Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I'M NOT A GREAT SWIMMER. Despite growing up with a pool in our yard, I never managed to really learn how to do it. I cannot dive, much to Jeff's bemusement, and I'm not comfortable in the ocean when it's deeper than I am tall. Boats make me nervous when I do not know the Captain and I am not okay with opaque bodies of water. I am most comfortable in pools and wouldn't dream of swimming in the open ocean at night. Generally speaking, I am afraid of water.

That being said, this trip was designed around it. With each new location, our Googling begins at the shore; we cannot be in a place without water.

You might, then, be as surprised as we were to discover that many parts of Bali have terrible, terrible beaches. Litter-strewn, filthy, and narrow, with sharp sand underfoot.  To our disappointment, the island is not encircled by picture-perfect white sand beaches as we were lead to believe. In planning, we avoided the tourist epicentres of Kuta Beach and Seminyak, where the beaches apparently shape-up, but didn't want to search for a patch of sand amongst hundreds of bulés (white Western tourists); I want the kind of beach that's gorgeous and empty. Is that too much to ask?

And so we've added a stop to our Indonesian experience: Three days on the Gili Islands, located 35km east, just off the coast of Lombok, the next large island in the archipelago. These three islands are in fact wrapped in white sand beaches and, this time of year (at the tail-end of Monsoon Season), they'll be nice and quiet. We're excited to hop on a high-speed boat for the one-hour trip and can't wait to finally have a bit of quality beach time in paradise.

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But, that said, we have managed to discover some truly spectacular places. The Git Git Waterfalls near Bali's old capital, Singaraja, are a 20-minute hike into the jungle, up ancient steps and moss-covered ledges. While you can hear the water for some time, it takes a while until you see it, cascading drops and smooth pools connecting the stacked waterfalls. Jeff is afraid of nothing and wasted no time sliding into the water at the base of the first fall, though I did not. I was too nervous. I regretted it the moment we climbed out of the gorge.

A few days later, our Lovina Beach hosts took us on a roadtrip into the mountains where they showed us another river perfect for swimming. I can't imagine another bulé has ever been there; it felt like a secret. Though it took a bit of coaxing, I soon jumped into the fast-flowing water, careful to keep my feet off the surely-terrifying riverbed. It was icy-cold (which alleviated fears of creepy river monsters and flesh-eating bacteria) and I dunked my head under. It was amazing. Jeff convinced me to stand up, and I discovered the bottom was flat and coated in smooth pebbles, nothing to be afraid of at all.

I didn't have a single regret that day.

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Yesterday we took a walk along the (shabby, dirty, inexplicably litter-covered) beach here in Lovina. It was indescribably hot and all I wanted was to throw myself in the water, but was dissuaded by plastic bottles and old clothing floating there. Verging on grouchy, we walked out onto the modest pier and noticed a tiny figure jump off a longboat about 300m offshore. The little body swam and kicked his way toward us before disappearing under the dock. After a few minutes we heard a tiny voice say "Hello? ... Hello? ... Hello?" We searched the perimeter of the jetty and soon found him staring up at us from the low tide line; he couldn't reach the cement staircase leading out of the water and needed our help. He reached with his tiny, sun-soaked arm and Jeff reached down, pulling the 7-year old up out of the sea, no more than 40 pounds (literally) soaking wet.

No sooner than he was safely on the dock, he ran and jumped, headlong, back into the water, showing off for us; not an ounce of fear lived in this little boy. He swam and dove out of sight, as deep as he could, his snorkel disappearing for a few seconds. Kicking his little legs in the water, he demonstrated indisputably better swimming skills than my own. We watched for a few minutes before waving good bye and leaving him there, unsupervised in the wide open ocean.

It was a special moment in a beautiful place, white sand beaches the furthest thing from my mind. I'll remember that little guy when I'm scared to jump in the water.


  1. Lovely words, emotion, and pictures! A journey in more ways than one...

    Safe travels & namaste


  2. Fabulous, Jason. Thanks for the mini vacation in my heart :)

  3. Love the photos, so stunning.