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.