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SPOT Y – A travel into the Unknown

Text: Stephan Götzelmann

EVERY SURFER KNOWS THE LIST OF WAVES THAT A SURFER HAS TO HAVE SURFED AT LEAST ONCE IN HIS LIFETIME. FAMOUS NAMES SUCH AS CLOUDBREAK, J-BAY OR G-LAND COME INTO MIND AT ONCE. I BELIEVE THESE LISTS TO BE INCOMPLETE. BECAUSE ONE SPOT THAT IS NEVER TO BE FOUND ON SUCH LISTS IS SPOT Y.
Unlike Spot X, which stands for a secret spot one gets whispered about into ones ear from a local, spot Y is rather a region, a group of islands or an unknown bay, from which one does not know whether there even exist waves, but nevertheless takes the journey to find it out. It stands for the unknown, the adventure – the risk to return empty-handed. I think everyone should take that journey at least once in his life and find his own spot Y. Because everyone who dares, takes a look outside the box and experiences wonderful things. So did I :
I envisioned my personal spot Y five years ago. Scant information, extremely remoted, uncertain swell conditions and a little meaningful satellite image were everything I had. But only in winter 2012, I had the time and the money to start this journey. My odyssey began in February with a flight from Bali into the unknown. After only a few hours flying time, I found myself in a new world again. Despite all the excitement, it was still a shock when I stood in front of the airport and in the middle of my little adventure. No man spoke English, far and wide only quizzical looks and I had nothing more than a printed sea map. All of the sudden, it all came a little abrupt. For a brief moment I wondered if I really want to do this and whether I should not better flee back into familiar areas again. But a deep breath mobilised all my meager Indonesian language skills and only a moment later I hopped into a car, which took me to the port where the boats to the next island were waiting. My adventure could begin ! What followed was an hour’s boat ride and four hours of driving – passing countless bays, beautiful beaches and volcanic peaks. Right in time for dusk I arrived in a medium-sized port city. The starting point for my spot Y. The first hotel in which I came was terrible. Overpriced, mattresses soaked in sweat and rats the size of cats that came out of my room were welcoming me. But after a whole day on my feet, I was too exhausted to refuse. Since there were no mosquito nets, I tried to dream of beautiful things in the tropical heat with sweaters, long pants and socks. As the saying goes, the journey is the destination, but such steps I could safely delete.The next morning began with a lot of waiting time. The boat to the next island had to be full before it left, but hours passed before those 30 passengers were found. As lunchtime arrived and there still were not enough people, the captain became short-tempered. The list of required passengers was halved spontaneously and we could finally cast off. After a two-hour boat ride, I finally arrived on the island, which was on my mind for years now. But I haven’t reached my goal yet. I was in the south of the island and my goal was the far north – about 100 kilometres away. Fortunately, I found a driver who took me a bit further by the car. This stage was serious. After a few miles, the first paved road developed into a gravel road with slopes that competed every roller coaster. Often, we had to get out to overcome incredible steep sections with several attempts. After a sweaty hour of roller coaster ride, the first breakdown followed. A flat tire. Wait again. I used the time until the tire was patched and explored the beaches in the area. Although the swell was not bouncing with its full force, there were shoulder high waves breaking. Finally, after two days of travel time, there was a light at the end of the tunnel – a ray of hope ! I couldn’t wait to explore the north. But my goal had still to wait. Shortly after our flat tire, the next obstacle was already ready. Heavy rains had turned a 500-meter stretch of road in a brown lake and small line of stranded people had already formed in front of it. That was it for today. We had no other choice but to wait until the water drained. How long this takes this, nobody knew. The night came and with it, the group of people suddenly moved. We shouldered our most important luggage and waded through the wait-high water in the moonlight – romantic and creepy at the same time. At the other end of the lake a car was waiting for us and brought all the castaways to the next village. Fortunately, my driver had relatives there, where I was able to stay for the night.The following day, I organized two fishermen who took me with their canoe further up north. There were no roads anymore, only jungle, ocean and hopefully waves. However, as it was a Sunday, I had to wait until after the church service. Thus again a little time passed and we started only in the early afternoon. After a few hours drive, revenge should come. Indeed, even though the sun was already threatening close to the horizon, we were still far from the target. The waves were getting bigger and continuing the journey in the dark was unthinkable. We had to land. But where? The whole coastline was seamed with coral reefs on which meanwhile huge waves were detonating. It was like an insurmountable fence, which prevented a landfall. Slowly, the atmosphere became more tensed and our situation seemed hopeless. But then, one of the fishermen discovered a tiny pass on the reef. No 20 meters wide and with water exploding on both sides. A wave peeled off into the deadly shallow water – nice, but probably unsurfable. We rowed through the small passage and what then opened in front of us was unbelievable. Hardly visible from the sea, a mighty river led in a majestic S-curve into the ocean. Left and right, tightly covered rock walls loomed into the sky. And above all : A tale-like village ! Tiny cabins nestled in the woods as in the Shire. Down by the river, naked children gleefully jumped from rocks into the water. It was like a little paradise ! When the children discovered us, it became silent. They stopped to play on and some adults came out to check on things. As we drove into the small bay, silent people looked at us from both sides of the river banks – a magical moment. As we docked on a sand bank and gave to understand our situation, the tension loosed and a small crowd gathered around us. Everyone wanted to know who we are and what we want here.
After some discussion we went to the boss of the village to seek permission for an overnight stay. The well-fed man was visibly relaxed and gave us permission. What then followed still opens my heart when I think back to it. Like the night before, strangers offered me their own bed in which they normally slept with three other people. They left the bedroom and slept on the floor. On top of this, I got food and drinks served without asking for it. And all this for free ! Even the money that I wanted to hand them over voluntarily was politely declined. Just imagine : These people have almost nothing, and even if you earned offer them money that is easily available to us, they reject it. This is true hospitality, which isn’t to find everywhere in Indonesia.

The next morning, we thanked for the immense help and continued our journey north. There was a beautiful day in front of us and the sea shone deep blue – next to the lush green jungle. In the meantime, we have advanced into an extremely remote region that seemed wild and adventurous. After a few hours, we then passed the last headland before us. And then – finally – the bay, which I wanted to visit for five years, opened up in front of us. My spot Y ! There was a large bay, surrounded by tall, lush mountains. The colour of the beaches alternately changed from white to black and in the crystal clear water perched fabulous coral gardens. In countless places, breath-taking waves broke. Deep in the bay a small village slumbered between the. We landed. I hardly got out of the canoe as a laughing woman with a roly-poly baby belly came to me and took me to her house. She knew immediately that I’m a surfer and that I want to stay for a while. Apparently, I was not the first to come here. The family seemed nice and I agreed to stay with them.

Shortly after my arrival I met other surfers. They really existed. Other adventurers who had the same laborious but valuable trip behind them as I did. They were funny characters from France, Australia, England and Ireland. And I was one of them. Together, we surfed the lonely and extremely challenging wave in the bay, week by week. We had a simple but good life. My host family was the nicest group of people you can imagine. There was a grandmother who reminded me strongly of my own grandmother. She never would let me go surfing before I had not eaten enough. Dulu makan ! (Food First), she used to say. Then, there was the father. A young, sincere and hard-working man who gave everything to feed his family. And there were two brats who only skylarked and kept running everyone off his feet. And then, there was the mother. She was far advanced in pregnancy but that did not keep her from managing the budget. One day, when I came home from surfing, she was not there. Her husband told me that she is having severe abdominal pain in bed and she did not feel well. He was visibly worried. This place was so remote that only once a week, a boat comes by to pick up coconut meat for oil production. The nearest hospital was a day’s journey away. To have a child here is not easy. Throughout the day, half the village came to the house to pray for her and the baby. It was all they could do. All I heard from the next room were screams and intense, loud praying. The praying and groans went well into the night until baby cries came from the room next door at about four clock ! All were relieved, but the most relieved person clearly was the husband. He talked for days how grateful he was for the outcome of the night.

The days in the village flew by and my time on the island came to an end. Everyone was a little sad about the good-byes, but I promised to come back. A promise, which I’m not if I can keep it. When I sailed towards home in the boat, I let recap the events of the last weeks. I was so grateful for what I had experienced during this odyssey. It was a trip, so rich in experiences, which cannot be found in package tours or in Lonely Planet. A trip that brought me into situations in which I completely depended on other people. But this feeling – being accepted by total strangers and to get help – was so fulfilling and strengthens faith in goodness of people. A lesson that you do not get often taught. I can only advise everyone : do such a trip ! Put yourself in the dark, take risks, and you will come back as a better person. Anyone can book a charter boat, or a surf camp, but only the brave ones who put themselves on the lookout for something new, unknown and walk new paths, they will experience a journey that is a guide for the rest of their life with truly unique memories – make yourself in search of the spot Y.

For 7sky.life – Stephan Götzelmann

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