As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent / you asked for the latest party


For some rea­son the above lyric is float­ing around in my head repeat­ed­ly as I write this, and I can’t for the life of me work out why. What Bowie’s nihilis­tic mas­ter­piece has to do with this post, beyond lost dreams, I don’t real­ly know…

Edwar­dian boys books are full of it. They strug­gle through the jun­gle to dis­cov­er the great lost city, com­plete with great mon­sters or beasts. It’s noth­ing new and King Kong essen­tial­ly plays on the same theme, over and over again (although I’m not big on the mon­key sto­ry). I always loved this sort of lost civil­i­sa­tion stuff as a wee boy, maybe because I was born on the cusp of the end of Empire, a year before Antho­ny Eden, his mind and rea­son addled by a speed addic­tion, threw what was left of British pow­er and pres­tige away with the gross impe­r­i­al fol­ly of Suez and Baden Powell’s world was no more.

So, it’s a fan­ta­sy that many of my age prob­a­bly have some­where in the fog of their ever so slight­ly slow­ing mem­o­ries. I mean look at Peter Jack­son, I know he has all that mon­ey and is sure­ly sur­round­ed by syco­phants now, but didn’t some­body have the balls, the hon­esty, to say to him: Peter, King Kong, are you sure?

But there I was, I found it. Or should I say, we found it, a bunch of us. But it was my idea to go look­ing so I’ll raise my hand for the cred­it. Over the past cou­ple of weeks we’d heard, actu­al­ly whilst out on a boat doing a spot of snorkelling off Nusa Lem­bo­gan – as you do – a sto­ry of the lost theme park of Bali, com­plete with a beast or two. And the giv­en address was less than five kilo­me­tres from my front door, down a road, seem­ing­ly to nowhere, that we dri­ve past all the time. We decid­ed to take a look.

And, yes there it was, the lost city of Bali. Built, so we were told, by an Ital­ian guy with Suhar­to mon­ey (he had a bit, still has), who ran out of mon­ey when the Indone­sian econ­o­my col­lapsed in 1999. It seems he (the Ital­ian guy) sim­ply shut the doors and walked away when the banks put their hands up in ear­ly 2000. He shut the gates and left. And now, for a small fee, the local ban­jar will let you wan­der through at, although we didn’t know it when we entered, your own risk.

There it sits. I had some vision of a small park, a ride or two maybe. Just a few for­lorn skele­tal build­ings, but this thing was and is huge, acre after acre (23 I believe) of run­down restau­rants and food con­ces­sions; round­abouts; a brew­ery; a water slide; a walk-though aviary; teacups, like the ones at Dis­ney­land; a mas­sive roller­coast­er that ris­es into the sky and then has col­lapsed with twist­ed yel­low met­al writhing through the for­est which has start­ed to reclaim the whole mess; danc­ing foun­tains; a fake vol­cano which appar­ent­ly explod­ed sev­er­al times dur­ing a day and an includ­ed water race – and a hotel.

We walked through all this in won­der – over rivers and around wind­ing paths, avoid­ing bridges and paths which no longer looked safe. And them we found them: the beasts. Actu­al­ly, they were croc­o­diles, big ones in one lake, and small ones in anoth­er (oh, and giant tur­tles in anoth­er but that’s nei­ther here nor there). Salt­wa­ter crocs, and we rough­ly count­ed them – fifty at one count, sev­en­ty at anoth­er.

These ani­mals, how they sur­vive who knows, sat bathing in the sun, many of them mas­sive and sit­ting on top of one anoth­er, some with their mouths wide open, some swim­ming around the water look­ing men­ac­ing­ly at those of us brave enough to ven­ture onto the wood­en over-bridge for pho­tos.

I made the deci­sion, hav­ing under­stood the local Bali­nese woman to be say­ing, cor­rect­ly, that it was not safe, to keep my big bulé bulk off it. I found out lat­er that they had no idea as to the where­abouts of the snakes and the Komo­do drag­on that were pre­vi­ous­ly res­i­dent. It makes a per­son secure to know that a Komo­do Drag­on, those things with sali­va so fes­ter­ing with bac­te­ria that a lick can kill, was per­haps wan­der­ing my near me some­where. Still, I’ve shared a room with drum­mers before on tour so I’m able to deal with most bac­te­r­i­al issues.

What I can’t fig­ure out is why. I know why it prob­a­bly col­lapsed, but why it is still sit­ting there, so almost com­plete, but so entan­gled in vines? Why hun­dreds of thou­sands (prob­a­bly, real­is­ti­cal­ly, mil­lions) of dol­lars of AC units, refrig­er­a­tion units; kitchen equip­ment, met­al, dodgem cars, roller­coast­er, and so much more is just left to sit there for years. And who feeds those bloody croc­o­diles?

But I feel more com­plete now. All those Boys Own books that we used to get from the Ohakea Air Base library (impe­r­i­al themed books were big with the mil­i­tary, prob­a­bly still are) have a ring of truth about them now.

I know, I’ve seen it.

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