white. His black shoulders, his chest, his loins, his limbs -- all is abruptly projected on one's vision. Where but the moment before was only the wide desolation and invincible roar, is now a man, erect, full-statured, not struggling frantically in that wild movement, not buried and crushed and buffeted by those mighty monsters, but standing above them all, calm and superb, poised on the giddy summit, his feet buried in the churning foam, the salt smoke rising to his knees, and all the rest of him in the free air and flashing sunlight, and he is flying through the air, flying forward, flying fast as the surge on which he stands. He is a Mercury -- a brown Mercury.....”
The Cruise of the Snark
Chapter VI - A Royal Sport
To view photos from around Kuta, click here.
To view photos from our day trip, click here.
Marj and I arrived back in Kuta and continued our everyday pilgrimage to Kuta Beach to practice our new craft and meet up with our friend Dan!
Despite our surf school being well esteemed, whenever the surf instructors had a moment to spare, they were asking us out to dinner, if we were married... boyfriends?? We lied. One said he could ‘teach me how to surf’ later in the day 'pro bono', when the waves were more ‘optimal’ – oh how nice of him. Another said he could get me a good deal with his cousin on renting a surfboard if I agreed to lunch with him.....hmmmmm – is that a bribe? Every Western girl that comes within a 5 foot radius is a moving target.
Marj and I were walking home from dinner one night and a guy on a moto with a helmet driving towards us came within an inch of both of us and hit poor Marjie on the boob! A few days later, I was walking home and the same thing ALMOST happened but I jumped out of the way. The worst of it was that you couldn’t see their faces, so really they could just go around hit and running and no one would ever be able to identify them – a guy with a helmet on a moto – their are thousands!
We settled into our little guesthouse, again – the only time we really spent there was to change or to sleep - but nonetheless, it was always nice to go back. Our neighbours consisted of:
2 surfers from Germany, properly tattooed that enjoyed the nightlife Kuta had to offer even more so than the surfing – we had many good times with these 2 – they knew how to rip it up be it on a board or a dance floor.
Paul, originally from the states but had lived in Germany a good portion of his life, divided his time working construction in Perth, Australia and surfing in Bali. The likes of Jimi Hendrix, Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine could be heard blasting through his speakers while he chilled on his front doorstep with his surfboard always close by and beer in hand. He had long black dreads that suited him perfectly but surprisingly still looked like the crazy rock n' roll surfer we all knew and loved when he shaved them off. The words 'Endless Summer' tattooed across his chest spoke volumes about Paul. This guy knew how to enjoy life and I was elated to have him as my next door neighbour.
Didier, a retired cook from France, now lives part of the year in Bali and the other in Thailand. His days were occupied by writing a book and we saw him for dinner every night at 8 PM sharp, usually followed by dancing and people watching at Poppy's Nightclub
I had met Levi, a girl from London, UK, at the beginning of my travels in Northern Thailand. We had gone on a jungle trek and overnighted with a hill tribe, both fresh from quitting our jobs back home, enchanted by the unknown adventures that would lie ahead for us. We bumped into each other in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam and now here we were again, staying in the same guesthouse. Levi had met Murray, also from the UK, in her travels who was an avid surfer and so the two of them could usually be found in the surf or on the beach!
Rikard, from Sweden, blessed us with his habitation in between visiting his beautiful Balinese girlfriend, Ratih, in Ubud. He is the epitome of the typical strapping Scandinavian. His presence was always palpable with brooding shoulders and an underlying gentle pride and strength that reminded me of the men in my family and made me miss and think of them often.
And last but by far not least, Ernesto. I stopped dead in my tracks the first time I saw him standing there with sun bleached hair falling over his dark blue eyes, talking to Didier in the pathway at d'Kubu. I of course pretended I didn't notice his ridiculous good looks but as soon as I had a moment alone with Marj, I affectionately referred to him, in jest, as my 'new boyfriend' (particularly amusing considering my long running status as a loner)!
Ernesto is an unassuming doctor from Belgium of Italian and Hungarian decent. His love for surfing was so passionate that he had turned down several of our invitations to go dancing so he could be up early to hit the surf. But finally one night, he met us at our favourite pre-Legian street club, Ocean Beach. This was the night Marj was leaving to go to Thailand to meet a friend (I was very sad) but the beginning of Ernesto and I's friendship.
After Marj left, Ernesto ensured that I was always included in coming for dinner each evening with him and the boys. The boys originally consisted of just Rikkard and Didier, but 2 new additions were about to arrive – Julien and Tom – 2 of Ernesto's closest friends from Belgium. And so it began...a new chapter for me in Bali – a Marj-less chapter but a fabulous one, nonetheless.
Julien spent most of his time on the beach soaking in the warm Bali sun. He was our age as well and had the most gentle disposition I have seen in anyone I know. Julien also had not spoken English in over a decade. So needless to say, there was many a miscommunication within our little group. Julien is one of those people who doesn't speak unless he has something worthwhile to say and it usually was at the expense of Tom or Ernesto!
Tom spoke English extremely well but would get so irritated with me when I asked 'WHAT?' or 'QUOI' all the time. He would have to repeat himself and then I would say, 'Aaaaaaah you mean _______!'. Which was exactly what he had said the first time, but with his French accent it sounded like a completely different language!
My days in Kuta began with checking the tide so I could plan my schedule around optimal surf conditions before moving onto breakfast, which consisted of: 1 banana pancake, 2 boiled eggs, 'potato country' (translated: country potatoes) and a fresh unsweetened coconut juice. After that, on my walk down to Kuta Square, I would pick up orphaned frangipani flowers that had fallen from the trees and put one behind my ear as well as save one to give as a Hindu offering when I got to my destination – Gloria Jean's.
The first time I walked into Gloria Jean's, I was immediately greeted with smiling, friendly Balinese faces. I could tell right off the bat that Frank, the Australian owner, was a modern day saint – he greeted me with some friendly chit chat during my stay and I overheard him display the same charm and eloquence with his other customers. It was plain to see his absolute natural ease with people and it was because of him and the coziness I felt there that marked the beginning of my loyalty to GJ's in Kuta.
I went every day possible to work on my laptop and have my espresso and banana cake (which I enjoyed immensely!). Frank and his staff helped me to get my business cards from Hong Kong and called in their IT guy when I was having laptop issues and as if that wasn't enough, my last day before venturing off to NZ, Frank took myself, his manager and I to lunch to see me off:) I now refer to Frank to my own family and friends as my 'Bali Dad' because of the support and congeniality I received when I was there! So if you ever go to Kuta – please pass on some hugs from me.
After my work/coffee session, I went back to my guesthouse to put on my 'swimming costume' as the Brits call it and hit the surf for a couple of hours. I desperately missed my surf sister Marj, but there was always someone from d'Kubu on the beach or in the waves and I never felt like I was out there on my own.
Ernesto elected to teach me a thing or two about surfing which also inadvertently became a French lesson. Ernesto had not spoken any English since high school and now being 33 surrounded by English speakers, was trying to regain what he had lost. So when he told me to 'paddle hard' or 'stand up!' it usually came out in French rather than English and I had to reach deep down into the annals of my mind and pull out what I remembered from Mr. Mareschal's French classes in junior high!
After several days of checking out Kuta Beach, Tom, Julien and Ernesto decided to absorb some Balinese culture and invited me out on a day trip. We rented a driver and car that picked us up in the morning to take us to various temples, rice fields and villages. You would think the traveler in me would be quite excited about all of this but I am ashamed to admit that I was actually quite bored with it all. It wasn't at all the company as I always had a ton of fun with my new Belgian friends but I think after seeing so many wats, monuments, temples, sanctuaries etc, I had had my fill, for the interim at least, because all I could think about was getting myself back on a board and into the salty water....
“His heels are winged, and in them is the swiftness of the sea. In truth, from out of the sea he has leaped upon the back of the sea, and he is riding the sea that roars and bellows and cannot shake him from its back. But no frantic outreaching and balancing is his. He is impassive, motionless as a statue carved suddenly by some miracle out of the sea's depth from which he rose. And straight on toward shore he flies on his winged heels and the white crest of the breaker. There is a wild burst of foam, a long tumultuous rushing sound as the breaker falls futile and spent on the beach at your feet; and there, at your feet steps calmly ashore a Kanaka, burnt golden and brown by the tropic sun...”
The Cruise of the Snark
Chapter VI - A Royal Sport