Lacy: After a full day on what we have affectionately begun to refer to as the “club foot” or “clubby” (due to the swelling caused by Rob’s healing broken leg) a relaxing day on Nusa Penida island was in order. Many tourists travel the short distance to this island on a one or two day excursion from Bali, see the highlights and leave. Rob and I prefer to travel differently, to take the time to really soak in a place and not rush through doing the “Chevy Chase” at each major location. Currently, with the limitations of club foot we are alternating days exploring with those spent face down on a massage table or lounging on the beach. Believe me, no one is complaining. After finishing our preferred breakfast of fruit and Balinese coffee seaside at our place we strolled through the sand to another beachfront location where even stronger coffee and dragonfruit smoothies were had.
Several hours of hanging out, enjoying our beverages and playing cards left us wondering what to do next. We decided to check out Avocado massage just a short distance down the road on the Scoopy we are renting for the equivalent of $5.50 per day. What a great decision. For $17 each we had a 2 hour experience on the sea complete with Balinese long stroke massages, body scrubs and avocado body masks. So incredibly relaxing to feel the breeze and hear the waves during it all. I make avocado hair and face masks at home and Rob finally tried one here on Nusa Penida. Probably better that way anyway! It was after 2 by the time we finished our spa at the sea and we were starving. Having eaten at the places on the beach for convenience the past few nights we were dying to eat in the local area and consume spicier and more authentic meals. We noted a Masakan Padang warung earlier and were heading straight there to fill our bellies. Masakan Padang is a style of Indonesian food specific to West Sumatra island, but revered all over.
As you all know we have the infamous Giz on all of our travels. He came into our lives almost 5 years ago as a prize at the Texas State Fair and what a prize he is. He entered our hearts and became part of our tiny family. That afternoon, I noticed a couple on the beach in front of our room taking photos with a little bear. When they saw me watching, Lopa was quick to tell me that Chhutkulu is her son. I knew right then and there we needed to talk. Yes, I’m crazy with Gizmo, but if you can’t be a little nuts in life than what fun is living?! Chhutkulu and Giz became instant friends. When I went back into our bungalow Rob said he could hear Lopa and I giggling away like little girls and I excitedly recounted how Giz and I made new friends. Still being pretty full, but not wanting to miss an opportunity to eat another delicious meal we hopped on the Scoopy and shared a plate of Babi Guling for dinner. Babi Guling is a suckling pig dish that you won’t find in most of Indonesia as the country is predominately Muslim. It is very common on Balinese islands and one of Rob’s absolute favorite. Curled up with our books and listening to the waves in bed, we slept peacefully that night stuffed with Indonesian delicacies and knowing we had just extended our stay on the island for another three nights.
Having rested yesterday, today was all about seeing a new part of the island. We requested our fruit and coffee early, packed our backpack and set off Southeast. I had already told Rob I wanted to stop at a streetside location for another cup of coffee on the way so we were keeping our eyes peeled. Our first stop didn’t yield coffee, but the result was even better! I watched the woman at the stall grind spices and other items with her mortar and pestal, add a few unknown items and then package it before handing it to someone who rode off on their scooter. I had no idea what she was making, but I wanted it! In Indonesian, I asked what she made and she responded Gado Gado. I knew I had heard of this dish, but couldn’t remember exactly what it is, but nonetheless I said I would take one anyway. I make it my business to not know what I am eating at least half the time. We communicated in Indonesian and when the conversation became too advanced for me we switched to broken English. I love learning the language when we travel and thankfully Bahasa (the common language among the 17,000 islands and thousands of dialects in this country) came back to me quickly from what I had learned last year. I grabbed our freshly prepared package that cost less than $1 with a massive smile and got back on the Scoopy. A few minutes later it started to rain and we ducked under the awning of a shop on the side of the road. Waiting out the rain, we got coffee (.35 cent each) which tasted even better accompanied by the mouthwatering Gado Gado.
The perfect balance of peanut sauce, spice, rice and vegetables that made Rob’s eyes sparkle. We looked it up and the dish is vegetarian with rice or potatoes and cabbage, beans or other vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce. Our impromptu second breakfast ended just as the rain ceased and we continued our journey to Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach. We were warned that the road to these two side by side destinations was bad, but you never know just how bad until you’re experiencing it yourself. There was a bit of paved road until the turn off where you could choose to go to Crystal Bay or Billabong and then it was 40+ minutes of rough riding on an unpaved path that was sometimes gravel. Other times sand. All the time bumpy. Rob said his nuts were black and blue from the road. There were several times he asked me to get off the bike so he could make a certain stretch without the extra weight and I walked up to meet him. There were even more times that I voluntarily got off because I was nervous. We have had a few incidents on motorcycles and while I love being on the bike I also love being unharmed. We finally made it to the billabong and could not have been happier to get off the bike.
As we walked towards the Billabong from the parking area there weren’t many people, but within 15 minutes the crowds started pouring in. This is, after all, one of the islands highlights. We hate scenes like this where people pile in and all try to take a photo of the same thing. Thankfully, we had a bit of privacy in the beginning because we had never seen anything like this billabong before. It’s a natural infinity pool that fills up at high tide and overlooks the Bali Sea. You climb down a few rocks at low tide and can swim in it. Nature’s beauty can astound you. This was no exception. The rocks were too uneven for Rob to tackle at this stage so he stayed above and tried to take some photos of me as I enjoyed a swim. The water was so warm. I swam as I watched other tourists pile in, none of which enjoyed a swim and all were concerned with the perfect photo. It killed me that Rob couldn’t climb down because he absolutely loves tide pools and the idea of him swimming in a massive one was all too perfect. Maybe next time.
A five minute walk from the Billabong is Broken Beach which is a gorgeous scenic view, but not a place to swim since there is no access point. Looking down you see clear green and blue water lapping against a white sand beach. A natural land bridge with a hole in it allows the sea to access this strip of coast. Again, a very unique view. Nusa Penida island began receiving a greater number of tourists about 3 years ago and as of now the natural beauty seems to be intact. I desperately hope that the influx of people does not harm its natural treasures.
Leaving Broken Beach and the Billabong we had to retrace our bumpy steps and then some. We wanted to spend the afternoon back at Crystal Bay. The route there was nearly an hour of terrible roads. Rob is amazing on the bike. The only other person I could trust on a bike like this is my dad and I don’t know if he would be crazy enough to try these roads. Especially not in shorts and sandals! By the time we got to Crystal Beach we had earned a beer! Snorkeling, swimming, lunch and lounging helped us pass the rest of the day. Between the sun, water and roads we slept hard that night.
As of this post we have extended our stay on Nusa Penida yet another night with plans to leave on Friday. Sleeping on the sea and jetting around on the Scoopy from one mesmerizing waterfront view to another is hard to walk away from.