PART SEVEN: GILI TRAWANGAN
If you have never woken to a swimsuit wearing, slightly overweight, hairy dude, his budgie snugly smuggled inches from your face, you are luckier than me. Compounding this vision was his face leaning over me equipped with a snorkel and mask. I very near shit the bed!
It appears that Mad Dog, the crazy bastard, got into my stash last night when I was asleep. My own fault for leaving it out I guess. He was bouncing around the room still abuzz and was hell-bent on hitting the reef immediately. How he had managed to procure the necessary equipment overnight was beyond me, but on this island anything is possible.
Seizing the moment, and playing catch-up, I chugged a mushy and jumped out of bed. I was/am up for anything at the moment. These islands seem to have woken some party-mad beast within my soul and I feel it is best to appease him before I return to the daily grind.
Mad Dog bounded out the door, already in his flippers, and frantically waddled down the hotel path towards the water giggling with glee – like some sort of giant, drug-fucked penguin.
I followed, but was stopped in my tracks by what appeared to be a Midget Komodo Dragon crossing the path. My first reaction was ‘Holy shit, these mushrooms work fast!’, but upon further deliberation I realised I was still entirely sober and this vision must in fact be real. The small reptile stopped mid-way and turned one wise little eye up at me, as if in assessment, and then sidled away into the scrub. I remained momentarily, wondering what the fuck that was all about, and why so many small things seem to be tormenting me on this trip, then regathered myself and headed down to the water, excited at the prospect of some hallucinogenic-enhanced snorkeling.
Mad Dog was already twenty metres out when I reached the ocean, and only another thirty or so from the reef. I quickly put on my flippers and waded in, desperate to see if I could catch up with him. After what seemed like a few minutes of frantic flippering, I stuck my head up to assess my progress. The shore was straight ahead. It is apparent I do not have a great sense of direction underwater. Somehow I had veered off in a wide arc towards the left and had completed an entire U-turn. By now Mad Dog had hit the reef, and was no doubt seeing all sorts of wonderful things, but I was left to retrace my steps and stop every few metres or so to make sure I was still on track.
I eventually made it and was immediately amazed by the colours that confronted me. Both fish and coral of impeccable blues, reds, pinks and greens, overwhelmed the senses, and ocean life breathed around you like some sort of Hindu festival. I no longer cared which direction I was going, I just followed whatever caught my eye and purred blissfully along without worry nor fear.
But then things changed.
Mad Dog began waving frantically at me to come over. He was a little further out, but I moved his way and we broke the surface and removed our masks.
“Did you see that?” he yelped.
“No. See what?”
“Reef Shark! Quick!”
He reattached his mask and headed back under. I excitedly followed. I could see no evidence of the great fish, but noticed Mad Dog was taking me out deeper, to where the water got darker and the reef edge dropped off like some great precipice. My nerves began to fray, but afraid of appearing the coward I pushed on. In a cruel twist of fate, this is when the mushies kicked in…
I saw Mad Dog ahead, frantically pointing at a dark outcrop of coral below him and became mildly aware of a dark shape gliding around near his feet. It moved so smoothly it was surreal. I moved in closer for a better look and even though they are quite small as far as sharks go, and pretty much harmless, it was still an awe inspiring sight. Beautiful, so beautiful, and as the waves of mushroom madness overtook my very being, I felt an insatiable desire to embrace this dark creature, and make love to it.
Swimming down further in an attempt to capture my new love, I began to believe I was now one with the ocean and felt no need to breathe the air of the land – a poor lapse of judgement, I admit. The beast swum on ahead of me, its speed far out-rivaling my own, but it made a sudden about turn and then appeared to come straight at me. My joy turned to panic as my eyes played tricks on me and one shark morphed into a thousand – and an mountainous wall of orange coral rose up behind. All that was once my ally was now turning on me, and in a great sweep of orange, red, and razor sharp shark teeth, I was overwhelmed into darkness.
I awoke mid-afternoon back in the hotel room with Mad Dog passed out in the bed next to me. I was exhausted and felt as if my entire body was sapped of all energy. I drifted in and out of sleep wondering how I had made it out of the depths of the ocean alive. I write this now feeling mildly better and waiting for Mad Dog to wake. Was he my saviour? Do I owe him my life? God I hope not, I’ll never hear the end of it!
By Al McClintock