As luck would have it … a surf trip on half a chance. Words by Ano Mac. Images by Harry Mark.
Luck is a funny thing isn’t it? Most people have got their own take on it. A lot of us wish it upon people with a ‘good luck here’ or a ‘good luck with that’. I’m sure we’ve all heard people talk about different types of luck. Some of the more curious I’ve found, but struck a chord none-the-less, are ‘lover’s luck and ‘traveller’s luck’ … but who amongst us here hasn’t heard the expression ‘dumb luck’?
Matt Cuddihy had been lazing about not doing much of anything when Husni Ridwan arrived back at the villa. He came in and dropped himself into the couch. There was no effort in the action. It was all gravity. Life had taken on a slow rhythm of same for the both of them. They saw it, both of them, right there in that instant and right there, with a mere glance in each other’s direction, they chose to change it.
Two guys from such very different backgrounds yet so similar in build, likes, dislikes. Yeah, you could use that oft-spun phrase ‘brothers from different mothers’, many probably have.
Common threads galore; they both liked to ride longboards. Neither sought out the biggest or meanest waves, preferring to find perfect peelers that allowed them to flow across the face. They both had style and grace in spades. When it came to motorbikes, they were again of a similar ilk. Both embraced the vintage two strokes, they shared the nostalgia of the small powerful bikes and their loud popping exhausts.
The Taoists believe in there being three types of luck. They say the combination of the three appears in every ‘building’, that being a euphemism for us humans. First up you’ve got Heaven’s luck as the ceiling. Then there is Man’s luck, he’s holding it all up, he’s the walls. Lastly, there is Earth luck, which, as you may have guessed, is the floor. Each of the three are the energies that fill our lives.
Seems like all trips in Bali these days start off in a traffic jam. Astride vintage bikes with their logs strapped to the sides, Husni and Matt moved into the morning mayhem with Harry Mark. If luck would have it, they’d find some adventure and some waves. They stop-started their way through to Jalan Bypass where the traffic thinned enough for them to move a little more fluidly and sped past the back of the airport and headed towards Balangan on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula. The sky grew older and greyed over, they’d not gotten much further before Husni’s Honda GL Pro started acting up. Blowing more smoke than usual and spluttering like a groom on his wedding night. They’d stopped for lunch and for the life of them they just couldn’t kickstart it again. At the point of ridiculousness it finally coughed into life and as the last red rays sliced through the cloud cover and night closed in, they rolled down the hill.
Luck’s not lineal. It doesn’t come in streaks like most people think. It’s in lumps and bumps. Starts with an event and then it abruptly stops. You can have a good luck streak interspersed with dollops of bad luck. Bad luck, now there’s a thing. It has as many, if not more, symbols, omens and harbingers as good luck. Certain numbers are bad luck; The number four in Chinese culture. The numbers four and nine in Japan. While the Italians shy away from the number 17. Friday the 13th has had its fair share of bad press. Mind you in Spain and Greece it’s Tuesday the 13th you got to worry about.
Maybe you didn’t reply to that chain letter or you saw your doppelgänger at the train station, both of these can be considered a portent of bad luck. Hanging a horseshoe with the ends pointing down will let all the luck ‘pour out’. Breaking a mirror is said to bring seven years of bad luck and let’s not forget what mum and her mum said about shoes on a table.
First light told the story of the swell moving on. Small waves still ran into the bay but any greatness had gone into the dawn. It didn’t stop the boys from picking their way across the rocks out to the point and diving in.
They traded waves and even shared a few. Then the rain came, increasing in intensity until what little of the swell was left was washed away. They relocated to shore, ate breakfast, packed and straddled their bikes to move on. The GL was again proving to be a petulant child. No amount of kicking would get it started. They even pushed it to the top of the hill, turned it around and pushed it down, gaining momentum before sticking it into second and dropping the clutch to jump start it. It gasped a few times but didn’t catch. Seems nothing worked. Sinyo, from the bengkel, was called up and he agreed to ride down to the Bukit to them. It took him awhile to arrive and together they spent the lunchtime hours trying to get it going. At one-point Sinyo was jumping on the kickstart with such intensity and frequency that in a last act of defiance the arm of the kickstarter snapped off. Getting creative they removed the kickstart lever from Harry’s bike – it had an electric start – and transplanted it to the GL Pro. It burst into life in the early afternoon and they moved to the next spot on their surf trek. Dreamland.
A swell came in on the afternoon tide and the guys slid out and into some bigger waves. The stress, grease and grime of urging the old unpredictable contraptions soon dissolved into the azure blue waters in front of the big cliffs of Dreamland. They flicked and twisted their boards in the waves until the sea and wind drove them landward. The afternoon darkened and the sky grew grey and threatened them with a deluge. They packed up and tried to start the bikes and … yeah, you guessed it. The GL Pro wasn’t having any of it and they were forced to call a local mechanic.
There are those that don’t believe in luck. The basis of luck assumes that the universe is working with or against you, these nay sayers don’t think the universe gives a shit one way or the other.
You’re either prepared or you aren’t, and the rest is by chance. And yes, there is a difference: luck is the idea that circumstances happen to you; chance is just what happens. It’s not egotistical, and it doesn’t allow the roles of victor or victim. Sometimes you benefit and sometimes you don’t, but it’s rarely ever about you. It just is what it is.
A couple of chain-smoking machine magicians came down to the beach to collect the bikes. Oh yeah, nearly forgot to tell you … Harry’s bike had gotten a puncture, as luck would have it. They trucked both bikes back to their lair only to spend the next few hours first coaxing then breathing new life into Husni’s bike. For the moment it had once again been resuscitated. All of them knew they were on borrowed time and with the grey afternoon frowning into a dark evening they’d better hurry and set off if they were to make it to Medewi this night. They’d have to cut through Kuta and then hug the coast, as much as they could, on the long ride north. Urged on by the idea of great uncrowded surf they pushed through, making the highway after Tabanan where they thought the traffic would lighten and the trip would slide past. Rain met them instead. Not your common garden variety … more in quantity and quality akin to a monsoon. With it came a whole new set of issues.
Trouble swished in riding high on a shower but this time it was Matty’s and the Yamaha DT’s turn for a little vexation. The excess of water was getting in somewhere, as we all know it’s bound to do, and the result was that every time he changed gear he’d receive a small shock through the clutch lever. At first it was just a bit of a bother but over the next few hours, multiplied by the glut of gear changes he had to perform, navigating the dodgem course of a highway, it went from mild nuisance to ‘I don’t ever want to ride this piece of crap bike again’. But they were locked in. Closer to the finish than the start. Escaping oversubscribed buses and idiotically burdened trucks on a highway no wider than a lane in some parts gives rise to a pretty hairy ride. They pushed onward and after three and a half hours they ultimately arrived. Wet, annoyed and with a little residual tingle in Matty’s extremities, they pulled into the homestay at Medewi. The perfunctories were performed and the three of them collapsed into a solid night’s slumber.
There are so many talismans for luck that almost every culture has its own version. Horseshoes with the open side up, because you know why, are nailed to houses and barns around the world.
Thousands upon thousands of man hours are spent each year by those seeking the elusive four-leaf clover. Did you know that some people over in the United States think that a black cat is bad luck, while in Japan they consider the same cats good luck? There are coins that are lucky, and those dream catchers, them too. And never, ever mention Macbeth in the theatre, or change a boat’s name for that matter. The Chinese believe red lanterns bring luck and let’s not forget the old pot of gold left at the end of a rainbow, that is one hundred percent sure to be doubly lucky.
Morning and waves. The sky was mostly clear and wearing hues of blue but the break, which was formed at the mouth of a mountain-fed river, was chocolate brown in colour, laden with the work last night’s cloudburst had worn from the land. Tan trimmers with frothy milk coloured white water that can only be accessed by carefully picking one’s way out over the round boulder-covered shore. The two of them surfed until spent. Once again taking all the healing they could from the restorative sea. An overhaul that was needed on both brain and body. Breakfast was simple village fare but they supped like kings adding more and more to the table. Finally, when all distractions had been spent, they crooked their attention to the motorbikes.
The Honda GL Pro was still the grouchy gas guzzler it was yesterday. Husni knew starting it would be quite the undertaking and opted to defer the matter. Mind you, Matty couldn’t be tempted to even try turning over the DT. The memory of last night’s ride still too raw. Funny thing was, Harry’s bike was out as well. All of the bikes. Three for three. What you would call a trifecta if you were a gambling man. Overnight the battery had become flat for some undetermined reason. With no kickstart, remember it was transplanted onto the GL? Well it rendered it nigh on impossible to start. With no hills in the immediate area and the long swing arm and over width wheels it made it particularly problematic to bump start. Mind you . . . we think they only half-heartedly tried.
Armed with a new perspicacity for luck they started investigating how one might move large items from one place to another. They met a man who helped them sort out some backloading on passing trucks. With the bikes now all safely heading back to the base, they drank a few cold beers as they waited for the driver they’d booked to take them home. Perhaps bad luck really does come in threes.