Nusa Dua Kayaking, 2015

Although injury kept me away from running and mountaineering on this, my third trip to Bali, I was lucky enough to get out kayaking from our base in Nusa Dua. It was my first experience of sea-kayaking, as I usually paddle on rivers back home and in the south of France. Turned out to be quite an experience!

I was with Amalendu from the Sunshine Coast of Australia - a kayak salesman by trade and very much at home in the surf - and Rabinath from Holland who was out in the sea on a kayak for the first time.

We walked down the strip from our hotel in Nusa Dua to find somewhere cheap to hire the boats. We get a good deal in the upscale hotels by going off-season as part of a group of a few hundred, but the charges for everything once we get there is usually beyond our pockets. Hiring a kayak at our place would have been 25 USD per hour - a kilometre down the strip we got them for about one tenth of that price. They only had one solo boat so we took one tandem and one solo and headed off south from the beach. Round the first point we nipped in to try and get a glimpse of the amazing Ganesh Shrine at Geger that we had discovered on our bike ride, but the tide was too high and there was nowhere to land that gave us access to it. So, back in the boats, we paddled back out through the waves and headed further south.

The sea was calm inshore, but as we went on it started to get lively. Further out at sea there was lightning and I was nervous that the storm might catch us if we went too far, but the others were relaxed enough to want to continue so we set our sights on a headland in the distance and paddled across the bay. The waves were getting larger but not breaking until they were further inshore, so we just rode over them and enjoyed being out at sea - that combination of peace and energy is really something when you get out from the shore and leave everything else behind. As we approached the headland we saw that surfers were riding some pretty big breakers - to get round the point would mean going a long way out, and as it was getting to be turnaround time (if we wanted to stick to a one hour paddle and not have to pay the extra hire) now was the time to head back.

As we paddled back, we passed a cliff south of Geger where the waves were getting higher and breaking hard against the cliff face - here we had to take a careful line to stay out of the breakers, but still close enough to the shore to stay off the big waves further out. There was a strip of sea that was just OK to paddle through and we nosed through that, hoping to thread our way through. All of a sudden a much bigger wave got hold of the boat I was in with Amalendu and we got turned over and dumped in the sea. It was quite intense, as I seemed to be underwater quite a long time, swimming up against the force of the wave still pushing me down. I came into the air and sunlight having lost my paddle, and found the boat inverted and Amalendu also in the water, minus his glasses (they had been strapped on, but a few seconds in the washing machine effect of a breaking wave had ripped them off).

Another big wave came and battered us but we had hold of the boat this time and there was no long immersion, thankfully! Amalendu called to me to help him right the boat, so despite the waves making it tricky we were able to flip the big sit-on-top kayak back the right way up. Amalendu got a strap of his pack caught on a metal eyelet on the side of the boat, and couldn't get free, so I swam around to his side and managed to untangle the strap. Despite having lost his glasses (and Amalendu's sight is not great) he spotted that I was minus my paddle and headed off into the breaking waves to retrieve it - meanwhile I eased myself over the stern of the boat between waves and paddled with the remaining paddle, just enough to keep the boat facing out to sea - 90 degrees to the waves it was more likely to stay the right way up.Amalendu soon returned with the paddle - I was glad he'd volunteered for that job as I wasn't keen to swim further into the breaking waves after that first experience of being submerged for longer than I'm used to! I helped him back in the boat and with a few seconds of paddling we were out of the tricky zone and into waves we could easily handle. I could see now that Rabinath had had a similar experience in the solo boat and was now clinging to boat and paddle in the breaking waves, but where he was the sea was not as rough, so we were able to paddle in to his position, raft up, and give him a chance to get back on.

By now I was undertain whether the storm was moving in and making things rougher - there was occasional lightning but the dark cloud was still a fair way out to sea. I was all for heading for the nearest beach, rather than trying to keep paddling through the higher waves and risk another dumping out in the surf near the cliffs, but the more level heads of the others prevailed and we cautiously found a line of manageable sea back to where we started. We still had to make some sudden turns to get at right angles to the waves, but this worked ok and we didn't part company with boat or paddle again.

Back on dry land I felt like I'd had quite a baptism in sea kayaking - the vastly more experienced Amalendu was unconcerned (if gutted about losing those expensive glasses), and I realised that we had not been in a genuinely risky situation, it was just my lack of experience at being turned out of the boat in the waves that made it seem a little out of control. Surfers must get used to wiping out and having to swim up through the waves on a regular basis, but when you get that for the first time it's quite intense. Anyway, it was great fun, I learnt a lot about how to handle a boat in the surf and I won't forget that little hour of paddling, that's for sure!

Sacred Steps Home