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Datsun Daze

Harrison Roach and friends search for laid-back life and perfect waves. Images: Anthony Dodds

IT was in the shirt on my shoulders and the shoes on my feet. In the feeling I got from my traveling friend’s Instagram and the feeling I got when I looked at photos from my past trips.

It was an undeniable desire to escape . . . it was coming at me from all angles and my friends felt it too. At the local bean shop we reminisced on when board shorts and bikinis were our day-to-day outfits. When congregations for cocktails were more common than congregations for coffee.


Whether it was due to a considerable amount of caffeine or the fact that we’d all reached our small town’s mental breaking point, a group of us decided that the time had come to head for the tropics. Five of us skipped out of Australia with Indonesia as our target. Along for the ride was Eadie Hancock, Matt Cuddihy, Andre Fauzi, and the delightful photographer Anthony Dodds.

In the hope of escaping the ordeals of an ever-expanding expatriate population living in Bali, we made our way to a little known, small village in West Java. The sound of the Muslim call to prayer, the smell of smoke and the ever-grinning face of local “Prince” Husni Ridwan, welcomed us upon our arrival.


Husni is the kind of dude that goes above and beyond when making friends feel comfortable in his hometown. With Sambal on tap, point-side Pocaris and millions in our pockets, we melted into the cruisy village vibe. The ridiculous heat and warm afternoon rainsqualls were a cause for celebration on that first afternoon.

Rather than referring us to the usual scooter hirer, Husni generously made himself available as our personal chauffeur. In his old Datsun wagon
we meandered up and over headlands in search of surf, finding waves in some places, finding nothing in others.

All that mattered was that we’d escaped the routine of home. The villages were quiet and rural. People smiled at us as we drove past and the children all yelled and waved. It was refreshing to spend time in a place where the bule hasn’t yet worn out his/her welcome.

The routine was basic at first . . . all we did was eat, surf, sleep and repeat. But when Husni’s perfect point started resembling a lake, we found amusement elsewhere.

The town had a lot to offer, the best of which was a hidden swimming area that very few tourists seemed to be aware of. The place was surreal; like stepping onto the set of an Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean movie. In such stunning scenery, we felt a satisfaction that only comes from this kind of travel.

Just a week before, we’d whined about traffic and crowds . . . and there we were in one of West Java’s spectacular running rivers, soaking up the beauty in fresh, clear and cool water.

After a couple of unforgettable, deeply-dreamt-of weeks, the time came to say goodbye to the village. Husni and his gang took us in with open arms; they introduced us to their families and let us share their waves. We couldn’t have been more spoilt.

Not quite so emotional but still frustrating was the goodbye to his old Datsun. That car really knew how to float us over the bumps. Husni’s jazz playlists, the slight putter from the old engine and the sights through its windscreen, made us feel alive.