Monday, June 25, 2007

well I hope you understand / I just had to go back to the island

d We went to Nusa Lembongan this week. For four days. I’ve been before, twice to be exact. This is the first time I’ve stayed on land.

Oh, and, we fell in love with the place. I’ve liked it a lot both my earlier trips, but this was quite different. On our first trip we were on a rather lovely old Sumatran boat moored off the shore of Jungut Batu and ventured ashore only once for a swim at Mushroom Bay. The second time was the Stag party I blogged about here, where we snorkeled a little but drank a lot. It was fun but it wasn’t really Nusa Lembongan.

So, after some family discussion, and since it was Claudia’s birthday, we found ourselves down on Sanur Beach with our Scoot Ferry tickets in hand. The ladies from Scoot told us, as we brushed aside the persistent porter-wannabes, that the engines on both their boats were down so we’d have to travel the 23 kilometres over some of the planet’s deepest water (not that ten metres or two hundred metres of depth makes any more than a psychological difference) in rather smaller speed boats, albeit with some fifteen people on board. Since there was only a high wind, grey skies and some rain…oh and a swell of several metres, we felt completely comfortable with that. bSo, having made the same ladies hunt out five (old) life jackets elsewhere we set off. The thirty minute trip, since the boat had to crash through quite some waves to make headway at times, took a little longer and we were all very happy to tumble ashore at Mushroom Beach (a local, incidentally, told me the next day that the name comes from the magic wee things the local lads mix with their arak on Saturday nights) and make our way up to Tanis Villas.

Maybe it was the relief of being ashore, maybe it was the sea air, maybe it was the clearing of the clouds but one could feel the mental cloud lifting almost immediately as we were guided to the rooms by the incredible Urip, a man without any proper arms, no hands as such, and only one formed foot, who was not only the manager of the place, but was to become, our host, guide and friend. Urip carried the heaviest bag up and firmly refused any help. We were to find out later that not only was he absolutely computer and net literate, carried a cellphone, but had designed and planted the extensive gardens at Tanis himself and was planning his next venture. Oh, and speaks four languages. It humbles one...

Lembongan is amazing and we couldn’t help but feel that it may be the way Bali was perhaps before the unwashed masses cswarmed in across the southern seas. There is a beauty, honesty and serenity on the island that often feels lost in the rush to exploit the tourist on Bali’s mainland. Not once, over four days, did anybody try to sell us anything, or, for that matter, short change us. Quite the contrary, Urip, on our last night apologised if he’d been remiss in providing the perfect vacation. But of course, he hadn’t. We travelled the length of the island, snorkeled again in Crystal Bay, ate wonderfully prepared Indonesian food at delightful cafes with stunning views of beaches and sunsets, and let the pressures that, yes even in Bali, can overwhelm one easily.

I'm gushing, but you could feel the stress ebbing away in Lembongan. Of course it’s easy, when a visitor to a place like this to forget how very poor many of these people are….Rp300,000 (USD$33) is not an unusual monthly wage for a worker in the island’s biggest industry, seaweed farming, and they must look and wonder at the swarms of western and Japanese tourists wandering their roads on the back of the converted pickups that serve as the only non-motorbike transport on the island, and hopefully the dollars people such as ourselves put into the community somehow filters through.

That said, the wide smiles and undemanding generosity we both saw and were recipients of, are something I’d like to see more of on the mainland, but fear are long gone

And, so, by way of contrast, we go to Jakarta in the morn.

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