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nusa penida: adventure island

"Ummmmm what was that?!" Bre questioned. It was not just the normal sway that we were used to in our nimble tree house. And, besides, neither of us were up walking around -- which is what normally caused our tree house to sway. The views, while in our tree house, were not like any we had experienced, which was the whole reason we wanted to stay here. When the tree house would rock, a little anxiety would come over us. Did they build this safely? If we fell over would we fly right off that cliff? How many hundreds of feet until we hit the ocean? The views and sounds of the ocean hitting the cliffs eased the anxiety a little bit, until there was that "more than normal shake" to our tree house. Then it hit us. We had company. Monkeys.

Six days earlier, we said goodbye to our friends, Thomas and Mathilde, after ringing in the new year together. It was a quiet rainy morning, like many in Ubud, as we boarded a shuttle to the bay to catch a ferry. Another girl joined in the shuttle, but none of us said a word to each other the whole ride. It was a little too early for conversation, but little did we know we'd get to know her shortly. Upon arrival at the bay, we were dumped off by the shuttle and greeted by about a dozen men who gave us the normal line of questioning. "Where are you going? Public boat? Nusa Penida? Good price!" They tried to carry our stuff (don't ever let them do this) and told us the tall tale that the public ferry to Nusa Penida was broken today -- but they could get us to Nusa Penida by private boat. Bre and I, with stone faces, broke through the crowd to head to the ticket booth. I looked back and saw the girl from the shuttle looking confused and overwhelmed. I signaled to her to "come with us." We quickly became acquainted with Hiromi from Japan who is one of the best negotiators we have met on the road. After waiting for a couple hours in a hot, sweaty waiting room, we caught the perfectly-functioning public ferry to Nusa Penida. The second we stepped off the ferry, we were once again swarmed by local taxi drivers. Hiromi negotiated us a cab to our hotels like it was her full-time job. She did not back down on her price and you better believe she got her way! The cab drivers were chasing us through town as they "sweetened" their offers and countless battles. We were officially impressed.

After finding our feet and renting a motorbike the next day, we decided to head out to see the sights of the island. Our sights were set on Broken Beach and Angel's Billabong. The journey took almost two hours due to the bumpy, terrible, broken roads. On the way, we realized we needed gas. We pulled over and a group of 5-10 year-old girls filled our tank and accurately processed the transaction without adult supervision.

Our destination was stunning. The views and natural structures of the coastline are one of kind and unlike anything we'd seen! On top of that, we sat on the edge of cliff and watched the biggest manta rays swimming around below. We were in awe! Realizing we still had a few hours of day light, we decided to squeeze in another destination, Kelingking Beach. We had seen plenty of pictures of this place, but nothing prepared us for the sheer volume of this cliff. Goosebumps!

The day had finally come for us to head to a stay that we had been anticipating since the beginning of our travels. For the next two nights, we were staying in a cliff side tree house (thank you, Kayli and David)! What we didn't anticipate was how remote this tree house was and the amount of exercise involved! We had to hike up and down a steep, unstable cliff every time we wanted water or food. None the less, the views and the tree house were exactly what we came for. After carrying our bags down the cliff and settling in, we decided to take a nice nap while listening to the waves crash into the side of the cliff. That was -- until Bre and the extra shake in the tree house awoke me. After two steps out the door of the tree house, I realized the monkeys out numbered us and had an evil look in their eye that said they weren't leaving until they claimed the spot for themselves.

What ensued over the next hour was a battle for the ages! I quickly equipped myself with a nice-looking stick and banged it against the side of the tree house with authority. The monkeys, not responding to the stick, began to snarl at us and collectively jumped onto the tree house roof. They took the straw roof by the handfuls and began shaking the tree house, viciously, acting as though they wanted to tip it over and gleefully watch us plunge to our deaths off the cliff. Bre offered a new strategy, "get inside the tree house and hide!" This seemed to work for a whole two minutes until the monkeys realized they could actually climb over a wall and INSIDE of our room. I don't think either of us have ever moved so quickly! We scurried down the shaky stairs of our tree house in a panic. As we watched the monkeys take over our tree house from a distance, we decided it was time for plan C. I left Bre with a stick in hand and headed up the cliff to request a different tree house (one of the newer houses had full-height walls that attached to the roof so they wouldn't be able to get in). Luckily, no other guests were checking in for the night and we were able to switch homes. Our new tree house didn't stop the monkeys from pestering us, but at least this time we were safe inside. We've both been hesitant to love and adore monkeys, like most tourists do, ever since our time in India. They have always come off as malicious, mischievous, and a little too human-like to befriend. After our experience at the tree house, it's safe to say that we both do NOT like monkeys.

The next morning was our adventure to Atuh beach to have nice, relaxing beach day. Nusa Penida is still very much developing, so even Google maps is not a reliable way to navigate the island. The beach looked like was only a few miles away by motorbike, but turned into a huge roundabout fifty-turn drive that took two hours. At last, we were on a newly paved road leading us straight to the beach. As we turned a corner, we came upon a pile of loose gravel (2'-3" deep) on the pavement. My first reaction was to slow way down. As we started very slowly driving over the gravel, the motorbike began to slip a little. Just as I thought we regained our traction, within a second we found ourselves with our butts flat on the ground and the motorbike sitting a couple of feet away from us. I was panicked for a moment thinking one of us had been seriously hurt. However, that only lasted a few seconds when we both called to each other that we were okay. Upon arrival at what we thought was the beach, we realized that we must climb down one of Nusa Penida's infamous steep mountainsides first. The journey down resulted in two falls for me, one fall for Bre, and about ten massive mosquito bites. The journey proved to be worth it as we sat on a secluded beach all afternoon with some of the best views. White sand, crystal clear blue water, and a beautiful rocky coastline.

By the time we left Nusa Penida the next day, we had cuts and bruises, sunburns, too many mosquito bites, and we had not showered in days. We were scared our next homestay would take one good look at us and tell us sleeping on the street better suited us! It is easy to see why Nusa Penida is one of the most up-and-coming tourist destinations in the area -- but it is not an island for those looking for luxury or relaxation. We saw so many tourists that were bandaged and battered just like we were, but happy as could be with the one-of -a-kind attractions this island has to offer. Some of the lessons that we have learned from the road is that traveling long term is about adaptability, anticipation, and being open to wherever the journey might take us. This particular journey included a little bit of all of those lessons!

Enjoy some photos - we worked hard for them!

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