We spent a little over three weeks at Lakey Peak, on the southeast shore of Sumbawa in Indonesia. It’s a beachfront area with nine or ten guesthouses. There are a bunch of surf breaks of different difficulties scattered within a 4 km stretch of the beach, with two excellent waves right out front of the main guesthouse strip.
There’s not much to do here for non-surfers. Lakey is not a village (the closest village is Hu’u, a few kilometers away). If you don’t surf, there is a bit of decent snorkelling right out front of the guesthouses, or you could pay a local to take you out fishing. Most of the time, we surfed twice during the day and spent the time in between lying in our hammocks and reading. It was perfect for us.
The main break, Lakey Peak, is a beautiful, machine-like A-frame that I’m going to dream about for the rest of my life. It was one of our favorite waves so far.
A few of the other breaks around are Lakey Pipe:
and Maci Point (a 45-minute boat ride away):
The closest ATM is in a town a 45-minute drive away, called Dompu. We went to the market to stock up on fruit at the same time as an ATM run.
We passed by some picturesque rice fields on the way to and from Dompu.
There are many stray cats and dogs on the beach at Lakey. All the cats have strange, stubby tails. They’re born like that; it’s not from having the tails bitten off.
We went snorkelling twice and saw really cool creatures just a few meters off the beach: puffer fish, moray eels, parrot fish, lobster, a big turtle, and this beautiful lion fish:
There were fun waves the entire time we were there, and two quite large swells came in as well. Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson flew in for the first swell, and Mick Fanning was there for the second one.
We also got to hang out and catch up with an old friend while we surfed. Our good friend Alan from New York City made the trek all the way to Bali and then Sumbawa to meet up with us for two wave-filled weeks at Lakey.
And another surfing friend, Tack, whom we’d met on a surf trip in El Salvador six years ago, happened to be coming to Lakey at the same time as us. It was lots of fun to reconnect.
A lot of people in the surf industry visit Lakey, so the local kids have an early exposure to a very high level of surfing. We saw a few of them starting out super young, surfing the shore break. Seeing their huge smiles reminded me of what it felt like when I was first learning and any wave was a good wave.
We met a guy named Carlos from Barcelona who has been living in the Lakey area for the past two years, heading an NGO called Desarollo Compatible, with a project that provides health care, educational opportunities and much more to the kids in the area. It’s called Harapan Project, and if you visit Lakey, you can ask around for Carlos to see him and his colleagues in action. They can always use donations and funding. Imagine how much it could help the community if every surfer that passed through Lakey gave $10!
Most evenings, the guys working on the Harapan Project were out on the beach playing soccer with a posse of kids.
As far as I know, there are no other humanitarian projects in the immediate area, so if you’ve been lucky enough to surf some of the nuggets that Lakey has to offer, please make an effort to contact Harapan Project and give back to the community in some way.
We’re planning on spending a total of three months in different parts of Indonesia, and our first stop was the island of Nusa Lembongan, just east of Bali. It’s a smaller, quieter, less developed place than south Bali. It’s so beautiful there! I fell in love with the place.
The water is crystal clear and turquoise, and on clear days, there’s a great view of Bali’s Gunung Agung, the highest point on that island.
There aren’t many cars on Lembongan; people mainly use scooters to get around. Kids learn to be comfortable riding two, three or even four to a scooter from a young age.
The local ladies were astonishingly good at balancing things on their heads. This lady below didn’t have anything holding that basket on her head!
Bali is predominantly Hindu, but it’s a specific Balinese style of Hinduism that incorporates some Buddhist and animist beliefs. Religion and spirituality are a big part of daily community life here. Temples abound, with elaborate details.
Several times a day, the Balinese Hindus prepare and put out little banana-leaf basket offerings in thanks to the gods. These canang sari contain items such as rice, flowers, crackers, candy and cigarettes.
The offerings are everywhere you go, in the street and in front of household shrines. The banana-leaf baskets are cute and range from larger box shapes to tiny cones.
We happened to be in Lembongan for Nyepi, the Balinese New Year. The day before Nyepi is filled with temple festivities. Women, men and kids are all decked out in beautiful, traditional Balinese dress. The kids were all just too adorable.
We happened upon a barong dance performance going on in one of the temples closest to our guesthouse.
Click here for a short video of the barong dance:
Later that Nyepi’s eve, the whole town is out on the street after dark for the ogoh ogoh parade, in which bigger-than-life statues of evil spirits are paraded around and made to mock-fight each other, in time to live percussion music. It was like a Balinese Kaiju Big Battel, in the street. The people in each village spend their free time collectively building the giant demons in the weeks leading up to Nyepi.
Click here for a video of the ogoh ogoh parade:
The actual day of Nyepi is a day of silence, in which no one is allowed to leave their house or hotel, or use electricity. Noise is discouraged. The gods must have been on our side, because that day was completely flat. We could see all three of Lembongan’s surf breaks from our guesthouse balcony, and would have gone out of our minds if the waves had been good!
The tides are extreme around Nusa Lembongan, and when the tide goes out, the many seaweed farms that surround the island are exposed. The seaweed farmers sell their crops to cosmetic and food companies.
We surfed almost every day we were on Nusa Lembongan. The waves were very fun, and you could sometimes see the coral reef and colorful tropical fish swimming underneath you in the lineup.
We also went snorkelling a few times, including a place called Manta Point, which is full of giant manta rays that swim right beside and under you. It was a truly incredible experience.
When our time was up in Nusa Lembongan, we took a boat back to Bali and decided to stay on the east coast, in the area of Sanur.
We found a great little homebase called the Bali Mille Homestay, where they gave us a good deal for two weeks in a giant room with air conditioning. What a luxury — air conditioning! We’ve had A/C the whole time we’ve been in Indonesia so far, and we know we’re going to regret the upgrade once we go back to slumming it with fan-only rooms. It’s usually around 32 Celsius everyday with high humidity.
One of the great things about the Bali Mille is that we have a fridge, so we stocked up on yogurt and granola, and buy whatever whacky local fruits are in season. Below, clockwise from the pink fruit: dragonfruit, snakefruit, duku and mangosteen. All very interesting and very tasty.
The waves have been great most days.
I had a close encounter with the reef a little while ago. Don’t surf the Sanur reef breaks at low tide!
In Sri Lanka, we took a safari trip to Uda Walawe National Park, which is known for its 500+ wild elephants. We hit the park at dawn in order to see as many animals as possible. We love animal-spotting! We got up close to a lot of cool critters, including:
Wild peacocks (and peahens, of course)
And the main attraction, elephants
We even saw a tiny, one-month-old baby elephant!
Uda Walawe is about 3 hours away from Midigama by bus. We spent two days away from Midigama to go on the safari, and then came right back in order to continue surfing and chilling out.
Our favorite chill-out spot was a brand-new café called Coffee Point, which served the best espresso in town, and also had lovely, lounge-y seating areas. We ate breakfast there every day (and sometimes had a brownie with ice cream the same afternoon!).
One day, we took a trip about one hour away by bus, to see a snake medicine man and his collection of snakes. We rode the bus and then walked a few kilometers through farmland and tea plantations. The way was beautiful and full of interesting things to see:
Three young guys on a motorbike by the side of the road were kind enough to accompany us the whole way in order to make sure we didn’t get lost in the backroads.
They pointed out cool stuff that we might have missed on our own, like this peacock that was doing a full mating display on the other side of a field we passed by:
When we reached the snake man’s place, it was even more interesting than we’d expected. Vipul is the third generation Ayurvedic snake anti-venom producer in his family. He’s only been bitten by cobras three times, but both his father and grandfather were bitten dozens of times.
We were allowed to hold the non-venomous snakes.
Vipul had some other venomous animals in his collection.
We got one more really fun swell before leaving Sri Lanka.
After a month of surfing, reading, and relaxing on the lovely beaches of Sri Lanka, it was on to Singapore.
Have you been to Singapore? It’s a very modern place, with excellent food, public transportation, museums, and gardens. There are many, many diversions.
We went to the excellent Singapore Art Museum, which showcases contemporary Asian art. The building is beautiful, and the exhibitions were all very interesting and witty.
Another great museum is the Asian Civilizations Museum. Again, gorgeous architecture and fascinating exhibits.
My favorite displays were these wooden idols and stone bench (photos below) from Nias island in Indonesia. I was excited to see cultural artifacts from an area that we’ll be visiting in a few weeks.
We visited the new Gardens By The Bay, which is mostly free except for two indoor greenhouses. We went to the more spectacular of the greenhouses, the Cloud Forest (thanks, Ju!). The seven-level central “mountain” mimics a cloud forest ecosystem, with spectacular waterfalls and oodles of alien-looking plant forms.
My mum is staying in Singapore for the next few months to escape the cold in Canada, so we went to Ippudo together. Michael and I were missing the tasty ramen from Ippudo in New York. The food was as good as we remembered it.
After lunch at Ippudo, we went to Takashimaya‘s basement and tried all the free samples, as well as stopping by the Nespresso tasting bar for a free (and tasty!) cappuccino.
There are so many shopping centers in Singapore, even the monks do a little window shopping once in a while. That’s an iPad in the hand of the second guy from the left.
We surfed the Flowrider at Wavehouse Sentosa, one of the many concessions at the crazy, amusement park/island called Sentosa. Who said there’s no surf in Singapore?! OK, it’s not so much similar to surfing as it is to snowboarding. Michael was a natural; he picked it up very quickly:
Me, not so quickly:
One of my mum’s favorite things to do in Singapore is eat at the hawker stalls:
It was Chinese New Year while we were there, so Michael got to do one of his favorite things, too: dancing in the street with drunk people in costumes.
In my last post, I mentioned the artful details on N’Gor Island, 700 meters off the coast of Dakar in Senegal. Walking around the island, you see many artists and their paintings, sculptures, glassworks, batiks, and other manifestations of creativity. There’s one path along the island that’s adorned 24 hours a day with the manifestations of some eccentric artist’s creativity, using found junk as their medium.
We had quite a few days of very fun swell, and tried several of the breaks in Dakar. One of our favorites was Ouakam, a fast and barrelling break with a right and a left, located directly in front of a distinctive mosque.
There are resident pelicans that hang around the fishermen beside the mosque. Locals don’t seem to even notice them. This guy was too intent on his text messaging to pay attention to the big bird.
One of Dakar’s big tourist draws is Gorée Island, which is famous for being a slave trade throughpoint during the 18th century. It was a very small slave trade center compared to some other West African towns (for example, St. Louis, further north in Senegal), but Gorée has become symbolic of Senegal’s remembrance of the past atrocities committed during the days of slave trade.
The House of Slaves was where the few hundred slaves that were channelled through Gorée during those times were kept before being shipped across the Atlantic. There is a door leading out to the sea, known as the Door Of No Return, which is said to be where the slaves were led when it was time for them to be loaded on ships. Whether all the history is factually correct or not, the House of Slaves is a moving and eery place.
When we visited Gorée, there were large works commissioned from artists interpreting the theme of “memories” of the slave trade past:
The paths of Gorée are free of motor vehicles, but full of old colonial houses and bougainvillea:
Creativity in Senegal extends to music as well as painting, sculpture and crafts. The music scene is very lively and wonderful to watch and listen to. From buskers to live music clubs, we enjoyed Senegalese music wherever we went. Here’s a busker with a beautiful smile, playing the kora:
One of the great joys of living on N’Gor Island for us was walking out our front door onto the beach, and ordering a huge platter of brochette de lotte (grilled monkfish skewers) accompanied by rice, salad, french fries and baguette, all for $4.00 (including home delivery!).
We were very fortunate to be staying in a house two doors down from an amazing group of people who were about to take off on a non-stop transatlantic (Dakar to Miami) rowing expedition: OAR Northwest. We became good friends with (below, from L to R) the rowers, Pat Fleming, Jordan Hanssen, Adam Kreek, and Markus Pukonen, as well as their photographer Erinn Hale, and their videographer (unfortunately not in the picture below), Christopher Yapp.
We got to hang out with them a lot during their preparatory month on N’Gor, and also had the chance to visit their rowboat once it arrived in Dakar. They set off from Dakar on January 23rd and you can check out where they are right now, as well as find out more about their incredible undertaking, on the OAR Northwest website here.
One of my best interactions with the Senegalese locals was this day at a good surfing beach when a bunch of kids all wanted to participate in a photo shoot and kept asking me to take pictures and then show them the results. They were naturals!
After Senegal, it was off to Sri Lanka for us. We landed in Colombo and spent one day exploring the city a little. Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist, and there are many temples in Colombo that are open to visitors.
We’re staying in a small town called Midigama that has several fun breaks to surf. The first few days, we noticed turtles surfacing in the ocean each time we were out surfing. There’s an informal turtle hatchery right on the beach where we surf, and we were fortunate enough to be there at the time when the caretaker released hatchlings. We got to help release some turtle babies. So adorable!
We surf from 6:30 to 8:30 each morning and then eat a huge breakfast. For $3, you can get a meal of scrambled eggs with onions and peppers, toast, tomatoes and avocado, and a giant chocolate coffee millkshake.
Some of the interesting things we’ve seen during our walks around Midigama:
We recently had a cool reminder of our time in Chile, back in May. We’d been interviewed by a film crew while we were surfing and camping in Portofino. The crew were filming an episode of Chile Conectado, a weekly tv show about different areas of Chile, and they were focusing on a character called Chico Cristian who’s the only full-time resident of the summer surf town of Portofino. We just found the link; check it out! We are at the 3:30 mark in the video:
I haven’t posted anything about our budget in many months. I was still conscientiously keeping track of our daily expenses in a notebook, but had fallen behind in entering them into Budget Your Trip. I also didn’t want to post our average daily budget until after we sold Berenjenita, so that we could figure out how much the money got from the sale offset our original car-buying-and-building-out costs.
So…drum roll…here it is!
We’re quite a bit over our budget of $60 a day for both of us, not including plane tickets. Why so much?
- Food is by far our biggest expense. We just can’t help sampling the good stuff! For example, although Portugal was very cheap for us, we realized after the fact that all the cheap goodies in the markets, such as cheeses, wines, and endless varieties of chocolates, had tempted us to eat without checking if we were staying on budget. Not to mention the restaurant trips. We were like kids let loose in a candy store. We never would have been able to make wood-fired pizza or grilled seafood as tasty at home as at those restaurants, so we’re not feeling guilty . However, there is a lesson in this: if a country is cheap for travellers and has lots of tempting things to offer at lower costs than you’re used to, it’s still easy to go overboard and think all the little splurges won’t add up to much; track your expenses even more closely than usual every day in those places!
- Despite recouping a lot of our van build-out costs in the sale to a fellow traveller in Peru, we went over our budget in Peru and Chile due to gas costs, as well as the major repairs. We wanted to take advantage of having wheels, and Chile and Peru are both such vast countries in terms of length, so we never ended up staying very long in one place over the seven months we were there. The longest times we spent in one place were a few weeks in Lima, when we were buying and building out the van; two weeks in Pichilemu, Chile; and two weeks in Chicama, Peru. We don’t regret buying the van and driving around so much, either. We had some of our most memorable experiences during that chapter of our trip. It still surprises us when we remind ourselves that buying a van was a spur-of-the-moment change of plans for us. We can’t imagine what our travels through Peru and Chile would have been like without Berenjenita. Lesson here: during the planning stages, leave some room in your budget for spontaneous changes to your trip. You won’t regret the extra money spent in exchange for the freedom and flexibility.
- Biggest lesson learned: noting daily expenses is important, but what’s most important is regularly looking at the expenses as a whole to see if you’re on track, and adjusting course if necessary.
We were a little worried when we saw that we were over our budget $16.59 per day. However, due to our lengthy overland stay in South America, we’re way under our airfare budget, so we may still break even in the end. All of our costs in Sri Lanka are very low (it’s the cheapest country we’ve been to so far) but we’re only here for another couple of weeks. We’re hoping to be able to stay below budget for three months in Indonesia as well, but still have yet to see how much moving around we’ll do there. Then it will be on to New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii – all very expensive places!
We left Morocco for our next destination, Senegal, but not before being invited to our landlord Mhand’s home for lamb couscous.
Mhand’s daughter Nadia graciously prepared a large couscous meal for me, Michael, Mhand, and two other guests at the house where we’d rented an apartment.
After the meal, Nadia made amlou for us to take home: a kind of peanut butter made of peanuts ground up with argan oil and honey. She used a stone grinder that has been in Mhand’s family for 200 years.
We had waves almost every single day we were in the little fishing village in Morocco, but we were still looking forward to getting to Senegal, where the weather and water is a little warmer this time of year.
We splurged a little and stayed at the best surf camp in Senegal for the first two weeks we were here: N’gor Island Surf Camp.
It’s on tiny N’gor Island, which is only 800 meters long, and has no cars. There are two surf breaks on the island; one on each side. The right works more often than the left, and can hold large swells. The right is also the wave that was featured in the classic surf movie The Endless Summer, and there’s a hand-painted sign above the wave proudly announcing this fact:
There are many other excellent waves within a 30-minute walk of the mainland beach that faces N’gor Island. To get across, we have to take one of the pirogues, which cross the 700-meter channel every 10 or 15 minutes:
While staying at the surf camp, the entire camp took a little trip to a secluded surf spot called Spot X and surfed some fun, long and clean head high peelers:
The beaches on N’gor Island are small but pretty, with little restaurants and places renting mats for sunbathing and makeshift cabanas for privacy:
The island’s sandy footpaths are lined with palms and wind past cute houses:
The island is full of artful details and colorful characters:
There are many skilful spear fishermen who ply their trade every day in the waters around the island and then sell the fish fresh off their spears:
We’ve rented a cute little bungalow where we spend any non-surf time sitting on our veranda, reading and writing or hanging out with friends.
We’ve ventured into downtown Dakar several times, once to visit the markets selling produce, fish, clothing, handicrafts and fabulously colored fabrics. The local women wear matching headwraps and dresses in gorgeous African prints. We weren’t buying, but were happy to feast our eyes on the lovely colors while one of our friends shopped for fabric.
We’ve gotten to spend a couple of afternoons hanging out with two surfing friends from New York, Elie and Nate, who moved to N’gor Island one year ago. They work in consulting for development projects in several African countries, and are also social entrepreneurs. One of Elie’s many projects is Mama Liberia, a women’s co-op based in Liberia that produces beautiful, handcrafted bags and duvet covers from amazingly printed African fabrics. They can be shipped anywhere in the world, and the hand stitching is super durable. This is my Mama Liberia bag, which has quickly become my favorite carry-all: