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Adventures of a swan

How Burning Man Prepared Me For Island Life

INDONESIA | Tuesday, 18 November 2014 | Views [435]

Gili Island

It’s been a week since I left the comforts of New York City for a new role as backpacker, owning everything I have in a 45 linear inch sack. Truth be told, the lack of clutter in my life is liberating. With the lack of trying to carry everything I used to own, I have made it out to Indonesia. My first stop was in Kuta in Bali near Denpasar. Then it was a ferry ride to the island of Gili Trawangan to meet up with a friend whom I met in Amsterdam in 2011. 

The island is about a mile wide in diameter and about 10,000 miles away from NYC. Indonesia has advanced but it is still far from being anything familiar to the big apple. Especially Gili, it is an island isolated away from a lot of luxuries of modern society, most of the water on the island comes from wells. The isolation should be scary, a total culture shock? No, not really, I have found living on the island is almost similar to a famous desert festival in Nevada, Burning Man.


Things about Burning Man that has prepared me for Island Life:

Sand, Dust, and Heat

Indonesia is really close to the equator, therefore it is hot pretty much 365 days out of the year. That kind of weather engenders a tropical climate of the sandy variety, with sand comes dust. Dust, a notorious feature of bring at Burning Man, it will get everywhere. To a certain point, you learn to live with it. I have gotten to the point where I know I will not be as clean as I was back in New York City. There will always be dirt underneath my nails here so I have adapted in keeping my nails 2mm shorter than they would have been in NYC. It’s a small price to pay seeing how it could be worse, like freezing temperatures with a forecast of freezing rain. 


Riding a bike through various terrain

Gili is a tiny island without mobile transport. The only way to get around is by bike or horse drawn carriage. Being someone who is more for radical self-reliant, I quickly rented a really nice bicycle for the duration of my stay at Rp 35,000 IDR = $2.88 USD a day. It came with a free bike lock but locals on the island rarely lock their bikes. Much like Burning Man, I want to trust the good of humanity but some times the extra security of a lock could be the difference between a hour walk or a 20-minute bike ride back to my bed. 
Some areas of the island are still considered remote. There are roads in the main strip right where the ferry drops you off on the east side but the center and the west are little more on the dirt road or dirt path side. These roads tend to be covered in sand, bike riding deep playa on the 3:00 side has taught me to power through it. Gotta work those thighs and calf muscles. 


Not phased with power outages

Going back to fact that Gili is a tiny island, it only has 200 kW in self generated solar power. The rest comes tom the neighboring city of Lombok through an undersea cable network. Thus, it it quite common to experience power outages when the demand for electricity is high. sometimes during the evenings, there will be spontaneous power outages on the whole island. It is common to be looking up from your dinner only to be met with darkness instead of the face of your dining companion. This island quirk usually happens in the evenings around 7pm. Luckily, all the major businesses are prepared for this and have backup generators or in some cases backup backup generators.

After spending a week in the desert without any power in my tent, being without electricity for an evening or a day in rare cases, I am fine with. I will just grab a coconut and just chill in a hammock for the night. The only problem comes from biking back at night in complete darkness. Having ridden into deep playa at strange hours at the early AM, I am prepared for this, however, unlike the playa, I regret not packing a headlamp. Like the playa, if you didn’t pack it with you, you might have a hard time getting on. Been searching the shops on this island, apparently the concept of a light beaming from your head is a foreign one, as foreign to me as this man’s flashlight man-purse.


Only bottled water to Drink

As stated, the only water source on Gili Island is well water. This is not drinkable water. Some of the water sources on the island have been known to emit a smell of rotten eggs due to the hydrogen sulfide, a normal occurrence in well water. The level of hydrogen sulfide is low enough that it will not cause any health issues. However, allergic reactions have been known to happen. 

Tags: bali, burning man, culture, gili, indonesia, island, life, trawangan, water


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