I’d made a huge mistake.
18 days in Bali had passed and I’d barely left Kuta. Yes, Kuta. The concrete monstrosity teeming with package tourists and drunk bogans. With the exception of an unmemorable dalliance with Ubud, I’d been in Kuta for far too long.
With just one day remaining before I left Bali for Lombok, I was desperate to see more than just Kuta and Ubud.
My travel credentials depended on it.
Bukit Peninsula day trip
So I organised a Bukit Peninsula day trip with a good friend. The goal was to see the legendary surf breaks of Padang Padang and Uluwatu, before watching the sunset from Uluwatu’s famous clifftop temple.
The Bukit Peninsula is a large outcrop that juts from Bali’s southern coast. The landscape is extremely dry, and I felt like a stray cigarette would set the whole region ablaze. This hasn’t stopped the construction of golf courses though, which appear like oases in this parched land. Environmentally dubious, a staggering amount of water would’ve been required to keep the fairways green.
I didn’t even have to imagine how much water was needed. Our drive to Bukit Peninsula was ponderous as we were stuck behind a never-ending convoy of water-trucks. The road was as clogged as a fat American’s arteries.
It was a relief when we finally made our first stop: Dreamland Beach.
Someone had clearly got the name wrong. My idea of a dreamland does not involve walking through an ugly concrete building crammed with tacky souvenirs. The water feature was unnecessary too — a large stagnant pond which further blighted the area.
But my impression of the beach was kinder. With my back to a hideous hotel, Dreamland was rather beautiful. The sand was golden, and the water an inviting fluorescent blue. It begged to be swum in.
But swimming wasn’t so easy. A suicidal shorebreak was pounding Dreamland’s beach. The waves were breaking right in the shallows, making a wall three metres high. I saw one guy be devoured by the foam before reappearing twenty metres down the beach. It looked like he’d gone three rounds with Mike Tyson.
Naturally, I joined in. From the shore, the waves looked huge, but in the water they were even bigger. An innocuous looking swell would meander into shore, before transforming into a foaming tower of whitewash. I was pounded into the sand by a force that could break bones. I imagined it felt similar to being shot from a cannon. In other words, it was great fun.
Padang Padang Beach was the next stop on our Bukit Peninsula day trip. A fifteen minute drive from Dreamland, this beautiful beach was packed when we arrived. Because it was low-tide, the reef was exposed and so swimming conditions were not ideal. But you don’t come to Padang Padang to swim. You come to surf.
Known as the Balinese Pipeline, Padang Padang is an extremely fast and hollow wave. It breaks over a sharp coral reef, and a fall here can have serious consequences. It can be the barrel of your dreams or the worst wipeout of your life. Suitable only for experts, I bravely stayed on the beach and watched the sets roll in.
The Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple was the final destination of our Bukit Peninsula day trip. Dramatically teetering on the edge of a cliff, this temple watches over the Indian ocean. A major tourist draw, its grounds were congested with people who’d come to watch the sunset from the high cliffs.
Balinese Hindus believe that that the three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva become one here. Fascinating stuff, but my interests lay elsewhere — 70 metres below the temple. For it was down there that the legendary Uluwatu surf-breaks could be glimpsed.
The stuff of dreams and nightmares, I could feel this wave’s power from the clifftops. It looked terrifying. The different breaks wrapped around the headland in long lines of hissing water. A few black dots were having the ride of their lives.
I leaned against the barrier and stared out to sea. Fishing boats were carving lines across the metallic plateau as the sky turned from blue to orange. Watching the waves form as the sun dipped below the horizon was a religious experience in itself. My only regret was that I hadn’t come here 18 days sooner.
Would you like to go on a Bukit Peninsula day trip? What other beaches have you visited in Bali? How stupid am I for spending so long in Kuta? Post your thoughts in the comments below