Did you see the monkey fish?

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Monday, May 12, 2008

A full day's journey brought us to be boating to little Gili Trawangan at sunset.  Off in the distance, Bali's volcano was looming out of the clouds, dark gray against a technicolor sky.  It was beautiful.  Thus began yet another island adventure. 

Really, Trawangan was sort of an accident.  There are three Gilis (islands) in what is commonly called "The Gilis."  Gili Air is family friendly, Gili Meno is where you enact your Robinson Crusoe fantasies, and Gili Trawagnan...well it's something else altogether.  At first I thought Meno would be fun, but our big goal was diving, and the dive shops are more available on Trawangan, so there we went.  When we arrived at the island it was dark and I ended up wading through the water in my pants.  Fortunately they dry quickly.  We turned left on the road (there's really only one and it goes all the way around, so it's hard to get lost) and started walking.  When someone asked if we were looking for housing we said yes and asked how much they charged.  This is how we ended up at Rudy's.  His reply was 50,000 rupiah.  An excellent price.  And the room was not too shabby - we got our own spacious bungalow with private bathroom...but no sink.  Can't have everything. 

The first night we ate dinner and then walked to the beach to see what stars we could see.  We could see a lot of stars.  It was quite lovely, and we didn't have to worry about being on the beach at night, which is a nice change. 

A lazy morning was slightly interrupted by a 4:30 call to prayer followed by roosters, but we managed alright.  Eventually we rolled out of bed for breakfast (which is free in Indonesia - score!): a delicious banana pancake-crepe and cup of coffee.  This took about two hours due to the fact that we were perched on cushions about two meters from the beach and had no real need to go anywhere at all.  Finally we got down to the business of seeing about diving.  Adventure dives about doubled the cost of a fun dive, which nearly killed us, but eventually we decided to go for a night adventure dive.  Again, nearly every shop had the same price, so it was really about personality, and I couldn't help liking Nicolas, who is a French geography major teaching diving around the world.  He also has lots of tattoos, which are somewhat at odds with the very Frenchness of his accent.  More about the dive later. 

In the afternoon we went for a walk to see what we could see.  We found some very interesting spots where the surf was far away but the water came very close.  These were thoroughly explored.  The dirt road was quiet and shaded by palms and flower bushes.  Then I got distracted by a bucolic scene involving a cow and Travis forged on ahead.  A difference of opinion led me to turn back, while Travis did not.  He took the opportunity to walk the rest of the way around the island, which he told me is very quiet but being developed all over the place.  You can buy land there if you want to.  I would if 1) I had money to spend and 2) I could afford to go there regularly.  I went back the way I came until I found a little hut and contemplated Lombok and its volcano.  I'm glad I didn't have to walk all the way around the island, because when Travis got back he was terribly sweaty. 

All in all an uneventful day. 

The next morning we awoke with the 4:30 call to prayer, followed by the cacophony of island roosters.  We actually rolled out of bed around 10 and had the same, slow breakfast ritual.  Then I got impatient and made Travis come with me to get snorkeling gear.  We had to walk all the way down to the center of town for this and then all the way back, because Barry (who figured greatly in our Rudy's adventure) said that there was new coral right off our beach and we should go have a look.  And we didn't know where exactly to find any other reefs, although there are quite a few around the island. 

We were in the water for two hours.  The first time. After lunch we were in the water for another two, and that somehow managed to be cooler than the first time in.  After swimming over some grasses and relatively tame corals we hit the reef and it was glorious.  What fish!  What corals!  And enough urchins to make urchin soup for days (but don't ever go picking up things if you don't know if it's allowed or safe).  I love the flourescent clams that burrow into the old coral.  I never miss an opportunity to stare at them and wave at the water above them to make them close a little.  They're very nifty and very electric colored.  Travis and I swam about pointing at pretty fish or unusual ones.  We found a couple tiny baby pufferfish.  Getting up close and personal with corals is a good way to spot small fish because they often use the protection of the corals to make nurseries.  At the drop-off there was a unicornfish patrol, and these beasties were well avoided because they were at least two feet long, and they look like triggerfish, which are territorial and bite when offended.  We decided to try our luck with the other side of the jetty, but the surf was far too powerful and there was nothing to see.  I did spot a shrimp and fish pair in the sand, though.  First there was a hole, and I thought I saw a big claw, so I dived to get a better look.  Then a shrimp popped out with a bunch of sand that had come into his little hole.  He proceeded to do this as Travis and I hovered for a couple minutes, laughing at his industriousness.  It was very cute.  Couldn't figure out what benefit the fish provided, though, except sticking itself in the hole.  But the poor shrimp was doomed to work forever, because the surf constantly poured more sand into his little hole. 

On our second stint in the water we had a more seasoned eye and found a great many more things.  It all started with the lionfish chilling on a coral plate.  Travis swam right over it and I had to call him back.  These things are way cool to look at, having their showy, spiny fins, but you don't want to run into them, which means you must have a great deal of control to hover around them, especially in the waters of Indonesia, known to have some of the swiftest currents in the world.  Then Travis found a juvenial spadefish, which would have been rather boring brown and cream striped as an adult (but with large dorsal and anal fins, which is why they're called spadefish), but as a juvenial it has really spectacular wings that triple its body size.  Nifty fish.  Then as Travis led the way across a grassbed I saw some different urchins.  In tropical Indian Ocean waters black spiny urchins are really common, others not so much.  These were big, fat, and red, with short little spines, as opposed to the black ones with really long, thin spines and bodies slightly bigger than a golfball.  Travis found some shrimpfish, which swim together upside down to imitate grass, attack their prey, and prevent being eaten (because if another fish bites down from above the fish can open the spines of its fins farther and prevent being swallowed).  They're fun to watch.  As we were making our way back I saw a pufferfish the size of my arm.  It was easily the largest pufferfish I ever saw (ever never imagined), and I motioned Travis over to see it. It had gone much deeper, into the biorock, and as I was gazing after my find Travis saw another half again its size.  HUGE fish.  Very cool.  I babbled super excitedly as we walked back to our bungalow. 

As we passed the bar, one of the staff asked if we saw the monkey fish.  Monkey fish?  No...what's that?  He smiled and shook his head.  We forgot to pick up the key, so Travis waited outside the bungalow while I ran back.  Then I learned.  You see, this is why Trawagnan is different: various restaurants and juice bars on the island unabashedly advertise that they have THE FRESHEST magic mushrooms "guaranteed to send you to heaven and back, no transportation needed," as Rudy's bar proclaimed, along with some language my grandmother would not approve of, so I will not post it.  The party also rotates among bars, so not only does every bar have some happy hour every day, but you are guranteed a jumpin' party every night if you care to find it.  If you're staying at the place in question it might be whether you care to find it or not.  Rudy's is on the rotation, but we missed the party.  Our last night on the island it was four hotels down the road and it still thumped into our bedroom till the wee hours.  So really I needn't have asked what a monkey fish was, but I also didn't think that anyone would be stupid enough to get high and get in the water and it might legitimately be a neat fish.  My laughing friend then pointed at a psychedelic poster hanging inside the bar and I saw that a monkey fish was, indeed, a generic fish with the photoshopped head of a monkey that you might see on shrooms.  Or so the sign proclaimed.  And of course people are stupid enough to do just about anything, given the right combination of factors.  Naive little me. 

Our last night on the island we dived, but you'll have to read the next entry for that adventure!

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