The Awera Files are a series of short stories or essays from my trips to the Mentawai Islands during 2012 and 2014.
Each file will feature an insight into the minds and lives of a few intrepid adventurers who seek enjoyment and the challenge of surfing waves in a pristine environment. To begin with let’s talk geographically; the Mentawai Islands are a chain of about seventy islands and islets off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia with a population of less than 100,000 and covering approximately 6000 square kilometres.(thanks Wikipedia) The capital is Tua Pejat and is situated on Palau Sipura. The word palau means island and the Awera Island Surf Camp is situated on Palau Pototoga which is a small island (no vehicles or roads) just north of Sipura and takes about 30 minutes to travel there by charter boat from the port in Tua Pejat.
If you do want to know more about the historical and anthropological aspect of the Mentawai’s it is best to travel this route
For the last 30 years the Mentawais have been the playground for travelling surfers from all over the world. Whether travelling on large charter boats or staying in land camps, every surfer has a memory and tale to tell and these are some of mine. There are number of political and social issues that have become prevalent in recent years with the number of charter boats and surf camps increasing and the benefits not being returned to the local communities. I will keep that for a later date as this file is dedicated to just getting there.
I board my plane at the Gold Coast airport and roughly seven hours later I am circling above the metropolis called Kuala Lumpur or KL in our Air Asia flight. I always enjoy the first flight of any adventure as the excitement and adrenalin offer the “travelers high”. KL is just a stopover or transit stop where I and my fellow adventurers congregate for our next trip, the short flight to Padang.
Now Padang is no Bali and for that I am eternally grateful. The commercial overlay in the modern town of Kuta and the surrounding districts has created a tourist mecca while places like Padang have maintained their local charm and character. In other words, tourists are the exception in Padang and not the norm.
The next stage on the journey is the overnight ferry ride from Padang to Tua Pejat. Now the ferry not only transports tourists and locals alike between the island and the mainland but also all the supplies including the chickens and general supplies.
We secured the cabins for the trip meaning we get a room and a bed while the locals will make do with a space on the deck or any other space where they can get comfortable. I am amazed at their ability to even sleep on a motorcycle if necessary but then life in the Mentawai’s is very removed from my life in middle class Australia.
My sleep is disrupted by the drone of the engines and the occasional rocking and rolling of our vessel. I do get some sleep but I am finally woken by the sounds of shouts of the crew as we arrive at our port and the process of unpacking starts.
It’s takes about an hour from arriving to being transferred with our gear to our surf charter boat and meeting Pete, our tour guide and we then start out last leg of the journey to our home for the next 10 days.
On my first trip in 2012, I joined Wallaby, Fingers, Chipper and Blackie. As our charter boat left the port and heads off across the channel a sudden cloudburst like I have never seen before unleashes on us. If you haven’t been in a tropical cloudburst it is hard to find suitable words to describe the feeling, wet doesn’t cover it, drenched comes closer by saturated almost wins. Initially you try to stay dry and protect your paperwork and gear. Next stage is not worrying about your gear but keeping your passport and travel documents as dry as possible. The next stage after that is totally forgetting about keeping anything dry and just taking in the experience. The sound of this transition is first of concern to keep things dry to muffled expletives. The next stage is from muffled expletives to colourful expletives cursing the weather which progresses to us being totally drowned out by our own laughter from so deep in our bellies it hurts. Just getting there is an adventure.
To be continued…..