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Weekend Mission to Nusa Lembongan

Last weekend we, all the yogis in the teacher training program, had Saturday off, which meant an opportunity to travel somewhere else on Bali for a mini-vacation.  After much deliberation, a group of 11 of us (including Jason and Anna’s boyfriend Liam) decided to head off to the nearby island of Nusa Lembongan which was rumored to have beautiful reefs for snorkeling/diving, incredible surf, and picturesque beaches.  Ashley, our internet savvy New Yorker gone Parisian, quickly took up the task of arranging our transportation and looking into accommodation on the island.  I must admit it was nice to not have had to take this job on myself for as many of you know, I am the perpetual planner and control freak.  Anyway, 500,000 rp a person later we had our shuttle to and from Ubud-Sanur and the half-hour speed boat to and from Sanur-Nusa Lembongan booked.  This was a little more then we were planning on spending (at about $55/person) but we decided against the cheap perama or public boats which either take 1 hr 45 min or require sharing a seat with a chicken and a coconut.  Booking accommodation ahead of time basically failed, as many of the places on Nusa Lembongan (and really on Bali in general) do not have websites or couldn’t fulfill the request for rooms for 11 people.  That being said, we still hopped on the shuttle at 7:45 am Saturday morning, hoping we would be fine just winging it.

Lineup out at Sanur Beach

I must admit that even though I was hesitant to pay 500,000 rp in transportation to this island, the company we used called “Scoot” was incredibly organized and made the trip a breeze.  This is especially surprising considering in Bali things just kind of go on “Bali time” and happen the way they happen, so you never know exactly what you’re going to get.  The shuttle was right on time at 7:45 and got us to Sanur swiftly where our speed boat (the “super scoot”) was waiting for us.  Sanur is a beautiful little beach on the southwest coast of Bali with little warungs (restaurants) all along the coast and a pretty nice right breaking out front.  We checked in and got a little snack pack filled with banana bread, a croissant, and a water bottle.  The speed boat left right at 9:30 and got us to Nusa Lembongan in 30 minutes.  The ride was pretty mellow, but you could definitely feel the swell in the water that came in the day before.  Apparently there were some extreme rides to/from the island that day, and the surf was double overhead!  I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case when we got there because I really didn’t want to surf in anything over 5 feet, especially if it’s breaking over a reef.  Speaking of being over a reef, as the boat came into the beach (there aren’t docks in Bali, in fact you basically have to carry your bag on your head and just trample through the water onto/off the boat, or you may be able to pay a strong balinese guy a couple bucks to carry you as I saw a little japanese woman do…), we were looking out onto the most crystal clear water I had ever seen.  It was dark and light turquoise with live reef in parts and seaweed farms in others.  It was pretty interesting seeing those familiar farm-like squares, only in the water.  Apparently at low tide they farm the seaweed, as we saw later that night when the tide dropped.  Over the other side of the boat someone pointed out “playgrounds” surf break, which wasn’t actually breaking at that time.  It was at a medium tide going high, and apparently we had to catch it at high tide going low and thats when it would really pick up.  Out on the opposite point however, we could hear “shipwrecks” break going off… it was hard to believe that one break was overhead, the other was flat, and another one was a couple feet.  I guess the breaks here are REALLY tide dependent, and they can fluctuate from flat to double overhead between them.

Wading out into the water to get on the boat- no docks involved

Seaweed Farms on the water just off the coast

So we all got off the boat in a not-so-graceful manner and were immediately bombarded with guys asking: “Where are you staying?” “You have accommodation?” “Best place in Lembongan, good deal!”, etc. etc.  We ended up all following a guy about 100 meters down the beach where we saw the first little bungalow compound called “Bungalow No.7”.  It looked nice enough, with a little warung in front as well as being central to the surf breaks and tourist, coastal area.  We went in and asked if he had room for all of us which he (Made? Ketut? Wayan? Im not sure… but probably one of those names) assured us he had.  We checked out the rooms; they were simple.  Bed, toilet, shower, fan… but it was nice enough for one night and right on the beach.  “How much?” we asked.  “150,000 rp/room, this is my flat rate for low season.” We tried to bargain a little, but decided to just go with it in the end since it was convenient, cheap, and could hold all 11 of us.  $16 a night for a room on the beach in BALI! It was incredible, and we all immediately unpacked, threw on our swimsuits and hit the lounge chairs.  Most people instantly went for a large bintang, not even being concerned that it was only 10:30 in the morning.  Whatever, we were in the sunshine on a beautiful beach! We were all so ecstatic after the last 2 weeks of rain in Ubud that it didn’t seem to matter.

View of the Lembongan coastline- playgrounds is barely breaking on the right

Our $16/night room at Bungalow No.7

We all just hung out for a while until the tide got high and Jason and I started to see playgrounds breaking down the coast.  We went and grabbed our boards, lathered up with sunscreen, threw on the rashguard/booties (I did anyway, but Jason was too manly to be bothered with booties…) and headed off for my first surf in Bali!  We walked about a half mile down the beach and found this tiny little cove to paddle out from.  Since it was about 90 degrees F and humid, I hopped in the water instantly.  It was about 75 degrees, clean, clear, and felt AMAZING.  The paddle was pretty far by my standards (probably about twice the paddle out to Swamis for the San Diego surfers that know what I’m talking about) and the currents were insane.  When you’re paddling out, it pulls you in, when you need to go north, it pulls you south, and once you get outside, it keeps pulling you farther outside.  I felt like I was paddling non-stop.  This didn’t stop me however from looking down into the beautifully clear water to see the amazing, live coral reef that was below.  Luckily it was high tide which meant about 3-5 feet of water above the reef, or else I would have been nervous surfing here.  But now to the wave… when we got out it was probably about 3-4 feet, but as the tide dropped it was steadily building.  I caught a couple at the beginning, but instantly got shaken up when I got back paddled by an old Aussie guy.  As the surf got bigger it also got more powerful.  Jason was getting the waves of the trip for sure, but I just felt like I was being pulled all over by currents and not able to get in the right position to catch anything.  Needless to say I definitely didn’t have the wave magnet in my pocket that day, and I was frustrated to say the least.  I paddled in after the last 45 waveless and local-engulfed minutes out there and Jason followed shortly after, bummed that my day of surfing wasn’t as good as his.

Drinkin some Bintangs at the warung in front of Bungalow 7

We made an A-line to the warung and quickly ordered 2 large bintangs to ease the pain for me, which helped to quickly change my mood.  It didn’t take long before everyone started to come back from their day of adventures.  Liam came back from surfing out at “Lacerations” which was FIRING down the beach from playgrounds.  We could look down the lineup and see past lacerations to the next reef with these heavy, barreling waves, booming as the broke onto the reef (and no one out, a little too heavy I guess).  Anna, Josh and Christine, the other half of the couples group, came back from their boat tour around the island where apparently they witnessed me getting cut off by the Aussie.  And finally the singles half of the group made it back from their hike around the island, and they were eager to get ready to go out on the town.  It also didn’t take long before we all realized we were heavily sunburned.  Even with the spf 85, zinc, etc, we all still managed to look like tomatoes by the time the day was done.  So we all got ready, powered down a few bintangs, and headed off for dinner.  We walked down the beach which was now fulling showing its reef in the low-tide.  The boats that were floating earlier were now just sitting on the sand, tilting over from the lack of water beneath them.  We found a restaurant that had rooftop seating, and ordered more bintangs and cocktails and ate dinner as we watched the sunset down over the water and behind the main island of Bali.  The rest of the night was pretty relaxed, as we were all pretty tired from the day of traveling and sunshine, and we were in bed by 10 (sorry, were boring Yogis like that… 😉 )

Perama Boat sitting on the sand at low tide during sunset

The next day we woke up after a rough night sleep in the not-so-clean, extremely hot beds that our 15 dollar a night rooms provided us with.  Sara organized a car to pick us up and take us across the island to “Dream Beach” to a restaurant called “Scallywags” where there was supposed to be great breakfast with amazing views, and the pick up was free!  As we reached the restaurant, it was obvious the rumors were 100% correct.  Scallywags had not only a great and reasonably priced menu, but super comfy couches, lounge chairs, and an infinity pool that looked out onto its own private bay.

Scallywags infinity pool inside their private bay.

We spent most of the morning here, eating breakfast and lounging around at the pool that was free for patrons.  Some of the girls decided to spend the rest of the trip here, but half of us went back to the Bungalow to head out either for snorkeling or surfing adventures.  The swell was dying down so I hoped that playgrounds would be a little more conducive to my skill level today, and when Jason, Liam, and I paddled out that afternoon it was noticeably smaller.  The vibe in the water was way different, as there were about 15 little kids on body boards and oversized surfboards playing around.  Usually this would annoy me in San Diego, but I found it really refreshing to hear all these little kids just splashing around, having a blast, and telling stories about how “they get great waves at home in Perth” or wherever they were from.  It was definitely small, maybe only 1-3 feet, but I caught a bunch of waves and was having a good time today.  I also made sure to paint my face with zinc and wear a pair of my thai fisherman pants out into the water as to not further irritate my sunburns.

All the people and little kids swimming at Sanur when we got back

We got back from surfing just in time to shower off and have a snack before departing on our scoot boat back to Sanur and then Ubud.  The boat left at 3 pm, which made for a rougher trip.  How rough, however, I wasn’t sure.  The boat back was about half the size of the super scoot we took on the way here, and we all piled our way inside.  As we headed away from Lembongan and the boat began to go faster, the ride started to get rough.  VERY rough.  We all ended up half standing/half squatting most of the time to make our body more like shocks than bones, and I literally thought the bottom of the boat was going to crack open as it smacked down onto the water.  We DID make it back to Sanur safe and sound, but needless to say I was pretty happy to get off of that boat.  By the time we all made it back to Ubud everyone was exhausted, sunburned, and needed a good night sleep, but we all agreed that the trip was totally worth it and a blast.  The beaches were beautiful, there was good surf, and we all had good company, so how could anyone really complain? And Jason and I will probably end up back in Lembongan later in the trip after the yoga program is over, but we’ll probably just spend a little more to stay in a nice place with clean beds 😉

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