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How to survive a Bali surftrip as a solo girl traveler

Updated: Mar 19, 2018

Sometimes I travel on my own. I always look for the cheapest flights which usually involves taking a detour. I do a little layover through the country I have never been to before. This time it was Bali.

I packed my life into 3 pieces of luggage, checked in, completed Prague, Frankfurkt, Bangkok and Denpasar itinerary after 32 hours and dropped my stuff at the home-stay under the cliff owned by Made, a sweet Balinese woman.

I made friends with fellow home-stayers whom I explored the local surf spots with. First one was Uluwatu, kind of a unique spot. It took a paddle through the cave over the reef to the crowded line-up. Once there, watching the sunset from the first row was insane. But with rising tide and fading light, missing the zone to negotiate strong current to get back to the cave and drift around the cliff-line few hundred meters could be a mistake. Another surf spot, Impossibles, was a picturesque perfection from the cliff-top. The wave races at the high-speed down the reef over crystal-clear water. Riding it became possible, at times, too. The spot next door, Padang Padang is well known for being a heavy, steep and hollow wave, best described as a barrel machine with a gnarly take-off zone over the unforgiving, shallow reef in front of the Bukit Peninsula cliffs. I had only admired surfers from the distance who had the guts to ride there until a friend of mine made me to paddle out there too.

I was sitting and watching the action from inside the line-up in awe as guys were getting barreled or wiped out. This wave was nuts and so exciting at the same time it just made me want to go for it. As the set approached I turned my board towards the beach, paddled a few strokes and took off, wiping out almost immediately. When I surfaced I just thought myself “holy .… moly”, laughing about my naive over-excitement and underestimating the wave’s power. The sets were rolling in, about to sweep me onto the cliffs so I quickly grabbed my board and scratched for the channel. Just narrowly missing going down the waterfalls and meeting the reef again, I had a chance to catch a glimpse of a surfer perfectly squeezed in the tube like in one of those epic water-shots from the top angle of a barreling wave, so dreamy. Suddenly I saw a friend of mine drifting on the next one and no one on the wave behind. I took off, dropped in, bottom turned as the wave curled over my head. It felt as time slowed down as I noticed my friend paddling over screaming “YEWWWWWWW” as the wave shut and smashed me down. I didn´t make it out of that barrel, however, I was stoked! Seeing the volcanos in the background as well as turtles swimming by was nice too.

In a couple days we decided to do a little scooter-surf trip to Lombok island. Whilst packing I realized I lost my only credit card. I had withdrawn a small amount of cash as I arrived so I was “stuck” in paradise until my new one arrived from Europe. We went to surf to the east coast instead where I lost my surfboard fin as well. I returned to Made’s to get money to buy a new one. Before I had left I stashed a room key inside my bikini bra (secret spot, not so secret anymore) that I knotted around the chair in front of my room. When I returned, there was no key but a hole in my bikini since monkeys ripped them apart and stole it. Funny little cheeky animals. I went to search the nearby shore, where I found a new fin and the neighbor showed up with a half-chewed key he found on the roof he was fixing where monkeys must had dropped it while escaping. Made say nothing but: Monkey cheakyyyyy!

There was a party at the Cashew Tree that night. It kind of looked like a party in a jungle, not because of animals but people dancing. It was pretty fun, until it was over and I left, got lost and had a scooter accident. It was 1:00 AM, suddenly I didn’t recognize the roads in the middle of the forests anymore and when I U-turned to go back,

it was too late to break before I found myself dropping from a 1,5m height off the road, into the trees.

What a fail. I did pretty well though, didn´t break any bones, only my scooter was a bit re-shaped. It was a dark night, not a single soul around, but a thing I started to worry about was mad dogs approaching as the rapidly increasing sound of barking signalized.

I was getting on the edge of panic, praying for them not to eat me. I actually had no time to panic so I decided to act, scrambled back up on the road and tried to lift the scooter myself when I quickly realized how pointless it is because of its weight.

Barking was getting louder this time so I kept fooling myself those dogs are just cute little happy fluffy things hopping around who only want to play, although they were not. I noticed a light on the other side of the road where I went in hope for someone to help me. Suddenly, I heard noisy scooters. I was the happiest person on earth when 6 German dudes and a girl pulled over, it felt like they were angels sent in from the heaven. They looked at me and the scooter parked in the ditch in disbelief how did I got off with a bloody toe only. Eventually, four of them lifted my scooter back on the road and the crew got me back home safely. I considered myself quite lucky that night.

Classic morning – woke up at 5:48 AM wondering what the hell is that damn noise. Apparently, there was the whole 18-member monkey family hanging out at our terrace, going crazy, searching for breakfast, throwing stuff out of the trash and eating leftovers because they just love it. There was some wildlife to be seen on a daily basis.

Besides monkeys, hornets and bumblebees, turtles or sea snakes in the water, big red ants and mosquitos were hanging around constantly. One night, getting back to my place through the tiny alley, I had a chance to look a medium sized python in the eye thanks to which I almost shit myself. He was pretty relaxed, crossing the road from one side to the other, like a pedestrian... only not. When I told Made about my snake adventure, she just laughed me off saying: “Oh snake? Snake no problem!”I liked that so since then I have applied “snake no problem” attitude.

Finally, my new credit card arrived. It came handy as I was broke and planned to go to Sumbawa the following day. However, I got the cash but no card back as the ATM swallowed it. “Here we go again”, thinking to myself. I just had to laugh about it. I might of said a few colorful words to the worker on the phone after he declared they have no intentions to do anything about it so I went to the bank next day, spoke with the manager and the problem was solved.

I went to surf that afternoon and my trip adventures got upgraded again. I had pulled off a closing wave and when I surfaced to grab my board it gained cosmic speed and hit me like a slingshot, right in my face.

A surfer a few meters away looked at me with a squeezed lemon kind of face, freaking out. I touched my nose to make sure it’s in one piece but now I freaked out, as my hands were covered in blood. I thought to myself, “well, I guess my session is over.” I paddled to the shore to check my face in a mirror. Right side of my nose was split about 1cm with a long deep cut inside as well. I sat to calm down, the lady from the beach store put some Indonesian magic on my nose when a passing Argentinian guy offered me a ride to the hospital. I didn’t hesitate as I had to hold my bleeding face the whole trip there. Eventually, I had to get a little nose plastic surgery that cost my insurance company (thankgod the company!) $1500 and costing me 20 stiches.

I couldn’t surf those days, but at least I had lots of time to chill and think of how much fun have I’ve had so far. I went to Balangan and watch my friends surf from a beach bar. It is a bit funky to get there, especially when wet because of its bumpy potholed off-road terrain. It was November and rainy season had just kicked off. A few days before after some massive rain the alley linking the main road and the cliff parking at our place got so flooded my friend had to tow me out from that muddy lake as I couldn’t start my bogged scooter anymore. Surfing in rain is fun too, but with lightning strikes is no joke. A guy got struck in Canggu and died just a week before.

I was drinking my coconut and watching friends having endless fun, when the sky turned into the 50 shades of grey as thunder and lightning took over.

We left the beach bar and got soaking wet within 6 seconds. It was kind of scary knowing the flashes were only 3km from us, nevertheless, we took off as it was getting dark. Driving was pretty sketchy, the dirt road completely disappeared under the water, the hill leading back onto the road turned into the waterfall, fields became pools and so the roads became rivers. Bridges were flooded and from one of them were some concrete pieces sticking out of the water, as the rain intensity and rising river level beneath caused it to start to fall apart, just to make it more exciting. Frequent lightning flashes and thunder surrounding us were intense but thrilling at the same time so we pulled over and admired it for a second or two.

Now we only had to get through the last alley to get home. We watched as three guys emerged from there completely wet like they just went for a swim. Clearly, they did, as the alley became an impassable chest-deep lake. As we couldn’t drive through we decided to park next door at the fancy bamboo resort hoping for security not to chase us as we snuck in, pretended to be guests, walked casually to the end of the resort, climbed through the palm tree fence and took cliff stairs to our home-stay and didn’t get out until the next day.

With arriving swell on the day of my departure we decided to go for one more surf at the spot called Airports reef. The mission was clear: wake up, hit the road early morning, catch a “surf taxi”, score some waves and one last yummy Nasi Goring. After we arrived in Kuta and parked by the beach, negotiated the paddle through the trashy ocean, full of plastic floating mess, we hopped in the boat that got us to the outer reefs. The atmosphere was really cool; surfing long lefts too far out to reach the beach meanwhile airplanes landing above our heads. My schedule was tight due to the afternoon flight and of course, our boat picked us up late and we hit the rush hour. The traffic in Bali is chaotic. The rules on the roads are no rules and safety last instead of first applies. The roads are super narrow, everyone is in everyone’s way, people on motorbikes are bombing down the road, sneaking through from any direction, changing lanes without checking the rearview mirror or bothering to use indicators is normal as they believe you will just notice, occasional 1m deep ditches on the roadsides, traffic lights usually don’t work or simply aren’t there and the right-hand rule doesn’t exist neither. Surprisingly, all of this craziness works somehow in a natural flow.

I was following a friend, sneaking cheeky a little and taking sidewalks occasionally to avoid the busy traffic. Suddenly, the road narrowed with a truck and a bus in “wannabe” lanes.

We sped up to thread the gap between the vehicles when another truck appeared on the roadside in front of us. My friend stopped sharply and so was I but since my breaks didn’t break properly anymore, perhaps due to my first crash, I managed to slam into her back wheel as was my failed attempt to stop rapidly. It wasn´t too bad, only moving her half a meter forward, but I had so much adrenaline at that moment I accelerated by mistake and carved around the truck immediately ahead of us leaving everyone looking at me what kind of a crazy stupid idea that just was. My friend drove past me afterwards in tears of laughter at what had just happened, laughing all the way to the local restaurant. We enjoyed some delicious traditional Indonesian food and the cheapest lunch ever for 20000 rupiah (€1.20), shared few more laughs together, and I was off.

Someone wise once said, “go where the wifi is weak and the rum is strong”.

I don’t know about the rum in Bali, a few Bintangs maybe, but not having any reception most of the time did feel good, people should try it. Sometimes we try to be prepared in case of what-if scenarios, however, things always seem to work the way they supposed to be. Although a few events were slightly sketchy and ended up not as expected, I definitely had lots of fun, which made me think… what country am I going to next?


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