Diary Excerpts; Nias, Indonesia, 1981


Photos and Story © Jim Culberson 1981 All Rights Reserved
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View of the Lost Sea passage to Nias as seen from a hilltop near the port town of Sibolga, Sumatra.

Scenery near Sibolga, Sumatra.

Our boat at the dock in Sibolga, Sumatra just before we began to load our gear for departure.

View of the river we had to wade through in order to reach the losmens on the point at Lagundi Bay.

Pagan statues seem to gaze,
with cold stone eyes at mornings haze.
While on this distant, tropic shore
Blue-green waves pound and roar.
J.C.

Thursday, September 10

Here I sit in Jamborai II losmen on the beach at Lagundi Bay, Nias.
The tape deck is playing Hendrix while enormous surf pounds on the reef out in the bay. A chorus of frogs are croaking so loudly in the swamp out the losmen's back door that they almost drown out the tape and the surf.
Nice place, only two visible lights anywhere near and they are on a distant hill. Great surf, I love it here.
On the evening we arrived I nearly drowned just paddling around trying to catch a wave. No one else was out because it was too big for their smaller boards. Luckily I had my 8 foot pintail gun. It wasn't much help though when a big set caught me inside and whomped me. I thought I could paddle over the monster (had to have been 18 feet!) but didn't make it. I got sucked backwards, upside down stuck to the roof of the tube like a fly on a dizzying wall and put so far under water that I was disoriented. I thought my kook cord had broken and peeped one eye open just to try and figure out which way was up by looking for daylight. No sooner had I opened my right eye just a tad when the swirling water removed that contact lens. Oh well, looks like I'll be surfing blind as usual on this trip from now on. Can't use only one contact lens. It didn't even do me any good to open my eye because the combination of being deep underwater and late afternoon/almost evening made it pitch black. I figured I'd been stuffed into one of the many caves along the cliff-like reef face underwater. When I figured out which way was up and started to swim that way I did so slowly with one arm extended so as not to slam my head into the cave roof. It turned out that my cord wasn't broken, only stretched out about as thin as a pencil lead. I came up next to my board and paddled in.
It is radically beautiful here, forests of coconut palms, nearby hills shrouded in mist and the mysterious sea that churns with its own rhythm. Thoroughly isolated from the rest of the world here.
Today I'm a little "sakit" because I got so cold and wet on the shitty boat ride to this island from Sibolga, Sumatra. Jan and I wound up on deck most of the night when some really rude Indonesians stole our spots in our "personal cabin." It wasn't more than an elevated hard space in the wheelhouse, but we had paid a good deal extra for it and there was room for us, our gear and a couple of crewmembers.
We lost our space the first time I escorted Jan through the slippery, heaving dark to the ship's head. When we returned "our cabin" was packed with surly, wet Indonesians who weren't about to give us any space back without a fight. I was only one against many and Jacob was too sick to have been of any help. He was so seasick he never moved from his suddenly very crowded spot in "our cabin." He remained seasick and packed in there all night with the Indonesians like sardines. We were in the middle of the Lost Sea and it was a dark night so it would've been easy for them to dump our bodies overboard. Discretion being the better part of valor Jan and I retreated to the portside companionway. It was adjacent the wheelhouse and crammed with furniture that was all lashed into place. There were a lot of burlap sacks full of cabbage also so it wasn't real comfortable, but it was dry on three sides as long as we huddled in our ponchos. We were doing pretty well until I looked up into the wheelhouse doorway and spotted one of the little Indonesian girls, who had occupied a snug little cabin berth with a mattress, beginning to retch violently over me. I was backed up against some furniture and Jan was in front of me. When I tried to get her to move so I could perform evasive manuevers she slipped on the cabbages where we had perched. They were the only almost level spot in there but were plenty slippery with all the salt spume blowing in the front of the open companionway. When she went down, I was immobilized and got the full brunt of the barf. Covered in little girl barf I opted to stay on the foredeck in the cold rain and sea-spray the rest of the trip. Jan joined me and we spent a miserable, but barf free, night huddled on deck under our ponchos. The "7 hour trip" turned into 20 hours and we were all pretty miserable by the time we touched shore at Telukdalam, Nias.
Once we got all our gear off the boat I set about finding transportation from Telukdalam to Lagundi Bay. This proved to be no small feat as just about no vehicles exist on the south end of this island where we landed. I finally found a dump truck to rent and we loaded our gear into the back. Jake rode up front and Jan and I stayed in the back in the warm sunshine and fresh air.
The truck ground and bounced for miles through a forest of coconut palms over the one-lane asphalt and dirt track that passed for a road. Seems that coconuts and their by-products are the main export of this distant island so there are a lot of coconut palms. We went for hours when, suddenly, as we rounded a big curve and started down a hill, I caught my first glimpse of Lagundi Bay. As long as I live I will never forget it. Every surfers dream come true. A big, coconut tree lined, blue bay with absolutely no-one in the water and perfect, machine-like 12-15 foot sets peeling off the far point. It took us nearly an hour and half to get us and our gear out to the point and another thirty minutes to unpack my baggies, board and wax so it was pretty late by the time I was set to paddle out, but I made it out even if it was only to catch a smaller wave and then get waxed by the set.
Oh well, time for sleep now.


The second day the swell dropped enough for the Aussies to go out on their short boards.

Note the tip of the surfboard peeking from the tube.

The take-off zone at Lagundi Bay. Weird rocks in the distance.

Rooms were cheap at the biggest losmen in the town of Lagundi. Anyone for a hearty meal of snake, fish heads and warm beer?

Saturday, September 12 (I suppose it is at least?)

Here we are, the three misfits in paradise. Jacob is gobbling some hideous concoction of octopus cooked in its own ink with some lobster, rice, noodles, potatoes and hot peppers thrown in for good measure. God, I was so hungry I relished my portion. Jan is super cranky, Jake is a hopeless nut-case, I feel sort-of out of it because the bad head cold I caught on the trip over is still stuffing me up. The waves here are perfect for surfing, they just pump on and on. I wish I felt better so I could carve it up with some semblance of style. Its been a consistent 5 to 6 feet everyday since I've been here.
A hermit crab is crawling over the table. Hell, why not? They crawl over everything else in this room. It also has big rats, mice, assorted weird bugs and God only knows what else is in the swamp out the back door. So far no huge specimens of Crocodilus sumatrensis have crawled from the swamp into the kitchen. No tigers, yet, either. I know there are some fantastic butterflies around here as I've seen them. Lots of strange and amazing birds here.
I think maybe the surf is building as the roar sounds like its increasing. Something about the Indonesian night always makes it sound louder though.
The natives (they are supposed to be ex-head hunters, all) may be restless tonight. At least the possibility exists, I suppose. I just watched three of them on the beach in front of our hut trading swords. The moonlight glinted from the steel blades. They were passing our hut silently as if on a mission.
Strange lot here. Pretty isolated place. Strange fathomless water in the bay. Flickering kerosene lantern illuminating the written page. Hard to imagine what is happening back in the mainland USA. God I want a steak soooo bad!
Maybe tomorrow I'll carve into some heavy tubes. Lagundi has great potential. The reef here is mucho mysterious. It is deep and inhabited by strange creatures whose names I do not know. Blue coral washes up on the beach, big chunks of it as a matter of fact. I've caught six waves here so far, no wipeouts, all nice cruises. Yesterday I took out the pintail and caught a couple of unreal waves. Then today I took out the 7'2" purple and yellow cruiser. I almost lost it on one wave when I got it in a real critical section and flashed off the lip. These waves are fast but perfect. All you need to do is paddle hard into them and you're gone. I think a board with a narrower tail is definitely the ticket on these steeper wave faces.
Whewie! Jan and Jake are driving me crazy. Always at each other. I think Jake needs to score his own room or Jan might freak out. Hopefully the group of Australians in the adjacent room will have to leave in another couple of days and Jake can get their room. Their visa is almost up so they will have to leave.
What a character Jake is. That he's made it this far is pretty amazing I must admit. The trip has been very hard on him. I think its probably been harder on Jan though since she can't even go soak up rays on the beach unescorted because of the locals tendency to attack any woman they find alone. We have to keep a close eye on all our stuff, including our persons, while we're here.
More tubes manana.

"No more money, no more visa, you can't stay in Indonesia."
Children's song at Lagundi Bay, Nias.

The "Jumping Stone" in the village of Botohilitano. These stones were used to practice leaping over barricades when invading an enemy's village.

It rained almost every day on Nias. Our clothes never dried in the three weeks we stayed.

Against a backdrop of verdant coconut palms the whole setting was dreamlike.

An Australian surfer examines the green room on a perfect Lagundi Bay right.

Rock in the slot @ Lagundi Bay.

Rock high on a steep face. Lagundi Bay, perfect every day for three weeks straight.

On a Lagundi Bay right deviations from the sraight line meant encounters with extremely vertical lips.

Lagundi Bay, Nias; waves so perfect it was almost impossible to get in a bad position on one.

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