Monday, May 08, 2017

2017 Mentawai trip part 2 of 2: Lance's

My plan after those four nights at the Macaroni's resort was to get on a inter-island little ferry that allegedly would depart from Sikakap (a small village at an hour fast boat drive from the resort) on Sunday April 15 in the morning, with destination Tua Pejat on the north of the Sipura island. From there, I would then somehow reach Telescopes, the next world class wave I had on my list.

That all changed when I found out that a couple of guests had organized a fast boat transfer from the resort to Lance's left, on the southern tip of Sipura. Here's the short and very detailed description of that wave, which I honestly didn't know much about, since the more famous one is Lance's right that sits on the opposite side of a peninsula. This last one's perfection is pictured in this photo below.

"Consistent left hander and frequently surfed crowd-pleaser. Lance's Left has its moods, but in east winds when HT's (the other name of Lance's right) is onshore, and with a moderate southwest swell at mid tide, you can expect a 2 or 3 barrel wave and some workable but fast sections in between. Bear in mind that this wave is powerful and can be hard-breaking even on a 3 foot day, with craggy reef never too far away. Intermediates plus, but it holds a solid 10ft, when the experts take over. A brilliant wave, and open to any swell, 3-8ft, mid to high tides best, with low tide unpredictable and too shallow".

The map below gives you an idea of where those spots are located. The crossing from Padang (top right red dot on Sumatra) is a 10-12h crossing with a slow ferry, 5h with a fast one. Here's the legenda:
P = Playgrounds area
T = Telescopes
L = Lance's Left
HT's = Hollow Trees (aka Lance's right)
M = Macaronis

      After a quick look at the forecast, which was calling for a moderated SSW swell that would have probably not been quite enough for Telescopes, I was immediately and literally on board, but this time I was not gonna spend a fortune. The two guys were going to stay at the Kingfisher resort, which beautifully sits right in front of the wave. $160-190 a night, all included but in a shared bungalow.

Fortunately Lucas, the Argentinian photographer at Macaroni's, suggested me to go to the other side of the peninsula and stay at one of the cheap camps in front of the more famous HT's, rent a bike and do a daily commute over the hill to surf the left. And for a total of $30 (my own room with toilet + bike + food), I ended up surfing the same wave as the two other guys, often hitting the water earlier than them.
Here's a couple of images of Lance's in a really fun day.

The commute was a joy by itself. Here are some photos which, trust me, don't render how gorgeous that rain forest was. But it's called rain forest for a reason and a couple of times I had to drive the scooter in some serious ponds created by the tropical down pours. The bike driving skills developed as teenager in my home town of Napoli came extremely handy for that.

The epic view from the top of the hill.

      The first day was great with two very fun sessions. The second day, since I was staying right in front of it, I gave HT's a try. Here's the start of the Wave Finder description:"Not always the longest, but definitely one of the best and hollowest barrels in the world. Endless videos of pro's taking off and pulling in here hide the evil nature of the spot; a sucky face and extremely shallow sharp coral make this a wave of consequence. Falls at the end section rarely go un-punished and low tide is risky".

      Once again I applied the rule "live every day as if it was your last one" and went for it. I carefully picked a head high one that I was in the perfect spot for, grabbed the rail in the drop, caressed the face with my front hand, didn't get barreled, but rode it high and enjoyed the incredible beauty of the sunrise light shining through the wall of water. Not even the time to mentally congratulate myself for the good job done (it was a pretty steep drop nonetheless), as soon as I kicked out I saw a big set looming on the horizon.

I started scratching towards the channel but, sure enough, I didn't make it, got caught inside and got pushed more and more over the shallow shelf of rocks/reef. Not enough water to duck dive (tide was medium), but fortunately enough to float over the reef with only a few scratches on the fins. Once released by the current, I paddled straight back in, happy not to have sacrificed any skin. That was it. I don't surf Backdoor (that's what the wave reminded me of, at least shape-wise) for a reason: I'm not good enough for that.    

Doesn't look that steep, and maybe it wasn't in this particular moment, but the drop was.

Happily, I then got on the bike and went on the other side to surf the much more manageable left. Which, unfortunately, that morning had a bit of a morning sickness wobble on it and wasn't nearly as good as the day before. I managed to only catch one wave in an hour or so and then decided to go to shore and wait for the conditions to improve. A menacing tropical storm was in fact getting closer and bringing some northerly wind that worsened the already average conditions.

Thankfully, the resort guys didn't mind offering me shelter in their beautiful restaurant area and that's where I waited a good three hours for the rain to stop. Normally, I would have got progressively more worried about the conditions of the bike path, but the book I was reading kept convincing me that everything that happens in life is for our highest good. Accept, embrace and enjoy is my new mantra and that's what I tried to do. Last part was a bit hard, since it actually got a bit chilly.

The beautiful beach in front of Lance's.

      As soon as the heavy rain stopped around 2pm, the wind turned offshore and the waves looked really fun, but I wanted to go back on the other side just in case that was a temporary lull in the rain. The crossing was adventurous to say the least. On the steepest uphill and downhill sections I had to get off the bike and just walk by it, because it was too slippery.

I'm sure I missed a pretty good session on the left, but I made it safely back to my room and I was happy with that. In the end, that day I managed to catch only one wave at Lance's right and only one wave at Lance's left and that might have been the first time ever that a human did such thing. A performance I'm not particularly proud of.

These are a couple of gopro shots at Lance's.

Once on the other side, I noticed I was feeling a bit tired and not 100% and that was just the beginning of an achy fever that put me out of the game for 3-4 days. The same kind of sickness has occurred to me every single time I have been to Indonesia before and I partially attribute that to the food. It's virtually impossible for me to follow the strict whole plants based diet that I enjoy so much in Maui, and just to get enough calories to sustain my surfing, I end up eating all kinds of food, including plenty unhealthy processed and/or fried stuff. My body does not like it and inevitably lets me know it.

Occasionally, I managed to put my hands on some fresh vegetables and fruits and that was the case pictured in the photo below. That was my breakfast that morning, but my favorite one was tomatoes and coconut flesh. Kinda of a vegetarian version of a Caprese salad.

My room is the one in front with the blue sarong. $15/day.

Unfortunately, the fever meant that I had to cancel the third and last part of the Mentawai trip. I was still planning on moving from where I was to Telescopes with a boat on Friday April 21st, and even though that was the first day I didn't have fever, I was way too weak to go anywhere. From what I learned, the homestays over there were less comfortable than the one where I was staying at HT's and not even right on the beach, so I wisely chose to stay and enjoyed a recovery with a view on a gorgeous beach (and a world class wave).

The next boat for Tua Pejat was only going to be on Monday April 24th and I did get on that one, but only to go catch the ferry to Padang and start the trip back to Maui. It was more like a pilgrimage really, considering how slow and with how many stops it was. The first section on the local ferry (photo below) was quite enjoyable, actually.

All you see in this photo (minus the pier, plus me) was on that bike. The driver even had a chain saw laying down in front of his feet. Everything is possible in Indonesia.

Locals selling fresh veggies. God bless them and those juicy tomatoes. As tasty as the good old days in Italy.

You might think I was bummed about not surfing Telescopes, but with the outlook I now have on life thanks to the many inspiring spiritual books that I've been reading lately, I'm not disappointed by anything anymore (well, getting close to that at least). The uncomfortable illness (38.5C/101.3F of body temperature weren't exactly fun), for example, was a wonderful opportunity of practicing such attitude.

I just trusted the universe that there was a reason for me to be sick and stuck in a bed with a mosquito net at that time and in that place. I could come up with an endless list of possible made up reasons (like: had I gone to Telescopes I would have suffered a serious injury or even drowned), but the mind made ones don't count. I knew that at one point I would have found out many of them. Sometimes it might take years to understand why some things have happened.

One, a not made up one, I can offer to you already: I finished reading "Lifting the veil of duality" (a wonderful spiritual book by Andreas Moritz) that transferred me an incredibly positive message and reinforced my belief that everything happens for our highest good. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a first read, if you're new to this "new age" vision of life. I would start instead with another wonderful eye opener masterpiece called "The untethered soul" by Michael Singer. Much easier to digest, thanks to the easy wording and the many practical life examples.

I also started reading another Andreas Moritz book, this one called "Timeless secrets of health and rejuvenation". The timing was perfect, because I believe I now know exactly what were the concauses of my illness. See? Had I not been sick while reading its first chapters, I would have probably missed that connection and have missed the learning opportunity. Once rehabilitated, I had time for a couple of more sessions on the left, the last one of which offered some double overhead bombs of a rising swell. The last wave of my Mentawai trip was one of them (photo below). Good way to end it.

In the end, my two week long Mentawai experience ended up being relatively poor in terms of spots surfed. I surfed Macaronis for 5 days (reported in part 1), Lance's left for like 5 sessions, and caught a total of two waves at Lance's right. I did have a look at a couple of other spots during the boat or bike commutes, but the following considerations must definitely be considered as coming from a non-expert of the area:

- thanks to the very little difference of the temperature between water and air, the winds are usually very light and the quality of the waves remains very high throughout all day. I will never forget how glassy HT's stayed on April 20th from dawn to dusk. A whole day of perfectly shaped barrels. Unfortunately I was pretty sick that day and didn't even feel like taking photos. A time lapse of some sort would have been the call. At the same time, the fact that that temperature is around 30 C makes the atmosphere pretty humid and sticky. Unless you're in the water, you pretty much always have a film of sweat on your skin. I like hot much better than cold, but I do prefer dry if I have a choice

- if you like surfing in trunks and don't mind the risk of getting some reef scratches on your back/shoulders, this is the place for you. Warmest water I've ever surfed, really. At the same time, when you do get a cut, you want to religiously clean and disinfect it, because bacteria's love tropical waters. In the end, it's all up to how strong your immune system is, but cleaning the cuts is also important.

- between the hoard of charter boats and the land camps, you need to be very lucky to score uncrowded waves. They're all beautiful and of very high quality, but the crowd factor is pretty high. Once again, that applies to that small section of Southern Mentawai that I visited. I doubt the the Northern section is much better (got some reports of very crowded lineups at Nias, for example).
Below are the photos for which I didn't find a good spot to squeeze in between the above story, and I'm just gonna leave them in the order they got uploaded. I will add a caption for each single one of them though.

The pleasing view from the channel of HT's.

This guy had to deal with a palm tree branch on its way out of a nice ride. He did good at jumping off at the right time and saved the fins.

 As beautiful as this charter boat looked, it still had 10 surfers on it.

Sunset light at HT's.

Barely enough for my camera.

The sunrise offered a more challenging light. 

Still damn pretty though.

Pretty good day at HT's.

This guy did such a beautiful bottom and top turn combo, he deserves three shots of the sequence.

HT's is a miracle of refraction. I estimated the direction of the breaking wave to be around ENE. While I was there, it was mostly SSW to S swells. With SW swells, the wave is actually a lot better/longer. When sitting in the lineup, you can see the offshore sets travelling away from the coastline. Trippy.

In the meantime, this guy finished his demolishing job.

Unfortunately, only at the end I discovered this lovely little restaurant called The jungle garden. I'm not a burger eater, but the veggie burger prepared by the Aussie expat owner Shannon was the best I've ever ate. Strongly recommended if you end up there.

On the short walk back to the camp.

The last morning the waves at HT's were huge. The one in the foreground is where normally the waves break. The one out the back were doing a Pipeline second and third reef kinda thing.

The very last day in Bali I surfed good Uluwatu and that, is always a special treat.

I wrote what I wrote so far in the Mentawai's. Now I'm finishing up this post 10 days after I got back to Maui. I feel like adding that this was the Indo trip that left me with the strongest "wave-quality-lag". I just can't seem to appreciate surfing on the north shore of Maui anymore. At least in this windy season. I guess I under estimated the addiction power of the perfect Mentawais waves. Which is the last consideration (or more appropriately, warning) I leave you with: surf trips have their downside. Even if you leave in Hawaii. Unless you time them with good home conditions upon returning. Which is what I might just do for my next trip.

PS. For the benefit of reader Rodrigo and eventual others, here's a collage of the ferry timetables I was able to collect from the internet.

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