July 1 (continued)
The day before yesterday: One Long Day. We made the journey from Ubud to Gili Meno. The Gilis are three small islands off the northwest coast of Lombok (the island neighboring Bali to the east). No motorized vehicles are allowed on any of the three islands, nor are there any stray dogs. I decided to go to Meno because it is the quietest of the three and because of the Sunset Gecko, which I will get to later.
The journey to Gili Meno is painfully slow if you do it the cheap way ($16). We were suppose to get picked up at our guesthouse in Ubud at 7am, but that turned into 7:30. Our van took us to Padang Bai, the harbour on Bali's east coast. We arrived there at 8:15 and our (slow) ferry departed at 9am, which naturally turned into 9:30. The ferry ride, which I was assured by the travel agency in Ubud, would only take three hours. It took five. We arrive at Lombok's western harbour at 2:30pm.
There were numerous touts there, aggressively trying to sell us cold drinks and crappy food. We got into the van that would take us to the other harbour, Bangsal (which would take us to the Gilis). Still the vendors came to us, pushing coca-colas and slices of pale watermelon through the windows. Cici ended up making an impulse buy of two small, whitish pineapples for 5,000 rupiah (50 cents). Not a wise investment. They were the most under-ripe, flavorless pineapples I ever did taste. Boo.
A Brit in the back of the van bought a couple of beers for 50,000 rupiah. As soon as he handed his money over for the beers, the vendor upped the price to 60,000 ($6). The Brit was not having it. He refused to pay the extra money and called the vendor a liar. The two went back and forth for a very uncomfortable minute or two, all while everyone in our van was urging our driver (an old man who probably couldn't understand a word of English) to drive. Finally the driver asked the vendor what was going on, at least I can only assume this as the conversation was in Indonesian. At this point, the vendor looked like a rabid dog--he was on the verge of going ballistic over 10,000 rupiah (ONE DOLLAR!!!). Some other mean and muscular Indonesian onlookers began to get involved. One of them exclaimed in English, "Pay him! Your boat to Gili is waiting for you! It will leave soon!" The Brit would not cave.
"No! He is a liar! Everyone saw I paid him! Now he wants more."
The rough and tumble Indonesian onlookers were not happy and started to swagger over to our van. We were surrounded by them and I was beginning to feel a little nervous and a little annoyed. I understand the principle--no one likes to feel cheated, but ONE DOLLAR is not worth a potential foreigner vs. Indonesian throw down. So I turned around from the front seat, with ten pairs of eyes staring at me.
"How much money are we talking here?" I asked.
"It's not the money; this is bullocks!" replied the Brit. I want to laugh. God, I love it when they say things like bullocks, though I can't bring myself to implement it into my venacular.
"I know it's bullshit, but it's us versus them," I reasoned. The Brit threw 10,000 rupiah (ONE DOLLAR) out the window and the driver hit the gas. Off we went again.
We then drove 45 minutes at 30km/hr to Mataram, Lombok's capital. We stopped at the tourist office for nearly half an hour, at which they gave us a ticket for the final boat trip and pushed us to book our return tickets. I refused. I asked him how much longer until we got to the Gilis. "About half an hour drive to Bangsal, maybe 25 minutes depending on traffic and then another 30 minutes by boat to Gili Meno," the filthy liar replied. I looked at my watch, nearly 4pm. I was told I'd be to Gili Meno by this time. Ah well, if we left soon we would make it there by 5 o'clock, I reasoned naively.
We did manage to leave the ticket office by 4pm and we arrived at Bangsal around quarter to five, after what seemed like an endless drive on a mountain drive on which we had to constantly swerve to avoid hitting monkeys (aggressive little beasts).
Bangsal has built itself quite a reputation and it is not described in a good light by any person or guidebook. My experience there seemed to be pretty much on spot. When we arrived we were made to wait in a crappy restaurant for 45 minutes while being harassed to buy necklaces (you know, the kind you thought were cool back in 7th grade), return tickets ("NO! For the millionth time I do not want a return ticket!"), and being asked annoying questions by locals. I'm just glad there were 30 of us, therefore they didn't bother me alone.
Finally, we were told we could go and they seperated us into groups by island. About 20 people were off to Gili Trawangan, 10 to Gili Air, and only 4 of us to Gili Meno, which I was told by one particularly annoying, questioning local was "honeymoon island." Annoying, questioning local followed us over to our boat, at which point he asked if Cici was my girlfriend. I was about to have a caniption. I was tired, hungry, and now a lesbian (not that there's anything wrong with that).
"No! I'm married!" I barked.
"To her?" he aked, gesturing to Cici.
"No, to a man! What a rude question to ask!" I yelled.
"Sorry. I thought she was your girlfriend," he said with a smile.
I wanted to scream, to cry. It was nearly 6 o'clock and the sun was setting--soon it would be dark. Get me to Gili Meno! Get me to the Sunset Gecko!
We took a wooden long boat to Meno, a bit of a scary ride as the waves tossed us around. When we arrived at the harbour it was pretty much devoid of people. There were some horse cart drivers (the only mode of transportation) that were offering to take us the one kilometer to the Sunset Gecko for 50,000 rupiah, 5 bucks; ha, I could get a cab in New York for that price! We therefore took a pass on the horse cart and decided to walk it. The sun was down but we could still follow the path around the small island by twilight. Nearly half an hour later we made it to the Sunset Gecko. It was now dark.