I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while (figuratively, not literally… although I’m sure it would be squishy) because I almost don’t want to share it. Until I publish this, the memory of Day 180 is a perfect special secret. When people ask us what our favourite part of the trip has been, we can never pick. It varies day to day. But today at Angel’s Billabong I felt pure bliss.
When we were planning the trip, I downloaded a few pictures of my bucket list spots (Girona, Spain and Angkor Wat were a couple of them) and set them as my desktop background on my work computer, so that I could get some motivation during those last couple weeks at work when I started to panic over my choice to leave. Angel’s Billabong on Nusa Penida was one of my favourites, but for a while we didn’t think we would make it. It’s pretty hard to get to: once you find yourself literally on the other side of the planet from Toronto, you still need to haggle with the “aqua taxi” for a boat ride over to this island, find accommodation in a decidedly un-touristic spot, rent a motorbike and then scoot for 1.5 hours on unsealed gravel paths with only a shaky understanding of where you are going.
But oh, the trip is worth it.
Angel’s Billabong is a natural infinity pool (also called “emerald pool” or “mermaid pool” if you are googling this phenomena on the internet) so therefore not an actual billabong, but pretty all the same. It formed from a lucky pattern of erosion in the volcanic rock of the island to make a little indent which refills with seawater at high tide. These same features can be seen around Bali, Nusa Lembongan (Devil’s Tear) and elsewhere on Nusa Penida, but none are so deep and large as Angel’s Billabong so you can’t swim in those ones safely.
We set our frame of mind over today’s outing being “an attempt”. Getting to and enjoying Angel’s Billabong is so important to me that we were mentally prepared to go more than once. If we couldn’t find it or the weather didn’t cooperate, Marc was on board to try again another day.
Because it is filled by seawater, it is only safe to swim in at low tide and when the surf is calm enough that huge waves aren’t rushing in and out (and pulling you out with them on the outstroke). So it is a matter of timing as well as weather. Apparently the idea of wearing a motorbike helmet hasn’t occurred to anyone on Nusa Penida so we can’t rent helmets here and thus, have no visors, making driving 1.5 hours to the coast an impossible proposition in heavy rain.
As an aside, the driving here is also the most rugged we have encountered on our trip thus far… making this the place we most need a helmet. Oh, the irony.
Accommodation, such little that there is on this island, is clustered around the north, north-west and north-east areas of the island, where the cliffs are closer to the sea and transportation from Bali is a snap. Angels Billabong is on the south-west coast and Atuh Beach (another thing we are so excited to see) is on the south-east. So no matter where we stay, it is destined to be a long drive indeed.
So on Day 180 we awake to light cloud cover and a grey sky and just go for it. We rent a bike from our hosts at Manta Sea-View Cottages and hit the road armed with a sleeve of Oreos, two bottles of water, and our signature can-do attitude. The road goes from paved two lane, to paved single lane, or volcanic rock covered in dust. The track is steep and covered in pebbles at some points, so I get off and walk a safe distance from the bike while Marc pushes it Flinstones-style around the diciest bits.
As a tourist attraction, Angel’s Billabong and its neighbour Broken Beach are up-and-coming. At the time of our visit (we arrived around 10 am) there was a man at the last real road in collecting 2,000 rupiah per person (20c CAD) and two Warungs open in little shacks by the track to Broken Beach service whole coconuts and instant noodle soup. As we were leaving little white vans of tourists started to arrive with day-trippers from Bali.
But on our approach the road was wide open and empty. We parked under a tree at the end of the more obvious “road” and tramped down through the bushes until we came out at an opening to see a Chinese tourist posing at the edge of a cliff for her friend’s iphone. This is the international signal for “there is something to see here”.
Wandering over to the edge, we looked down to this breathtaking sight:
Oh, we’re here!
This is “Broken Beach”, another fun geological wonder like the stone archway off Banah Beach – but this one you can walk on! For those inclined to do so, anyway. Although I thought it would be great fun to give Marc’s mom an aneurysm by taking a photo of him on the archway, he declined.
Looking down, the water was a beautiful pure blue and the beach a gorgeous pristine patch of sand that you only get when you are remote enough for stupid tourists not to litter on you.
I started to feel really excited. The sun had come out, we were here, no one was around. Life is perfect!
On we walked, through a cow field and down another dirt pathway until finally we found it. Laid out before us in all its blue-green wonder. We stood and watched for about ten minutes, making sure the wave cycle didn’t include any big enough to bother us in the pond and then climbed down for a float. The rocks are ridiculously jagged and sharp until you get into the pool itself, at which point they are eroded to a smooth finish and covered in a really soft carpet of algae. A couple brave fishes live in the pools and flit out of your way to hide under rocks when you enter. The was so, so perfect to lay suspended in the warm water and look up at the blue sky.
Look how happy I am!
These sorts of moments are why I travel. We did a lot of photographing, so I’ll leave you with the slideshow below so you can get your fill. Happy days.