Life Lessons: Perfection & Degradation
Words + Photos - Esker
The flight is seamless. Through a shopping mall in London, to a shopping mall in the Middle East or south east Asia then onto a hot sticky airport in Sumatra. It's like transferring to paradise in a bubble, but like all bubbles at some point they pop, and this one does in Padang. On the way to perfection is a dose of Indonesian reality that is both dirty and culturally rich at the same time.
Like most Indonesian towns every aspect of the city feels out of control. Development sprawls, industry sprawls and rubbish either burns in the street or floats down creeks out to see. But the people are warm, the food, even cooked on a cart by the side of the road is awesome, and the coffee, combined with the sweetness of evaporated milk is incredible.
However, as we board a fast boat surrounded by rubbish in a tidal creek, I can't help thinking that we're walking blindfold towards total environmental disaster, and that us surfers are in fact travelling trail blazers who just open up the last remote corners of the planet to even more problems. Wind the clock back fifteen years, or twenty for places like Bali, and they were still pristine environments blessed with an indigenous culture that enthralled us, along with untouched coastlines that fired up our inner passion to surf.
Yet now, having blazed our way into these places it's time to turn it around and maybe slightly hypocritically act as saviours. We brought the problem, now we have to solve it. Tourism in more than a few places around the world has been first introduced by the frontiersmen, often passionate surfers or other enthusiasts. We lit the fire that opened the way to a path to wealth for local people, but also total degradation of what we came for in the first place. It's not too late everywhere, Costa Rica is a haven for surfers, but eco tourism is starting things in the right way, it's easier to start conserving a place before we ruin it, than repair it afterwards.