The next day I got my act together and headed out of town. The sun was shining, and I was making for a place called Lakey Peak. Someone had told me that it was a chilled place by the beach in Sumbawa, a good place to hang out for a few days.
On the way, I missed a left turn and so took the next one; Maps.me assured me that it was a valid alternative route. Within minutes I was navigating a dirt track through the hills, complete with small bogs and utterly surprised locals.
Soon enough I was back on the bitumen, but the end of the day turned out much the same way: my maps advised me to turn right for a more direct route to Lakey Peak, and soon I was back on dirt, surprising farmers. I didn’t really know where I was going, but it didn’t really matter either.
Suddenly, there were surfboards everywhere. Wait, what?
I hadn’t seen one of them since east coast Australia.
It turns out Lakey Peak is a cult surf spot. There’s a famous break called Periscopes, and others that can be even better, depending on the season and the wind and the preferences of the surfer.
I was told that some Australian surfers came and set up camp there in the 70s, between the beach and the jungle; others came from other parts of the world. At some point, clusters of bungalows were built along the edge of the beach, but many of them now appear to be falling down, jungle reclaiming collapsed roofs here and there.
In these scattered cottages, you find people here for the surfing; most of them alone; all of them with the sun’s marks on their skin, squinting out at the sea to check the swell.
I rolled into a cluster of cottages, and looked around for someone to give me a price. The owner’s wife told me that she didn’t know the price for a room, and I would have to wait for her husband to come back. This seemed strange to me; the more so because I saw another couple pull up in a car and check in without any apparent problems.
Later on I made this observation to a semi-resident surfer. ‘Oh, they’re locals,’ he says. ‘They’ll only be renting by the hour.’
So there you go.
While I was waiting for the owner to materialise, I wandered down to the beach and was immediately grabbed by a local family who were there for a Sunday barbecue – they’d brought a chicken with them, and had just wrung its neck. While one of the men plucked it, the women invited me to sit and chat. Within seconds, I was handed a small child. Then there were photos. The little boy sat in my lap compliantly; I wondered how he felt about being handed to random bule strangers.
Usually, infants fill me with terror and awkwardness – will they start crying? what do I do? – but Indonesian babies seem to know the score. They mutely allow themselves to be posed with and passed about while photos ensue. Still, some are better at hiding their feelings than others. This photo goes down as my favourite ‘foreigner with baby’ portrait yet:
They invited me to join them in lunching on the now barbecuing chicken, but now the proprietor of the cottages had been located by phone, and I went off to bargain hard for a few days of beach paradise.
* * *
People are friendly. One of my new mates borrowed a KLX and invited me to come for a ride up to the end of the road.
Cut into the side of the mountain, the road was supposed to have become a shortcut to Bima but the landslides kept happening faster than the road could be built. A few miles from the village, the roadworks had been abandoned, ending in two rock covered hill climbs, then cliffs and sea.
I was following the rock-spitting KLX150 up the second hill climb, when I decided that this didn’t fit my preferred risk profile. It was fun, for sure, but on a 690 with 80/20 road tyres, tired and hungry, I knew I was pushing my luck. Big rocks, steep hill – there was no option but to gas it and try to stay on as the bike bucked and slid. A little voice in my head said, ‘you know you might go down and break something – and you’ve got a long way to go’. It was true. And there’d be no help in Sumbawa if I did.
I wasn’t even going anywhere; I didn’t need to get through. The road ended a few hundred metres up the hill.
So I bailed, there, in the middle of the hill. I waited for old mate to come back. I waited for him to come back and call me a pussy there, on the hill, with my big expensive bike and big overlanding dreams, but he didn’t. He came back and was nice about it and helped me get the bike turned around, which was appreciated because it had been a long enough day on the road.
The view was good.