Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Mentawai 2012

Mentawai October 2012
Thankfully not our charter boat

Another boat charter trip to the Mentawais with my Russian buddies Alena and the Endless Summer Surf School crew from Bali on the charter boat Addiction.

Take off from Tullamarine on AFL grand final eve. Have decided to spend a couple of days in Singapore on the way through. It is not the quickest way to go but I enjoy spending time in Asia and Singapore is a cool city. 

If you are coming from Australia there are a couple of tips if you are on a mission to get straight through to Padang. Air Asia does the final KL - Padang leg. If you get a real airline to KL and then Air Asia into Padang you will have to change airports in KL. AA flies out of the low cost terminal. It takes around 40 minutes to get there. It should cost a few bucks but if you are travelling with all the team on the trip they will try and slug you extra.

Garuda always look a little expensive but they fly through Jakarta and then straight to Padang. You may have to wait for the connection but you won't have to drag your boards around to different airports. Grab a VIP lounge in Jakarta for $10 and chill out with free food and drink. This info maybe outdated soon. The mail is Tiger Airlines are reopening their Singapore - Padang flights with Garuda to follow. Given how user friendly Singapore Airport is this would be good news.
 I am staying at a small guest house style hotel called Lloyd's inn recommended to me by Mr Ajill of the Singapore Surfing Association. Pretty sure it doesn't have any star ratings and it could do with a facelift but it is just behind Orchard road and costs only $90. Great spot with super friendly service. Another cool spot is Rucksack Inn in Clarke Quay. This one has dorms as well as rooms. If you want something more upmarket try Albert Court in little India, another good location. If you are a five star traveller take your pick, they are all here.

The Taxis into the city are pretty cheap. I had some time to kill so I jumped on the train which is easy to use. I went straight to little India for breakfast. Masala Dosai (a spicy potato pancake) and sweet Indian tea.

After that and the hotel check in I am off to find a bar with the footy. I ended up at Clarke Quay and managed to find a big screen one minute before the bounce. Sitting in 28 degree temp watching the footy with a bunch of expats and tourists was surreal. Great afternoon and a good match to boot.

One of my mates was flying in to Singapore as well and we had planned to meet at an Indian Restaurant that night. Tom and I ate at the same place 37 years ago. If you like Indian, Komala Vilas or Banana Leaf Apolla are institutions.

I met Tom and his Wife Lisa at the new Gardens by the Bay the next day. Lisa had a bunch of her family as well. Not that keen on the tourist thing but these new gardens are really awesome. A totally self sustaining complex with huge rain water catchments in the guise of massive plants and a bio steam furnace that is fuelled by pruned plant material within the park. Well worth a visit. It is right in front of the massive hotel with the boat on top. 56 floors and takes 15 seconds by lift to get the top.

An Indian lunch at Zam Zam's another food institution on the corner of Arab street and Beach road. Great food and laughs with all the crew.  We had Murtabah and Byriani. ( Enak Sekali) If you are a keen fisherman you can get all the latest gear in this area way cheaper than home. Could come in handy on your boat.


October 3

I have to do the bun fight through KL to get to Padang, not too bad but am keen to get to Padang and on our boat. I am the first of our guys in Padang. Nothing to do but walk around town all afternoon. Apart from the Tsunami threat Padang is fun. Andre, Anastasia and Dimma from Endless Summer surf school arrive with their two guests Alex and Froddo (not really the correct spelling and pronunciation but that is what I am calling him). We head to the port and board the Addiction. Alena, Artem and Tanya are coming in from Europe and arrive at Midnight. Really super Kruto to see everyone again.

The crossing to the Ments is about 75 miles, it is a bit rough and we arrive at Telescopes about 8am. Everybody is tired but by lunch everyone except Anna and Sleeping beauty (Tanya) have surfed. 20 guys in the line up with shoulder high waves. An OK first surf.

The wind picks up a bit and a couple of bigger sets, we head around the corner and try a left by ourselves. It looks OK from the boat but hard work in a strong current. We anchor near Aloita Surf Camp for the night.

After dinner we all watch Geni photo's from the days surfing.


October 4

Captain Eric has the boat back at Telescopes by 6am. Just a puff of wind and 6 ft sets. Some of the guys head out on the high tide. The girls and I wait for the tide to drop a bit so we can catch a few inside waves. It gets pretty crowed. Some of the boats have 12 to 13 guys on them. Way too many.

The surf is solid and the wind is across shore putting a few ridges on the wave face. There are some good ones but it is tough conditions for most of us. Tanya and Anna go for a paddle on the two SUP's that are on the Addiction.

We are eating really well with great food. Our chefs Andy and Tony are doing a great job. Azman is the boats engineer and Yudi the boat boy.

We surf till dark then back around to the same anchorage as last night. Uno, drinks, dinner, slide show and a movie before bed.
October 5

We are back at Telescopes at 6am. Glassy conditions and although the swell has dropped a bit there are still head high sets. Not as many guys but testing conditions. Burritos for second breakfast today then a snooze. After our snooze the blue sky has gone and it is raining. The across shore southerly has come in but as we watch the wind tends more offshore and strengthens. More rain and squalls. Alena and I sneak out as the last squall finishes. It has glassed off, we paddle up the line and end up having a great surf. Best of the trip so far. Fish Burgers for lunch.

Everyone is tired, by 3.30 with heaps of waves under our belts and a strengthening Southerly wind we decide to head south to find some different waves for tomorrow.

The girls have a wake surf at our anchorage as night falls. We have dinner and watch Carl's video of the days surf. After that Captain Eric drives the boat further south to Maccas.

Ouch!!! Didn't hit the reef but was asked by a Taiwanese surfer today if I was coaching my granddaughter. Alena has been mistaken for my daughter before but granddaughter? Alena must be younger. 

October 6

We are up at 6 again and the girls and I have a fun surf on a small shallow left before we take the boat around to Maccas. All the girls get some waves while Alena gets a bomb set.

At Maccas the wind is almost onshore but there are four foot plus sets and fun waves. All the boys surf and when the crowd thins so do Alena and I.

Carl has been videoing from shore and after lunch we watch the video and talk about technique. Some in English and then a flurry of Russian.

We anchor inside Maccas, the skipper tells us he has a quick release system for the anchor in case of a Tsunami. Maccas camp was wiped out in 2010 along with a couple of boats cannoning into each other. Everything is OK but I grabbed the life vest from under my bed and put it next to me before I went to sleep.

October 7

We are up before dawn, the swell has dropped so we are out in the lineup. It is only small with the occasional head high set. There is a boat with about 13 or 14 surfers on it. Why you would charter a holiday with that many guys amazes me. They are cool guys but they like to surf together. Another thing that always amazes me is why you don't surf in some sort of shifts to minimise the crowd. Anyway we have a bit of fun. After breakfast the last boat leaves and Alena, Tanya and I surf waist high Maccas by ourselves. It ain't epic by a long shot but fun. There have been the customary coral scrapes. Alex has a pretty cool fin chop across his back.

The swell is dropping so we head down to Thunders. The boys are out and surf till late. Anna and Tanya explore the beach returning with a pile of shells.

There is always a snack with drinks before dinner. Smoked salmon and Bruschetta have been the favourites. Lasagne is on tonight's menu. 

October 8
Swell has dropped, the girls and I take the rubber ducky over to Budhas, a small wedge left that is just a take off. Not much happening but we surf for a couple of hours. Back on the Addiction a group meeting decides while there is no swell we will do the customary harbour master check in at Sikikap and prepare for tonight's beach BBQ. Tanya, a DJ in Moscow is busy designing the play list from her massive music library. We steam up towards Rags Left and hook a mackerel on the way. Alex and Andrey take turns landing the fish. Not long after Dimma reels in a dog tooth tuna. That will take care of the sashimi for the next couple of days.

Rags Left is one of the waves that the Tsunami ruined. The reef lifted and while there still are waves the quality is not even close to its former glory.

The crew have some hard work ahead taking all the food and drink including a BBQ over to a beautiful stretch of beach just inside the left to set up the night’s festivities. Sate Squid, BBQ chicken, salad and potatoes.

Yudi is the pyromaniac and has three bonfires raging on the sand. It's party night and the drinks cabinet takes a hammering. Not quite sure when it all finished because I sneak back. To the boat but I am pretty sure there will be no early morning start.

Oct 9

6.30 And no one has woken. I give the crew a hand to clean up and have a quiet breakfast. The swell still looks small but no one is going anywhere in a hurry.

Alena and Dimma are up but not for long and need another nap. At 8.30 Alena resurfaces and the two of us leave Thunders in the rubber ducky and surf Budhas. Carl surfs with us with a water proof video camera. Plenty of fun lefts, we surf for nearly three hours. When we return Andrey and Artem are out at Thunders, everyone else is trying to blow away the cobwebs. Pumpkin soup and toasted sandwiches for lunch.
The girls and I take a trip back to Budhas for an uncrowded surf. Tanya has been using a Bourton Silver Bullet. She is having a great time. Anna gets a couple of good ones as well while Alena is having great success working on her cutbacks.
 Meanwhile the boys are snagging some barrels at Thunders. Froddo who has been suffering from last night’s BBQ snaps his legroom and busts the fin out of his board. The Addictions engineer, Azman is a Mr Fixit and gets to work repairing the damaged board.

One of my favourites Rendang, a spicy beef curry is part of the menu tonight.

October 10

My neck and shoulder muscles are starting to ache after the long surfs yesterday. Time to hit the Voltaren tablets. I am up at 6 but struggling a bit, lucky for me the rest of the guys are a bit stiff and sore and tired as well.

Will be giving the Addictions massage chair plenty of time today.

Everyone sleeps in a bit so we take the big boat over to Budhas. The swell is starting to kick and while the wave is just a takeoff it has plenty of power. Alena gets a couple of good ones. Tanya gets slammed by a big one and loses her board. Froddo has a crack as well, he is a powerful unit and could paddle an icy pole stick over broken glass. He goes over the edge regularly and makes a couple.
For a change of scenery we head north to Roxy's. There are two boats there but really small. We decide to return to Thunders. A couple of the boys head out while Artem rigs up his kite surfing gear. He leaves here for Mauritius where he works as a Kite board instructor.  After the boys had a good crack at Thunders we head to Roxy's and managed to reel in a good sized Spanish mackerel on the way. Roxy's is crowded but Alena gets a few good ones, waist to shoulder high.

October 11

We hit Roxy's by 6am. Another boat comes around the corner so everyone gets in to scare them off. That works but 4 other guys turn up and spoil our party. After a two hour surf another boat turns up. They have 11 guys on board. I still find it strange that you would do a charter with that many guys. 11 guests plus a surf guide, maybe a surfing photographer and or cook and you have a massive crowd before you start.

There is a massive tropical storm brewing with lightening and ear splitting Thunder. I love these storms but the boat of French surfers don't like it one bit and head back to their boat really fast.

There are plenty of boats this year and more land camps. With the predominantly southerly wind which is normal for this time of year the surf-able breaks are limited. We surf small inconsistent waves at Roxy's all day. We anchor around the corner but with a sniff of swell our plan is for the boat to head to Maccas around 4am so we can be there at dawn.  
October 12

The wind is right at Maccas but yesterday's storm produced a sloppy wind swell. There is the odd one but disappointing seeing it is our last day. We try searching out more spots heading back north but the weather deteriorates. Wind and rain. Everything is junk. Our last stop is HT's. The captain and crew have a same day turn around so they are keen to pull the pin and keep going to Padang. Obviously we want at least one more surf no matter how bad. After another massive down pour the wind eases and the are some reasonably clean head high waves at HT's. Andre creases his board on his last surf. The same happened to him last trip. (Grrrrr!!!) The sun even comes out so Anna and Tanya head to the beach for a few fashion promo shots.

The last guy gets out of the water and the boat guns it to Padang. Captain Eric has hit the gas, we are running with the wind and the crossing only takes 4 hours. The not so fun part is packing up boards etc with the boat rocketing back to port. There is still video and photo's to buy from Carl and Geni. The video package is really cool and Geni with hasn't missed a wave with his camera. The Indo crew are a really good bunch of hard working guys and deserve their tip. 

October 13

The party is certainly over now. The boat is being cleaned and restocked while we do our last minute packing and get ready to head to the airport. I have to find my thongs, haven't seen them since we first boarded the boat. The Indies Trader 3and 4 are in port. Doris Elthrington's new boat and the Rip Curl boat are in port as well. From the reports Scuzz from Sumatran Surfariis is scoring some fun waves out in the Ments in a sneaky spot.
It is a bit strange being back on land but the drive to airport in the rain with the car horn blaring and the occasional passing in between trucks, cars and motorbikes wakes your senses up.

I am international through to KL while Alena and all the guys are domestic through to Jakarta where they split and go their separate ways.

Was it a good trip? ......  

Over all the surf was average by Mentawai standards but a trip to this region is always special. We will be back!!

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