Terima kasih. Terima kasih, I repeat over
and over, till my throat goes dry and the Indonesian words of
gratitude become a meaningless, Australian-flavoured gibberish.
I wince. And fiddle with the label of the plastic
water bottle that Ketut pressed gently into my hands. Made chucks
me a toothy grin and tells me to breathe as he treats my left leg
with Betadine. His hands, baked golden by years of sun with deep
ridges of age, dance softly along my calf, imploring my body to
express where it hurts. Through salty, wobbly vision, the faces of
concerned onlookers swim in and out of focus.
A cat smelling of something rotten, with sticky,
sweat-saturated fur, stares at me through a nearby bush. He cocks
his head and twitches his nose as I squeeze my eyes shut. Taking
off my grit-stained glasses, I rest my head in my hands.
This scene is the result of 19 years of unawareness,
and borderline carelessness, of my own mortality. Well, thats not
entirely true. In fact, as a rule, I refuse to eat anything past
its use-by-date and never leave home without a thick sheen of
SPF50+. Yet, somehow, last month I found myself crumpled on the
edge of a T-junction with my ankle wedged tightly beneath a
Its a common enough story for young travellers.
Let go of your inhibitions! they say. Be free, wild
Sure. Fuck yeah! I can do that.
It seems that most Westerners become well acquainted
with the hot sting of gravel-grated flesh when scooter-venturing
through Southeast Asia. Particularly in Bali, where a culture of
helmetless, Aussie Bintang fiends thrives despite the barrage of
figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs each
An Australian dies in Bali every nine days.
For me, upon arrival on this beautifully balmy island, and with
my parents more concerned about angry Mount Agung, the volcano,
than the mortality rate of scooter-loving tourists, the statistics
faded into white noise and felt about as sobering as Melbournes
Dumb Ways to Die
campaign. Like thousands of other Western travellers, I felt as if
death from misadventure just wasnt me.
As night falls, illuminated by the ever-faithful
florescent glow of 24/7 convenience stores, the main streets of
Kuta come alive with the shouts of young travellers. Men and women