Photo by Derek McDonald-Lee.
Finding serenity in Bali. Pic: Derek McDonald-Lee

It was my day working in the shop at Yahoo surfboards, a family-run manufacturer in the south-west WA town of Dunsborough. Sundays could be quiet. Everyone was out surfing. There’d be a mad rush an hour before closing of the day’s ding repairs, Perth residents returning hire gear before the drive back north or tradies getting their boards into the shop to sell on consignment. I was out the front de-waxing one of the consignment boards when an Indonesian guy walked in. We ended up talking for hours; he was from Bali and was in Dunsborough on holiday. I was curious as I hadn’t met any other Indonesians in Dunsborough, he wasn’t a surfer and it’s not a cheap place to come and holiday, especially if you are trading rupees for dollars. Harry was his name and he gave me his business card for if I ever came to Bali. I was away at uni the following week but my boss told me Harry had come back into the shop looking for me but had now left to go back home. We chatted about him for a while then my mind wandered to other things.

Four years later, with several Indonesian holidays in between, I finally left a life in Sydney and was starting my trip around the world following the women’s world tour of surfing. It was right at the time the new Denpasar airport had opened and I got momentarily confused between walking out of arrivals and trying to book a taxi. I met my friend, and always a little frustrated at the overpriced taxi journey into town, we just jumped in with the first guy who would charge less than 200,000 rupees.

I’m always stoked to land in Bali and I was chatting away excitedly to my friend about something to do with WA when the taxi driver chipped in. “You are from Western Australia? Where? In Yallingup?” I stopped. Yallingup? Not even that many Australians name drop Yallingup and the unusualness of it caught me out. “Yeah! That’s where I’m from!” I piped up, slightly confused, and the driver started doing double takes in his rear view mirror. “I…I…know you, your face”, he slowly stuttered. “I think you are working in the surf shop… no?” he quizzed me. “What?! Yes! The one in Dunsborough, you’re…” I paused, the lightbulb slowly igniting but completely forgetting his name. “Harry!” he finished my sentence. Figuring out that we’d met for a couple of hours four years earlier, and the slim chances that Harry would be working the taxi run on the night I landed and we just happened to pick him over 50 other groping Indonesians, my friend rolled his eyes in disbelief. “This would only happen to you!”, he said.

As we continued with the story Harry told me that he’d be asking every Western Australian tourist he met in the last four years if they knew the girl who worked at the surf shop in Dunsborough – but he’d also forgotten my name and no-one could help him. Harry kept mumbling things like oh my god and clasping his hands together as if in prayer for the whole ride. We finally parted, exchanged numbers and laughed about it all. But I didn’t see him again.

It’s been a busy year since then jumping countries, sleeping in airports, getting held at immigration in Edinburgh and stuck at toll booths on the highways in France. It’s novel for me to have someone pick me up at an airport and last night when I landed in Denpasar at 1:30am I knew no-one was waiting for me except the 50 taxi drivers who were going to over-charge me. I stormed past the guy who wouldn’t barter down from the now ‘new price’ of 300,000 rupees, overtired and slightly frustrated. Just as I was trying to pick out a kind face an arm reached out and grabbed me. “Thea!” It was Harry! A year later, completely unplanned, in the middle of the morning when Harry wasn’t even working, just hanging out at the airport with some friends. There’s no other word for it except serendipity. We laughed in the car all the way into town and he didn’t charge me a single rupee.