The other day we were just eating our breakfast on Gili T, enjoying the beautiful morning and talking about our plans for the day. The one thing annoying us while enjoying our banana pancakes and tea was this begging cat. There are probably more stray cats on these islands than people, and most have picked up the annoying behavior of begging, which probably means people are feeding them. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for what that cat did to Nikki–it bit her.
It wasn’t much of a bite. There wasn’t even a mark, much less blood, but the big question was the possibility of rabies. Even though rabies is prevalent in Bali’s stray dog population, we didn’t know of any cases of rabies in the Gili Islands’ cats. But it wasn’t something to take a chance with. So we decided we’d catch the island hopping boat, since there’s only two per day, and go to the clinic listed in Lonely Planet on the smallest island in the Gili’s, Gili Meno (population: 200).
Finding the clinic was difficult, since none of the roads on the island have names. After wandering around the interior of this island for a couple hours, we finally found this so-called clinic: it was someone’s house who was apparently a nurse. She barely spoke English and didn’t have anything useful to tell us, other than to see the doctor on Gili Trawangan. But there wasn’t any way to Gili T from Gili Meno, except to charter a boat, which is expensive. So we decided to get on the telephone and see what to do.
Trying to call people in Indonesia is difficult enough, since there is a general lack of public telephones, and calling cards aren’t available like they are elsewhere. But it becomes even more expensive when you’re on a tiny island and all phones are cell phones, collect calling is impossible, and even the person working in an Internet/telephone shop can’t tell you if a number is local, long distance, or international. But after numerous busy signals, holds, and transfers, we finally reached a doctor on Bali who recommended we come all the way back to Bali (Kuta, Bali none the less) and get the rabies vaccine. Crap!
So we called up our travel insurance company and they started the process going. But I don’t think they quite understood how remote we were on this island. They asked us for our hotel’s phone, and I had to explain the concept of a homestay to them and how the family running the place probably doesn’t have a phone. They asked for the address, but the road we’re on doesn’t have a name, and even the roads that do don’t have house numbers assigned. I was going to tell her there are no motorized vehicles, only bicycles and horse carts, but I thought her head might explode.
At that point, there wasn’t much for us to do. Nikki had received the pre-exposure vaccine which gave her more time. The insurance company had a whole team of personnel working to get us to a rabies vaccine ASAP though. At one point they wanted to fly us off the island to Singapore. Good luck! The island isn’t big enough for an airport, and if a helicopter came to get us, the young locals would probably be talking about how the rich Americans who got nipped by a kitty called Barack Obama and he personally came in his helicopter to bring her home. We knew there are only two ways off the island: take the ferry back to Lombok and go to a hospital in Mataram, or ride the fast boat back to Bali. But the hospitals on Lombok didn’t stock the vaccine and the Bali fast boats only run in the morning. So while the insurance company was urgently figuring out how to get us to Bali with their “fixed wing air assets”, we kicked back, ate dinner, drank Bintang, and watched the sun set.
The next morning we took the fast boat, followed by a very long, slow van ride first through Ubud, then poking along through heavy traffic. But we eventually made it to the nice International SOS Clinic and Nikki got her shot. Unfortunately though, we’re now stuck in Kuta, a somewhat awful city, but in a nice hotel room (with air conditioning!) that the insurance company will fully reimburse us for.
We also didn’t want to go all the way back to Lombok to catch our flight to KL, so we’re now leaving Indonesia four days earlier from the Bali airport and going to Singapore! We’ll then take a night train up to KL to get back to our planned itinerary. So, in the end, this stupid cat bite cost us a lot of fun in the island paradise of the Gili Islands and landed us back in “McKuta”, but it’ll all turn out okay, and our trip will continue on as planned.