This Epic was supposed to start and end in Sumbawa but I just couldn’t leave Sumba yet. I sent out an email more or less refusing to bring the boat to where it was supposed to be for the start of this trip. The owners coming in would certainly have some cause for concern with the somewhat hasty itinerary change, but I thought once they got a taste for Sumba they would agree with the decision. The concern would no doubt stem from the simple fact that Sumba is a logistical nightmare. Flights are sporadic and tardy at best, cancelled or over booked at worst. As I put the request out to Bruce, Bryan, and Rogier, who were all coming in from very different parts of the world (Australia, US, and Thailand respectively) with a mere 4 days to change everything the response was typical of our owners and made me smile. “No problem Gavin, if you think it’s worth it, we’ll make it happen.” Even though the change cost each of them a day of the trip and involved a 7 hour drive on a dirt road, as well as a stop for more eggs and beer (I thought more beer might be in order to cool tempers) the boys arrived bright-eyed late in the day and excited to see what had me so rapt.
What I didn’t tell them was that I was also being a bit selfish- for myself and our crew. Sumbawa has a much-publicized region called Lakey Peak that surfers and more recently kitesurfers have been flocking to for years. This expedition is based around finding places that others haven’t so in many ways our Sumbawa plans were not in line with the mission. But by all accounts even with the crowds Lakey can’t be missed. The waves and especially winds are more reliable there than anywhere else known in all of Indonesia. Sure, we could go on the search as we normally do but in the case of Indonesia getting foodstuffs and necessities like fuel is so difficult in the outer areas that sometimes we have to settle for the already-discovered. But our schedule had us firmly planted in Lakey for over a month and I felt one more week enjoying Sumba, even with all the trouble of getting both people and things like beer on board were worth it.
And now I get to talk again about food. Remember all those logs long ago when I used to go on and on about the food? I know that must have made many of you gag and furious with me, but I don’t think people who haven’t spent a good deal of time at sea realize how important food is for the morale on board. I consider it the most important thing we provide. We have absolutely no control of the weather and typically know very little about the places we visit until we get there. But we can keep people happy, and that is through their bellies. And our new chef Bobby, an Indonesian from Bali keeps us very happy indeed. Those of you who keep track of these things no doubt wonder what happened to our last chef, who joined only some weeks ago. Well, he made it one trip. Half way through when I asked him if he could keep the galley a bit cleaner and if he could treat Sunita, our first mate with a little more respect he practically spit in my face and quit. So there you go. Luckily Jody and I had met Bobby, the head chef of a swanky bar and restaurant in Bali a few weeks previously and he jumped at the opportunity to join us. A day before the clients arrived Bobby flew in with two big coolers of fresh goods and if I have anything to do with it, will never be allowed to leave!
Every morning Bobby begins before sunrise whipping up fresh breads, croissants and danish. Homemade granola, homemade yoghurt and mounds of fresh papaya, mango, banana, watermelon and other citrus adore the table. Eggs of choice are cooked to your liking and downed with strong local coffee. Lunch might be an herbed crust pizza with roasted prawns and sauteed hot peppers. Dinner always begins with an aromatic and succulent soup and is followed with something like crispy duck, steamed bok choy and roasted garlic rice or a delicious Indonesian curried lamb. Ah, to have wonderful food again! And none of the headaches. Bobby is one of those guys that just gets it. Everything is easy, everything just works. Whatever schedule we have, whatever food we have access to, whatever happens that would throw most people Bobby just smiles and says “no problem.”
So there we were, happy people in happy land eating happy food. I’ve learned over the years that stories that just go on and on about paradise sans problems are the least interesting and no doubt least readable. So this must be a terribly boring log. Let’s try some drama. In two days Bruce busted up two kites. Luckily he didn’t bust up himself because the conditions were a bit daunting. At the outer islands of Mangudu we found reliable wind and a solid left hander that has a tendency to crunch mistakes. These come in the way of dragging you over the reef, then beating the shit out of your kite or sometimes the other way around. Bryan and Rogier, being new to wave riding were happy to practice riding directional boards (ie surfboards) on the shoulders of the waves, getting more and more daring each day. But Bruce just dove right in. I think since we left Kosrae he and I can’t get those monster waves out of our heads and seek the adrenaline we found there by attempting to substitute size with getting way too “deep”. This signifies little to the non-surfing reader but basically means we crash too much. Well, I crash too much and Bruce just got unlucky. Twice. Jody and I were out in the dinghy when the second one happened attempting to shoot some photos. After he went down I didn’t see a head for a couple minutes. The kite was demolished and getting pounded by a succession of big waves thundering down on the reef. If one of the lines had tangled around his head…
Thankfully a bobbing head eventually surfaced and Bruce was flushed clear of the danger. You would think it would be a good lesson, but I haven’t seemed to stop crashing much!
The area held us a lot longer than I planned. We just couldn’t find a very good reason to leave. Large pelagics like sailfish and marlin kept teasing us right next to the boat, dozens of turtles joined us in the waves, even dolphins came for a few visits. Bryan and I spent most mornings trying and sometime succeeding in catching waves on the SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard). Rogier would take long swims before his famously long kite sessions. Bruce and I found plenty of time each day to battle one another at chess. Each day punctuated nicely with three feasts compliments of Bobby. A leisurely existence we all found quite agreeable.
Finally we had to move on. We spent the night back at the mainland near a break we’d discovered previously waft motored in very light air most of the next day up the coast, which varies so much you can’t decide what the place reminds you of. Parts of it look like segments of the Great Ocean Road in southern Australia, other parts like the Oregon Coast, United States and further along the arid landscape of Baja, Mexico. Every 5 minutes something completely different. All of it wild offering hardly any signs of life except a rare waft of smoke from a small inland village. We dropped Jody off the next morning in some tiny seaside fishing village so she could find a way back to Bali via the airport to do a visa “run” for the crew. This is an illegal procedure that everyone does to get around the 30 day maximum stay. In Indonesia much can be accomplished with a negotiable number of greenbacks. Unfortunately she would have to traverse by motorbike a region that is ripe with both malaria and dengue fever. Thankfully she skirted these rather consequential hazards, but did not skirt another insidious little parasite, but that’s for the next log…
We spent much of that morning getting a tour of Nihiwatu, a very upscale surf resort on the SW coast of Sumba which has a wave nicknamed “God’s Left”, which from what I can tell is very aptly titled. Someday when I’m a better surfer and have a ridiculous amount of money to throw around (both maybe very unlikely) I’d like to come back as a guest…
An overnight motor brings us to Sumbawa. Here we find a number of breaks, and a large number of people. It is a far cry from the solitude and quiet of Sumba and it is a bit shocking to see over a dozen people in the water all jockeying for waves. When the winds crank up in the afternoon there are as many as 20 kiters at each break, all vying for the best rides. I get screamed at for the first time in my kiting career for mistakenly dropping in on someone. You would think this would be disappointing and shocking to us, considering most if not all of the places we’ve been in the last three years we’ve had to ourselves. But it isn’t. The set up is all that we hoped for. Waves end day after day in beautiful form after their long march up from the Southern Indian Ocean. Winds turn on like a timed lightswitch nearly every afternoon. Over a dozen professional riders from around the world, quite a few of whom we’ve had on board provide all of us lesser mortals plenty of incentive to improve. As long as you don’t piss anyone off the “scene” is actually a lot of fun. On land you have to worry about malaria and stomach flu (the latter just about everyone gets) and the food is rather questionable. But on the boat we have Bobby, we have the cool breeze, we have our own little nook in this big wide world.
“Happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.” –Roy Goodman.