Sunday, March 13, 2011

Magic Mushrooms Anyone?

“You want magic mushrooms?”
“If they’re free sure!”
“Oh yes! I’m on them right now! Flying!” the guy says as he turns up the techno music while he drives down an impossibly narrow lane made of mud and rocks.

That was the conversation we had with one of our many drives of the day. To say the past 48 hours have been weird would be an understatement. They were weird and frustrating and a bit stressful.

It all started when we left our lovely room at Sama Sama Bungalows in Amed on the west coast of Bali. We had to get to Padangbai to catch the ferry to Lombok and then travel up Lombok to get to the Gili Islands. Our room in Amed was so beautiful that it was a bit nice to think we were there in the off-season and scored it for the low price of $6 a night per person with breakfast!  The serenity of Amed was broken quickly when we arrived in Pandangbai to a chorus of “You want transport? Ferry to Lombok? We give you good price!” What was the good price you ask. Well 300,000 rupiah per person which is just over $30 and way too much when you’re on a rather strict budget! So we insisted they leave us to discuss it and by the time we got across the street to a variety store they’d dropped the price to 100,000 each. We still weren’t onboard though so Ally and I headed for the ferry office. Along the way several others tried to get us to purchase tickets from them but we held our ground, they even followed us on their scooters. The ferry office was a weird place. It was a newer building but dark and empty except for one man sitting in a waiting room like area not looking like he was actually waiting for anything. We found a security guard and he wrote down the price of 1 ferry ticket, 36,000 so about $4.  So we figured by the time we paid for the ferry and transport up to the Gili’s we’d spend around 90,000 or more so we got the guy to lower his price to 90 each and off we went.

The ferry was 4 hours and quite boring. When we first got on we were bombarded by women trying to sell us snacks and they would NOT leave us alone. I even raised my voice at them and that’s not really not me! FRUSTRATION! Meanwhile we spent a good amount of time on the ferry watching for tsunami like waves on the horizon.

Of course when we arrived in Lombok we were taken to a place selling trips and they told us we wouldn’t get to the boat on time so we’d have to stay the night in Senggigi. We overpaid for a snorkeling trip and got a free night at a local inn. This was the place were things got weird. The strange little inn was inhabited by a few older couples, all enjoying the plentiful magic mushroom supply and reliving their youth. At dinner our waiter took Mia to the ATM on his scooter then came back and tried to rent us some bikes because people here don’t seem to just have one job! If they can make money on the side they will.

In the morning we jumped in our van and headed for the harbor. When we arrived we were ushered into a café full of other foreigners. Some guy tried to tell us that we needed a return ticket from the Gili’s and said that everyone around us had them. We insisted that we didn’t need them and had read several things that informed us NOT to purchase return tickets from these people. There was a Canadian guy sitting next to us and he told the guy to stop lying to us as no one had booked return tickets. I got angry and said some thing’s and we all stood our ground and then the guy trying to sell us stuff threw our ticket down and told us we couldn’t get on the boat to GO to the Gili’s and then called us bitches in Indonesian he was also very angry at Canadians saying Canadian’s were bad people! By this time we took the grand stand of grabbing our stuff and heading for the harbor without anyone else. I’m not going to lie we were all hoping to start a revolution but no one else followed!

In the end we arrived at the ticket office and got our tickets no problem! So the issues on Lombok turned out to be just another money grabbing ploy.  On the island we have experienced a far nicer and quieter existence than we have for the past week. We snorkeled, checked out the sea turtle conservation tanks and got to know our perhaps overly friendly inn owner! I’m not sure if he doesn't have any friends or he was just happy to have girls around to talk to about all the "tall fit European guys!" I’d love to repeat the things he was saying but I just can’t bring myself to do it! I will say we were in a state of shock with a side of OMG laughter!

Tomorrow we’re heading out on a snorkeling trip and I think we’ll call the Gili’s home for a few more days!

On another note no Komodo’s for me. I just can’t deal with the suspect deals and money obsessed tour operators! One should not be so stressed out in an environment like this!  

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