It began where all great stories do… on the toilet.
Clawing my way out of the mosquito net and stumbling from our room to the outdoor bathroom, I made my first stop of the day. Like most people (I think?) the bathroom is always the first place I go after getting out of bed, in dire need to relieve my bladder. As I reached for the TP I came up empty handed. Luckily there was a spare roll sitting on the back of the toilet. As I reached behind me and brought the roll to the front, out dropped a rather large cockroach. ON. TO. MY. THIGH. I was trapped on the toilet seat, my bottom half completely bare except for the presence of an equally surprised, writhing roach. My body can’t help but squeam just typing this. Ugh.
It only went downhill from there.
This was our second full day on Nusa Lembongan. Making it to the little island off the East coast of Bali was an ordeal in and of itself – rushing around to various ticket counters all to the tune of “Sold Out” until bumping into a tout who just so happened to have spaces left on a boat leaving in 5 minutes. We rushed to the beach where the boats depart and just barely boarded one of the choppiest boat rides of my life. So choppy, in fact, the main reason we had visited Nusa Lembongan – snorkeling with Mantas – was put on indefinite hiatus until the weather improved.
With high hopes that today would be the day (and trying to put my insect-infested episode behind me), we headed to breakfast. Fresh-cut fruit (which we did not eat) banana pancakes and black tea, the perfect way to start the day in Indonesia. Just as we were finishing and about to head over to reception for our 9am scheduled pick-up, the sweet proprietor came over to our table to give us the bad news. The water was still too choppy for our desired outing, but we could wait a few hours and try to go out then. A little defeated we headed back to our bungalow to wait.
Just an hour later, the same sweet man dropped by to let us know that manta snorkeling was totally out for the day. With just one more day on the island, we didn’t want to risk missing the sea-life completely so we decided to just do a regular snorkeling trip.
Swimsuited up and slathered in sunscreen.
We hopped in the back of the truck and zipped off. Bouncing along the pot-holed roads for what seemed like eternity for such a small island, we finally reached a rather empty and rundown beach. We followed our host to a little wooden longboat and met our “guide” for the afternoon. Completely unaware of what we were getting ourselves into, we waded out knee deep into water and hopped in the boat. Smushed together, the two of us spluttered along the waves, watching as the little outriggers continuously submerged and re-emerged from the blue waters below.
Every so often we would come upon a grouping of similar boats – with a few much fancier and larger ones mixed in – surrounded by snorkels breaching the surface, gliding happily over a reef. “That looks like a great spot,” and “Are we slowing down or is it just my imagination?” popped into my head as we passed by the clumps of boats. As they shrank into distance I wondered how much further we would be going, and how much better could it be? This happened a handful of times in the near 50 minute ride until finally we reached a rock face. Huddled in front was the most boats we’d seen so far. Our guide pulled his little boat into the group, handed over our fins and mimed for us to hop in.
Take the plunge.
Looking down over the side the water was as clear as glass, certainly aided by the lack of depth below us. Something you should know about me – I am not an expert snorkeler. Not that it is something that is all that hard… but I’m pretty sure I can count the number of times I’ve been snorkeling on one hand (something I am happy to remedy). And the number of times I have jumped from a boat out over a reef is… just one. This one. I was not prepared for what was about to come. With fins on and my husband already happily mermanning about yards from the boat, my only thought when hopping overboard was, “I don’t want to step on the reef and potentially cause harm.”
So what did I do? Instead of jumping in feet first, as J did (I learned later), I jumped in kneeling, thinking that by shortening the length of my body, I would miss the ocean floor. Well, it was shallower than I expected and my legs planted firmly on the reef. And, dayam, it hurt.
After all of that – the cut up legs, the rickety boat, the choppy waters, the grey sky and even having to settle for regular old snorkeling (I’m not really complaining about that… I got to go snorkeling in Indonesia!) – I persevered. I snorkeled around. Beautiful tropical fish flitted throughout the reef, right in front of me, but all I could think about was how my legs were on fire. Fresh cuts and salt water are a painful combo. Had the water been warm, I may have been able to stick it out a bit longer, but without the sun the ocean temperature was much cooler than expected. Coupled with the raging, stinging sensation all over my shins, I was out of the water and back on the boat within twenty minutes. J was a trooper and came in early. I needed to get back to land to take care of my cuts, that by this point were leaving trails of blood all over my legs and down onto the boat.
Could this day get any worse?
Yes. Yes it could.
Yet another factor we were unaware of when heading out on this adventure was how we would be getting back to the guesthouse. Hoping that our ride was waiting by the beach, we waded out of the water away from the boat and returned to the exact spot where we were dropped off. Nothing.
And, per usual, the local SIM cards we bought in Canggu did not work on this little collection of islands. We had no way of getting in touch with our guesthouse. We waited for half an hour before giving in to our stomachs and popping over to the little hotel restaurant on the beach. It was an off peak time, so we weren’t overly concerned that there wasn’t a single other person eating at this establishment. Hello, red flag. We ordered two pizzas, seemingly innocuous, and two bottles of water. Not five minutes after we placed our order, did our ride appear from around the corner. We asked if he could give us half an hour to eat, not wanting to be rude and cancel the order. “No problem,” he said.
As he walked back to the road, I noticed movement along the roof. Right where the dining room met the kitchen. A fat, dirty rat was scurrying along the wall, and ducked down into the kitchen. Right where our pizzas emerged minutes later. That’s not what you want to see.
I get it, rats are basically inevitable. But, COME ON, keep ’em out of eyesight!
The absolute cherry on top of this dining experience was how inedible the “pizza” was. I can’t in good conscience call it pizza, as I’m pretty sure the sauce was ketchup, and it was basically raw. Jason’s was cooked a bit better than mine, and he managed to eat some of his. I literally couldn’t stomach a single bite. And, I wasn’t about to send it back to that rat-infested kitchen to get it cooked a bit more. Ugh. It was also completely overpriced.
We slinked away as I left little drips of bloody seawater behind. Unbelievable, we were stranded again. Another 45 minutes passed by before we were picked up and returned to the guesthouse.
After cleaning up my cuts, I clambered back through the mosquito net and didn’t leave again till the next day. Some days just need to be retired early.
Had any disastrous travel days of your own? Well, misery loves company, so tell me all about it in the comments!
Thanks to my bearded half for all the underwater shots and pictures of me in this post.