Thursday, 25 October 2007

Towel Throwing

"Well, I've come to the end of the road.... " as Boyz II Men so poignantly opined.

I've been in Brisbane since Tuesday with my Brother, Sister-in-Law, 2 Nieces and Nephew–which has been great— but the majority of my time has been spent enjoying the facilities at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. I've had X-Rays, Blood Tests, The Glasgow Coma Test (though not as a result of a Glasgow kiss) CT Scans, Reflex Tests, MRI Scans (shown below)and even an anal probe.

On arrival I was upgraded from the Emergency waiting room to the Fast Track assessment room and had my case referred to the Neurological department — this still took 9 hours, straight after a 17 hour journey from Bali with little sleep. I've got to know the Emergency department pretty well since then and everyone seems genuinely concerned except me. The debate is whether to operate on my severely herniated disc to remove some of it from my spinal column or whether to leave it and hope the dangerous bit of loose disc disintegrates over time. I should be in excruciating pain with the problem I have and it's only the fact that I'm not that's keeping me from the surgeons knife. I'm seeing them again on Monday for a further assessment, but they're keen, as am I, to avoid surgery if possible.

With or without the operation I shouldn't be surfing again for a few months, in fact I can only lie or stand, no sitting, for the next few weeks at least so I'm coming home. It's a terrible shame, but it's the right thing to do. There's a chance I may never get the use of my foot back properly, but more importantly if I exacerbate the problem I could easily do much worse permanent damage.

The silver-lining is that the Neuro-doctor recommended I get my insurance people to fly me back business class to allow me to stand and lie on the flight home.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Sick Bay

Time drifts by hear at the aptly named Dreamland, although not for much longer. I’m flying to Brisbane on Monday for an MRI scan on my back in order to properly assess the damage, and the Dreamland warungs are being demolished in December to make way for a 5 star golf resort. “The fat cats whacking balls have pushed out the surf rats whacking bowls” to paraphrase my cowabunga stomach-churningly naff surf guidebook.

I hung out with a ‘spunky’, to use the colloquial, Aussie woman called Polly for a couple of days. She owns a villa in Bali and when she lets it she holidays at Dreamland or Bingin donw the coast. She surfs as badly as I do so we watched out for when another in the bigger swells we’ve been experiencing recently and the night before last we walked along the beach to Bingin for a drink a new bar down there. We had a good evening in the usual U.N. congress kind of way with Yanks, Aussies, Kiwis, Balinese and a Colombian fella eating some good food and drinking beers, timing our return to beat the incoming tide which would strand us in Bingin. Having never made the walk before I was relying on Polly’s judgement that 10pm was our curfew, but during the evening I talked to an older Kiwi gentleman who did the walk at 9 that morning and the tide then was pretty close to making it impassable. I managed to lure Polly from the clutches of an All-American Huntingdon Beach surf dude by 9.30pm and we set off bare foot and with my head torch illuminating our way. The higher tide meant that much of the easy beach sections of the walk were submerged so we had to resort to more rock scrambling than on our outward journey, and someone had been busily sharpening the rocks whilst we were eating and drinking. Yet we made good progress and all seemed well until we rounded a rock to be confronted by a 3ft green and black striped sea-snake in our path. Both snake and humans froze trying to assess who was in the greater danger and we made a slow retreat. Once out of the torchlight the snake disappeared and we proceeded with haste. From here-on things became critical. The rapidly incoming tide was compounded by the growing swell which sent waves crashing in to the coves we were trying to traverse. Timing our progression between wave sets we edged closer to Dreamland aware that a retreat was now more difficult than an advance. We just made it round promontory after promontory each one promising and then failing to deliver us to the safety of home until we both recognised that the cove we were in was definitely the one before safety. By this stage we were literally clinging to the cliff face as huge rollers crashed in to the rocks below and a delirious panic had set in. Spying the opportunity of a rare lull between wave-sets we lept from the cliff to the beach below and made a run for the final promontory making it round just in time for the next set to wash us up the beach to the safety of Dreamland. Crikey!

Last night I surfed (or rather, bobbed about) until I saw the large flame-red sun melt into the watery horizon. In this last hour of the day the wind drops completely leaving a mercurial quality to the ocean. It’s a magical time; even as the waves roll in there’s a tranquility about this transition zone between ocean and land. I hope my back, nerve and foot combo recover in time for me to fully experience the incomparable pleasures of surfing before returning to work.

Saturday, 13 October 2007


I can’t remember when I last blogged. That’s the effect ‘Dreamland’ beach has on you. Everything slows to the pace of the waves metronomically rolling on to the beach. There’s absolutely no way I could squeeze breakfast, lunch, dinner, two surfs, a snooze, a bit of reading AND write a blog. Never mind having to leave the suspension-of-reality that is Dreamland to embark upon the 10 minute slog up to the main road where the internet lives. I’ve only just managed to prepare myself for that expedition.

On the second night here I joined a beach bonfire party and began generating my first hangover since departure. The party’s instigators where some a-whoopin and a-hollerin american frat-boy types who despite being in their mid to late 20’s displayed the full gamut of intoxicated masculine emotions I thought had been confined to my mid-teen forays into the magical world of booze. We were treated to arm wrestling, fire-jumping, chase-me, and other such acts of bravado deigned to alert the local females of their presence, followed by cringe-inducing awkward jerky shuffle-dancing to gangsta rap whilst following no discernable rhythm before the overly desperate lunges at anything remotely feminine culminating in a brother on brother fist-fight — the result of which was their heartfelt vows to disown one another — and the rest of the fraternity passing out in the sand.

Backdropped by this diversion I met some funny, well-balanced English lads, a Swiss man, an Austrian, some French folks, 2 German girls and a gaggle of English traveller-trail girls who almost equalled the americans in ther national stereotypical displays and were therefore equally entertaining to engage; the pretty one who was desperate to liase with an equally attractive other, despite gary-back-home, who frowned and stropped and needed attending to by her courtiers when her advances on a french surfer were rebuffed. The chief courier, a plump, older geordie lass who was actually very nice and some assorted other girls from the Isles clinging deperately to the diminishing dregs of the wine box.

I’m staying in an amazing bamboo-built losmen at the south end of dreamland beach, terraced into the hillside. My room is open on two sides and if I prop myself up n my elbows after one of my naps I can see all the way down to the southernmost prominentary of Uluwatu, a temple site and the most famous surf break in Bali. Before that is Padang Padang, Bali’s Pipeline, Impossibles, Bingin and closest to home the fast shorebreak right of Dreamlands. If my foot was alive I would be dangerous.

By the way, do any medical types out there know what I can do to help regain feeling and movemenet in my foot. The action I can’t do is drawing the foot up towards the shin. I have no control or power there so I can’t stand on my heels, for example. Any ideas greatly received.

I’m moving up the beach today by about 250 metres which will be a bit of a struggle but I’m sure I’ll manage it. It’s a bit of a shame because this place is spacious, the views are jaw-droppingly good and I know a few of the local residents, but it will be a bit like going home moving to Eric’s place. Some of the English inmates and I are going up to the ‘big road’ to watch the footall this evening in a bar which should be fun. I’m now off to mentally prepare myself for the big move.

(btw - i surfed Uluwatu today for those who know)

Saturday, 6 October 2007


I’ve been in Bali a few days now, but I’m not quite having the beach-bum existence I had planned.

The sweet intoxicating smell of incense welcomed me back as I took a taxi from the airport to my hotel in Legian. My left sciatic nerve/back/leg/foot issue was still debilitating as I tried a surf on Legian beach the following day which left me annoyed and frustrated. A cut on my toe, which I thought had healed, turned septic swelling and discharging a beautiful sherbert-yellow ooze and I discovered I had left my bank card at the airport when I withdrew cash on arrival, although lost-property yielded nothing.

After a day of wallowing in a mire of self-pity I changed my frame-of-mind and began some positive action. I, using the proverbial, was going to kick some ass.

I checked myself into a beautiful ‘boutique losmen’ down the road from the perfectly nice hotel I was staying in and have sheathed my surfboards until I sort my sciatic nerve out (pesky blighter). Antibiotics have sorted my unruly toe out and a Chiropractor has diagnosed a recurrence of an old slipped disc injury as the cause of my buttock/leg pain and semi-paralysis of my ankle. He’s cricked and crunched my back and neck around and done some pretty deep, discombobulating massage combined with some electric current therapy. I’ve got a chiropractic appointment every other day until I get the use of my ankle back, meantime I’m going to lie back and relax.

Those waves can wait just a little bit longer for me to teach them a lesson…

Monday, 1 October 2007

In transit

As i sit in my sanitised, air conditioned, westernised, safe hotel in singapore on route to Bali I look back on Aragam Bay with fondness. It took a while for me get over my middle-class shock, fascination and squeamishness with Si Lanka's extreme poverty and was on edge for the first week or so. But once I got used to that I realised they're not all there to rip you off. Most are trying to make rupee or two and that's fair enough, but many are just going about their business — it's not all about me!

My walks up the beach to the point for a surf were peppered with shouts of "hellowhereyoufromgoodwavetodayno?" from the fishermen mending their nets in the shade of their bamboo huts. My pre or post-surf warm up/down took the form of helping drag a fishing boat up the beach beyond the reach of the high-tide.

I gravitated towards a nice geriatric crew of westerners: Jason (43) an Aragam Bay veteran of 7 years does 6 months in Sydney and 6 months in Sri Lanka and Mark (42) does 2 trips a year to Sri Lanka from the Gold Coast. Both are great surfers and have an almost comatose dryness about their humour which seem typically Australian and very funny. And then there was Tim (50) an Hawaiian surfer with a surprising, rich musical past taking in part time membership of Throbbing Gristle with Genesis P Orridge, producing dancehall and Dub with California's Jamaican ex-pats and making records and playing live on San Francisco's early rave scene.
Finally I feel relaxed in the place and the next phase of my travels beckons.

My overriding memory of Si Lanka is the locals pride, practice and proficiency in the ancient art of spitting. They are truly world class. I'm talking a loud, rolling, guttural drawing up of all the throats phlegm followed by a spit which could knock a bird out of the tree.