The Uluwatu Gatekeepers

By Leo Maxam /

Pak Wayan Meja (left) and Pak Wayan Karia Arta, the gatekeepers to Uluwatu.

If you’ve ever been to Uluwatu, chances are you’ve crossed paths with Wayan Meja and Wayan Karia Arta. These salty Uluwatu locals run the show at the Suluban Beach parking lot, charging 3,000 IDR per motorbike and 5,000 IDR per car that shows up to the world-famous promontory.

Meja, 60, is the senior member of the Ulu parking lot crew. He’s been collecting crumpled up 1,000 rupiah notes from tourists since 2002. Karia Arta, 45, has been busting fee dodgers since 2005. The two of them can usually be found posted up on a bench under a bale, along the beaten-up track that connects the main road to the Uluwatu parking lot. It’s a thankless job – relentless sun; dust clouds kicked up by massive tour buses; chasing after cheap Brazzos on motorbikes trying to skip out on paying.

Meja and Karia Arta know they aren’t the most popular guys at Uluwatu, and they don’t care. As they tell, being the gatekeepers to the most famous wave in Bali isn’t about making friends. It’s about the Benjamins – or at least a fist-full of 1,000 rupiah notes.

On an average day, how many cars park in this lot?
Maybe 100 cars and 100 motorbikes.

What were the most cars you’ve ever seen parked here in one day?
In 2008, when they had the big surf contest (The Rip Curl Pro Search WCT event at Uluwatu). Many cars. Maybe 200 cars and 150 motorbikes.

What’s the most amount of money you guys have collected in one day?
If many people in one day, maybe 500,000 IDR.

That’s only 100 cars. I think you guys have made 500,000 since we started talking. Are you sure about that figure?

This road has craters bigger than the moon. When are you guys going to repave it?
That’s Blue Point’s responsibility (Blue Point Resort). We don’t know about that. They are making plans to fix the road.

If I give you a Padang Cup t-shirt, how many days of free parking will you give me?
There are six parking attendants who work here. Bring six t-shirts, then we can talk. When will you bring the t-shirts?

I don’t know. It was a hypothetical question.
Bring the t-shirts, then we’ll talk.

Ok. Do you guys like surfing?
No, we don’t like surfing. But we like the surfers when they pay to park at Uluwatu.

When it’s a really hot day, do you guys ever go to the pool at Blue Point to cool off?
No, we never swim there. It’s too expensive.

The pay point used to be closer to the main road. Why did you guys move it nearer to the lot?
Too many people were trying to enter on a motorbike without paying. Here they can’t run from us.

Who gives you the most grief about paying the parking fee?
Brazilians. They are always making problems about paying. Hey, did you already pay?

Yes, I paid a few minutes ago before we started talking.
Ok, just checking.

Meja and Karia Arta double down on a pair of tourist vans.

“Dolla dolla bill, y’all!”

A packed house at Ulu means a good take for the boys.

This guy sped past the boys before they could stop him. He claimed to have already paid in the morning. Let’s see that receipt, buddy.

“Sorry, no bro deals. Read the sign.”

“You drove all the way from Kuta with that rash vest on? We’re gonna have to charge you extra for that.”