Nathan Ashker traveled from Asia to America – without ever taking a plane! Although he has just recently returned back to the US, he chronicled his journey on Instagram using the hashtag #AsiatoAmerica and you can check it all out there. Here, Nathan shares an adventure from his time in Indonesia, one of the eighteen countries he explored while abroad.

Nusa Penida is a largely tourist-free island between the main islands of Bali and Lombok in Indonesia.  With loads of steep hills, it’s motorbike heaven, and two friends and I decided to take advantage and explore.

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I’d heard about two different waterfalls on the island and was in search of one in particular: Guyangan.  With a photocopy of a hand-drawn map, we set out to find it, riding for hours through small towns and villages. We consistently stopped to ask people if we were headed in the right direction. Their responses were always the same: they would gesture onward with a nod of their heads and say: “15 minutes!

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Low on petrol and feeling thirsty, my friends and I stopped for a break in front of a small roadside shop. It didn’t take long before the whole village had gathered to check out the visitors. The women and girls giggled as I smiled and waved at them; others stared in awe at my friend’s tattoo sleeve. We pointed at our map and, in a mixture of English and Indonesian, explained that we were looking for the Guyangan waterfall.  Again, we were told: “15 minutes”. This time, the men gestured in the direction from which we had just come. We laughed uneasily. Should we just give up?

Then, to our surprise, two of the local villagers offered to accompany us.

“It seemed as though even the locals couldn’t find the waterfall. Did it really exist?”

One of the guys hopped on my friend’s bike; the other took his own bike and led the way. Ironically, we were back to making u-turns and asking for directions; it seemed as though even the locals couldn’t find the waterfall. Did it really exist?

They persisted, and after nearly another hour, they appeared confident that we were on the right track.

The road turned bumpy, then morphed into a grass footpath. It then became steep rocky hills and dense forest (more suitable for trekking that motorbiking!).  I didn’t feel experienced enough to ride through the terrain but was determined to follow behind our new guides. After what seemed like a long while, the trail came to an end. We stopped, turned off our engines, and immediately heard that unmistakable sound of crashing waves.

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We looked around. We were standing in the forest. The sound didn’t seem all that close. Then, after just a few steps, we spotted it: we were standing atop a large cliff with the ocean 15 stories below.

We weren’t off our bikes for long before our two guides headed down a trail of slippery mud, loose leaves and dug-out steps. Dense tree cover made it hard to judge how far down the trail went, and after 10 minutes of descending, the water didn’t sound much closer.  The further we went, the steeper and more intimidating the trail became.  Stone steps carved into the rock face turned to basic hand and foot holds. We then reached the most difficult part of the descent: a series of steps and ladders that had been constructed by wedging tree limbs into the cracks of the rock face. Despite how precarious it seemed, the tree limbs did feel sturdy and our guides were confident that there were safe. We proceeded onward.

Related:  Bali: The Island of the Gods

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After nearly 150 feet of downward climbing, we had made it to the bottom.  We spotted the waterfall, though it wasn’t a giant stream of water gushing into the ocean as we had imagined. Rather, it was a series of smaller streams that landed on a rock base, creating fresh water pools perfect for cooling off after the long hike down.  The pools overflowed onto the rocks then gently spilled into the ocean below.  It was unreal; magical. We were lying in waterfall pools, surrounded by giant limestone cliffs and crashing waves. It was one of those moments you play back in your mind, wondering if it was real.

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TIPS FOR EXPLORING NUSA PENIDA:

How do you get to the island?

Catch a ferry from Kuta beach on Bali. Because Nusa Penida is a small island and not a major tourist destination, ferries do run fairly infrequently; be sure to plan ahead.

Where can you rent motorbikes?

Many of the locals rent their own motorbikes and your ferry captain will likely be able to identify those individuals. If that’s not the case, just head toward beach as soon as you arrive; there, you’ll find a few shops that rent them out. Just don’t expect any formalized paperwork or waivers – this is a remote island!

What gear/items should you have with you for a day trip?

The usual beach items: sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.  Do bring an extra scarf or towel that you can leave on your motorbike seat so it doesn’t get scorching hot in the sun.

Any tips for locating the waterfall now that you’ve been?

As more tourists visit the island, maps will likely become easier to read and more accurate so you may have an easier time than I did! I would recommend printing out a photo – even from this article – and showing it to a local.  That will probably be the most helpful when you (inevitably) stop on the side of the road to ask for directions!

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Nathan grew up in the Southern part of the USA and has lived in New York and Hong Kong. A trained actor, he ended up working in technology for 7 years before leaving his job to travel from Asia to America without taking a plane. He journeyed across 18 countries in 8 months, using Instagram and Twitter to share his journey (check out the #asiatoamerica hashtag!). With his travels back to America now complete, he is spending time with family and friends and plotting his next overseas adventure. Follow Nathan on IG and Twitter @nashker.