We pulled up to Secret Island Resort and were welcomed with open arms, "you must be Dylan and Steve," we were still in awe that we were actually here. The old man and owner of the "island" was a friend of someone Steve had recently met on Lombok. I still had no idea of how this had all come about but wasn't going to argue with a free place to stay, especially on a beautiful property like this one.
As we toured the property we immediately fell in love with the place, especially after being offered the bungalows that sat above the reef on wooden stilts. The whole thing was something out of a movie, never have I seen such an amazing place like this one. While walking back to the main building we saw another boat arriving and soon realized it was our long lost friends from Colorado, Cameron and Lindsey. We had invited them to the island and gave them the same sketchy directions we had been given. Happy to see their faces upon their safe arrival, we showed them the property and settled into the quaint wooden bungalows right away. The main priority for everyone was to go snorkel around these gorgeous reefs, while Steve couldn't wait to surf Desert Point - a world famous left breaking barrel that goes and goes forever. Unfortunately for me I was still mending a torn MCL so I decided to play it safe and stick to snorkeling the reefs, an experience I hope all of you get to do one day. The Gilli Islands offer some of the most beautiful and colorful reefs in the world, so the next day we hopped onto a boat with our boat man named "Man." Man took us all around and showed us the best spots to swim, surf and snorkel. We stopped off on an island for delicious lunch at a tiny resort, then finally made our way back after getting caught in a monsoon like rainstorm. Our visibility was almost zero. Thankfully Man knows the area like the back of his hand and was laughing the whole way home, while we hunkered down in the boat, soaking wet trying to protect our camera gear.
After about half an hour of heavy downpour, the rain started to cease and sky began to clear. Once again, we were in paradise. We eventually made our way back to Secret Island but only to find out that Lindsey had some money stolen while we were out on the boat all day. With the natural loss of trust in the staff, (the only others on the island) we decided to leave after the first day. It was the first time any of us had anything taken the whole trip, unfortunately it had to happen at one of the most beautiful spots on earth. We talked for a while and discussed our options and decided that the next plan of action would be to leave the Gili Islands and slowly head back to Canggu on Bali Island, a place we had grown fond of because of its relaxed vibes, party scene and heavy hipster surf culture. We knew a couple days in Canggu would raise our spirits and being that the airport we would fly out of was only twenty minutes away, we had to head that direction anyways. Instead of flying back over to Bali Island in the small plane we took over in the first place, we would instead catch a ferry over. Figuring out the logistics of this all became quite a challenge. Between the four of us we had six bags, one surfboard and only two mopeds. We would first need to ride over to the ferry in the dark, catch it before it leaves for a night voyage, find places to sleep on the deck or wherever we can as we were already exhausted, then ride the bikes all the way to Uluwatu which would take us a few hours. We would stay at Balangan Beach in UluwatuIt for a night then keep heading West to Canggu. It was going to be an insane mission, but we decided to go for it.
Steve and I rode one of the mopeds, with Steve driving as he has had a lot more experience on bikes than I ever have. I had a backpack on my back as well as his bag strapped to my chest, the third bag near his feet. Cameron and his girl had the other bike, same set up as us but they also had the surfboard as their bike was the only one with a board rack. It was a crazy sight to see, although for the locals this was amateur stuff. I felt like they were all laughing saying things like "throw three kids on the back and then come and talk to me."
Upon arriving at the small port where we were to depart on the ferry, we made our way into the line of locals also waiting to do the same. Other than one or two others, we were the only white people out of about 300 Indonesian locals. With sleepiness and boredom in our minds we began trying to entertain ourselves by being the obnoxious and loud American's we are. Fortunately for us, a local lady thought it was hilarious and everyone else was too tired to care. The entrance of the large ferry finally opened and a sea of people flooded in, scooters and all. It was one of the craziest things I have ever experienced.
As we slowly moved with the large mass into the bottom cargo hold of the ship we began making our way towards the edges of the crowd, closer to the staircases that ascended to the top decks. We quickly regrouped and found a spot away from everyone else at the edge of the boats railing. While we tried to get comfortable a local man came up and tried to sell us "just add hot water" Mi Go Rang noodles (like ramen but way better) for way too much money. We bargained and bargained but the guy wouldn't budge on price. I was starving so I finally agreed and purchased one from the man while my friends went and found fresh food for way cheaper elsewhere on the boat. I felt stupid for spending $2.50 when they only spent $1.50 but it became something to quickly laugh about. It seemed like the whole trip I was always the one getting swindled into paying way more than I should have. (Gotta love that exchange rate!) While eating our noodles, we recognized one of the ladies up on the top deck. She was the local lady laughing at our silliness an hour earlier while waiting in line. She approached us with a warm smile and offered us bunks to sleep in on the inside of the boat. We pondered it over and decided to take a look at the sleeping quarters. It was humid and loud outside and we were all exhausted. With no place to lay down and sleep on the 5 hour voyage, a bed was a God send. We walked into an air conditioned room with four bunk beds, a man pointed down to a lower bunk and said it was available. The price was unbeatable, just a few American dollars. I threw my backpack down into the bunk, paid the man and passed out a few minutes later. Other than getting woken up an hour later to the same man telling me to switch bunks, the trip was a breeze. I slept the whole time, and finally woke up to the boat's blow horn sounding the signal of arrival. We were back in Bali.
Feeling fully rested and ready to get moving, we still had another 2-3 hour trip on scooters to get to our next destination. This became one of the gnarliest things I have every done. We all managed to get back on our two scooters, luggage, surfboards and all but while making our way towards Uluwatu got stuck in heavy Indo downpour. We made it off the road safely and found a covered area to park the bikes while the streets began to flood. Unless the rain stopped soon, we were going nowhere quickly. After waiting under the covering for a half hour we decided that the flooding and rain was subsiding and it was safe to continue on.
An hour later, we were sitting on a deck over looking Uluwatu beach watching massive set waves come in and destroy the guys trying to surf them. We found some spotty wifi and searched air b&b for a decent place to stay. Later that day we found a beautiful spot at Balangan Beach with thatch roof bungalows and a beautiful pool. Taking advantage of the relaxing atmosphere and vibe we kicked back and enjoyed the hot and humid day in the pool. Sipping on large green bottles of cold Bintang, we discussed what we would do for the next couple days before flying home. Steve and I decided to head back to Canggu like planned and meet up with a couple of friends that had just arrived, while Cameron and Lindsey would head elsewhere. The next day we departed without our Colorado friends and made our way back to the little hipster town we had enjoyed so much at the beginning of our trip. Upon arriving we met up with our two friends from back home in San Diego. The four of us spent the next two days eating cheap food, drinking cheap beer and sharing stories from our recent travels. The end of the trip was near, but we were excited to be going home. No matter how amazing the world around me is, no matter how much I see and learn and no matter how many rad people I meet, going home to San Diego is always a blessing. We said goodbye to our friends and arranged for a taxi to pick us up and take us to the airport. It had been an amazing trip, but we were exhausted and ready to go home. Slowly making our way through the airport, we stopped for one last Mi Go Rang meal and headed towards our gate. Although we were leaving Indonesia, we had to make one more stop before making our way back to the United States...CHINA.