I have much less experience than most when it comes to drugs. During my childhood I was competing at a high level in gymnastics and things like smoking or experimenting with weed were very much out of the question. So when I eventually retired from professional gymnastics and embarked on my travels with Annabel, I decided that if the opportunity presented itself, I would give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.
It was a typical hot day in the sun soaked Gili islands, backpackers lounged on the white sand and locals cycled along the sandy road that hugged the beach around the entire island. We were on the biggest of the three increasingly popular Gili islands, Gili Trawangan. With motorised vehicles prohibited, the peaceful paradise is an unpolluted haven where snorkelers can swim with sea turtles just off the beach and beach lovers can sip a mojito in a hammock in the shade of a palm tree.
As we walked down the road from our guesthouse one evening, I noticed that a few of the bars that lined the beach had signs with things like “super magic mushroom shake” or “even Mario can’t handle these mushrooms” sprawled across them. Naturally, they caught my eye and I immediately decided that I wanted to give one a go.
Unfortunately Annabel was much less enthusiastic than I was. She was quick to point out that apart from the pathetically weak bhang lassi (a shake with marijuana in it) I had tried in India, I had no experience with drugs. She didn’t want to be involved in the whole situation and so, undeterred, I decided that I would have to wait until she was busy to track a place down and give it a go.
A few days later Annabel was lying on the beach, soaking up the powerful Indonesian rays, when I declared that the time was nigh and I was off to find a mushroom shake. Annabel groaned in the same way she does when one of my genius ideas takes shape. Knowing that I wouldn’t listen if she tried to stop me, she didn’t bother. I strode off down the road and went into the first place I found that had mushrooms artfully drawn on their chalkboard.
I marched straight up to the man behind the bar. He had thick dreadlocks all bunched up beneath a Rasta coloured hat, this lad was the real deal! I ordered a mushroom shake in a hushed voice, as I wasn’t sure of the legality of the whole situation so I thought it might have to be a quiet affair. Evidently I was wrong as Bob Marley’s cousin whooped and clapped before saying something about me being really big and that I would need a strong shake. This man definitely looks the part, I thought, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing, so I agreed.
I leant with my elbows on the bar as I watched my new friend go about making my drink. I was a bit uneasy when he kept muttering ‘real strong, we gonna make it real strong for you brother’ but I dismissed my doubts as he obviously knew what he was doing.
Holding up a jug he threw in a large handful of mushrooms. He was just about to slot it into the blender when he glanced at me, as though he were sizing me up, before grabbing another handful and throwing it in with the rest. Laughing like a mad scientist he threw the switch and broke into a quick rendition of ‘pass the dutchie to the left hand side’ as we both waited for the mushrooms to be sufficiently puréed.
About thirty seconds of dodgy singing had passed when the barman flicked the off switch and silenced the blender before unending two cans of Redbull into the mix. Once the entire contents of each can had glugged into the jug the Rasta cast a sly grin in my direction before tossing in a few more mushrooms. Laughing hysterically he clapped and did some sort of weird dance as the blender wurred into life once more.
It was at this point that I began to consider the fact that I may not have picked the best place to introduce myself to class A narcotics. This bloke was either mentally unstable or on the shrooms himself. I had no time to worry too much however as he promptly pulled the jug off the blender and poured its entire contents into a cocktail glass, complete with a straw!
Staring at the muddy, brown concoction before me a smaller version of me dressed as an angel suddenly popped onto my shoulder. He was putting up a pretty solid argument for walking away and leaving the ultimately unknown beverage untouched. I was just thinking about getting up when the other, smaller version of me dressed as a devil turned up and smacked his angel counterpart over the head with his pitch fork and decisively won the contest. Hesitantly, I tried the shake… sadly the addition of red bull had done nothing for the taste and so with no further ado I tossed the straw aside, tipped the glass skywards and drained the lot.
I realised I had done something foolish as I slammed the glass back onto the bar and my eyes fell on the Rasta. He had frozen mid dance and was staring at me with wide, fearful eyes. Apparently I was a tad enthusiastic with the rate at which I sunk my shake. Not wanting to hang around too long I rose to my feet and walked out into the sun. The shroom shake had tasted like a glass full of mud with a bit of red bull splashed on the top and for a few minutes I thought the entire brew was going to come out the way it had gone in.
Luckily I managed to quell the uneasiness in my stomach and started to stroll back to our room. As I walked along the sandy road I was bitter with disappointment. It had been five minutes since drinking the mad rasta’s extra strong magic mushroom shake and I felt nothing. I began to wonder whether the shady barman had ripped me off and I had just drunk a cup of standard mushrooms.
I paused briefly to allow a giant, blue python slither across the road. Waiting impatiently until it had passed I continued on, trying to figure out why I seemed to have a super high tolerance to drugs. I was just coming to the only logical explanation, that I must be superman, when I stopped. I had never seen a blue python before. Hell, I had never seen a python before at all. I turned around and stared down the road, trying desperately to see this obviously unique creature. As hard as I looked I couldn’t see it. I waited for a few minutes until the palm trees on either side of the road stopped pulsating. It took a while for their trunks to stop swelling and shrinking and for the palm leaves themselves to stop glittering.
Trying my best to peer down the road I refused to move until I saw the python again. It would appear that I was stood there for some time as a young girl (from the shop I was stood outside of) came and gently asked if I was ok. Jumping as though someone had just let off an air horn next to my ear I promptly fell into a quick walk towards our room, leaving the poor girl stood in the road with a worried look etched across her face.
The going got slower after that as it appeared that someone had tilted the road on its side so it was sloped at a 45 degree angle. Walking slowly, almost bent double with my arms outstretched to cushion the blow if I were to fall. I was wondering how the people walking past me were managing to move so fast without falling. I was also curious as to why they were all staring at me so much. I was just about to tell a young couple to watch out for the blue python up the road when I realised that I had finally got to our room.
One of the nicer places we had managed to find during our time in Indonesia we were staying in a thatched Cabana type situation that was a two story structure with our room being the one on top. To get to it we had a wooden stair case which led to the balcony at the front of the room. I reached the top of the stairs determined to ask Annabel who had installed the fifty extra steps I had just laboriously climbed and how the bloody hell they had managed it whist I was out. She took one look at me from her seat, rolled her eyes and said something about going back down to the beach. “No thanks” I replied before promptly turning around and walking back down to the beach.
To this day I have no recollection of buying them but I ended up sat on the steps of the turtle conservation centre with a tube of cheesy pringles. I was just trying to remember the last time I had seen waves made out of sand roll up and down the beach when I noticed that the man on the pringles can was talking to me. Glancing around me in absolute horror I stared at the face on the can as he stared back. It is important to add that the day before my shroom experiment I decided it would be an excellent idea to see what I looked like with a moustache. Needless to say it looked horrendous and it was why I was now sat, alone and with a moustache, talking to a pringles can.
The conversation was brief, I kept getting interrupted as the sparrows that seemed to be all over the Gili Islands had begun a systematic attack and were flying at me from every angle. I do remember the conversation being both compelling and in-depth.
The most memorable exchange however came right at the end; it went something like this;
Mr Pringle – Tom
Me – Yes, Mr Pringle?
Mr Pringle – You know planes?
Me – Yeah
Mr Pringle – Well, when you go on a flight why do they give you a life jacket and not a parachute?
Needless to say, my mind was completely and utterly blown by this sensational observation. I couldn’t answer Mr Pringle and after that I had to divert my whole attention to the now numerous sparrows that were coming around for another go.
After what felt like five hours (fifteen minutes) Annabel joined me and somehow managed to put up with my spastic arm waves and stifled shrieks as the sparrows (which were in fact nowhere near me) flew closer and faster than ever before. We laid on the beach until the sun had set and the effects of the magic mushrooms had all but worn off. I now felt as though I was completely drunk but no more hallucinations or wiggling trees.
On reflection I am very lucky that I didn’t have a bad trip as I have heard many have. Overall, the whole experience was interesting for sure and although I don’t regret a second of it, maybe next time I will ask for a medium shake…
Have you ever sampled a shake on Gili T? What was your experience like?