Out in a dirty surfer bar in Bali earlier this year, a guy called Big D – an ex-convict with a huge, South Carolina-themed tattoo – told my friends and I about Gili Trawangan, a tiny, idyllic island where magic mushroom milkshakes are sold on the side of the road like it's no big deal. Aware of the fact that ex-cons in dirty Balinese bars usually have the best party hook-ups, it seemed wise to take a day trip to Trawangan.
The island is an early morning, two hour boat ride from mainland Bali. We could have taken the 20 minute flight to Lombok, the neighbouring island, and got a water taxi from there, but a similar plane flying the same journey had crashed a week earlier and we're all mega pussies.
Our boat was called the Rizky Bone, which, coincidentally, is what I was going to call the nu-metal band I started with a rockabilly kid when I was 12.
On arrival, the island has all the hallmarks of a postcard-perfect holiday destination: white sand, clear turquoise water, old German dudes in revealing swimwear, and an impossible amount of Scandinavian babes who look like they're on vacation from the free-range beautiful people farm. You could be on any one of those beaches you've dreamt about while your boss is getting all creepy for the third time that day. Only, on this beach, every other shop sells magic mushroom milkshakes, and the streets are littered with signs saying stuff like "Mega Maximum Radical Mushrooms - Your Return Trip To The Moon."
After about 30 seconds of being there, you start to realise that mushrooms are pretty much inescapable. The morning we arrived, we were getting breakfast and a woman who looked like she'd been alive for at least a couple of centuries tried to sell us a discount bag with our cereal. Five bucks for anyone who's had drug dealer service better than that.
The island is predominately Muslim, but most the teenagers living there are constantly chomping on mushies anyway. This guy told me that his dad would kill him if he ever got caught drinking, but that mushrooms are completely chill in his house. (I know that some of the photos in this are a bit crap, by the way. I'm not trying to be conceptual and "replicate the trip", they're just stills from a video camera.)
Also, there are no cars on Gili Trawangan, only horse-drawn rickshaws. So, when you're all high and start giggling about that thing that looks like a horse charging straight towards you, it is a horse charging straight towards you.
Amongst all the stampeding rickshaws and dread-locked Indonesian bongo circles, this guy outside a cafe was shouting something about having the best shit on the island in his fridge, which is something you don't often hear a drug dealer brag about, so we asked him what was up.
Apparently the guy had just got in enough fresh mushrooms to fill up half of the cafe's fridge and his mum needed the space back to keep her over-priced soda cold. This bag could probably have fed a small family for a week, and only cost £2.50.
After eating a few handfuls of the guy's chilled, psycho-active fungus, we figured it would be a good idea to go snorkeling. It turns out all decisions are good when you're tripping in paradise, because while it may not look like it now, this turtle was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
Once we got out of the sea, we noticed this colossal, apocalyptic cloud moving towards us. It should have been bed-wettingly terrifying at that point, but for some reason it just made us laugh even harder. I think my friend said something about it looking a bit like God had just exhaled a bong hit, which sounds really lame now, but you can't be held accountable for what you laugh at when you've just had a life-changing turtle experience.
We walked off the beach on a pure turtle hype, but then we ran into these begging cats, which really bummed us out for some reason.
To get out of our cat slump, we went to the most luxurious mushroom shack we could find and watched a guy prepare drinkable narcotics for us in the most tricked out kitchen I've ever seen. He told us that him and his friends usually make themselves sick right after drinking the shakes because "then you really fly". I reckon he was full of shit.
This septic tank looking sludge is a pineapple, banana, lime and mushroom milkshake. It tastes a bit like someone has left a Tropicana smoothie in a pit of soil until it's reached its sell-by date.
Weirdly, for a place where it's totally acceptable to spend four hours intently gazing at a wall in a shroomed-out stupor, getting busted for smoking weed can land you five years in jail, and you'd be lucky to escape the death penalty if you were caught dealing. This guy didn't seem to care about stuff like living, though, because just after we'd paid him for the milkshakes, he got this sock full of bush weed out of his shorts and tried selling us some before leaning over the balcony, waving the bag around, and shouting prices to the tourists below.
Apparently Gili Trawangan is the smallest island in the world with an Irish pub, which was equal parts hilarious and depressing. We hung out there doing all of the usual shit you do on shrooms; grinning like idiots at absolutely nothing and making what we thought were profound statements about how the side of a table was all purple and wobbly, until we decided to take a massively regrettable, sweaty walk to the top of the island's mountain.
On our way up, we found this junkyard filled exclusively with stuff from the hotels on the island; all tatty bar chairs, broken TV sets and sacks of assorted, unwanted crap that got better and better the further you burrowed in. Can you imagine any better situation to be in when all you want to do is stare at random stuff and watch it go all wavy and form mind-blowing patterns?
At this point, the trees looked like they were inviting us in, and we all said really embarrassing things about how receptive we were feeling to the vibez of nature.
Some guy had told us there were stone steps up the mountain, but we forgot about them and walked through loads of spiky plants and over countless twigs that we all thought were snakes every single time. This is the moment just after we spotted the steps, remembered what the guy had told us, and all got really excited.
This is a badly taken photograph of the view from the top of the mountain. Sorry for not observing the "rule of thirds", I was convinced that what I was seeing was 2D at that point.
Eventually, as the shrooms started to wear off and this tree had thoroughly spooked us the fuck out, our boat back to Bali came along and we drudged over the waves for two hours, feeling as though we were going to die at any minute.
The whole experience was a bit like going on a confusing package holiday where pensioners openly offer you drugs and your chance of death-by-horse goes up tenfold, which, I suppose, is exactly the kind of thing you should look for in a holiday.
WORDS & IMAGES: JAMIE CLIFTON