We walked down and joined Jack on the beach. I kicked off my flip flops and let my feet become enveloped in the soft warm sand. Jack was already frolicking around in the sea, so we quickly undressed to our swimsuits to join him. I looked around again. A complete three-sixty, owl style spin. Really, no one’s here?
The beach was big. I’m not able to tell you the length of it, but to the left it stretched out far and wide, meeting Turtle Beach far away in the distance. To the right, the sand reached out to a tiny bay area, where I saw one man standing with a large net, catching small fish. Beyond him was the green, dense jungle. In front of me was the sea – a beautiful, intimidating mass of raging water. Colossal waves that Poseidon himself would be proud of, emerged and rose from the depths, rising to unnerving heights and then rolling and crashing onto the surf and beach below it. I had never seen such awe-inspiring, terrifying waves.
Agung hung back, lighting a cigarette on the beach and warned us not to go too far out to sea. Jack, being an actual water baby, lay on his back in the water, letting the powerful current sweep him from the beach into the waves and then ducking under so as not to be swiped by the tempestuous tide. I stood at the edge of the beach and let my feet sink into the wet sand. Samantha feeling intrigued, went to explore the jungly right side of the beach. The place was ours. Untouched. Just for us. This, is paradise, I thought.
As the sun dangled sleepily, emitting a dazed glow in the sky, we galavanted and basked in the beach’s seclusion. Photographs were taken by an improvised coconut tripod. The sun warmed and tanned our skin. And the waves were beautiful and dramatic enough of a backdrop to perfect our overly enthusiastic Baywatch running. (All I can say is, Pamela Anderson has got some competition yeeeh.)
After an hour or so, Samantha left to go be exciting and do her first ever surfing lesson further down the beach, where the waves were a little friendlier towards beginners. Also a complete novice, I had originally planned to go with her and unleash my inner surfer dude (whose name is Todd, has sandy blonde dreadlocks and a tattoo of the sun on his back) – but this beach had lured me in so much, I wanted to stay and absorb as much as I could of this place before we had to leave.
I sat and thought of the beaches in Europe – and in Bali, the biggest tourist destination in Indonesia. These places have executed their tourism advertising ridiculously successfully, attracting millions of sun seeking holidaymakers all year round. I thought back to a beach I had visited in Barcelona. I flippin love Barcelona, but as lovely as their main beach is, the beauty of it is usually squandered by the sheer mass of people who are usually sitting on it. Crowds of people everywhere, ice cream wrappers in the sand and bits of washed up litter on the coast.
This beach in Ujung Genteng was another level. Magically secluded and quiet. Quiet enough for all of your senses to fully engage with the surrounding nature. This must have been what Bali was like around fifty years ago, before word got out about it, I thought. This was how nature was supposed to be allowed to breathe.
It made me think of the sixties, and I conjured up halcyon images of a time where adventure seeking westerners had traversed the globe to report back what was in the other hemisphere, showing their travels via hazy photographs and grainy films that contained scenes of idyllic untouched beaches and jungle. I hope no one ever finds out about this place, I thought.
I know this all sounds very romantic and idealised, but quite honestly, if you will just indulge my inner hippie for a moment, (whose name is Tigerlily, walks everywhere barefoot wears feathers in her hair) it was a pretty soul enriching place, dude.
I checked the time. We had stayed a lot longer than we had anticipated. The beach had cast a spell upon us, tempting us to stay longer and longer. The area is shrouded in folklore and myths of magic sea witches and cursed coastlines, dragging under any who dared to wear red or green near the sea – I couldn’t help that other people too had been enchanted by the alluring nature that Ujung Genteng possesses. Did we really have to go? Couldn’t we just stay one more night? Sadly, and rather depressingly, the fast pace of the working world was beckoning us.
‘Let’s just say we got lost,’ I said to Jack.
Reluctantly we gathered our belongings and made the journey back up the hill. I turned around and said a final farewell to our secret beach, sincerely hoping that I would get the chance to come and visit it again soon and for it to have remained in its’ pristine state.
We made our way through the slippery jungle and found Agung with his fellow ojek drivers waiting in the open shaded space and jumped back on to the bikes and made the half an hour ride back to our bungalows. I sat on the back of Agung’s motorcycle, smiling and enjoying the breeze as our ojeks raced each other, but I also felt a pang of sadness; this would be the last time I get to do this journey, probably for a long long time. This sadness was completely debunked and catapulted into hysterical laughter, as yes, finally, SQUELCH. The ojek became stuck in one of the gigantic, muddy puddles. Agung and I simultaneously fell over, our feet and legs becoming victims of the muddy water. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
We returned to the bungalow to find Samantha all washed up and showered from her surfing adventure, which sounded like it was a pretty exciting and muscle tiring experience. The whole thing had only cost her around the equivalent of £10 as well, which is one of the more practical pluses of Ujung Genteng – everything is wonderfully priced.
We ate, showered, packed and said goodbye to our little bungalow home. Black Mutant sat patiently outside our bungalow, gearing up for the seven hour trek back to Jakarta. We loaded our stuff. We thanked the staff and ojek drivers and stretched our legs one final time before getting into the car. The time was seven o’clock now, and the sun was just disappearing below the horizon. It would be late before we arrived in J-town. We left the premises of our bungalow, and let the bumpiness of our journey commence. The sea slowly disappeared from our vision, and after a while, we passed under the banner which had originally welcomed us there. I now saw that from the other side, it said ‘Selemat Jalan dari Ujung Genteng’; Safe Travels from Ujung Genteng. I thought about the past day and a half. It seemed we had been here a lifetime already; waterfalls, beaches, turtles, friendly locals… I had fallen head over heels for the place. I seriously needed to come back sometime.
Goodbye Ujung Genteng. Until we meet again.
*A side note:
Before leaving, Jack had a conversation with one the ojek drivers about how treacherous the roads are to get there. They are seriously some of the narrowest, windiest, most threatening roads I have ever been on. Why didn’t they make the roads better and more driver friendly? Because, as one of the drivers told him, we don’t want people coming here. If it becomes easy to get here, people will come and it will ruin the place. We like it like this.
Since the trip I have been experiencing a kind of mentionitis, talking about Ujung Genteng whenever the chance has risen. It’s a strange feeling. I want everybody to go, just to see how spectacular it really is, but simultaneously I want it to remain one of the best kept secrets ever, to preserve it’s untouched beauty, unmarred by the big scary tourism companies that can spoil a place like that and turn it into a completely crowded and polluted tourist trap. If you do ever find yourselves there, please respect it for what it is, and preserve all the magic it has to offer.
Go Go Go!
Where: Ujung Genteng, South West Java, Indonesia.
How: No plane or train to get there – a scary, bumpy, treacherous 7 hour drive along narrow roads and sheer cliff drops.
We stayed at Pondok Adi’s Cottages for approx 120,000 RP a night (around £6). Basic wooden bungalows on stilts, with western toilet and bucket shower.
Beware: The sea around the coast of Ujung Genteng is angry and fierce. Swimming far into it is not advised as there is a large drop off under the water and a strong rip current. There are other beaches with have no rip current and are good for surfing, so check with the locals before having a dip.