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 Midnight Dips & Toxic Sips

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Gemma
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Location : Kuta Lombok / Jimbaran Bali
Registration date : 2008-07-01

PostSubject: Midnight Dips & Toxic Sips   Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:07 am

Charles Anderson

Taking Midnight Dips And Toxic Sips in the Gilis
Three Swedes have barely moved 15 meters in eight days. It is an impressive feat for any self-respecting tourist, but on Gili Trawangan, off the northeast coast of Lombok, self-respect is not something tourists seek or find.

Chalek, Andreas and Louise sit in a pool bar over the fence from their bungalow, sipping Heineken and playing the guitar.

“So have you been snorkeling yet? Apparently there’s great snorkeling here,” I ask Chalek, who I’d just met.

He smiles. “We went once. It was OK. We prefer this,” he says, taking another swig of his beer.

Up and down streets paved with a muddy blend of sand, dirt and water, tourists from around the world trudge. What they are searching for is unclear, because on Gili Trawangan, there is not that much to see.

To the left, a bar. To the right, a restaurant. A little further down the road, a different kind of restaurant, one that serves a hallucinogenic fare to the thousands that arrive here every week.

Robi and his five friends, sitting at a bar, have not come far. They were all born in Lombok and now work there, just half an hour away from the Gilis by boat. The Gilis offer them something a little different.

“A getaway,” Robi says between sly drags on a clove cigarette. “It is good to come here. It’s peaceful, and hey,” he shrugs, “it’s fun.”

And I agree. There are few places in the world where the express intention is to engage in the activity of doing nothing. And nothing can be very relaxing. But after three days of it, you can’t help but feel a little exhausted.

When the lights go down on Gili Trawangan, the pavements become a little safer. There are no motor vehicles on the island; everyone gets around on bikes or on kodomo , which are elaborately belled-up horse-drawn carriages. As the kodomo and bikes disperse, the traffic becomes bronzed, burned and boozed Europeans. Here nationality stands out a mile away.

Three Finns with fluorescent yellow back-to-front caps stumble in front of me, blurting random hilarities in Finglish.

“Hey you,” one turns around and stares at me. He throws his arms up in air. “Finland!”

I nod and smile politely.

For an island with such a renowned reputation, Gili Trawangan is subdued most nights. However, every night without fail, you can hear the thump of live music from the club Sama Sama. The bass lines of Bob Marley build with each step.

On stage is a six-piece band. They had been practicing that afternoon. The lead singer sits on a stool with tight black jeans and dreadlocks waving his hands and tapping his feet to the beat.

I look over and see Chalek. Almost incredibly, he has moved perhaps 200 meters down the road and resettled himself, with another Heineken.

He smiles and raises his half-drunk green bottle in my direction. I feel strangely out of place with nothing in my hand to echo his sentiment. So I take myself to the bar.

After some convincing, the vessel handed to me is not German lager, but instead a paper cup of black muck with a straw in it. It tastes of a strange combination of dirt, banana and mud.

After a few songs, the band invites their friend Indiana on stage.

What follows represents one of the most melodically incongruous but strangely pleasing arrangements of music I have ever heard: An apparent Native American, dressed in full Apache regalia — including tomahawk — singing and dancing to Native American songs with a reggae band in the tropics of Indonesia. But somehow it works. And now the muck is working, the blend of atmosphere both internal and external is intriguing.

People end up here in the Gilis for different reasons. More often than not, the intention of the trip is the same. Nothing.

Ashleigh sits comfortably upon some novelty-sized cushions outside the bar. Her legs are tucked up underneath her knees and she wraps her arms around her shins as she rocks from side to side. Because her hair is in pigtails and she’s wearing a thin white spring dress, Ashleigh looks younger than she actually is.

After teaching in South Korea for two years, Ashleigh thought it was time to get out. She left Canada after university, and then she saw the world, well at least part of it. And now she is here. Beer in hand, friend by her side. “I am enjoying life, really. I’m not sure if I want to go back to Korea, but at the moment, I’m not thinking about that. At the moment, I’m just traveling. I’m only 23.”

Indiana finishes his set and is awkwardly clapped off stage. He resumes his spot at the back of the bar with a blonde American partner. She looks like a dated cross between Barbie and Pochahontas, who would have stories of past lives to tell, but few new ones to create.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” says Beau, an Australian friend of mine, gesturing toward Indiana. “But good.”

We gather down on the beach for something else altogether.

Midnight dips are not the most novel idea in the world, but 1,000 kilometers from the bustle of Jakarta, swimming in the pitch black of the sea seems to be pure genius.

However, under the influence of the island’s temptations, the climbing up of moored boats and jumping off their frames into the inky water below was probably not the most intelligent move. But that did not make it any less enjoyable.

My friend Rich, another Australian, clambers aboard and hoists himself up onto the flimsy roof of a boat. He has an endearingly oafish quality, spurred by the amount of body hair he sports and the amount of trash he talks. Constantly.

He jumps, whoops and disappears. A pause. Silence. His head finally comes back up to the surface and his face is contorted. “I got spiked.”

We swim ashore and look down at his foot. Three black holes stare back. The heart races.

One of the band members is found close by and he comes to inspect the foot. One exclamation and two words that any self-respecting tourist never wants to hear: “Awww, fire fish.”

Expletives. And then some other words.

“Here tie this around your leg,” he instructs Rich.

Fire fish sounds nasty, but whether or not it actually was a red fire fish or a sea urchin will be one of the great mystery’s of this trip to the Gilis.

Whatever it was, there was no emergency service on Gili Trawangan, apparently just this zonked out reggae musician with a piece of coral in one hand and lime in the other.

He proceeds to beat Rich’s foot and squeeze on lime, presumably for taste. It looks awfully impressive, and half an hour later, it seems it is.

Rich is still alive and I am still laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. Rich stumbles home and plonks himself on his bed with relief. Hopefully to wake up and do nothing all over again


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