Every cult has its mecca, that one place fanatics dream of experiencing with their own living soul. Surfing is no exception: Indonesia it is.
In the last decade Indo has easily become the promised land for surfers and non-surfers alike, rapidly gaining popularity as one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations of all time. Usually when people think ‘Indonesia’ they think ‘Bali’, but the truth is there are about 17 000 other islands to be explored. Yes, 17K!
If you are a surfer, this is your never-ending quest: to find yourself standing tall in an impeccable and uncrowded wave that breaks consistently in warm baby blue water. The Mentawai Islands, located in the far, far West Indoland, truly is THE place we all talk about with stars in our eyes. Someday, we say, someday…
SOMEDAY IS NOW
At the beginning of July, the whole Salty team gathered in Bali. Erika had been there for two months, diving deeper into Yoga philosophy and practice. Ari and MC had just came from spectating the World Surfing Games in Biarritz with a quick stop over in Montreal. Caitlin flew over from El Salvador and Isra flew from Ecuador.
We spent a whole month in our own creative think-tank, developing a new aspect of the Salty Souls Experience —to be released in November (!). The momentum and effervescence of being all in-house together was amazing. Things started moving in the express lane, and we are seriously excited to soon present you our new baby…
But for this month of intensity, we had also set a carrot to dangle at the end; we needed to crush work because whatever happened, at the beginning of August, we were off to chase waves. And of course this year, thanks to Reef Escape, we set our cap onto the ‘Ments’!
“ESCAPE IS A STATE OF SPIRIT found in journeys that broaden horizons and narrows the path to boundless adventure, escape revels in the spontaneous, seeks the unknown, and goes all-in, head first, with an open-mind.”
Said this way, it sounds like an easy and ‘ Yah ! Let’s go !’ idea… But the thing is, the Ments are not exactly just around the corner, and its inaccessibility is obviously part of what makes it so special.
With our whole homeless life packed into our bags -eight surfboards, drone, laptops, and camera equipment- the getting there turns into a mission in itself…
THE AIR HUNT
Leaving from Bali, the journey begins with two flights to catch, and they are playing hard to get. You see, domestic Indo airlines don’t hesitate to change the gate five minutes prior to departure. “Treasure hunt” is a nice game to play on birthday parties when you’re seven years old, but in a overcrowded asian airport? It can seriously mess up with your zen.
For the first flight, we succeed the hunt and get onboard. The pilots casual announcement invites us to pray in our very own religion to help us arrive safe to our destination. Thanks to Poseidon, God Father, Buddha, Allah, and Jesus’ team effort, we land safely in Jakarta.
We rush out of the plane and into the airport, well aware that we are already way behind schedule for our next connection to Padang…
“Flight delayed” says one agent when we are trying to figure out the gate number.
‘’Don’t know. Thirty minutes… one hour… maybe two. Plane not arrived…”
OK… That’s helpful! We all agree to go get grab some food and just check the flight screens for updates.
40 minutes later, the screen still indicates Flight On Time and nobody can give us reliable information. The departure time seems to be a mystery. We take no chances and head back slowly towards the gate area.
As we are passing through security, an employee asks us if we are going to Padang (we are.)
“RRRUN RRRRUN !!! ” he says. “Plane waiting for you!!! Everybody already boarded miss !!”
With a fast heart-beating pace, we make it onto the plane under the watchful gaze of 240 other pairs of eyes. Uffff.
Two hours later, we have landed in Padang, West Sumatra, and make our way to our very modest 3-star hotel to get a short horizontal sleep.
STORM & RUSTIC EMBARKATION
In the (too early) morning the next day, we leave to catch a ferry boat from Padang to Tua Pegat. Usually, surfers are really stoked to see a swell entering… today, however, this is not the case. The sea is angry and stormy. We feel the boat jumping up and clapping down as we hit the waves.
Two passengers are vomiting next to MC. When the smell gets too much, she goes outside to breathe some of that humid, not-that-fresh air. She sits outside, on a bench, the wind and rain brutally hitting her face. Think: Jim Carrey in The Truman Show‘s epic sail ship scene. Cold and wet from head to toe, fist clutched around her plastic vomit bag, MC looks out to sea and desperately hopes to make it to land without having to go through a second taste of that horrible airport soup she ate twelve hours ago.
Ari and Eri, meanwhile, use different ninja skills to survive the uncomfortable situation- by curling into tight balls onto their seat, dressed in every available item of clothing in their carry-on handbag, and zoning out to sleep. Every now and then, they wake up to wonder whether they will survive the totally excessive use of air conditioning- turning the boat into a freezer in the middle of the tropics… complete with loud karaoke style music blasting throughout the boat… (wtf, Asia?)
Finally, the gang makes it to checkpoint #3 where another boat is waiting to take us to the southern tip of Sipora. If we thought the ferry was a challenging mission, we obviously have no idea what is ahead of us. A small seven-passenger rustic pirogue shows up. It is still raining like shit, and for some reason there are thirteen of us…
We get in with our suitcases and huge board bags, trying not to fall off the 6-inch wide wood footbridge that leads us to the embarkation. While everybody is getting onboard, the very rustic boat is dramatically tipping from one side to the other. There’s no doubt we’re all thinking the same thing: we are going to fucking flip over, mate!
We squeeze ourselves and our carry-ons in a 3-feet high cabin. There is no room to stretch our legs, we are jam-packed like sardines and the humidity is thick. Thick as in: it is leaking and raining inside the damn boat.
We are still at the very beginning of the 2-hour journey when we start realizing one by one that water is coming in by the floor too. Getting our ass wet is a thing, but having our backpacks —which contain laptops, hard drives, phones, etc— take a sea water bath is no bueno. We are all internally freaking out, wanting to ‘save the furniture’ but the dizziness combined with heartache makes every move arduous.
We haven’t eaten anything in eighteen hours, had a very short night, are wet and cold, we are puffing on the engine fumes big time, and we are obviously worried for our safety. Final result: MC starts vomiting in her very tiny plastic bag, a couple of times. Two spots down the bench, a Moroccan dude also has a plastic bag hooked onto his ears and he his filling it up at a good, steady rhythm.
Suddenly Erika lunges for a plastic bag. A pressure drop and radical rise in heat tells her it is a manner of seconds to get onto it, and fast. Scrambling to take off a layer of clothing without knocking down the other soldiers, she has a stern voice in her head saying: keep it together and breathe, keep it together! Ommmmm.
Holding on to her computer like a life buoy, Ari is running the puke bag numbers in her head and realizes; we are out of fucking stock… There is only one solution left to limit the damages: sink into ‘drowse’ mode. As she is falling asleep, she nervously wakes up at every water splash hitting her feet thinking it’s MC’s vomit bag spreading all over.
The troops really aren’t solid anymore. We are all wondering if this is ever gonna end.
After a long two hours, the engine finally slows down, and we make it to the Island. The getting off is as eventful as the rest of the travel but, Hey! We are here!
We are green AF but mercifully alive, and beyond this messy storm, we have just stepped foot on a land of wonder — the southern and almost uninhabited tip of the Sipora Island, surrounded by a handful of incredible turquoise and mystic waves. At this stage we still have no idea, but this place is about to steal a big piece of our heart…
KEEP READING THIS STORY >> PART 2 ~ LIFE À LA ROBINSON CRUSOE
KEEP READING >> Part 2 ~ Life à la Robinson Crusoe