Monday, July 06, 2009

Island Time-Life on Meno and then Senggigi

July 1 (continued)

Life at looked like it would suit me, but anything was better than more time spent on a bus/ferry/long boat. The Sunset Gecko is a small place, with a large open air restaurant, two bungalows, and a two floor loft, as well as a number of open air huts (in which you can eat or just relax) that are right on the beach. Cici and I had reserved a bungalow, inside was a double bed and mosquito net. I was suddenly feeling a little self-conscious about sharing a bed with Cici. I didn't really want to be asked again if she was my lover.

Outside our bungalow where two showers, one with no ceiling so you could shower under the stars/sun and a row of tidy clean toilets. An American woman, Jill, gave me the grand tour. She immediately recognized my accent as being from Chicago (close enough) and I laughed. I'm not very good with accents. I mistake Aussies for Brits, Kiwis for Aussies and generally offend people when I try to guess. I guess Canadians really hate being mistaken for Americans, so much that they trend to wear Canadian flag patches on their backpacks. Lame.

I digress, this American, Jill is a bit of a marvel, though her type is not unusual in Southeast Asia. She has been at the Gecko for three weeks with no plan to leave. She stays there for free by helping out the owner. Not a bad idea if you don't mind living simply. Life on Meno, particularly at Gecko, is a little piece of paradise.

Gecko is run by a middle-aged Japanese man named Hiro. Hiro seems quite environmentally conscious, which is tragically uncommon in this part of the world. I'm not exactly an environmentalist, but it does pain me to see adults throwing their trash off the side of the boat into the ocean and smashing glass soda bottles at the side of the road. Hiro takes things a step further than simply making sure garbage gets into the trash bin. His showers are all fresh (not salt) water which has to be brought over from the main island of Lombok. He recycles all of the water by using it on the plants and flowers found throughout Gecko. In order to recycle it, everyone must use natural soap--he gives everyone a bar for free when they stay with him. There is even a sign warning guests not to pee in the shower because it's not good for the plants.

The first night here I scarfed down two plates of rice and coconut curry. I then laid out and looked at the stars which are very clear here. My first full day on Meno was yesterday. The sea here, which I didn't get to see the previous day, is beautiful. Clear and myriad shades of blue. It is no Koh Tao (Thailand) though, nothing I've seen so far has surpassed my first and best island experience. One aspect where Meno falls short is the complete lack of sea life near the shore. There are no tropical fish nor coral; in fact, the entire beach is made of dead coral. Dead coral is a painful thing to step on and made me long for soft, silky sand. According to Hiro, 90% of the coral died due to El Nino (Spanish for, "The Nino") 10 years ago. It's all been swept to shore. The water is very shallow and standing on a bed of coral is (have I said this already?) quite painful. I didn't, therefore, much enjoy the swimming, not that I'm a huge fan of swimming to begin with.

Basically, it's just about relaxing here. I did manage to continue walking around this tiny island of 600 inhabitants yesterday. It was actually very interesting. First, I cam upon a lake, which was empty except for a few circling birds and rather eerie. I pressed on, passing neighboring Diana's Cafe, past that there was nobody. I literally did not see any people. I walked by a ground filled with nice, though weathered, cottages that stood on concrete bases. The drapes were drawn shut in all of them. Clearly they had not been used for some time. The in ground pool was decaying, filled with algae, water, and a few random fish--forever imprisoned together in this tiny area when they could be in some lake or ocean. How tragic. The hotel restaurant was lined with worn tables and overturned chairs; a lone beer bottle sat on the outdoor bar.

I continued walking and found more ruins. Another hotel with a poolside bar (fancy!) and a restaurant. This pool was empty, but showing signs of age. Further down was an abandoned pizzeria, then a set of decrepit cottages and perhaps what was once a restaurant. It was a ghost town and looked like an excellent place to explore, especially for a child. I walked on and found some nice cottages that were actually in use. In front of them was a long, coral filled beach with just a few occupants. I dipped my feet in the warm water and searched for seashells and pretty pieces of coral.

I then headed back and went for another painful swim. The water is extremely shallow and the waves were bashing me into the ground, the coral cutting my feet and legs. Ten minutes was enough. The rest of my evening was spent relaxing. Today, yet again, I'm doing hardly anything. We have to leave soon, heading for Senggigi, Lombok. Tomorrow morning we have an early flight to Surabaya, Java. I don't want to leave here, but it is time. I wish I was Jill.

July 1, 2009. . . 9pm

Today ended up going quite well. One of the workers, 17-year-old Ari, a worker at Gecko, has malaria. I never would have guessed it because he looked in such good spirits. Anyway, he had to go to Lombok to see the doctor and his dad was going to be our taxi driver (from Bangsal harbor to Senggigi) anyhow, so Ari joined us for the trip.

We left Gecko around one o'clock by horse cart, of course. I asked Hiro what the story was behind the Ghost Town. He said after the first Bali Bombing in 2002 tourism slumped dramatically and the owners couldn't afford to sustain the hotels, one of which was 3 stars (must have been the one with the poolside bar). What a shame and such a waste.

We took our horse cart to the harbour and had to wait about an hour and a half for the next public boat (90cents/person) rather than charter one ($17/boat). We arrived at pain-in-the-ass Bangsal with another traveler in tow, Mathes from Germany. He approached me on the long boat and asked if he could split a cab with us. Ari and his dad (our driver), Cici, Mathes, and I all managed to crammed into the air-conditioned taxi and off we went on the windy coastal road (paved, thankfully) to Senggigi. A half an hour and a 65,000 rupiah ($6.50) cab ride later we arrived.

The center of Senggigi isn't much. We are staying at E'len Guesthouse for 75,000 rupiah and it's alright. After checking in, Cici, Mathes, and I walked about 2 km to a temple that's built on an outcrop of volcanic rock that spills directly into the sea. Very cool little temple. There were no other tourists around; however, there were a few dozen Indonesians engaged in prayer and some sort of religious ceremony. We watch them pray, get blessed with some sort of holy water, and then line up for a procession. They carried baskets of food on their head. They walked single file down to the beach and sent their offerings in a little boat out to sea. The makeshift boat quickly sank. Mathes seemed completely absorded in all this while Cici appeared disinterested. I was somewhere in between, but mostly feeling hungry.

The three of us went to a German (!) restaurant for dinner and I had a rather delicious snitzel. Tomorrow morning, 5am, we are all off to the airport to catch our early morning flights.

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