the nothing whatever...

Gili Trawangan

A few days earlier, Nic suggested that rather than head straight to Lombok, we stay a couple of nights in Gili T, which is known as somewhat of a party island. As the surf has been flat for the past week or so and our trip to Lombok should coincide with an increase in swell, Thursday morning saw us on a ferry to Gili T.

There is a reason Gili T has its reputation. The police presence is very minimal, and as such, the ability to obtain narcotics is relatively easy. I expected this to make the place somewhat seedy and disorderly, but I have actually been surprised by how well the place functions even under the guise of such lawlessness. On the island there are no motor vehicles allowed and no dogs allowed, meaning there is an abundance of both bicycles and cats. There are a few horse-and-cart services that jingle up the road every five minutes or so, dropping people with bags at one of the many homestays. A walk up the main strip with your bags will see you offered accommodation, followed by food and beer, then weed, mushrooms and cocaine. All in the same sentence. Its an interesting place.

Our first night here we went to a place called Sama-Sama, a reggae bar that plays live music 6 out of 7 nights of the week. We spoke for a while with a 22-year old Balinese kid who lives in Lombok but works as a barmen and stays at Sama-Sama for 5 nights of the week. The kid was an absolute riot, and we talked about everything, surfing and his job and his favorite music and where he lived. He insisted that his English was not very good, but even with his limited grammatical arsenal he sent me into stitches several times.

I am beginning to think that attention is seen as both the means and the end which it comes to business in Indonesia, as when he was describing the methods he uses to get people into Sama-Sama, it reminded me very much of the “hey Baldy” guy in Seminyak; “We just make them look, you know. We say things like ‘hey, noodlehair, look at me’, or ‘hey lady ga-ga, you dropped something’, even when she not drop something, you know.” I guess it makes sense. Their battle is not necessarily for reputation, it is more just about recognition, and playful insults combat the ignorance of the passer-by. And it obviously works, because later that night, the joint was rocking. I told him we were on our way out to Kuta Lombok, and he said that we should go surfing together, but I didn’t get any of his details so I think the chances of that happening are very slim.

We hired some bicycles the following day and went exploring. At various intervals we had been enticed by the perfect turquoise ocean and found that, as beautiful as it was, it was about as refreshing as tepid bathwater. The island only has about a 12 kilometre circumference, so we had seen the majority of its coastline in a few hours, but behind the front of pubs and clubs and restaurants and resorts, the interior of the island where the local village resides is actually fairly primitive. I cannot emphasize enough how handy the Lonely Planet has been in venturing us out of our comfort zones and into the reality of a place, and it is only natural for ones alarm bells to start ringing when they walk into an empty establishment that would be any Food Safety Inspector’s dream (or nightmare). But that book is like a reassuring voice whispering in your ear, telling you that somebody has once survived eating there and that you probably will too. And it hasn’t let us down yet. Based on its recommendation, we went to two Warung’s in Gili T that were off the beaten track: “Warung Indonesia” (which does an incredible ox tail soup, so incredible I went back for one the next day), and a family run place called “Kiki Nova” that put on a Nasi Campur for lunch. Both authentic, both amazing.

That afternoon, we went to Tir Na Nog (an Irish Pub that does the cheapest beers on the island) in pursuit of the footy. Surprisingly, for some reason, there isn’t much of an Australian presence on Gili Trawangan. The majority of people seem to be Eastern European and Scandinavian, with a light scattering of Americans and even a few that I guessed were from Russia. So, despite advertising that they were playing the AFL, the soccer was showing on all screens the first time we walked past the bar, and we turned our noses up at it and moved on quickly. When we did the return trip though, it had been switched over to the footy, obviously at the request of another Australian couple who were fixed to the screen. We sat down with them and conversed and watched Richmond win in a thriller.

During the last quarter, another guy came and sat down to watch it with us, asking who we all followed with his thick Texan accent, and then giving me some stick when I responded with Collingwood (which I thought was a great laugh). Without wanting to go too much into it, he was exactly how you would picture an ex-quarterback who surfs and was once the lead singer of a rock band, the lovechild of The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” and Sunshine from “Remember the Titans”. His appearance initially gave me the impression he might be a bit of a space-cadet (I expected heaps of “dude”s and “bro”s), but actually, he was a top guy with some really engaging stories. His name, which I thought was fitting, was Seth Emerick, and he had lived in Australia for a while and had grown to love the game of AFL, even playing it at one stage. But now, he informed us, he lives on Gili T. We asked him where some good places were for dinner, he rattled off a few names, and then the other couple and ourselves went out for a feed. Nothing too wild and debaucherous, but still, a solid night filled with some quality characters.

The following day was a Saturday, our last day on Gili T, and it was basically spent planning the trip to Kuta Lombok. Whilst it was not the designated party night (which was on the Friday), being our final night in Gili T, it was the night Nic and I consumed the most alcohol, racking up a $33 AU tab with $1.90 AU beers. Indonesian barmen are a species that, for some reason, I get along with very well (maybe everybody does), and one of them had decided he was going to blow our minds with some close up magic. It wasn’t the standard trickery that usually can be solved by mathematics or common sense, blow our minds he did. There was a trick in which he had us choose a card, place it back in the deck and shuffle. He then shuffled the deck, gave the deck back and asked us to find our card and put the card in our backpack. We flipped through the deck twice and couldn’t find it, our card had gone. He looked at us strangely, thought for a minute, and then opened his mouth and extracted our card from between his teeth. Maybe we were just the perfect audience, wholeheartedly chasing his misdirection with the fullest of attention, and maybe the trick was very simple. But still, to do that in a crowded bar with about 5 sets of eyes on you and have them all laughing with amazement, it was impressive.

There are now two American’s I know of that can do a somewhat believable Australian accent; Robert Downey Jr and Seth Emerick. He saw us sitting at Tir Na Nog and came to say “g’day mate”. The topic drifted onto how terrible American’s do our accent, and how he had actually written and eventually starred in a pilot TV show as an Australian simply because he could not find any Australian actors who looked typically so (they had all been Americanized to appeal to Hollywood taste) and every American he auditioned could not differentiate our accent from a British one. So, in adding to the list; quarterback, surfer, lead-singer of a band, screenplay writer and actor. The pilot was never picked up, but he sent me the link to an episode on Vimeo and the whole piss-take on the “mismatched police duo” genre (it is called Kango and Stash) made me laugh.

We were due to depart the next day at 8am. I went to bed in quite a state and awoke early the next morning not feeling much better, and so concluded our time in Gili T. I may or may not have cleaned it up a little for the benefit of the audience, nobody wants to hear about Nic’s insatiable cocaine addiction (relax, I’m joking). But, either way, it would be an awesome place to take a group of friends and party in paradise.