Rebellion, adventure, and the unknown in Bali, Indonesia

The ocean is my favorite form of rebellion.  Reckless from birth, she expects no less from her companions.  And it was on one such reckless day that we found ourselves alone in Bali just after sundown, the ocean and me.

It was our last day here at Uluwatu in Bali, and I was reluctant to say goodbye just yet.  Glancing back, I watched as the last remaining surfers disappeared into the cave, headed for home.  Anyone who has ever been to Uluwatu knows of the cave. Dark and mysterious, it is the only access to and from an ocean that is otherwise guarded by towering cliffs.  When the tide is high, it swallows the floor of the cavern, and when the waves are big, the ocean current runs past this hole in the cliff like a river, depositing her burden of surfers and debris far around the corner to the north.  At which point the surfer must renew his struggle against nature, paddling first out beyond the waves, then slowly south against the current until he is once more in line with the cave, now only a distant scar at the base of the cliff. The final trick at the end of the day is to navigate safely into the mouth of this small cavern without being swept past it.  If that happens, the entire circiuitous journey must be repeated: back out to sea, then south against the current, and finally back towards the hole in the cliff for one more try.  Depending on the tide and swell, it is not uncommon for a surfer to fail on several attempts before finally finding purchase within the echoing madness of the cave.  And what makes this whole process especially unique is that every wave that is ridden carries it’s surfer north, away from the mouth of the cavern, thus committing him to another paddle out to sea and prolonging this beautiful struggle.

And I guess that’s how I came to be here, all alone in the Indian Ocean, unwilling to call it quits. As I watched the fading sunlight step gently over the endless lines of waves, I considered my options. Reasonable.  Logical.  Time to head for the cave while I can still find it.  As if in her own response, I turned to see one of the most beautiful waves of the day heading straight towards me. “Are you sure?” it seemed to say.  Hesitating, I glanced back at the cave. Reasonable.  Logical.   And then with the last colors of sunlight, I spun and paddled the other way — away from safety and into the shadow of the approaching wave.

Sometimes you don’t know why you should do something, but you do it.  Beyond logic and without a plan. In fact, almost because you have no plan.  At least, that’s the way I am sometimes.  Like earlier this year, when I surprised myself by impulsively jumping onto a moving train, without any further plan or destination in mind.  Am I revealing too much of my inner madness?  In surfing we use the saying, “If you don’t go, you’ll never know.”  But I’m not always like that. In fact, I feel like too much of our time is spent making (or at least attempting to make) reasonable and logical decisions.  Hence the need for rebellion.  Adventure. The unknown.

And so as the sky turned black, I decided I would ride this wave as far as she would carry me.  Beyond the safety of the cave.  Beyond logic, beyond reason. Further up the coast than I’d ever been. Flying through darkness and toward the unknown, with no idea of what happens next, I felt wildly alive.

To be continued…
-Tim