I could probably write a whole book about my last months travels in Indonesia and all of the adventures along the way.
But i’m way to busy for that! My main reason for writing this blog entry is to help give people some first hand info about what to expect, let them prepare and make sure they have some of the essentials needed with you if you decide to go on the search for uncrowded waves on some of the more remote islands of Indonesia like Sumba. If not hopefully it’ll make a good read anyway.
On April 1st me and two good friends Rory Rogers and Benji Frost made the 2 day journey via various airports to Bali, Indonesia. after “resting” (partying every night, getting 3 hours sleep and then surfing every day) for a 3 days we then booked flights to the island of Sumba. for about Rp 700,000 we got a internal flight to Waingapu, the largest town on the island of Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
The first thing that hit me in the face when we landed was how different bargaining seemed to be from so other places i’ve visited in Asia. It seems that everyone who owns a vehicle in Sumba has decided to group together and set extortionately high prices to go any distance even if it’s using their very infrequent unreliable public transport system. They are very aware that you have no choice but to pay or you’re stranded.
Its not that there is a lack of vehicles, it just seems that the locals just arn’t fussed if they don’t get the gig. It turned out that to hire a car to Terimbang (about 60km as the crow flies) would cost Rp1,200,000 (GBP£88 , US$140!) and no one would budge on price! We bit the bullet and reluctantly agreed. 20min later a 4WD pulls up, we strap all of our bags an boards on top and off we went. One local hero who was trying to help us organise the transport asked if he can tag along for the ride so he can try and improve his English, of course we said yes.
We soon realised why nobody wanted to drive you anywhere in Sumba, roads were almost non existent.
A better description of the roads is really just mud tracks that wound themselves around some of the most hilly terrain I have ever seen. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there was only one stretch of road that was straight, and that lasted about 100 meters.
Fortunately we saw the funny side to this and tried to pretend we had just paid for a safari tour. To top it off after half an hour on the road its started pouring down with rain, something I would learn was a daily occurrence on Sumba. All of our luggage including my guitar was now soaked, a nice touch.
So after travelling up and down roads holding tightly onto any available handle or broken seat belt to avoid having your head smashed into the roof for 4 hours we finally get our first glimpse of Terimbang bay.
I began to imagine beautiful unspoilt beaches, simple accommodation in bamboo huts overlooking the Surf, we were almost there! It had been a long trip so far, I still hadn’t had more than 8 hours sleep since I had left London and the Jet lag hadn’t had a chance to kick in yet, we were all running on fumes at this point. I was craving a good nights sleep.
It turned out we were still 2 hours away thanks to the roads! Not a problem though, at least the last section of the journey was relatively flat compared to the the first part. We were even lucky enough to get some sections of tarmac.
We pulled up on the dirt road outside Martins Homestay, a place that was briefly mentioned in the Indo lonely planet we had a copy of. Basically it was a series of Bamboo structures and a small shop. I was surprised to not be able to see the sea but still held onto the dream that it must just be 20m away. It turned out this wasn’t quite the case. Benji and I went to explore while Rory dealt with arranging a place for us to stay & to negotiate prices. It turned out that to get to the beach you had to walk 10 minutes down a path passing a few houses all of which had wild pigs, chickens and angry dogs that were trying to attack us, We armed ourselves with a few stones and a small stick we found on the side of the road.
These makeshift weapons were really just a token gesture, in reality if one of the animals did go for us we wouldn’t of stood a chance anyway but it made us feel better at the time. We then followed a small track through 50m of jungle and finally saw the beach. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me but this beach was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was completely deserted, unspoilt in every way, the white cliffs looking even more dramatic from sea level than they did when we’d seen them from a distance.
There was a strange air to this place though, The combination of the high humidity, the eerie silence and lack of human activity was unnerving. It felt like we weren’t meant to be there, like we were trespassing on someone’s property or on sacred land and at any moment a tribe of natives were going to jump out of the dense jungle that lined the edge of the beach and mow us down with a shower of blow pipe darts or arrows. Anyway instead of following our instincts and getting the hell back to the huts we threw caution to the wind and jumped into the sea for a swim. It was then that we finally saw some human activity! A woman came down to the beach to sunbathe, turned out she was one of the 8 people staying at our homestay, anyway it made us feel a lot better knowing there was actually other people around, we headed back to Martins Homestay to see how Rory was doing with the bargaining.
Rory had secured us a hut to stay in, It cost Rp125,000 each to stay in a hut and the price included 3 communal meals a day in the central eating hut. It seemed a bit pricey for what it was but we had little choice and took a hut. In the food hut there was a power socket that worked when the generator was turned on. this was normally for an hour in the morning and for a few hours after it got dark. The food was nice and seemed as clean as it could be considering the circumstances. The toilets were the ones you flush with a bucket of water and showering was done bucket over the head style, not a problem unless the power cuts off on you at night. Insect repellent was a must at all times of day.
Under closer inspection the huts were full of insects, they leaked and the mosquito nets had holes, not a problem though because it turned out the open porch area of our huts was prime hammock real estate. We just got out our hammocks and strung our own nets over the top, sorted. During the night it rained and the hut leaked so badly we changed to another one on the second night. On the first night we also visitors in our hut, because it was pitch black it was hard to tell how many people were there, but Rory put the light on his phone and caught a glimpse of a guy with a machete. We did the only thing you can in that situation, went back to sleep and hoped they didn’t kill us. Our bags were locked so they couldn’t steal anything and if we acted hostile in any way or tried to work our way out of our hammocks in the dark it would’ve just caused more problems. Who knows they might have just been trying to shelter from the rain.
Just to set the scene of this place to you (the photos don’t really show this, as most of the time my camera was hidden away to keep it dry). During our stay it was raining 50% of the time, the ground was like a boggy marsh, the trees/mangroves overhung everything making it a haven for mosquitoes, flies, ants and pretty much every other animal you can think of. The whole place was like a farmyard too with dogs and chickens everywhere. We became more aware of this than ever when we were woken that morning by the cockerels at 5.00am, shortly followed by a chorus of frogs, dogs and every other animal you can think of.
It was at this point in the journey my jet lag kicked in, I’d had such a small amount of sleep over the last 5 days that from the point when I got in my hammock on the first night, I only got up when I really had to, the rest of the time I was in a comatose state. The guys woke me up to eat but that was about it.
The next morning Benji went to check the waves to see if anything was working. The wave (millers right) was about a Km down the headland from the beach it looked small but the wind was perfect off shore and definitely looked surfable on sets. As we paddled out we saw a perfect 4ft right hander peeling right the way down the point but by the time we got to the line up it was flat until the next set came through 25 mins later! We got a couple of really fun ones but it seems this wave needs a solid size swell at low tide to work and would need to be atleast 4 ft to break properly…
The next morning arrived and the swell had dropped even more. We took a walk down the bay past millers right anyway to see if there were any breaks further along but we had no luck. At this point we decided it was time to move on. Terimbang had the potential to be an amazing spot if the swell was right but we seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We only had a month to work our way back to Bali by land and we had a lot of surf spots to cover along the way. We tried to find the cheapest way out, Martin told us about a truck that goes past every morning and this is what the locals use. We decided to head for Waikabubak, the capital of West Sumba Regency. Waikabubak is the second largest city on Sumba island after Waingapu. Apparently it was more central and the roads were better so we figured we may have some more wave options. The next morning we packed up our stuff and jumped in the back of the truck using the sacks of rice and bananas as seats.