Coming straight from the sedate, tranquil countryside of west bali to Ubud was a bit of a shock to the system. We were used to seeing a grand total of maybe 50 people per day, and arriving in what felt like the seething, sweaty masses of a big town was overwhelming. It appeared we had traded the hypnotic warbles of the call to prayer and sublime, empty landscapes for the endless entreaties of street vendors and masses of travellers.
Try as I might, I cant think of much to say of Ubud, and it left little impression in my mind other than being a nice town similar to what you'd see in one of a hundred places in SE asia. Its a beautiful place, particularly the surrounding country side, the cuisine is as mouth watering as it is cheap, you can get massages as good as anywhere on the planet for the cost of pack of incense in Sydney, but still, for whatever reason, the place itself just didn't make me feel much of anything.
The highlight of this part of the trip was easily a sunrise hike up Mt Batur - the second largest mountain / volcano on the island - the peak of which sits at the not so dizzying height of 1700 m (Mt Warning eat your heart out). Sitting on top of a mountain in the - welcomingly after a few weeks of inescapable humidity - frigid pre-dawn air, watching the sunrise with Bali's highest peak, Mount Agung, able to be seen in the distance over a sea of cloud was one of the most breathtaking, ephemeral vistas I've ever seen. Perhaps because of the shelf of cloud directly below us, with a layer of lower clouds over the ocean, it quite literally looked like we were watching the sun rise of the edge of the world (photos below). It was the kind of sight the word majestic was invented to describe but fails utterly at doing so.
Feeling inspired and stunned and everything in-between and beginning the scrambling descent back down the mountain, I asked our guide who ferries droves of people to the peak everyday where our particular sunrise rated in his experience. He thought for a second and replied 'Hmm, maybe 3 out of 10'.
Context is everything.
This holiday was a long time coming. I booked cheap airasia flights a little under a year ago for ALT's birthday with the intention of a) going to bali (...obviously) and b) providing motivation to progress my surfing skills from abysmal to somewhere between complete kook and applaudably eager but pitiably lacklustre grommet.
To help facilitate b, a quick bit of googling suggested the apparently oft overlooked and quiet fishing village of Medewi in West Bali. All I could find on the place was a few forum mentions here and there that promised great, easy waves, and a few sparse websites for accomodation options (of which there are about 6 in total).
With that, we booked a few nights accomodation in a house in the neighbouring village of Pulukan, and before you know it were getting whisked from Denpasar airport through the night, with ALT occasionally waking from slumber, groggy and terrified as we flew passed another truck on a blind corner.
For me, nothing beats arriving to a new destination in the dark, and waking up to watch the sunrise slowly reveal your temporary home for the next few days. This particular sunrise didn't disappoint. We were nestled in amongst fields of rice paddies, in the far corner of a tiny little Muslim village with layered hills lining the horizon.
Following our directions to Medewi after the first of a silly amount of nasi gorengs, we wandered through the village, down the hill, passed the rice paddies and over the bridge to our first glimpse of what we had journeyed so far for. Rolling 6 to 8 foot lefts coming like clockwork down the point breaking for a couple of hundred metres, the very definition of gentle giants (I've since heard them referred to as nanna ramps - new favorite idiom). Heaven.
The next 96 hours were passed in a haze of long walks, longer surfs, home made balinese food, the ever ubiquitous crowing of roosters and the ritual sounds of call to prayer wafting through the air.
A couple more stories are smattered throughout the photos below.
Also, ALT nailed a few whoppers.
This is Made (pronounced Muh-day). Made is a legend (I throw that word around a lot - but he deserves it). He surfed the same point break almost daily for 34 years, until a big swell, a wipeout, and a burst eardrum stopped him getting in the water. The only time he ventures out now is to teach beginners to surf, and uses homemade ear plugs (i.e. balled up pieces of paper) to keep water out of his ear. He was genuinely over the moon stoked whenever anyone finding their feet got up on a wave, and would paddle around the line up giving everyone who was new tips about where to sit and take off, pushing all the learners onto waves, even those who hadn't paid for lessons. He also makes a mean condensed milk coffee and has a habit of saying 'uh-oh' whenever he sees a big set coming.
Incidentally, we were wondering why we were meeting so many Balinese named Made. Turns out the Balinese have a distinct naming system whereby a persons name corresponds to which child they are (Wayan = first born, Made = second born etc) with generally only a few variations for each. Lots of people probably knew that already. I didn't.
Pulukan point. This is a big old rock shelf which juts out of the headland. The place comes alive around sunset when the heat of the day starts to subside. Fisherman come to fish (duh) and local kids arrive 3 and 4 to the scooter to play soccer on the sand. Apparently in winter when sunset coincides with low tide, bunches of families come to sit in the warm water of the shallow rock pools that form with the receding tide and have been baking in the sun all day to escape the cool (Bali averages a low temp of just 23 C in winter - evidently this is freezing enough to necessitate a natural spa bath).
The boat is a monument to Indonesian independence from the Dutch.
Incidentally, the place is beautiful af.
So, I recently bit the bullet and purchased an old film SLR off of gumtree that I had had my eye on for a while. These are a few shots from the first roll I got developed after chasing a few sunsets and sunrises.
Confession - it was actually the second roll of film I shot. When I first got the camera, I got all excited and took it camping down the coast, had a few early rises down the beach, and then took it to the camera shop all giddy to get it developed. Turns out I loaded the film wrong and it was completely blank. #newb.
I love the whole process of shooting film. It forces you to slow down and think about everything you are doing and why. The anticipation of not knowing exactly what you are going to get (except for when it comes back blank). The lack of editing. What you take is what you get.
For the photo nerds, these were shot on a Nikon FE-2 with a 50 mm 1.8D on Portra 800 - generally overexposed a stop or two. Film retains highlights unbelievable well.
Hot days. Cool nights. Campfire cook ups. Long empty beaches, long empty waves and long hours on the road. New friends and old. Sunsets and moonrises. And stars.
And oats, so many bowls of oats.
A selection of shots taken over a week and half camping up and down the south coast down to Melbourne and back. It was a quintessential Australian summer road trip, and the editing reflects how the days exist in my mind - hazy, soft, and blissful. The south coast is stunning.
Every day has its own story. As of late I've been actively trying to keep that in mind when I head down to shoot, as opposed to just around for pretty pictures. After all, telling stories is what this is all about (at least in my uninformed, uneducated opinion).
Take the old man above. He was standing right there when I first stumbled down bleary eyed onto the beach at about 5 30, pumping little hand weights together with a resound clack, staring resolutely at the sea with a mix of longing and stoicism (with the occasional grimace I might add), and he was still there at 6 15 when I took this shot just as the sun was peaking over the north heads. He must have been pushing 80 and here he was, down the beach well before the sun camp up, working up a sweat and doing weights in the morning sun. If he can do that, it made me realise we have absolutely excuse to wake up in the morning and chase whatever it is that we are after. It also made be really want to have a chat and hear his story, but he looked pretty focused, and Humans of Bondi this ain't.
The rest of the morning passed, as it is want to do, in a particularly golden fashion.
Bonus shots at the end of a particularly ludicrous sunset spotted on the way down to Canberra last Friday.