I always thought that I missed the opportunity to do a one-year trip. But I figured out it’s never too late: So after finishing my degree in economics, I decided to pursue my dream of surfing waves that I only knew from magazines. It was settled when I saw the picture of the most famous surfing spot in New Zealand, called Raglan. The view from the houses on top of the hill was breathtaking, funny thing how a picture can change everything! To be honest, I would love to tell you all the hundreds of stories along my way, but I want to cut this short and pinpoint the main facts and pictures of my trip.
For nine months I travelled around New Zealand with two mates from home. Starting in Auckland it was quite difficult to find a suited van, but in the end it all worked out. After getting used to driving on the left lane, we settled in Tauranga for three months to work and save money for the rest of the trip but finding work as a backpacker is really difficult, so we worked together with an agency and did everything we could get our hand on: Unloading containers, working in a cheese & dog food company, garbage disposal and many other jobs. After this experience, I swear, I will never complain about working in Germany ever again – our labour conditions really are on an extremely high level. Fortunately I knew that the upcoming trip will be great, so my goal was clear and a 12 hour shift was more a daydream of surfing waves. Tauranga, by the way, is one of the most beautiful cities I got to know on the trip and I will be coming back for sure. Surfing on the other hand was possible, but only once or twice a week. It was time to hit the road and so we finally started to drive along the coastline. Basically we drove directly to every surfspot along the coast and simultaneously checked the surf forecast.
This country has so much to offer: Spending lonely hours at beautiful waterfalls, mirror lakes, beaches with glaciers in the background, stunning campsites and lovely locals, to name a few. After finishing the east coast of the north island, we took the ferry and explored the east coast of the south island.There is much more to explore than just surfing: Watching dolphins in Kaikoura, hiking at Mt. Cook, parties in Queenstown, sky diving in Nelson & finding daily beauty. In the end the west coast of the north island was a dream and the perfect end of the trip with stunning surf sessions along the surf highway, climbing Mt. Taranaki and finally surfing in Raglan. I would highly recommend this country to every backpacker and would never agree to people who are saying, that four weeks are enough to see the whole country. I basically spent nine months there and still have the feeling that I missed so much!
I never expected to have enough money for spending even one week in Fiji, let alone two since the costs of accommodation and flights didn’t seem to fit my budget. Especially surfing was out of the question at first, after watching a couple of video clips on YouTube and seeing those clean and big waves just rolling in one after another. But I want to report to you briefly one of many experiences which show that you have to take risks sometimes in order to tell your story.
After nine months in New Zealand it was time to decide where to go next and I talked to the locals about my uncertainties a lot. One day, a guy came to me and said ‘You are so close – just do it’. It was this eye opener, like when I saw the picture of Raglan that led me booking a flight and pretty soon figuring out that I have to take my whole surf equipment with me and I would regret it for the rest of my life if I leave without a single surf session. Two weeks before I left New Zealand, I started working 12 hour shifts, six days a week in order to save enough money for the upcoming trip and I decided to do everything so that I can surf during the stay. After realizing that almost all spots are placed directly in the ocean, miles away from the mainland, and the only way to go there is by boat, I discovered some ‘surf packages’ in the internet, where you could stay on an island for seven nights and seven surf session with board transfers included. There was a high possibility that I would never be able to surf due to big waves but after struggling for days, I decided not to pay attention to the costs but to focus on the experiences and just do my thing.
I was totally stoked and excited after I decided to fly to Fiji. It took about ten minutes after arriving on Malolo Island until two surfers crossed my way and said ‘Hey dude, grab your board, wax, and sun scream – Cloudbreak is pumping, we are leaving as soon as possible’.
Cloudbreak. One of the best left breaking waves in the world and I remember the goosebumps I got like it was yesterday: I stayed up the whole night to watch a surf contest where Kelly Slater, a living surf legend, was surfing in those waves like no one else.
I wasn’t thinking clearly but within minutes, I was full of adrenalin and jumped in the boat with five other surfers. After half an hour we arrived at the spot and it was the clearest water I have ever seen in my life. Every wave was picturized like those waves you have on your screensaver or as a painting in the living room. Of course I gave some skin to the reef on my first experience there, but it was all worth it. The following days were an amazing rollercoaster: I surfed every day, had the best wave of my life one minute and ten minutes later the worst wipeout, where I almost drowned.
After leaving Malolo Island, I spent some more nights on party islands and met a lot of other backpackers. I quickly figured out, how much more the surfing lifestyle has to offer. For me it was very important to reflect on the stay and figuring out that overthinking can destroy so many dreams and opportunities. I am so thankful that I don’t have to regret not surfing there and I will be coming back for sure!
I spend five days in Sydney but that was just a long stopover for me because I knew that my next big destination would be Bali. Australia never excited me as much as New Zealand did; However, I had some great and exciting days and nights in Sydney and I have to come back for a longer stay later in my life. I skipped surfing in Bondi Beach, because, to be honest, it is just too crowded for me and not worth the traveling. Therefore surfing in Australia is still on my list and will be fulfilled one day!
Prior to my stay in Bali I booked a flight back to Germany. Since I had to extend my visa for a longer stay, I had to pay 100 dollars on top of everything else. Let’s just say it was not the best start, but I was totally excited to learn more about Indonesia and its culture. Bali offers waves for everyone: Beginners and skilled surfers and hence I made my experiences. After spending one week in Canggu, having a scooter crash and surfing some waves for almost a whole minute, I had no idea what to expect from the Bukit Peninsula – the most well-known surf area on Bali.
But like I always did so far, I booked a stay and just went there – and met some other surfers from Brazil, Australia and New Zealand which guided me towards the spots. I directly felt in love with the spot called ‘Impossibles’, named after the impossibility of surfing the wave for a long time. The wave is just too quick, but the short time riding it is all worth it. At 5am you can get one hour alone out there, followed by one hour with a hand full of people and one hour later you are sharing waves with 30 to 40 other surfers. Another day some guys took me out to the famous spot ‘Uluwatu’ and it certainly was the scariest exit I ever had. In order to exit the water, you have to aim for a cave and it is easy to miss it due to the strong currents. Not to mention some sea snakes waiting in the cave that want to scare the hell out of you.
If you want to surf outside of the Bukit Peninsula and you want to go by scooter, I highly recommend an international driver license, good driving skills and never ignore a police-roadblock. I did once and luckily didn’t end up in prison.
On the one hand I fell in love with the opportunity of exploring the country, hiking mountains, learning about the culture and enjoying the food in Indonesia. On the other hand I experienced how fast everything can end up bad. On Lombok I surfed a spot called ‘Maui’, after first deciding not to go in I found myself in tarnishing perfect conditions one hour later. All other surfers went out and when a big set rolled in, my leash snapped and my board flushed away towards the rocks. I decided not to panic but the current pulled me out on the ocean. Luckily, one guy went in and noticed me a while later, so that we managed to get me back to shore after 30 minutes of being lost in the currents. Unnecessarily one local guy took my board into his village but somehow I managed to get it back.
Spending one week on Gili Trawangan, I was lucky to surf on five days – a local told me that they usually have waves on one of seven days. In the end I did a morning hike to the top of Mt. Agung in order to see the sunrise. It was one of those trips that one would always recommend. Don’t let yourself be fooled, it will not be easy, but I promise you that it is one of the best things you can do.
Overall, there was nothing better than summing up my trip on Bali. It taught me a variety of things, but you should never go there and just imagine a beautiful world. I would be gullible to close your eyes before the fact that there is poverty and corruption which you cannot deny.