The Diary is a Gili Trawangan fan from way back ... well, quite a way back. For one thing the little island haven off north-west Lombok is home to Lulu the world famous swimming monkey. Lulu is a macaque, raised from infanthood by Trawangan identity Angelo Sanfillipo. He acquired Lulu when she was but a six-month-old abandoned by one tourist – shame upon him – and rescued by two others who, having heard of Angelo, arrived on his doorstep at Dream Village and sort of said, um, here’s an abandoned monkey.
We met Lulu shortly thereafter, when on the scene to enjoy some of Angelo’s home-cooked pasta – he is from Genoa, so you can understand the draw – and (of course) were instantly besotted. And not only with the pasta.
At that time Angelo was teaching Lulu to swim. She even tried goggles, apparently with some success, though we hear she has now given them up and prefers to dive down to look at the fish aided only by the naked eye.
Last weekend The Diary called in to see Lulu, who is now rather older and fully mature in the macaque fashion. She spends her days in a big casuarina tree on the beach outside Dream Village. The day we dropped in she heard Angelo’s call and came shinning down the trunk of the tree, then up it again to sort out the tangle she’d got her rope into (she’s tethered on a very long leash that gives her total freedom of movement and the whole tree to play in). Then, that problem solved, she came over for a chat.
Lulu’s routine is somewhat unusual for a macaque. She has a walk and a swim with Angelo every morning – “Lulu she still look at fish,” Angelo told us at the weekend – and a freshwater shower after her dip. She has a proper shower and shampoo every two or three days, and spends every night at Angelo’s pad. Her favourite food is pasta al pesto. Lulu’s a girl with very good tastes.
One difficulty emerged during our Trawangan sojourn. It seemed that every espresso machine on the island had given up the ghost, possibly having heard The Diary was visiting.
Sunday night, when we dined at Tir na Nog (everyone seeks eternal youth) and went on elsewhere for coffee and dessert, was a sad affair. We finally found a spot that said it had espresso – it was Horizontal, where the waiters, apparently all missionaries, wear T shirts asking you “What’s Your Favourite Position?” – and gratefully sat down at the tables under the trees on the beach. We ordered desserts (they were fab) and then got the bad news. Their espresso machine had gone on strike that very day.
No, it’s not what you think. Trawangan is the island of cats. Most appear well fed, though some have obvious ailments that any good vet could sort out in a flash. The Diary stayed at Villa Unggal, in a room that said it had a mini bar (and therefore a fridge) and didn’t and astonishingly in this day and age did not have wifi. Or soap in the bathroom. On inquiry, we learned that the soap was finished and were advised to use the shower gel instead. Ah, well.
It did, however, have a lovely little marmalade chap whose days were spent snoozing in sunny or shady spots according to taste and whose meows would surely put Garfield to shame.
He got The Diary’s breakfast bacon on the last morning as a reward for being a pleasant little presence.
A tip: Never walk alone at night on Trawangan if you’re a diarist of senior years. If you do, people will materialise out of the dark at regular intervals and offer you weed. One pitch heard over the weekend: “Like a smoke? You’ll sleep better.”
The Diary, being of clean habits and clear conscience, never has trouble sleeping. And on relocation years ago to the jurisdiction of Indonesia’s sternly anti-drug criminal code, resolved never to be tempted to assume, as so many foolish people seem to, that the law cannot possibly apply to you. There are plenty of other places in the world where if you want weed or worse, supply is easy and the legal penalties somewhat less than unremittingly draconian.
Trawangan is also famous for its allegedly magic mushroom, one among those varieties of macro fungi whose hallucinogenic qualities can really land you in the soup.
We returned to Bali direct from Trawangan on a Blue Water Express boat that packed a total of 1,000 horsepower in its quadruple outboards and made the 60 nautical mile trip from Teluk Kodek (on Lombok’s mainland, where it calls first before the Strait crossing) to Serangan Island (Benoa) in two hours, fifteen minutes. The service is very efficient; the boat, which was not crowded at all on our trip, is fully supplied with life vests and life rafts; and the crew hand out mints to help you while away the time.
Crossing the big water was a doddle. We felt nary a bump, even when we crossed the Wallace Line. But the middle bit of Badung Strait was a different matter, between Nusa Penida and South Bali. It got very lumpy. But it was over quickly and for an old sea dog like The Diary presented no problems at all. We just love watching those walls of water coming at you.
We had a note the other day from a reader, who signed off as Simon Says. Naturally we read it with interest, childhood games being remarkably fresh in our memory. Simon says The Diary should be more positive because constant negativity will age us prematurely.
Well, we don’t run on battery power, so problems associated with mistaking the negative for the positive contact are really rather minimal. It’s also rather difficult identifying the alleged over preponderance of negative elements posited in The Diary.
Perhaps Simon simply wants us to reflect the shiny Bali that the glossies like to pretend is all there is. Unfortunately (for Simon in this case) there’s rather more to Bali than bling. And some of what there is, that Simon would rather we didn’t refer to, is plainly unpleasant; or embarrassingly stupid. That said, we don’t think a fully objective assessment (or a simple story count) of The Diary would produce the wholly negative impression that Simon says he sees.
Hector's Blog is published as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times newspaper, out Fridays. The Bali Times is available worldwide through NewspaperDirect. Keep updated on Bali news at www.thebalitimes.com.