|Memories from a seemingly distant adventure
I’m sure you all remember your first overseas holiday. It’s only natural. The thrill of putting down your first deposit, booking the flights and hotels and then the giddy rush of excitement as the plane roars to life and propels itself and you along with it into the sky.
It’s an adventure, no matter where you go.
Let’s rewind the clock back to July 2008. It was my first year out of high school, I had dropped out of uni just shy of finishing a semester (great commitment there) and my work as a professional lifeguard was on hold over the winter.
Essentially my days were filled with waking up, surfing, watching DVDs, working out, surfing the net, hanging out with my girlfriend after she finished uni, eat, sleep and repeat.
In my defence I learnt a shit load about the human body, fitness and nutrition during this time and quite probably used this to reassure myself that one day I would use said knowledge to forge a successful career in the fitness industry, which I tried and failed, and therefore my hours of trawling the web were actually a smart career move. (But that’s another story).
So here I was, 18 years old and all the time in the world. So naturally when a boys surfing trip to Bali was proposed I was there with bells on (forget the fact I had no money, I could borrow it and pay it back post successful launching of a fitness business upon my return…)
I still remember going into Harvey World Travel to make the booking. All six of us eager travellers crowding round an overweight, middle-aged woman with poorly bleached blonde hair and an irritating nasally voice.
“We have a special deal with flights and four nights accommodation at a three star resort, for $1350,” she announced enthusiastically, obviously genuinely excited for our upcoming adventure… or at least I like to think she was.
We had decided to go for two weeks and so being the young thrill seekers we were we chose to use two nights of the four at the start of the trip and two at the end. We would make our own way after those first two nights, throw caution to the wind and let adventure be our guide, before returning, wearisome no doubt to the comfort of our ‘three start resort’.
We made great plans for how many hours a day we would surf, how many girls we would sleep with, (well how many girls the other boys would sleep with, I was happily in a relationship with my beautiful girlfriend who had kindly loaned me some of the funds for the trip), and even came up with our own colourful trip lingo such as; ‘high five’: meaning one had just finished having intercourse with a girl whom they had met earlier in the evening and ‘validate’: a request for a fellow traveller to approve ones choice of potential high five for the evening prior to them committing to the act.
However what lay ahead was not entirely as planned, but that said will still remain a holiday to remember.
We didn’t leave our first hotel for an additional two nights, despite it being very liberally rated with its three stars and being a little way away from the centre of town. However following an argument with a local driver based nearby and a late night motor bike crash into a boarded up shop front, myself and one of my mates decided to brave the violent ‘fish bowl’ induced hangovers and find some new accommodation.
We settled on a cosy little joint near the heart of Kuta called ‘Uns Hotel’ however we couldn’t check in until that afternoon as notorious Australian surfer Koby Abberton was currently in our room and, bless the staff, they didn’t want to kick him out.
It was from here that we surfed for the first time. A brief session down at Uluwatu, followed by the decision that we should stay down there a few nights in an effort to stop going out, and surf more.
We got rooms in two little losmen next door to each other and in all honestly we did get some good waves those few days.
However it was another activity entirely that will possibly always be one of the most memorable moments of that trip and many more to come.
Sitting with our group and some fellow travellers staying at the losmen, fuelled by glasses of Balinese rice wine ‘Arak’, drank from an old plastic PowerAde bottle, an idea was put forward.
Now it’s important to note here that the source of the idea was ‘Benny’, a huge, tattooed, Hawaiian guy, currently on the run with his gorgeous French Canadian girlfriend for skipping out on the US army. He had just finished telling us about five encounters he’s had in which during a fight someone had pulled a gun on him. After quickly scanning his bare torso and not noticing any bullet wounds we deduced that there was a good chance the assailant hadn’t managed to use the weapon and therefore Benny was most certainly not to be messed with.
Earlier that day a Taiwanese trawler, illegally fishing in the Balinese waters, had mysteriously run aground on a reef near where we were staying. Eager to find out if there was a gun or any other contraband hidden away on the vessel, Benny proposed we all ride out to the site of the grounding and search the ship. We all agreed hastily and so off we went.
The ride was no more then 5-10 minutes followed by a brief climb down a steep cliff side track and a few hundred meter wade/swim out to the boat. In between sets (as the boat had moored in the middle of a surf break) we climbed a rope up the side of the ship and were greeted by several groups of Balinese men in their underpants, all emptying the boat of its illegally caught fish. The men weren’t fazed by these half-drunk tourists and provided we showed them what we found didn’t bother us. Save for when they required our help to pull a huge Marlin, which at the time seemed like it weighed several hundred kilograms, out of the hull and throw it overboard to the waiting scavenger boats.
We climbed through the lower regions of the boat, through the heavy stench of diesel and ransacked the crews cabins finding only a few knives and shanks, plus what I initially believed was just a rag and used to wrap my loot so I could throw it to one of the group who had stayed off the boat before I climbed down. This rag however turned out to be the haggard old ships flag and despite its stains and rips I still have it as a memento from that trip.
Benny didn’t find a gun, or anything particularly exciting, save for the ships idol, which he took from its shrine as his own souvenir. We returned to land and back to the losmen and so ended our night as pirates.
The remainder of the trip was very similar to the start. Lots of drinking, clubbing, little surfing and a peculiar encounter with a certain local fungi, widely used in Bali for its interesting effects on mental health.
When we left I was so sick I couldn’t swallow. I was tired, sunburnt and ready to sleep… for days! But at the airport I couldn’t help but feel sad that our first big journey was ending and immediately began looking ahead to our next one.
Fast forward to 2012, many holidays later, it’s funny how the story of marauding the boat still resonates with me as one of the most fun times I’ve had abroad. The spontaneity of it, the true sense of being out of our element, and the thrill of the potential dangers involved, make it truly an adventure to remember.
It’s that sense of adventure that still keeps my feet itching for something more, somewhere new and something different. It’s a part of us all to a degree, especially when we’re young and it’s the most beautiful thing about travelling. It’s out in the big wide world, away from the pre-packaged luxury tours and five star hotels that the real essence of adventure awaits!