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“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

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9 June 2015

The Perfect Storm: Deserted at Desert Point


23rd – 24th April 2015



Bungs Bunga Bay

I had never heard of Bunga Bunga Bay before, in fact I’m still sure the guys had the name mixed up with a Servio Berlesconi party. Despite the area having a name that a UKIP politician would give to any African nation the scene that greeted the crew at sunrise after a pretty rough first night was pretty special. The bay itself was enclosed by vegetation rich hills on three sides. The shallow natural harbour gave the sea a beautiful opal tint and the sound of small fishing boats motoring on out to the open sea comingled with the sound of the sloshing tide. The spot would have been a nice place to waste a day if it wasn’t for the unsheltered western flank. The decision to lay anchor here was solely to provide rest bite from the swelling tide and sadly the shallow bay was not all that suitable. The Strikly Bizness uncontrollable swaying left Storm no choice but to change his plans and search for a more suitable site of anchorage. After consulting Ben and Josh our colleagues set course for Desert Point on the South Eastern tip of the island.
Anchorage close to Desert Point
It took perhaps an hour to relocate and satisfied the ship was not going to capsize Storm set out the day’s agenda. After a hearty fry up with vegemite (naturally) we lowered the dingy o explore desert point. The area is famous with surfers for some of the largest waves in Lombok and as keen surfers Ben and Josh was keen to get stuck in. Sadly the conditions were not favourable due to changes in the tide but we were able to make use of the snorkels and fins. We had last snorkelled in the Gili Islands where we had a great time exploring reefs overpopulated by tourists. The great thing about Desert Point is that although the reefs are in no way as large as in the Gilis, they are pristine and untouched. Being landlocked in central England for our entire lives certainly made us feel inadequate amongst the lads who thrived on or in the ocean. Storm, Josh and Ben are all used to free diving which enabled them to get up close with the reef life.  After a few hours we returned to the small bay where the Strikly Bizness was waiting and made landfall for the first time since leaving Bali to grab a bite to eat in a small fishing village. The locals were pretty surprised to see tourist which was nice to see. When we visited the island after the Gili’s we were restricted to the tourist traps and never really felt we saw the “Real Lombok”. After a bit of asking around we managed to find a nice elderly lady willing to cook up some fish and rice. As we tucked into a ”nice” meal of un-gutted fish served with rice and banana fritters Josh caused a bit of a stir when he paid with a 100,000 IRP note. Awestruck by the payment the locals offered to put on a cock fight with their prized chickens and even let Josh spend the night in the village with the elderly ladies daughter (which left Josh a little awestruck too). Sadly we were on a mission and therefore a tight schedule and as the evening drew in we all knew it was time to move on.


Getting ready to snorkel at Desert Point

Consistent with the prior evening he heavens opened as we left Desert Point which once again left us with a shite night passage. The only consolation was that the trip around the South Eastern tip of Lombok to Blongas Bay would only take a few hours tops. Confident I would avoid the call up for watch I set about making the most of a slightly calmer sleep in my cabin. The cockroaches were final starting to recede now that the bombs were doing the job and I had final found a way to wedge myself in the bunk with some spare clothes. stale, warm air remained pungent and uncomfortable and there was no way of removing it as the bad weather meant all hatches had to remain closed but despite this I managed a few hours of uninterrupted rest. That was until I realised I was time for my watch and we hadn’t laid anchor.

The short trip had meant the agreed watch schedule had changed and after giving me the desired bearings Storm left me at helm with Ben. Neither of us were keen to be up. The precipitation was the kind that was neither heavy nor cold but retained an undying energy that crushed all prayers for even the slightest break in weather. We gritted our teeth and bared the misery for a whole hour and half before the rain began to die. The unpopulated coastline in this part of Lombok made the night feel much darker than during my first shift but even with the vale of shadow it was still possible to make out the silvery reflection of moonlight on the cliffs and headlands. As we turned towards the mouth of Blongas Bay our vision was helped by the electric lights on the wooden pontoons laid out by the local seaweed and lobster farmers. Satisfied we had a clear path Ben picked out a path towards safe anchorage and pressed our vessel forward while I set about sticking to course using the light between the sails to hold the line without looking at the compass. No sooner had the ship reached parallel with the two headlands Ben and I suddenly spotted an object floating amongst the gloom on the Portside. “What the hell is that?” Ben said. It kind of looked like a box or a chunk of floating Styrofoam at first but slowly grew into a much larger structure. Suddenly aware of what it was Ben suddenly turned to me and screamed “pontoon portside, hard turn to starboard”. As he hastily moved to my side I turned the helm as quick as possible away from the obstacle whilst Ben slowed the engine down to allow the ship to idle along. By this time the others had quickly woken from their unsettled sleep and assumed positions at the front of the yacht to relay information to Storm. It took over an hour to creep into Blongas and by the time we found safe anchorage away from any pontoons I was well and truly knackered. If we had hit just one floating platform it may have had devastating consequences to our voyage and even resulted in injuries to the rest of the crew but taking the risk to attempt such ventures and overcoming challenges is all part of taking the step away from convenient, tedious travel.

Leaving Desert Point
As with Bunga Bunga Bay, Blongas retained that same Lombok feel. The early morning mist burns away quickly here as the intense beams of sunshine highlight the beautiful turquoise bowl. The pontoons that caused so much stress to us the night before were now occupied by the local seaweed farmers. Storm and the gang were still keen to find a decent surf spot on Lombok’s south coast and despite the hype Blongas didn’t really cut the mustard with this group of beach bums. The harvesting of the seas fruits meant that many of the breakers were either obstructed or not large enough for decent surfing. Once again this meant another short stay as our sights turned to a bay that we were familiar with Gerupuk, East of Kuta. Exiting Blongas in daytime was a hell of a lot easier and by 3pm we had passed Kuta and arrived in Gerupuk bay. Jono and I had visited Gerupuk briefly a few weeks before when we explored the region on scooter. We knew the area was exceptionally good for surfing but had also informed Storm that like Blongas the bay would not be the easiest to find safe anchorage due to an even greater mass of pontoons. Thankfully we had a secret weapon as a good friend of Ben’s was in Gerupuk and knew the region like the back of his hand and after an hour or so of dodging buoys, pontoons, shallow sand bars and small boats we finally made landfall outside a bar with Ben’s mate Dane waiting with the booze.