It sure was nice meeting you at Sarni’s. She’s pretty cool, huh? I thought you might get a laugh out of the story of my first day in Bali. This was quite a while ago, but the memory is still vivid. My friend Gerry Green and I landed in Denpasar and the following morning we borrowed Sarni’s car and headed off in search of the legendary Uluwatu. Gerry had been visiting Indonesia for several years, so he knew where to go. We got to the beginning of the trail at Ulus and parked the car. We were, of course, immediately surrounded by dozens of kids who wanted to carry our boards or ride us in on the backs of their motorbikes. By now you’re probably saying BFD. Hang in there. I’m just laying down a bit of background for what follows.
Gerry said the trail was short and easy, so I declined the offers of assistance and started walking. Hours later (it seemed), we arrived at the top of the cliff overlooking the surf. There was no one out! Then again, it was twelve feet and high tide. The view got Gerry really fired up. He started yelling Padang Padang, and, when he calmed down, informed me that we were going for another ‘short’ walk. We headed off towards Padang-he said it was only twenty minutes away. The first part of the trail ran right along the top of the cliff overlooking Ulus. We were pinned to the edge of the cliff by the hedge that left a trail perhaps two feet wide. Finally, the trail headed a bit inland and we followed it until we got lost in all these little cow pastures. We bumbled through those for an hour or so until we finally broke into the clear and picked up the trail again. Actually, the only way we got through the enclosures was that the cattle heard us coming, panicked, and broke down the makeshift pens they were in in order to get away from us. We never saw a single cow. Lastly, we had to climb down a steep cliff and then walk along the beach for another half- kilometer and there we were.
Of course, the surf was a perfect four to six feet and there wasn’t another surfer in sight. We waxed up and paddled out and it was as good as it looked from the beach. We’d both ridden five or ten waves when disaster struck. I’d made the novice mistake of wearing a green legrope. It came off and my board washed in to the rocky cliff. I started to swim in after it but Gerry yelled out that it was too dangerous. So instead, I swam back out through the lineup, around the point and in to the beach above the wave. Perfect unridden waves were rolling through the whole time I was swimming. Every now and then, Gerry would ride by and then tell me how unreal it was on his way back out. I got to the beach and went and sat where I could watch Gerry surf. The tide was slipping out and the surf got better and better.
Gerry is a bit of an ironman, and as the day progressed, he showed no signs of coming in. It was mighty hot on the beach and all we’d had that morning was a cup of coffee. I was starting to feel a bit light headed when a Balinese came walking around the point with my board. He wanted to sell it back to me-or charge me for rescuing it-but it was trashed so I told him to keep it. The price came way down so I paid the man. Meanwhile, Gerry continued to ride wave after wave.
He finally came in an hour before sunset and told me how great it had been and that we’d better hurry if we didn’t want to get lost again. Off he went and, dehydrated and disoriented, I followed. When we reached the cliff and began to climb, I started seeing spots in front of my eyes. I rested several times during the climb and then all that was left-I thought-was the relatively easy hike to Uluwatu. The thing that kept me going was the thought of how much water I was going to drink when we got there. Finally, just before sunset, we arrived. I found a cool place on a concrete slab in one of the warungs and lay down with a bottle of water.
The sun was setting when Gerry said he was going to leave and catch a motorbike ride back to the road and that I should come along when I felt like I could make it up the stairs. Gerry left and ten minutes later I grabbed what was left of my board and began the long climb. Just get to the top, I kept telling myself, and the ordeal will be over. The sun had disappeared when I reached the top of the stairs and staggered up to where the locals kept their motorbikes. The lot was empty! Everyone had gone home.
I had no choice but to walk the trail back out to the road. By now it was quite dark and I didn’t have a clue where I was going. I blundered along for a while and ended up in someone’s yard. I was trying to ask which way the road was and the people pointed me in three different directions. I chose one and staggered off into the darkness. I’d gone for perhaps another fifteen minutes and had pretty much decided to just lie down and let the wild animals eat me, when I saw some lights in the distance. I walked the last two hundred yards and when I reached the road, Gerry asked what had taken me so long. Good old Gerry.
We drove back to Sarni’s and thus ended my first, and no doubt longest, day in Indonesia. Here’s the epilogue: At Sarni’s, I lay down in the shower for a while and then crawled into bed. Gerry came in and announced that it was time to go out to dinner at Poppies, then go to the Sari Club, and then head for Gado Gado. I said no thanks and went to sleep. Gerry, on the other hand, partied all night and, at six am the following morning, came back and told me that the wind had dropped and Nusa Dua was going to be firing. We spent the day at Nusa Dua and that evening Gerry finally went to bed.
I’ve attached a picture that your readers might enjoy. I shot this at G-land in around 1995. It was a low enough tide to walk across the reef to get a close up view. We’ve called this section ‘the ledge’ for years. Others call it ‘the sucking deal.’ Whatever you call it, at low tide when the surf is over six feet, this section is nasty.
This picture was shot from a boat looking into the tube on a nice day at speedies. Then again, when it’s on, there’s nothing ‘nice’ about that section.
Your pal, Gerald Saunders
Note: I don’t really know how long Gerald has been coming over to Indonesia surfing, but I do know he has been coming for a long, long time. Gerald is a surfer, snowboarder, and writer, photographer he has had photo’s and article’s published in quite a few different surfing mag’s including The Surfer’s Journal. I first met him here in Bali in 1996, he is currently over in G-Land surfing right now. And he always puts in at least 2 months over there every year!. JB