It’s been days since I’ve had a massage. Normally when in Bali I spend most of my time face down on a table. This being my last afternoon on Lembongan, I decided it was time. So, this afternoon I had a shower, put on fresh clothes and filled up on water, and made my way towards a hot tip. It’s an unobtrusive entrance. A narrow, shady path lined with bamboos and cannas beckons from the the heat and noise of the road. Pan pipes and running water draw the curious deeper in . The noise of the street falls away and the temperature drops. The path opens into a private manicured yard with bonsais in pots, water features in every free space, and five or six private bamboo massage huts. Sandalwood incense burns away somewhere. The whole is symmetry and zen and tranquility.
I fill out my requests and get ushered into a hut. I put on the suitable attire – a pair of black crepe paper ‘panties’ that are about as form fitting and flattering as a large paper bag with the corners cut out. I present myself face down on the table when the door opens and in walks a man. He’s all smiling teeth and cracking knuckles. I panic. Every massage that I have had in the past has been at the hands of a small but frighteningly strong female. I’ve never been oiled up and rubbed down by a dude. I eye the door, weighing my options; is there more dignity lost in spending an interminable hour in the grip of another man or running for the safety of the road in my semi-transparent, hair-net underwear. He follows my line of sight and closes the door. Too late. I’m as tense as a guitar string as he starts applying the oil. Relax sir, plis. I stare at the floor through the hole in the table with eyes like hard boiled eggs. This is not my idea of a good time. Relax sir, plis. He finished on my calves and starts getting closer to the centre of town. Things are about to get a whole lot less professional. I grit my teeth and resign myself to the knowledge that there’s only 56 mins to go. Plis sir, must try relax. The clock ticks away as though it needs new batteries.
In hindsight I consider myself a survivor. To his credit, Nyoman cracked my joints like no one before and I walked back out of there as bandy as Ghandi. I think if a scooter lined me up on the road I could have gone up on my toes and let him pass right through my knees. I haven’t been brave enough to get another.
I left Lembongan in low spirits. That lazy little little island and its people really made an impression on me. I’m so glad I went. For the last day I’ve been on Gili Air, and by comparison I’ve found it disappointing. The food, the people, the accommodation. Every few minutes a tiny horse jingles past pulling a wooden dray on a small truck chassis. I’ve endured a few hot walks across the island with full baggage because I can’t bear the idea of adding to their burden. The diving in particular has been a let down. It really doesn’t live up to the colour and variety and challenge of Lembongan. The quality of instruction is much poorer. I realise now why World Diving has such a good reputation and I am very grateful to the training provided by Catur, Tink, Carolyn and Kai.
I sit now on the western beach of Gili Air. A few short miles across the water looms Gunung Rinjani. The upper half of it obscured by cloud. Tomorrow I travel to Lombok for a three day trek to its crater lake and summit. The guidebook says that this is a hard trek not to be taken lightly. After an hour getting rubbed down by a dude I think that it should be a piece of cake.