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Uluwatu: The Southernmost Waypoint of AsiaWheeling

The sun began to warm our room at the Rocky Bungaloes and we were confronted for the first time on AsiaWheeling 2.0 with the challenge of acquiring breakfast.

Rocky was hard at work outside on a restaurant for this place, but in the meantime, we would have to fend for ourselves.  Workers were perched on this restaurant frame, assembling it piece by piece.

We achieved finding an already fabricated a restaurant with little difficulty, hanging a Rausch outside our hotel and pedaling the short distance to Uluwatu Beach proper. There we found many restaurants all catering to the foreign surfing crowd, and selected one with a view of the water.

Refueled by two wicked cups of coffee, a plate of honeyed banana pancakes, and one very salty omelet, we decided to head down to the beach. Once again, the beaches in the area proved significantly stranger than the paradise we had found in Candidasa. The beach itself was more like a small inlet, into which giant waves of clear blue-green water crashed.

In order to access it we had to make our way through a number of concrete ledges, filled with clusters of surf shops and eateries catering to surfers, and serving burgers, pizzas, spaghetti, and beer. We finally reached the beach by way of a very steep collection of differently shaped concrete steps. The sand was clean, and the place seemed deserted. We attempted to wade out into the sea, but when strange currents began pulling at our lower extremities, we headed once again for dry land.

In climbing up out of the sand and into the rocky area surrounding the inlet, we saw a number of wooden ladders and walkways, all in varying states of disrepair and offering access to unknown regions above.

Exploration of these areas uncovered a number of observation platforms , some ruined and one still standing, from which one could see surfers riding the large  and pounding waves that were forming in an area of water separated from us by a shallow reef. Certainly, we thought, this is not the place to learn to surf.

We took a moment to ponder the global spread of surfing. It was due to young men with a similar spirit of exploration and adventure that brought surfing from its origin to the western world, and then east again.  Surfing began  in Polynesia, where the most talented surfer was named the tribal chief, and first witnessed by Europeans during an expedition to the islands in 1767.  From Polynesia and Hawaii, it spread to southern California and then to Australia, where it held a relatively small following until the 1960s.  With the release of the film Gidget, it grew from an underground fad to a mainstream cultural phenomenon through films, music, and fashion.

How does this relate to wheeling?  As the movement grew, the beaches of Oahu, Santa Cruz, and Huntington became crowded, motivating adventurous surfers to explore.  This brought them across Asia and Africa, putting surfers in contact with indigenous people in a relatively happy-go-lucky, non-combative fashion.  Such an exploration is detailed in the classic and influential 1966 film, “The Endless Summer. ” An excerpt plays below of the two travelers embarking in their suits to be the first surfers on a break in Ghana.

Since then, surfers have been discovering breaks all over Indonesia, such as breaks on the southern point of Nias Island, where one can also spend time with one of the last remaining Megalithic cultures.  By wheeling these many new places on land, we felt a connection to the surfers that had come before us and plied the waves of Uluwatu.  AsiaWheeling may not have the same infectious style of dress, which has now been adopted by the youth of Indonesia from their Australian  neighbors, but we’re at least trying to educate the world on the utility of the Panama hat.

Heading southward, we mounted the cycles and began to ride the rolling hills of the Bukit Peninsula. It was to be the southernmost wheel of the entire ten-month trip. We worked our way on the meandering steep roads, through Balinese farmlands, low-laying salt jungle, and many, many roadside stands selling water at up to 10 times the average price we had hitherto experienced.

Lunch took place at a roadside rooftop restaurant that clung to the side of a hill.  The food was tasty; the view was spectacular.

The clientele were mostly Australian surfers, tolerating the relentless cycle of Avril Lavigne records which the proprietors chose to broadcast.

At one point, near the southern tip of the island, Scott’s planetary transmission failed, and we pulled over to the side of the road to do some repairs to the mechanism. The moment we stopped wheeling, the immensity of the sun and the heat fell on us in a thick and sticky blanket. This was below the equator, and is the southerly most point of the entire trip. Since the month was January, we were in the depths of summer. Without our motion through the air to evaporate our sweat, we were soon drenched. Though the repair took no more than five minutes, we remounted the cycles with our clothes pasted to us and eyes stinging from the salty mixture of sweat and sunscreen.

We spent the rest of the day wheeling from beach to beach. None of them were able to come close to the wonderland we had found in Candidasa, but each proved unique and fascinating in its own way. We even found ourselves revisiting some beaches, using different entrances.

By the end of the day, we were tired, hungry, and in high spirits, only dampened slightly when we discovered that in Uluwatu, the Internet was not working, so correspondence (including a large load that I knew would be waiting for me, since my birthday had since transpired) would have to wait.

Instead, we relaxed in the hotel pool, conversed with some Dutch university students, and watched the sun set shimmering gold and purple across the glassy surface of the sea.


  1. Brandon | February 4th, 2010 | 1:23 am

    Great endless summer clip

  2. Mark/Dad | February 7th, 2010 | 12:37 am

    Such fabulous sunsets!

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