Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Good Grief! Boat-ride to Gili Air

After the most lucky day, I decided to push my luck and go island hopping. 

Well, just one island  because I only had three more nights before I had to hopefully catch a plane to Australia. We would see about that! Volcano Agung was still puffing away but the ash was blowing away from the airport. Strange to tie your fate to the direction of the wind…

So I left a perfect place, Alam Nusa, on Nusa Lembongan Island. Lovely helpful staff. This offering music always playing at the outdoor dining room. These offerings always being placed.

But it was time to go to another island, one with even more of less to do! Gili Air. No vehicles there, just pony carts and bicycles. Sit around, write, get bored… before the stress of figuring out what to do in Australia. It sounded good, BUT! Be very careful when you choose to leave paradise because getting to the next paradise can be treacherous!

I thought I had fooled fate by at the last minute booking a boat trip and accommodations.

Did I research the various boat companies? No. Kind of hard to do, actually. The boat agent at the kiosk at the restuarant said it was too late to book for the next morning.  But I pleaded, saying he had to be nice to a “nenek” (grandmother) and that the agent before him said I could book! So, he called a friend who called a friend and I bought a ticket. Could he tell me the route or show me a map or weather conditions? Translation issues here ...

So at 8:30 AM.I was picked up. Loaded onto a small boat that took us to the larger boat. Here we are, expecting a pleasant ride.

The big luggage was piled on top (not tied down that I could see and certainly not water-proofed.) And off we went, not to Gili Air, it turned out, but back over to Bali — Padangbai. Pretty choppy but doable.

There we took on more customers, could see that pesky Volcano Agung close-up and could buy mango and chips from vendors. Considering what happened next, I can’t believe they had to gall to sell Pringles! 

Fortunately I used the facilities at the stop because I would have lost it on the wild roller-coaster ride that ensued!

Aren’t there rules about when a fast boat should maybe not cross the waters?

 Or maybe just slow down? I couldn’t believe the bucking and swaying. The sloshing and spraying. The slap as we rode over a wave and hit down hard. The lurch as one caught us broadside! Jolting, jerking, swerving, slamming. White caps and troughs. 

Didn’t they make a movie about the perfect storm? At least we had no rain but I couldn’t believe the ferocity of the ocean.

How did others react? Children fell asleep. A Muslim woman behind me closed her eyes for two hours, praying, thank God! People literally turned green. (That is not just a figure of expression.) The crew-man kept watching the crowd and ran forward with sea-sick bags as needed. The lovely Australian surfer next to me just kept a fatalistic “isn’t this fun” grin on his face, which helped.

How did I react?

 With absolute disbelief! They run a boat in weather like this! Then with fear, abject fear! I wasn’t this afraid when the roof flew off and the rain poured in during the hurricane! It didn’t help that I hate rollercoasters. And this was an up and down, side to side, unpredictable bouncing and lurching.

 I made sure I knew where the life-jackets were and the exit door, but if we flipped over all bets were off. Don’t we frequently read of ferries in this part of the world sinking? The crew-man told me not to panic, that we were safe, but I think he’s paid to say that.

And I had some concern about the luggage piled on top. I could just imagine it flying off. Surely they know how to balance this thing! But TV scenes from a Nepalese bus catastrophe ran a similar movie through my mind about this boat. Surely no captain wants to die, and the bus driver didn’t either. But that didn’t keep him from going off the side of the road, into the river, killing  most of the passengers— supposedly because the luggage made it top heavy.

Did I pray? Did I relax?

 Did I cultivate compassion or do self-hypnosis? Heck no! I was just holding on!

One thing that did help was to think of service men on boats. Men in World War II headed to possible death. My father in the South Pacific War. Navy Seals taking the plunge. And because I know a dear man who has faced these odds and can be really tough, I called on his warrior spirit. Please be with me. Give me strength. Help this Captain, for heaven’s sake!

Finally it was over. No one was laughing, probably thinking about the return trip in a few days. There is no way to check on the conditions before booking a ticket!

I decided to thank the Captain who skillfully kept us alive. He sat in the control seat, grinning broadly, like no big deal. In fact, he looked like a happy cowboy, enjoying the wild bronco ride!

So, here I sit on a pony-cart ride to Biba Beach Village. I had survived!

A cup of hot tea to settle my nerves.

And a friendly Asian cat, proving that this too would be a welcoming place.

A delicious bowl of seafood chowder by the beach and the gratitude to be able to do nothing— alive!

I do know, though, that I had failed a test. 

There wasn’t a spiritual thought in my body as I tried to keep the horizon horizontal! I thought I had dealt with letting go of control with Volcano Agung. But someone just upped the ante on me as I faced the fear of imminent death in a  watery grave.

Maybe Paradise isn’t just the Bali version of having everything beautiful, comfortable and cheap?

Maybe this is the real homework I need to do, the last big step in Bali magic transformation  Overcoming fear of death as the key to Paradise on earth? Stay tuned...


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