It was supposed to be a quiet cruise between tropical islands. Instead it became a terrifying game of life and death that almost led to dozens of deaths.
Alright, so I’m exaggerating a bit (and not for the first time. Ask any of my ex-girlfriends). But my trip between Lembongan and the tiny isle of Gili Meno, off the coast of Lombok, was one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had, one which had me fearing for my life and wondering whether I’d be going home in a box.
It started out pleasantly enough. The sea was calm, the sky was overcast by not stormy. The boat, but ‘Indonesia’s safest tour company’ Scoot was smaller than something I’d expect to take to the open ocean, but as we piled in there was nothing to warn us about what was to come. Even as we headed out, I sat back, relaxed, and played Sonic the Hedgehog on my phone. And then everything changed.
The sky turned black, the boat started to rock, and then we were hit from the left by a wave that almost flipped us over. And then another wave barged in, hitting us even harder, knocking one girl out of her seat and sending her crashing to the other side of the boat, splitting her head open. There was swearing in half a dozen languages. One guy with an orange afro started spewing his guts up, and that set off a couple more. Then another wave smashed into us, rocking us so hard that the windows on the far side dipped into the green ocean, sending water pouring into the cabin.
The captain did his best to fight the waves, yanking the wheel from one side to the other while swearing in Indonesian. Water raged in through cracks in the roof and soaked us. The little guy next to me started praying to whichever God he has. I hoped he was putting in a word for me.
One final wave almost skittled us, then the sea calmed and we rolled into the Gili Islands. When we pulled into Gili Air, the boat was caked with blood and bile, tears were flowing freely and most of us were vowing never to step onto a boat again.
Honestly, that boat had no right to be out on the open water. It was little more than a tiny flat-bottomed piece of shit (I think I just described Bill Shorten), and it’s no wonder that these things sink from time to time. If it was the high season, it would’ve been overloaded, too, which probably would’ve been enough to take it down, at the cost of 50 lives. I get that they don’t have the same safety laws here as we do in Australia, but to run boats like that is fucking stupid and shows a complete disregard for human life.
Being heaps brave and shit, I wasn’t too worried. Plus, there was this really cute Indo girl who worked on the boat across from me who kept my mind off potentially dying, and she must’ve thought I was a bit of alright, too, because she gave me her number when we got back to land. I dunno, maybe almost carking it made her feel like taking her chances with the nearest fella, but I think she was keen as mustard on the Row Row. Apparently she spends a few months in Australia every year and wants to meet up when we’re both there, so I’ll see what I can do to put her off Aussie blokes for life.
As for my home for the next three days, Gili Meno, from what I’ve seen it’s very quiet and relaxed, with plenty of good beaches. I’d heard that it’s largely an island for couples (with the nearby Gili Trewarrawarrarangayangoontinytoon catering for party yo cool dudes who want to eat mushrooms – no thanks, getting chased through the streets of Amsterdam by fucking cartoon characters was enough for me), but I’ll see what it’s like to be here on my Pat Malone.
Sitting on my balcony, I can hear the music from Gili T and know that, while I love getting shitfaced drunk more than pretty much anything else in the world, that’s not the place for me. At the same time, right now I’m a single man amongst happy couples, so I don’t fit in here. Sometimes I think my opportunities to be part of either are gone, and that’s why I’m still here, travelling around from one place to the next, never content with where I am or what I’m doing.
The rest of the time, I just think I should have another beer.