One the eve of my nineteenth birthday I was on a boat trip from the Indonesian island of Lombok to the Komodo National Park. My two friends and I had taken the boat trip on a whim after having been approached by a man promoting the boat trip at the hostel we were staying at.
It was sold to us as a party boat trip of four days, which would take you around the northern coast of the Indonesian islands, through various interesting places and on to Komodo, all in the span of four days, for around $100.
Excited as we were, and having realised that the last full day at sea would be the day before my birthday we accepted and prepared accordingly; buying 32 large bottles of beer, three bottles of rice wine and nine bottle of vodka.
We arrived on the boat only to find it was a small, eighteen metre dingy made entirely of wood, with no windows (only open portholes with no glass). We were sharing the boat with three other people (not the ten party people we were lead to believe), none of whom drank!
Nonetheless we had a great time and when the final day at sea came around we began drinking, and by midnight the three of us had finished off the supplies we had brought with us before going to bed, just after midnight as the boat inched out of the shadow of the last large island and into the strait of Komodo, the sky clear and twinkling.
I awoke, several hours later, still plastered to the sound of one of my friends screaming guturally. I became aware that we were caught in a storm; a bad one. The boat was rocking violently from side to side, water was splashing through the portholes and all the items within the boat were flying around the deck. My friend was on the ground floor, with a pair of life jackets on his chest and legs, screaming. Mostly guttural, with the occasional “save me god” and “I’ll become a priest if I survive “ (he’s an atheist lol). I became aware of two lumps under blankets sliding around the deck and soon realised it was the two young Indonesian work experience kids, lying paralysed in fear under the blankets.
I spent the next few hours, leaning out of a porthole smoking cigarette after cigarette, gettin splashed by the side ways waves and watching the lightning light up the archipelago as we sped past. I grew angrier and angrier, imagining headlines about our ship going down; all on the first few hours of my nineteenth birthday.
I was so angry that, once I noticed that most of the crew was now praying, leaving the entire ship to the captain that I just said fuck it and in my drunken stupor, went back to bed, where I managed to sleep for a few hours, braces against a wall and holding a mattress against a conveniently human shaped slit in the wall.
I woke up sweating as the sun rose to the spluttering and eventually cutting out of the engine. Looking out, fearing the worst, I saw the beautiful sunrise over clear blue waters and grassy hill topped islands, we had arrived. It was a great experience, and I would do it again if I knew that I would come out the other side.
What a birthday that was. I saw the day out swimming in the ocean, climbing into the mangroves as swarms of flying foxes came in to roost.
I’ve had a few others; mainly infections, one in chile which had me hospitalised, another from Nepal that lead me to hallucinated and break out in fever, and another from Thailand which resulted in my wound festering.