With many considerations to be made for onward progress, I resolved to devote a day to reading and a backlog of writing, a necessary indulgence which I hoped to offset by doing it on a day trip to a spot out of town known as Hawaii Beach. The freshly formed lovebirds were headed out there, and though I initially felt the instinct to resist the reluctant emotionally blackmailed invitation from Superbitch, I changed my mind when I saw that the city was Friday shut in the main. The promise of a beach was one I had not anticipated and decided in the end not to be intimidated by belligerence. Indeed, part of me found a fascination in not for the first time enduring bafflingly inappropriate behaviour which allowed me to realise payback in simply not being deterred, if I was a thorn in the side then I would let it sting.
The stroll out to the bus station proved to have been an immediate bonus in revealing the adjacent tourist info centre, a pertinent priority since together with new sidekick Roberto from El Salvador of all places, we were under pressure of time to promptly assess and reserve accommodation for our impending and supremely popular next destination, Gunung Mulu National Park. Informed that we now had to inconveniently somehow book it direct whilst juggling similarly scant transport availability, it at least took the first chip out of the stumbling blocks. The indecently erratic and indiscernible bus service afforded us time to investigate a nearby produce market, where we promptly scoffed our supposed picnic of many unfamiliar exotic fruits in waiting for the bus. Rambutans were a handy snack of furry red balls which you burst open to reveal something akin to a lychee with a seed in the centre, then Mangosteens which were a purple tomato shape offering very small but addictively sweet and slimy segments. By the time we had endured the super cramped half hour trip out of town a whole pineapple was all that remained.
It transpired that Hawaii Beach was somewhat optimistic nomenclature for a beige strip along the South China Sea, its character primarily qualified by the presence of stilt houses and small fishing launches lining a river running just inshore. Having met another traveller couple off the bus, my intended work was somewhat distracted by a gorgeous Austrian chick who proved to be contrastingly affable and easy going, as the boys challenged the ocean and Hippy Bitch worked on her tanline. Pineapple and cookies were another diversion, after which all of the worlds injustices seemed to be epitomised by a ridculous episode of the lovebirds' mutual distraction serving to make us miss the infrequent bus. With no choice but to resort to hitching, they finally showed up at the roadside to prompty snaffle the elusive ride which should have been ours, I excruciatingly took the last seat after shouting apologies to the eminently preferable Austro-Geman couple. Having made undefined promises to meet up for the evening I was now left plagued with guilt at having had to abandon them and with no way to contact them, I sadly never saw them again. Roberto's friendly demeanour finally provoked some semblance of decency from his partisan partner and so we shared a beer and curry with a newly arrived Parisian guy, before finally retiring to suddenly appreciate a telltale itch. Suspecting bed bugs, investigation revealed the daunting reality that I had unknowingly succumbed bigtime to the attentions of sand flies at the beach, small distinctive bites which made bed bugs and mosquitos seem unlikelily preferable. I sat up all that night until dawn under the constant pressure to lather my limbs in Tiger Balm, a ritual I would play out relentlessly for the next week or more, redeeming some sort of achievment from the day in finally exacting research of the complicated choices ahead. There had been a further frustration that day in realising it to be Indonesia's independence day, a celebration I would have savoured but had learned of too late to adapt into my plans. Too bad.