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Bookworm

LONELY PALM

bww

As if according to an unwritten rule my trips are always related to surfing and waves. Although maybe selfish, self-centered, still it seems to me that such trips represent a quest. For something illusory as the blue perfection, or for something unattainable (perhaps even trivial) as we are ourselves. Such trips are looking for unspoiled waves emerged in the environment of a raw nature. Where a man can easily acclimatize with the roots of what we usually call existence, and therefore can easily forget oneself. Those places are exotic, distant, get to them is an experience by itself, and Indonesia is a true Mecca for such odysseys. An implacable amount of adventure awaits us when we turn our back to Bali and dive deeper into the Indonesian archipelago in search for the perfect wave.

Surf trip, anybody?

LONELY PALM

– Let’s go to Panaitan.

I’m telling to Cabron. It wouldn’t be the first time to travel together to another Indonesian island, to surf waves unfamiliar to us.

– We have already missed once, he won’t call us again. This time weather forecast is the right one. The ideal size, high tide most of the day. One Palm Point is the perfect wave. We have nothing to fear.

I mention the initiator of this journey, our longtime surfer guru who lives in Jakarta. I imagine him walking the streets of this overcrowded city, pushing one foot in front of the other and with struggle trying to force himself for another day of surviving in a cloud of smog. He is only acting there as to deal with something else, some serious work, while his only true preoccupation is waiting the forecast that announces a massive swell. Then, when the hands of ocean storms coincide and alarm rings loudly, he will be the first one who will cast off towards Panaitan, a group of islands surrounded by massive waves that break over painfully shallow coral reefs. Our guru is a special kind of surfer, the ideal size of waves to him is the one that leads to hell or at least to hospital.

– And when would we go?

– Tomorrow. We need to contact him immediately, without delay.

– OK Cabron, I’ll call you a little bit later. First I have to check some things.

Just enough time needed to come up with a compelling reason for retreat. I know him very well.

– Right now bro. Yes or no. He is waiting for my phone call. If I don’t call right away, he will leave without us.

 

*                           *                             *

Java is leaning against Bali, and then many more miles stretches to the left side of the world map. But distances on that island are not measured in miles, thus expressed measure doesn’t mean anything there. On Java the distance is measured by hours, even more often by days, but most of all by fears caused by insane ride of the bus drivers. While thinking how this is undeniable truth, I jumped up in the seat and with no control hopped on asleep Cabron‘s lap. Together on this journey, too. My pupils fail to delineate in a blurred glass, barely a sharp frame of the body. Yet I find it with certainty. Fear of the solitary palm tree. I am waiting anxiously to see it. I wipe the streams of sweat, unsuccessfully chasing away swarms of mosquitoes.

To the west of Java is situated Jakarta, financial and political center of Indonesia, the first stop on our journey. We drive a snail’s pace along the road we were told was a highway without excessive traffic jams. Nobody managed to count the cars that run the local roads, no one knows how many people live in Jakarta. Some say fifteen million, some twenty. Five millions up and down. I didn’t notice when it disappeared. The road blended with darkness, we were joined by the third member of the crew.

 

– It’s easier on the ocean. There is air.

I’m talking to the fishermen, with the dawn we disembarked in their harbor. They don’t respond to my words. Maybe they don’t understand what I’m saying, or maybe they just don’t care. They are preoccupied with more important matters. They pile ropes and nets, inside the ship they store gallons of drinking water without which will not be possible to survive on the ocean. I also get busy, putting boards in the bow storage, pushing the food supply to lower deck, making improvised beds of our luggage and towels on the stern.

I knock on the bottom of the fishing boat. Scrappy, unconvincing. Its job is to escort us to Panaitan, national park located between Java and Sumatra. There are no people living on Panaitan, sounds of the jungle and its creatures reign there. Both the ocean and mainland are inhabited by the endemic species of animals.

A spasm is spreading through my body while I walk through the wet jungle. As there is something new awakening, but still old and familiar, forgotten in the fog. I remain astonished by the power of that call. I explore. Myself, and the environment.

As soon as we threw fish hooks we’ve already caught umpteen of big fish. In the evening we cook curry, cut the fresh tuna for sashimi. We fell asleep on the deck, but not for long. A strong tropical rain fell down, a canvas cover is leaking all over the place. We try to accommodate inside that is already loaded by Indonesian fishermen, a strong thunderstorm somehow manages to squeeze us inside. The head under the roof, feet left at the mercy. Lined up like sardines we sleep groggily. It’s raining, lightening, the ship is shuddering, shaking. During the night the storm calms down as well as our sleep. I wake up with the first morning moments. A large, burning semicircle appeared above the jungle. It’s covered by transparent, sparse clouds that turned it into a surreal copy of the star familiar to me. I look at it through the unwashed tear, listening to the braking waves.

 

– That’s it?

I ask the guru.

– Are you crazy?

Replies Cabron instead of him, the guru is a man of few words.

– This is the Apocalypse. We are not going there.

Guru is frantically laughing, handing his surfboard to the ocean and throwing himself upside down after it. Alone, surrounded by fragile corals and raging waves. The final section of the wave closes with no possibility to escape, I barely dare to look in that direction. Each ride is paid by strong ocean beating.

I turn to the fishermen, I have a request for them even though I know they are in a hurry for fishing, and that they had long ago got tired of the great desires and even higher expectations delivered by surfers coming from distant countries. They have mouths to feed.

– We would like to go to One Palm Point. Just throw us out and pick up sometime later. It’s not very far away.

They turn the boat towards our destination. The engine hums, our boat crosses the steep crests of the ocean, bouncing across it. On the horizon, on the bare edge, appears a solitary palm tree. Leaned somehow sadly toward the ocean, the only surviving member of its tribe that remained there just to keep pointing the way to stray surfers. Or to those who yearn for a reward and don’t ask for the price. Testimony of imperfection of this world. Lonely, gnarled, abandoned by all but the lost seekers. Its occurrence marks shallow coral reef covered by blue giant that is breaking down with the roar. The medium that hides precious moments for those who have the courage to ask for it.

 

– That’s it!

I declare this time sure of what I’m saying. My sigh escapes.

– Yes, Cabron, that’s it. Are we going or not?

– It’s too late for such dilemmas bro, now we have to.

I saw how guru does it. I throw the board first, and then myself into the blue lap. I’m floating taken over by a rush of blunt blows which are hammering my guts. I catch my breath trying to calm down my shaking self. How much oxygen can be burnt swimming only a few seconds. Right next to us warning corals stick out. As out of spite the waves are the best where the reefs are sharp as a razor.

 

– So?

I ask him briefly while climbing onto the deck. Many hours flew by since we headed to ride the waves. Cabron lazily raises his chin, waking up slowly from a deep contemplation, sitting there exhausted by long swimming and strong emotions that the ocean has given him. I see with absolute certainty that he is happy and peaceful.

– Have I burned? The sun is strong.

Instead of one word now I use two sentences.

-Not really Cabron. You’re all right.

– That’s because of the shade in a tube. The sun can’t penetrate to its interior. Especially when it is so large and powerful, especially when you spend all day inside.

I complimented myself boyishly, I draped a boast in laughter. We both laugh now; at that foolish joke, we laugh at grayness of dusk and at colors that the sun spread after its appearance.

– Will there be a storm again?

I ask fishermen. They always know such things.

– It won’t. Our feet are clean enough now.

Cabron responds instead of them as we both look at our shriveled toes. From rain to the ocean, two days not being dried.

– That’s the good news.

I speak out with awakened laughter. The fishermen lit oil lamps. One for the bow, the other for the stern. Now they laugh too and no one knows why.

 

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