Escape into Life
Welcome to a story that change our life, 2 months far away from any Wireless, or iphone connection, far away from a speed life in any city, going back to the roots, enjoying the day, close to the nature and people around us.
We work on this adventure with Oxbow riders Carine Camboulives, Manu Bouvet, their daughter Lou, Benjamin Thouard the Photographer, and Harrison Cole the Cameraman from Poor Boyz production.
We only know that we will share crazy uncrowded waves, crazy stories, crazy experiences with locals, and we have here certainly a bit of unconsciousness.
Everything will start in Timor, right on top of Australia, on the eastern point of Indonesia, a country shaked by a war that end up in 1999. They get plenty of wave, and what we saw on Internet, on forum, on weather forecast, it’s windy, really windy.
To get there it will took us 4 days, we have this luxury to have time and whatever happen, if we get stuck somewhere, we don’t really care, all those thing are the immeasurable wealth of every travel.
First step, we have to take a ferry, well it looks more like a piece of metal maintained by paint.
We pack kites, windsurfs, surfboards, stand ups, on the deck … and us, we go inside to get our seat.
We each of us have a nice seat … well for 5 minutes because quickly an impressive amount of passenger and freight try to interlock with each other.
Mountains of cardboard boxes, bikes, bags, boxes full of live animals or even Dead, the whole is managed by a policeman who try his best to organize somehow this shambles.
I promptly gave my place to a lady and I went on the deck in the middle of a group of locals
A “mama” with a killer reddish smile, sparse tooth, quickly gave me a plastic stool and start a monologue for 10 minutes … I didn’t get a word! I reply with the same smile and the whole deck start to laugh.
I get the attraction and I found a translator, he was talking few words in English, and he quickly fills their sights.
They conscientiously take a big breath between two communicative laugh on their famous
Indonesian cigarettes with clove, called “Kretek” from the noise that make when they burn.
The smoke quickly flooded the deck, the air smells!
Add a little mixture of oil, petrol, and dried fish, all cradled by the hubbub of the engine and general anxiety knowing that there must be 15% of the people onboard that can swim and go for 3 hours crossing. (One Ferry ensuring the same route sank in 2006 killing over 100 deaths)
A little bumpy, we arrived safely, I say goodbye to the “Mama” by the same smile, loading bags on a Bimo (local mini bus), and we left for 3 more hours.
We are not coming here in an unknown place, surfers are coming in this island since the 70s, but only few every year, long travel, no airport, poor health services, malaria, when you look at the place in a book, you just turn the page, but if you read it deeper, and if you are curious you pack your bag and go.
You can ride world-class wave on you own, and, oh did I forgot to tell you that this corner of Asia is windy? I mean super windy all day!
The main wave is a long left, very long, with some fast and hollow sections, all seasoned with a side offshore wind, blowing from11 am until night from 15 to 40 knots.
A paradise for kitesurfing? … On the paper clearly!
But once there, we were a bit disappointed to see that the wind, was a little too off shore. Depends of the day but sometimes it was too offshore and sometimes we get it good, side offshore.
We will stay there three weeks, on a small surf camp, everybody try to find is own place, find a comfortable mattress, a mosquito net that looks like something, a fan who rotates…
The gear found his place in front of our room, a big mountain of surf boards, kites, stands up and windsurf which earned us the admiration of the whole surf camp.
First night, chicken, rice, soup, simple but very good.
2:30 am, I hear screams. I get up quickly, broke my mosquito net, opened the door and falls on thirty locals sitting in front of me.
Surprised! Everyone looks at me, I am dazzled, and I can’t focus with my sleepy eyes.
I shifted from 10 feet, and discover the scene.
The football games are projected onto the white wall of my room with a projector, and the whole village comes under my window.
We enter the final stages and here to watch a football match, is first a show in the room then on the screen.
So I missed any games.
The funniest thing was to see at 5 am surfers going on the water, board under their arm, under the scream of the crowd.
I didn’t come all the way here to watch soccer, but, in this case, I don’t have the choice.
I travel for the waves, wind, discovering, adventure, and I find myself shooting football player name, with a village, far far away from South Africa.
Surfing every morning was a race! Who will be the first at the peak?
I lost every morning!
But I was able to relate the goals and action at every breakfast.
At 9 am, everyone was going out of the water and we get with Manu and Carine the Spot for ourselves.
It’s a very fun wave to surf, you quickly think that you are Parko (Joel Parkinson)
Take off is easy, then the wave get hollow and faster, you go thru sections, bottom, roller…
it’s very long one and you feel pain in the leg at the end of wave.
At 11am first gusts arrive, 20 minutes of paddling to go home, and it blows
already at 25 knots.
This wave is blown mainly by side off shore wind, a little too off-shore for me, but what a pleasure to align the long rides, to hit the lip again, and again and again…
Manu and Carine are doing windsurfing, we share the cake, and we clearly enjoying it!
Sometimes i’m caught between the wind trying to push me out of the wave, and the water that wants to keep me. I regularly take big slap into the face, crossing the waves under the water, to emerge as a disjointed puppet.
At night I’m washed, I eat rice, chicken, vegetables and I collapse under the net, ready for the next soccer game.
We quickly decided to explore surrounding islands. “Anous” a man of a certain age, a lovely, quiet, lanky, tanned, smiling local fisherman smoking constantly a Kretek, took us on his boat, to discover some spots.
From a subtle gesture, he ordered his assistant to start the engine. This one is right under the deck. 1 then 2 then 3 turns of the crank and the engine starts to spit, cough, and clank in full swing. A cloud of smoke covered the boat, touf, touf, touf exactly the noise of an helicopter … and we are ready for the day.
Anous I like him, he knows the sea, he knows where to put his boat on the waves, like a shepherd, he always watch us from the corner of one eye, even in the depths of his nap, lulled by the waves, it remains on its guard.
This has become our grandfather, he loves our research, gesticulation from morning to evening to be at the right time at the right place … When weask him a question, he takes two or three puffs on his cigarette, watch us from the corner of the eye and shakes his head in agreement.
We spent 3 weeks like this, surfing, kitesurfing, watching soccer and encounters with the locals.
It is now time to leave, a boat is supposed to arrived and pick us up, we will spend 2 weeks on board; explore deserted islands and spots that are just empty.
One morning, our new ship arrived, proudly enthroned, facing the wind in the bay. It’s a “Pinisis” a typical sailboat from Sulawesi (islands north of Indonesia). Many legends surround this boat the most beautiful i’ve chosen is a story of prince and princess, love and salt water.
We quickly met the crew: Xavier, a French adventurer, who follows the wind and the current with his bags and his saxophone. He has already built five boats; all made by hand, not a nail, just pegs, a mammoth task.
Zirbad (the boat that I count as a crew member) About 18 meters long, all in wood. It’s fully open, a large square at the back (perfect to launch a kite), a main cabin with kitchen and chart table, then there is a large cabin with shower, toilets, and four beds all covered by a protective canvas.
This boat is a gem, an art work, we even feel a “soul” in it. The only modern thing onboard is a GPS.
Yann is a funny guy, he did some studies of marine carpenter, and builds the boat during 1 year and half. His life is full of adventure, and Zirbad is Baby.
Michel a New Caledonian, a wild man, weathered by the sun, really kind, he sleeps in front of the boat with the anchor. You understand by his silence that he has also have ton of adventure to his credit.
We have also the departure of Harrison the cameraman and Jace another cameraman arrived, he is an active member of the Poor Boyz Production.
We directly start by a night crossing, a big downwind under 20 knots.
I lay back in the square, close my eyes … my mind is lulled by the moment and my body waltz from one side to another.
I have some trouble to sleep, i’m super excited! Here we are on the ultimate boat trip, deep in a wild place, surrounded by blank spots, incredible waves,
certainly unforgettable encounters with the freedom to stop where we want, when we want, with whomever we want.
The sun rises slowly, the first rays warm us, the wind blows, we are sailing
along an island, the waves crash a few hundred yards away.
Xavier decides to inaugurate the mainsail, everybody help and the sail is raised quickly. We discovered a blue, surprising and wonderful sail, typically from Sulawesi, all made in nylon.
I take the bar and I completely fall in love with the boat, Xavier check if everything is alright, he is proud of him, that’s the first day under the sail for the boat and it we already reached 10 knots.
Hum, Xavier, How much it cost a boat like that? You think it works in
Brittany? You think I could live in all year?
Everyone has a smile, we are escaping modern life, no harbor, no obligations, wego where the wind, wave and shellfish (for Lou) tell us.
We check windguru? oh no it’s true, it’s already one month that we don’t have internet, no phone either, facebook and twitter are sharing data without us,…but who care, we just open our eyes, eat, fish, kite, surf, meet people, the journey is punctuated by our own desires.
We saw a bunch of spots, explore deserted islands, get lost in the jungle, search beaches, that was really exciting.
As soon as we arrive in a bay, locals were coming onboard to discuss, to smoke cigarettes that’s always a nice moment. They throw their cans of Coke overboard, and it makes them laugh when we jumped into the water to go pick them up. Here they just throw everything in the sea, and since it’s windy, in 10 minutes everything disappeared.
Away from their daily concerns, which are to fish, eat and earn some money, to respect their environment is not yet on the agenda of their day.
We arrived on a deserted island; a perfect left, like in a dream, a good 6 feet Hawaiian and nobody around. The wind was light, perfect for surfing.
As soon as we arrived at the peak with the boat, we see a huge brown spots and big fins that slice through the water … Shark? Not sure, but they really seem to camp there.
Suddenly, the wave doesn’t look as nice as I thought; I don’t want to finish on appetizer.
The wave is really beautiful; Manu takes his stand up paddle and says
“fuck it, I go.”
We look at Manu like as if he was going to slaughter. He quickly takes a wave that looks really pretty … he comes near the boat and tease me a bit, and he motivates Jace and Ben to jump in the water.
Manu takes another great wave, this motivates me to finally go in the water. I jump and join everybody at the peak. Sitting on my surf board i’m not really confidant, the wave is really nice … but if only we had not seen those brown spots.
After 20 minutes Manu screams, I couldn’t ear him so he comes back and says, “it’s Manta Rays, not sharks” and magically, 2 rays approached, curious they almost touch us, went under our board, play with our feet, fantastic, all the pressure drops, I blow and am appalled by the ballet that lines up around us.
After that, surfing was just pleasure.
Then the wind raises slowly, we came back to the boat just to change our gear, windsurfing for Manu and Carine and kiteboarding for me.
It is a long wave with several hollow sections. We can start very high on the spot where the wind blows side on, then side into the bay and end up side off, a
very long ride!
Riding with friends on a deserted island with incredible wave, near ourboat is just the best feeling ever.
We ride two hours and we left, like we never came here, like a dream that never happen.
We lifted the anchor, the wind blow into the sails; We are going downwind, heading to another island, another spot..
On the way we broke the speed record and we reach 11 knots.
The boat is nice to handle, it slips between each wave and swallow, one after another.
At the helm of Zirbad, hands tightly clenched, I cling to my dream.
We arrive at night in a large bay surrounded by white cliffs. The beach could be the cover of a tourist brochures. but nobody here, no umbrella, no cocktail vodka, massage or other seller of fuss, just crabs and shellfish, for the greatest joy of Lou.
The night is quiet, completely dark in-between the ocean, cliff and forest, no light disturb the spectacle of millions of stars above our heads.
The next day, i go to the village with Yann and Lou to buy some food, when Carine and Manu are doing some stand up paddle under the cliff.
In the forest, we met some local fishermen and they show us the where the market was.
In the village, small wooden houses dot the road, the gardens are full of
sand, not a twig, not a leaf. We can hear some “hello” coming from left or right, smiles appear, everybody looks curious and welcome us.
On the way back from the small market, a family stopped us and ask us if we want to share a coffee? We sit down on the deck on a small hut. Yann speaks Indonesian and fill their curiosity.
They gave me a small red ring, a kind of a bean, a white powder and let’s go …
We must put the first two in the mouth and chewing without swallowing, then take the powder that turns out to be lime and chew on everything.
From this point an unceasing flow of saliva filled my mouth, I have trouble to
chew without putting red everywhere, and that causes the hilarity of the welcoming committee.
My thong starts to go numb, my head turns, Lou looks at me with concern, I’m full of red, and my shirt is no longer white.
Yann looks at me with amusement, he has total control of the exercise, and spits regular squirt very red.
Here people chew this nut constantly, that spoil their appetite and it prevents caries risk, but surely not the red teeth.
Their dentitions would make any dentist cardiac. Prolonged use has the effect of
make their gum completely red, teeth turn orange, it has a certain charm,
is also a sign of beauty here, and ugliness is surely to have white teeth.
We say thanks to everybody, and we bring back to the boat a huge bamboo to serve as a pole for the sail, our broke while trying to speed over 11 knots.
The wind increases gradually; time to kite, we look at the map for potential waves. I decide to launch from the boat and to explore kite spots around.
I unroll the lines on the deck, i prepare my kite in the back square connect the lines, and roll again the bar.
I throw the kite into the water and begin to unwind the line while keeping the 5th line tension.
Mission accomplished, the kite took off and I’m still dry.
I jump in the water, went full speed downwind to avoid the gusty wind due to the cliffs. Fishermen, in their small boat, motorcycle helmet on their head to protect them from the sun, look completely surprised, i think that’s the first time that they see kiteboarding.
The first spot is located under the cliff, Jace and Ben join me.
The view is amazing; I ride closed to this great walls of limestone, surmounted by a tropical forest.
It’s a wave with two rollers, no more, otherwise you end up in the no wind zone created by the cliff. That happened to me naturally, excited by a better waves than the others.
A little swim, a stroke on the 5th line and the kite took off.
I didn’t want to swim during 2 hours across the bay more than 800 meters out.
The next morning, some fishermen come on board to discuss. Their boats are carved directly into the trunk of a tree, 3 pieces of wood are used as balance, a net in the front, a motorcycle helmet on his head for the sun, and they spend the day like that.
We bought some fish, and we left to other horizons.
Bay after Bay we are looking for a new spot.
We stop on a beach to sleep there . A beautiful anchorage sheltered from wind and waves.
The beach is deserted, Lou load Manu and Ben to make a sand castle, me i take care of the fire.
An Indonesian with a machete, come out of the magnificent forest and sits next to me. Communication is not easy, and he speaks to me but i didn’t understand a word for 10 minutes.
I would love to have a conversation with him but I can’t.
I know few words: what’s your name? Where do you live? I’m on the boat, politeness thing, I would like some bread, fish … but here i don’t have more.
Apart from its beautiful machete hanging from his belt, he is dressed in a loincloth, he have a crown of palm leaves over his head, his teeth are red, and his gaze is intense.
I listen, but I do not understand. he helps me to rekindle the fire, he puts his hands on it, it would have been me, i will turn 3 times around the beach screaming, but looks like he doesn’t feel any pain.
And it remains there, facing the sea, while Lou managing Ben and Manu. The moat here, the keep there, the Indonesian side of me sees surely, for the first time in his life, a medieval castle type.
Does he know that there is a princess, who keeps sleeping on the bed waiting for a toad? I do not see myself explaining him the story, in the same time he’s got the machete to cut the dragon’s head, and as long as this remains the dragon everything is all right.
The Indonesian finally greets me, I apologize for not speaking his language, he smiled and disappears again into the forest. Night falls, the fire burn into the barbecue, the forest awakens and i fall asleep.
Next morning, the wind blows and brings us to the next spot.
It looks pretty good, a wave crashes on a dry reef, and the wind is perfect side. Off the boat, Ben, Jace and Manu are in the game. The wave is nice to ride, powerful, and perfect for kite.
I’m with my Rebel 9 meters, the wave hollow and provide a nice tube; I slipped into several one, for my own pleasure.
After one hour in the water the wind dies, Manu gets locked up on the slab and breaks his mast … time to leave.
The boat is going fast, waves grab us by the back, the wind is pushing the mast the storm welcomes us coldly.
The wood swells, cracks, wobbles, stretches, and suddenly gives way, in a snap deafening.
It stirs in every sense, open-heart surgery, the attachment of one of the drifts
exploded. Tools slide in front of me, one after the other, we repair as fast as we can.
Night falls, the boat fled the sea, wave after wave, surf after surf, 11 knots Some waves arrive to take over and literally burst on the bridge.
The land is black, cliffs have their feet nibbling by the white water, dark clouds, rushing silently in single file, avoiding the unwelcoming place.
No lights, no moon, no stars, we mare this baleful spectacle on these bitter waves, praying that the GPS is showing us the path.
In turn we start to waltz in our bunks, the conductor throws his last rumblings, and the late night was much better than expected.
The sun is greeted with happiness, looking at the boat with gratitude, he was solid last night, Xavier uh … do you think we can put a fireplace in the boat
for the winter in Britanny?
Last step, Xavier takes us on an island in the Regional Park of Komodo.
Back to life, like the perfect tourist, we landed on a dock, you see boats filled with people with camera and socks over the flip flop. (This is in no way pejorative, but we just spend 5 weeks like Robinson Crusoe and it rapidly change our perceptions)
We pay the fee to the park, and a guide took us. We met directly all the dragons from the island slumped in the kitchen of the Park Rangers. All that for that?
We shoot with Jace a sequence called “Hunting the Varan”.
These dragons are impressive, about 2-3 meters per 70 kg, our guide explains that when it bites, the wound becomes infected as a direct result of a bacterium contained in its saliva. A few days later, the patient can eat, whether monkey, buffalo, or human. Sic!
With Jace, we turn some sequences like “Indiana Jones”, and just near the entrance of the park, a dragon starts to come right over us.
For the sequence, i asked to the guard his stick, the Dragon continues without hesitation the guard starts to rally the troops behind me, he tries to hide Lou
because he think that the dragon wants to eat her! Glups, Me, with his stick in my hand I am no longer “Indiana Jones”, I can touch the boundary with the stick.
At one point, the Monster stopped; I took that opportunity to quickly give back the stick to the guard…
The next day, end of the journey, back to civilization. We party in a local bar where Rastafarians come and sing.
First night on the land, I miss Zirbad, he has passed all the tests, and I’m in love with this boat. Jace goes to Hawaii with his head full of memories, Manu, Lou, Ben and Carine are going to Papua to meet a tribe, and I’m leaving for a month on an island in Indonesia, to new adventures.
I just live here, one of my best trips, where discoveries, friendships, dating, and freedom take all their senses.
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