Talking with Australians Stuck in Bali Thanks to a Cloud of Volcanic Ash

Mount Rinjani is spewing ash into Indonesian airspace, grounding flights and leaving people stranded on an extended holiday.

by Mimi LaMontagne
Nov 12 2015, 5:05pm

Denpasar Airport. Image via flickr user Sergey

Around ten days ago the Mount Rinjani volcano next to Bali started spewing ash into Indonesian airspace. The inevitable result was cancelled flights and disgruntled travelers—volcanic ash brings down planes, and no one wants to risk flying through it.

I'm also stuck but I'm happy about it—there are worst places to be stranded than Bali, after all. Then I happened to overhear a conversation between two guys down at the pool.

"Mate, all I want to do is just go home," said one. "I hear you," replied his buddy. "It's like a bloody prison here. What are you missing out on at home?" The first guy paused a moment before answering, "To be honest, I'm just missing sitting on my couch and eating sandwiches."

Were these guys really representative of the Australian reaction to altered plans? To find out I went back to the pool and also the airport to ask around.

Greg, stranded since November 3

VICE: How do you feel about being stuck in Bali?
Greg: Horrible! It's like being stuck in jail together. The only positive about this whole situation is getting to meet more people. We're all in the same boat. That's the only positive though.

Who's to blame for this?
Not enough virgins. We need to send virgins up to Mount Rinjani and then it might stop erupting.

How do you defend complaining about it?
We have lives we need to get back to. I have a meeting next Thursday in Bangkok that I needed to prep for, and now I don't have that luxury.

Will this change the memory of your holiday?
Oh yeah, for sure. You give yourself a schedule for relaxing, for a holiday, and when that's over and you're forced to stay somewhere, it changes everything.

Paul, stranded since November 8

Hi Paul, how do you feel about being stuck in Bali?
Paul: It's a luxury prison. I'm extremely anxious, I'm even scared. I mean, I haven't cried or anything, but it's like that. Not having the power to leave is scary.

Who is to blame for this?
What I'm upset about is the communication. The airlines aren't contacting us, we have to contact them and check back every day. Mount Rinjani erupted on October 27 and if I had known that this might be a situation at the end of the holiday, I might not have come. But they didn't send us a text or anything.

Some people say you're in a tropical paradise and you should just shut up. How do you respond to that?
Yeah, those people are really upsetting. I mean, I'd like to put them in a situation where they could have limited contact with their friends back home, and their work. Even if you're in the nicest resort, it's still a loss of freedom. I don't think they'd be saying the same thing.

Would you fly out today, even if you know it's dangerous?
Yeah I probably would. I might not leave the kids but if I had the opportunity, I'd probably take it.

What are you missing out on at home?
Work! I have to get back to work. I have a shop, a pharmacy, and right now I have someone covering for me but if we had to shut down for a day or two it just wouldn't be acceptable.

Will this change the memory of your holiday?

Darrelle is scheduled to fly out on November 17. She's not stuck but wanted to voice her opinion.

So you're not stuck here?
Darrelle: No but it's changed my entire holiday. Now it's all about when I'm going, not what I'm doing. I'm not going out and doing activities or anything like that. I'm worrying about whether I'll be able to get home.

Can't you just relax?
No. There's no information and everyone is anxious, and I feel anxious because they're anxious.

What would you potentially miss out on at home?
I'm a pensioner, so it'd be OK. I'd have to get extra medicine though, I only have enough extra for four days over my scheduled holiday, but I could do that and it'd be OK.

Tegan, stranded since November 9

How do you feel about being stuck in Bali?
Tegan: Well, ordinarily I'd love it.

But you don't like it now?
No, but that's only because I had my wallet and phone stolen last week so I have absolutely no way to get money out. The past week my friends have been paying for me but they've all left now.

How are you going to pay for accommodation?
I explained my situation to Jetstar and they've given me a room at the Ramada, which is really great of them. So yeah, normally I'd be totally fine staying longer but not now.

Will this change the memory of your holiday?
I guess it's going to end on a massive downer but I had a great time.

George, stranded since November 9. George wasn't OK with a photo so here's another one of the airport. Image via Wikipedia

Hey George, how do you feel about being stuck in Bali?
Terrible. We've just been hotel hopping, and that's it. It's not a holiday anymore at all. We've all got lives back at home in Australia that we have to get back to. I'm a painter and I've got to go back and make money.

Who is to blame for this?
I don't know. I really don't know. But something needs to be done—more needs to be done, especially by the airlines.

But you're in a tropical paradise.
Ah, yeah, it's paradise, but it's schedules. Sure we've been having a good time, but the last week has been hard.

Would you fly out today, even if you know it's dangerous?
Mate, it's not dangerous. If some flights are going they all should be going.

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