Leaving Lombok is like waking from a dream. Apart from a weekend in Sengiggi (I love saying it like that, as if we are fancypants people who leave our metropolis home to “weekend” on the coast) – rainy, expensive, plain beaches – we were in the disappointing downtown area of Mataram, holed up in our hotel making chai tea with our leftover Indian spices and rediscovering Netflix.
I had a dream a few months ago where I was back at home in Canada, just for a couple days. In the dream I felt relieved. In the dream we had planned all along to have a three day stop in Canada halfway through the trip, but I had forgotten about it until the last minute. In the dream I was relieved that I got the chance to go home and see everyone, and pack some things I wished I had brought in my backpack, and then we were off again. I wasn’t craving to go home (I know our parents are reading this – don’t get excited) but perhaps subconsciously I thought it would be nice to hit pause for a minute.
Traveling is exciting and all the stories about cockroaches and weeks of salt-water showers on end will be fuel for all the late-afternoon chats over tea I plan to have with my husband, children, grand-children (and great-grand-children) in my early 100s… but reliable power, air conditioning, internet, and a sealed bedroom without bugs are really nice for a few days here and there too.
On Day 170 we get a ride with Zamy from the hotel up to Bangsal port (where we first arrived in Lombok over a week ago). As with a generous handful of other places we’ve been in the past six months, the male employees (and, let’s face it, probably the females too, but they were less obvious about it) of this hotel are absolutely enamoured with “Mr. Marc”.
“I said to my driver No, today I drive Mr. Marc” Zamy says with a smile, before piling us into his little hatchback and zooming us down the coast, chatting happily as Mr. Marc covertly plays a bit of Clash of Clans on his phone before we are out of 4G signal area.
Bangsal, just like the first time we were here, is an absolute nightmare – touts everywhere yelling at you “transport, transport” – a refrain that will be familiar to anyone who has been near or on Bali before. We are happy to have Zamy, who weaves us through the crowd and into a nondescript building by the pier, negotiates our boat price and shows us a cafe he recommends for lunch. We drop our bags with relief, order up a ginger soda and two nasi goreng takeaway and slump into two chairs, thighs sticking instantly to the wood in the humid air.
I’m slurping up the last dregs of my pop with a straw when Marc’s spidey-senses start tingling. Certainly our luck with transfer boats in Indonesia has shown us that schedules mean next to nothing, and although many people are happy to sell you a ticket and operate a boat to your destination, they don’t feel it’s actually their issue whether you physically board that boat or not. Marc casually wanders to the front of the cafe, going to ask someone about our boat. I look up from my glass bottle to see him frantically shoving on his sandals: “It’s boarding, let’s go!” and he’s off!!
I slap on my big backpack, collect my water bottle and daybag from the table and run over to the cook: is our rice ready? On the counter I see two little black plastic containers complete with a mound of rice, fried egg and “salad” (one slide of cucumber and one slice of tomato). Good! But no, he’s sprinkling on some greenery and reaching for the chili.
“No sauce! My boat is here! I have to go now!”
I feel like I’m in the movie Love, Actually when the cheating Dad is at the jewelry counter buying something for his office crush and wants it wrapped up quick before his wife comes back, but Rowan Atkinson is lovingly adding all kinds of flair. I peek to my left and see Marc absolutely flying down the now-deserted pier to a large white boat at the end. I point – THAT IS MY BOAT – NO SAUCE!! Indonesians hate conflict and confrontation, and the poor cook’s hands are shaky and clumsy as he tries to affix the lids, wrap some forks in a napkin and add to the bag. I grab the containers, shout a thank-you over my shoulder and jam my feet into my sandals at the door.
Now, I’ve never been a track and field star, but running down the concrete pier in my flip flops, backpack sliding across my sweaty slick shoulders, arms full of fried rice, water and a day bag… not my finest hour. As I pass small groups of Indonesian drivers and tour guides who, no doubt, have just waved farewell to their charges after watching them board my boat, they shout “go, it’s leaving, faster faster!”. It’s not helpful.
I’m not sure Marc would have wanted me to wait for the rice. On the other hand, if I had left it I might have gotten an earful over wasting $7 CAD and leaving us on a two hour crossing with nothing to eat. What have I done?!
An Indonesian man comes running towards me and takes the bags from my hand. I’m so hot, confused, tired from my 100 metre dash that I just let him take them – my normal traveler skepticism has literally melted in the hot sun and been left in a puddle somewhere back there. He dashes along beside me calling encouragements in broken English and I have a out-of-body vision of myself: sweaty, overweight North American risks missing her boat to purchase and consume even more calories. He’s hustling his 120 lb frame at a rate I can’t match and reaches the boat before me, passing my belongings on to the deck. Marc (bless his soul) is standing on the pier, refusing to get on the boat lest it leave without me. We heave ourselves onto the back of the boat, gratefully shedding our packs and walk with wobbly legs down into the seating area, grabbing two seats at the back right under the air conditioner.
I can’t speak, I think I’m going to hurl. We sit in silence, rearranging ourselves if ever a wave causes our thighs or arms to touch – too hot, too hot! It’s about 40 minutes before we have cooled enough, and our stomachs settled enough for us to touch our rice. A pirated copy of “The Finest Hours” is playing on the TV bolted to the wall. If you don’t know of it, this is a movie about boats in peril on the sea. On big waves.
Now, I couldn’t make this part up. An hour in to the trip, when Bali is large enough on the horizon for us to see specks that are resorts on the beaches, and Lombok has faded to mountains popping up over the waves, the boat starts to really roll and pitch. When we hit a swell at the wrong angle the boat belly-flops into the trough with a bang that jolts your spine into your molars. All those who were dozing peacefully ten minutes ago are now sitting up, alert. Minute by minute my nails are digging farther into Marc’s arm. I’m not ever going to be accused of being calm when transportation gets hairy (or even when it’s not, as evidenced by my ugly-cry when driving in Sri Lanka) but even I know that you shouldn’t worry too hard if the crew isn’t worried. And right now the crew is seated on boxes outside the captain’s room chatting and laughing. So, no worries.
I try to talk myself off the ledge as a movie about boats sinking is playing on the TV over my head. Really.
Except now the captain comes out and speaks angrily to them in Bahasa Indonesia and they scatter. A few march through the seating area and out the back door. Another starts moving people around the cabin – to redistribute the weight, we realize. There is tension in the air. Ok, now I’m really scared.
In a move that makes me feel both worse and better at the same time, Marc whispers a plan to me. If the boat were to capsize, we should wait until the water stops coming in the windows and then swim out. The life jackets are under our seats. Leave the bags and just go and then we will swim clear of the wreck and wait for help, there are lots of boats in the area because of all the tourists. I’m terrified if he is scared enough to think like this!!
Well, you know because I lived to tell the tale: our boat did not sink. As with all the other shitty travel days, the boat crossing is forgotten the moment you step outside and see the crystal-clear turquoise waters of your island destination.
Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get an e-mail every time we write about almost dying in a watery grave! What could be more fun than that, I ask you.