Meester Jeem, Meester Jeem. Eat here, Eat here! Each night, the calls from the local restaurants followed us down the street. Wherever we travel, few can pronounce my name, but Jim seems to be universally understood. In post bombing Bali, tourists were scarce and the local businesses were in desperate shape.
We had come to Lovina on a lark. Although we had greatly enjoyed the culture of Ubud, we were looking for surf and sand, and the prospect of sunrise with the local dolphin pod was too intriguing to pass up.
The drive from Ubud to the northern beaches at Lovina is extraordinary. Terraced rice paddies line the hillsides. Small villages dot the landscape and exotic flora and fauna brighten every bend in the road. The sleepy beach of Lovina draws tourists for one main reason, the dolphins. Even Kalibukbuk, the largest and most developed town along the 12-mile stretch of beach, is only a couple of blocks wide.
With no reservations, we did the unthinkable, we followed the recommendation of our driver, and ended up at the delightful Hotel Suma. We planned on staying a couple of nights and moving on our way, but the fates intervened and we simply found ourselves unable to leave.
Perhaps it was the luxurious acomodations, surrounded by lush landscape with a view of the infinity pool. Perhaps it was mornings spent strolling the black sand beaches, watching the fisherman bring in their catch as tourists headed out for snorkeling.
Our relaxation became near lethargy. One afternoon we realized that we had spent several HOURS watching a parade of ants move dropped crumbs from our lunch across the patio and into their ant hill home. Several months of intensive travel had crippled our will to pack up and move on, causing an overwhelming feeling of inertia.
Evenings were our favorite time of day. We became friendly with many of the local business owners each day as we strolled the streets, and made a point of patronizing a different restaurant each night, generally being the only tourists there. The food was incredible; whole baked fish in an exotic red curry sauce became an instant favorite. Every meal had the added delight of the company of the restaurant owner and/or staff. As the days passed and we became a familiar sight, we were drawn into the lives of the people around us, befriending two sisters who ran the shop next to the family restaurant, the fisherman who dreamed of cooking so opened a whole-in-the-wall restaurant to serve his catch of the day, the “fancy” Italian themed restaurant with the great pasta.
Our overnight stay turned into a bit more than a week. Filled with little more than contemplative talks and companionable silences, our souls were recharged and our hearts lightened with the meeting of so many wonderful people, living their day to day lives. So dependent upon the tourist dollar, but also so willing to give a piece of themselves when you took the time to notice.
Oh, and we did finally see the dolphins that drew us there on there on our very last morning and, yes, they were a bit of magic themselves.