The next day we arrived at a small volcanic island named Satonda that had a huge crater in the center that was filled with water. We hiked around the caldera than went down and swam in the lake. They are not sure if the water fills from the sea underground or from rainwater, But seeing how its brackish I guess a little of both. All along the bank of the lake are rocks and coral dangling from grass strings like chimes. The locals tie rocks and coral to the tree branches and when the rope breaks, their wish will be granted. When I’m a multi millionaire than you know my rope broke.
We spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling. The water was really clear, and there were all kinds of fish. There was a box fish that had a pattern on his back like the mazes we would draw when we were kids. He was in deep water, just sorta floating in place. I free dove as deep as I could to get near him and he would turn slightly on his side, stare at me, than casually swim away. I was so fascinated with this fish that I followed him for like an hour. He would stare at me, but never really swim away, and make little clucking sounds as he floated there, so you could say I got a little obsessed with him, but I swore we were having a connection, no kidding. In addition there were nudibranches, clown fish, needle fish, damsels, and more moorish idols.
Well another bom fire was planned tonight on another island with a BBQ but we arrived too late to grill there so the cooks made chicken satays on the boat. Still wanting to have a fire, seven of us decided to go to shore, everyone else decided to stay on the boat. It was low-key on the island, and after a few hours we came back to a very different boat. Apparently while we were gone a few drinking games broke out, and everyone seemed to be good and drunk. Mixed drinks were being handed out, shots poured, and music started going. Gangnam Style came on, and everyone started dancing. One of the girls had an eye infection and was wearing a patch on her eye, so she took the label off her Bintang beer and put it on the patch, and she became captain Bintang. Soon everyone was part of the Bintang army. The crew joined us and dancing got crazier and crazier. Yvonne spun the cook around till his feet were off the ground and I impressed everyone with my MC Hammer moves from back in the day. All I can say is that all the groups broke up that night, and we all partied as one crazy drunken group. By the end of the night friends for life were made, promises of future meet ups, and businesses formed, and just about all of them forgotten in a blacked out haze by the morning. The captain finally closed the party down late night by cutting all the power to boat. That did the trick.
Ugghhhh, the next day was rough to say the least. Pounding headache, little nausea, cotton mouth, your typical hangover. A great time to do the three-story jump off the top deck into the sea. Best way to shake it off. Niko kept saying we had a big surprise today, a nice nature walk to a waterfall, but the surprise had to do with Tarzan, hmmmm. Well we took the boat to shore to a small village where we could buy beer and coke, mmmmm. That’s what I’m talking about. We pull up to a broken dock at the Labuan Haji village. There are three stores, and around twenty brightly painted wood houses. Nico informed us that more money was coming in now, so there were a few brick and concrete houses too. You can’t stop advancement. There was a little old man who was to be our guide. We passed a school and all the kids came running out to talk to us. The kids surrounded Yvonne, they must have realized she was a teacher. They were all like Hi Mister, Hi Miss, then you ask them how old they are and they get all shy. The kids were all dressed sharply in their orange school uniforms.
After chatting with them for a while we continued down the path into the forest, passing only isolated farms. The road was really interesting because instead of fencing, they used trees, not hedges mind you. They were all planted right next to each other, their diameter being between five to ten inches. It created a really unique effect. We walked down past cows, goats, and chickens. At one point Yvonne was staring into a tree, and noticed a very large monitor lizard. It was like thirty feet up, in a crook of a tree, and was probably three feet long. I have no idea how she spotted it from there. When we returned that way later there was no sign of it.
We crossed the stream a few more times and finally reached our destination, a series of waterfalls going into a natural pool. There was a rope tied to a really large tree that you swung off from the top of the waterfall. After a nice hike this was the perfect way to cool down. Taking a running start, you would swing across the pool, reaching the apex of the swing, release your hands and plunge down into the pool. It was interesting the difference between fresh water and salt water, you don’t float in fresh water at all, while in salt you bob around like a cork. There were tree roots going down the rocks that you used as a natural ladder to climb back up.
It brought back so many memories of being in high school with Jason Norrid and Eric Ensign. We would go to The Rope, which was just an old rope over a creek hung from a dead tree, but in high school, this place was legendary. Second only to the Shoe Tree. We would do all kinds of crazy things there from building a platform thirty feet up on another tree to swing from to putting five people on the rope at once. I remember being the guy on the bottom of the rope once, and of course our friend Ben Boedigheimer, was on top and slipped, which caused a domino effect on the rope, till we all slid off landing on the thin ice, me on the bottom. All the air in my lungs escaped with a loud ummph! Not bad enough having four guys crush you, but then the ice made a weird clacking noise that ended with a loud SNAP! We all fell into the freezing water, lucky for us is was only a foot deep, lucky for me having my face smushed into frosty mud on the bottom. Yep, good memories. Lucky for me we were in the tropics this time and not back home in good ole Michigan. Plus no one was crazy as my friends from back in the day.
On the way out of the village we went on a shopping spree, buying coke which was almost as expensive as beer on the boat, and of course more beer. In front of one of the stores were two pet monkeys that were tied up. I went over to one of them and he instantly jumped on me, climbing up my body. Now of course he managed to drag his dirty bum on my arm, Gross! He was not too clean, and I was thinking of all the things I could catch from him, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, Ebola, and of course, fleas. Apparently he had the same concerns of me, cause he climbed up my head and started picking through my hair, grooming me, looking for fleas himself. Ironically, I probably did have fleas after he was done.
In the bay of this little island there was a tiny coral island, and when I say tiny, it looked like one of those islands cartoonist love to draw with castaways on. There was room for a cocktail table and one palm tree, and that’s it. But around this little island was quite possibly the most beautiful coral reef I had seen since the Great Barrier Reef. The entire island had reef around it, all in great condition. Clearly no one had fished with dynamite here. The coral probably went about a hundred yards in diameter around the little island, then it dropped steeply down for forty meters or so on a wall. We dropped in along the wall, going down to about thirty meters.
First thing we saw besides hundreds of fish was a sea turtle, munching away at the coral. Then a black and white sea snake making his way around. It amazes me how reptiles have adjusted to living under the ocean. As we were going along the wall we saw three sharks, two black tipped and one white tipped. After doing the wall we made our way to a sandy area about ten meters down, where we saw a blue spotted stingray and garden eels. This was the first time I have ever seen garden eels, an it was an incredible sight. They are small eels, probably only a foot or so long, who live in the sandy bottoms, sticking out about half their length from holes. There were hundreds of them, looking like tall grass swaying in the wind. Then we ended the dive with another sea snake swimming among us. Niko did a great job dealing with both levels of divers, actually going up and down twice to make sure everyone got to spend as much time as possible. We loved that dive site so much we dove there twice. Even the snorkelers had a great time, Yvonne saw three sea snakes, three sea turtles, and one shark. Really this isolated location has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.
Well, it was are final night out on the boat, and it was Halloween, but damned if we were not all exhausted. Our intentions all along were to have a big Halloween party on the boat, but the Captain Bintang party kinda stole some of the thunder. Not to mention just the really exhausting schedule over the last few days on the boat. Yvonne and I were chilling on top deck watching the sunset and relaxing. When Jessica came up and asked if I wanted to carve the watermelon. We didn’t have any pumpkins, so we improvized. She already cleaned out its guts, so I went to work on the carving with a very dull knife. Anyone who knows me knows this is my favorite holiday, I love every bit of it. So I made a scary jack o’lantern. Almost every one on the boat were dead tired, struggling to stay awake. Jessica and Pernilla were determined to celebrate and made cats costumes with crooked tails. All of the cats have crooked tails out here because of inbreeding on the islands. For the record, if I was going to make a costume, I was going to take the giant blue bean bag and put a white M on it, and be an M and M. But I didn’t, so give me all the shit you want, I deserve it.
Well some of the German Shore guys were playing a drinking game in which all you did was drink, and asked us to join in, what the hell. Well, it was a disjointed game to say the least, but we all drank, and I soon forgot my hangover. Then we all went up to the top deck, which I like to call the confessional, and we learned more about our boat mates. One of the guys was born in Poland, raised in Germany, and was more out going and friendly than the other guys. He had a really sad story. In Bali, where he was going to school, he accidentally hit a kid with his scooter. In these countries, the kids play in the busiest streets, and there’s no side walks. So accidents like this are horrible, but not that uncommon. Well he did all the right things, stopped, took the kid to hospital, paid for everything, and even gave extra. He felt horrible about it. The kid ended up being ok, which was great. But the father kept coming for more money, trying to get everything he could out of him. So he got lawyers, consulate help, and in the end he was advised just to ignore the father, who was trying to bleed him dry. I could not even imagine how bad I would feel in that situation, or how I would deal with it. Well it was the last night on the boat, and for the few single people on the trip it was becoming the Love Boat, so we took our leave to let the magic of the evening take effect.
Well this was the end of us. We were back in the Gili’s, and I was pretty sad to be getting off the boat. It was a fun ride, and we met some interesting people, and had some amazing times. We snuck in one more snorkeling trip off Gili Meno, diving around a platform that had sunk a few years back. This creates an artificial reef for fish and corals. The more hiding places fish have, the more it attracts. Which then attracts bigger fish, and so on and so forth. On this dive we spotted a few sea turtles also. It was a great way to end the trip, even though I am sure the crew was ready to get back to their families, it was great for them and Niko to give us one last outing. This was unscheduled, and so worth it. But time had come to say good bye to the ship, and hop on our long-boat and head back to Gili Trawangan. As good byes often are, it was bitter-sweet shooting across the waves and watching our ship get smaller and smaller.
If you are interested in getting a tour of the Aliikai plus the route we took, view the above video.