I keep thinking that I’m not going to be here forever (Bali that is), so I had better make the most of my time here. With that in mind, we headed over to the beautiful island of Nusa Penida.
Our dear Australian friend, Alan, joined us (and always gives us a great excuse to go exploring) on yet another short adventure.
After arriving at the harbour of Padang Bay at a prompt 10am for the 11am ferry, we were advised that the ferry wouldn’t be departing until 1.00pm. With no waiting area to while away the three hours, we decided to take a ‘traditional’ boat across, which cost about ten times more than the ferry but was an awesome way to travel across the strait for one hour.
They say Nusa Penida is Bali twenty years ago, however I strongly beg to differ. It’s more like fifty. I was in Bali almost 30 years ago and it was a hell of a lot busier even back then than Nusa Penida is today.
It reminds you of an old scene from a movie with it’s broken, pot holed, narrow and winding roads, ocean on one side and swaying palm trees on other, an odd cow or pig thrown in.
Apparently it’s an awesome place to dive and snorkel to see Manta Rays and Sun Fish (Mola Mola), however we chose the roughest of oceans to head off on our little snorkelling trip. Hence, we missed the Manta’s and had to search for some sheltered bays for some decent snorkeling.
I have to say, I’m getting a bit ‘over’ snorkelling in largish (that’s a word, right?) swell these days. It tends to make me a wee bit seasick. I’m also highly claustrophobic (might answer a few things!?), so once I threw off my snorkel, just keeping mask and fins on, I felt so much freer… and less ill.
There’s a hell of a lot less rubbish in the waters here compared to Bali. Still some, but no-where near the same amount. It’s actually pleasant to be in the ocean. The coral is alive and teeming with all shapes, sizes and colours of fish. It’s beautiful.
Crystal Bay is one of the more famous locations on Nusa Penida and there’s a lovely rustic walking track that takes you along and over the cliffs to explore other, more remote beaches.
After maybe thirty minutes of walking we decide we want to head back but Declan (my son) wants us to wait while he quickly goes to explore something ahead.
After a reasonably long wait where we had hollered out to him, threatened to leave, contemplated a potential rescue mission etc., he comes panting out through the scrub, a concerned look on his face. Actually, he’s kind of shaking.
“I felt like something or someone was watching me”.
“It was scary!”
Hmmm…. Okay, this might be something I need to Google later.
Google we did. I typed in something like ‘Nusa Penida legends’ to see what might come up if anything.
NatGeo: ‘At one time Nusa Penida was inhabited by ghouls, demons and dark spirits’ and was referred to as Black Magic Island. The most famous and feared being a demon called Mecaling, who is still often blamed by the Balinese for any disturbances to island life such as drought etc.
Nusa Penida can be a tricky island to get around and many people hire scooters, but with no scootering skills to speak of and two children in tow, we decide to hire a car and driver for the day to explore a bit more of the island…. And never mention Mecaling again unless in whisper.
First stop is the famous cave temple. I mentioned I’m claustrophobic right? I mean really!
For some reason I didn’t envisage a tiny, narrow, TINY… opening I would have to crawl through to get inside.
We got there as a ceremony was taking place and they were happy for us to follow them in.
Whoa! Give me a minute.
Okay, I step down, look into a space that seemed way to small to contain enough air for me to breath, let alone fit my body into. So I FROZE!
I looked back up at Alan and the Priest behind him who motioned for me to keep going. I smiled, took a few deep breathes to centre myself and then heard the voices of my children (who had of course raced ahead), saying I only had to crawl a couple of meters before it opened up into a large cavern.
Oh Fuck! Another deep breath, laser beam focus and I was in. It was huge inside and extremely hot and humid.
I still had to focus on staying grounded but it really was a magical place accentuated by the locals praying around one of the alters inside.
Eventually we made it to the other side (I’m sure it wasn’t far… just felt like it for me) and noticed two women receiving a blessing by a priest at the cave opening. We sat quietly to not disturb the proceedings.
As it turned out, our turn was next, each of us receiving a blessing. I swear I could have stayed there and meditated all day long. It was a truly beautiful moment.
Okay, what else have you got in store for me today Nusa Penida?
“Lets go to a stunning beach called Atuh. You’ll love it!” Is pretty much what it said back.
After driving for approximately 30-40 minutes on a road that I was extremely grateful for being ‘chauffeured’ on, we came across a small village where some locals ran out to us to say it was impossible to take the car any further.
Either walk fifty minutes in searing heat on a very rough path, cutting down to the ocean cliffs or hop on the back of three scooters for twenty minutes.
Um, a scooter thanks.
Phoebe and I got on one together, Declan took one and Alan, another.
I can’t even begin to explain the ‘track’. It swerved, it dipped, it had rocks strewn all over it and it was only about the width of the tyres. Thank God I had a bar at the back to hold onto and my legs kept Phoebe in place as much as I could. We bottomed out a couple of times and at one point we knew we had to get off and walk the 100 meters or so before getting back on. Did I say walk? Hike would be a better description.
I did at one point wonder how I get myself into these situations?
When we finally got off the bikes, thankful to still be intact, there was another 15-20 minutes of hiking down the cliffs to the beach. Fine..
When we do finally emerge onto the sand, we find it impossible to swim in the bay due to all the large rocks blanketing the ocean floor.
No problem, you just have to wade out through them/over them, for about 300 meters and there, you can swim.
Okay, now I’m getting slightly grumpy, I’ll admit. We’re tripping, falling, cutting feet, but at no time were any of us giving up! We deserved this swim.
It was a bittersweet moment really. Enjoying the beautiful crystal clear water, but knowing there was no easy way out. I looked longingly to the open sea, hoping a boat might appear to rescue us and take us back home. Clearly my manifesting skills were off that day.
We decided to hug the cliff face instead and made it back over some boulders and rock pools. A quick first aide session with my trusty tea tree oil and band-aides and then time to climb back out. And I mean climb. I’m not tall. I’m around 5ft 4” I think. My legs are not long. The ‘steps’ however were. I literally did climb out, hauling my body up the cliff. Oh Yay… and now we get to go back on the scooters for another bone jarring 20 minutes up the hill. Brace!
Phoebe’s feet dangled as mine took the pegs. “Phoebe put your feet on top of mine”. Ouch, okay, maybe try wrapping them around my ankles.
Ahhhh…. Nothing like some family bonding time : )
I believe you need to bring three things to Nusa Penida.
1) A sense of adventure
2) Moderate level of fitness
3) A first aid kit
Next time I’m seeing the Manta’s though. And maybe hiring a boat!
Because I will go back. It’s simply stunning.
Where we stayed:
Coco Resort. Great for the price. Huge room and fabulous pool, although the food could do with a bit of improving.
I also hear great things about Namaste, close by.
Where we ate:
Warung be Putih (surfboard photo attached) – great food!
A Muslim Warung on the beach at Toyopakeh (behind us in one of the photos) served fabulous and tasty fresh fish and she allowed us to grab a few beers and bring them back. Absolutely gorgeous woman running it.
Much Love & happy travels