Sunday, October 27, 2013



A surfer enjoys the sunset over the exposed low tide reef of the Bukit Peninsula
Before the 3rd of September 2013, I’d been privileged enough to see a bit of the world. However, holidays abroad (always with family) were confined to the safety of top-end resorts and hotels, pre-booked tours and the usual city attractions. This trip was different. My fiancĂ© (Nick) and I armed with nothing but a “coffin” of surfboards and a backpack each, kissed our beloved and comfortable lives goodbye and headed to a place we’d never visited before (Indonesia) without making a single plan for our stay. For the next 2 months, we would live in the present.

After a series of small wins (navigating the visa and customs counters, finding our luggage, using a non-western toilet, and successfully becoming millionaires from a local ATM) we exited the airport doors. The chaos that is Indo hit us immediately: a feeling of insane humidity, accompanied by the smell of what I can only describe as a combination of sweat, sand and car fumes; porters grabbed willingly at our bags despite our protests; and five different taxi drivers very insistently offered us a lift. We’d been pre-warned about all of this. Still feeling confident at this point, we successfully bartered our way into Wayan’s taxi and set off for the first area we wanted to explore: the Bukit Peninsula.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I feared for our safety–as well as the safety of everyone else on the road–during the taxi ride from the airport. Reflecting back now and being able to compare this ride to the other numerous taxi rides we had, I can say with complete certainty that our taxi driver was either a mad man, or an aspiring race car driver (I’m going for the former). Between gripping the edge of my seat and exchanging nervous looks with Nick, I took in my first impressions of Indonesia: dirt, makeshift storefronts, crumbling statues, crowds, scooters, families of five on a scooter, stray animals, construction, chaos. This was third world life in all of its glory.

This initial 30-minute taxi journey ended at the start of a short gravel road, under a handwritten sign pointing to “Belong Bunter Home Stay” (the “t” of the word “stay” had mistakenly been written as an “l” and evidently corrected after the fact).  I hesitantly unloaded my bag, unsure about our choice of accommodation (or how we’d contact anyone from this point on!). Wayan, our exceptionally grumpy and crazy taxi driver, shouted at us for (accidently) slamming the boot of his taxi. We apologized but got a “sorry not good enough” as he screeched off to no doubt bear his wrath on some more unsuspecting travelers.

Left standing in the dust that had stirred from Wayan’s speedy exit, Nick and I gathered our bags and wearily set off down the gravel path towards “Belong Bunter Home Slay”. During this walk, for the first time, the thought of two months of unplanned lostness in Indonesia became daunting. Culture shock and exhaustion had firmly set in for this suburban city girl. I turned to Nick and said, “I don’t think I can do this”. “Let’s give it a day or two”, he replied.

After the initial unsettling experience of our arrival in Indonesia, I quickly learned that first impressions don’t always count. By day 3 I was totally in love with everything that was Indonesia and I could finally understand the lure for thousands of travelers to visit the country every month. Our little home at Belong Bunter turned out to be all that we needed (bar a few cockroaches); the local guy running the homestay, Hank, ended up becoming one of our fondest friends; and our subsequent travels throughout not only Bali, but the other islands as well, ended up being a life-changing and incredibly positive experience filled with stories that would fill a novel (I’ll be sharing a story or two with each photo-blog post from here on).

My time in Indo taught me more about myself than 27 years in Cape Town ever could. I learned to love the idea of being lost; of being mistaken for Australian or British; of not knowing where we’d be in 24 hours time or where we’d sleep; and of people not speaking fluent English. I learned how to be disconnected; to abandon my iPhone; and to ignore what was happening on my social media feeds. I learned not to worry about materialistic things, or appearances clouded by make up. I learned to live simply, day-by-day, and to be grateful. Best of all, I learned to be free.


Keep an eye out for Part II coming soon!
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