It’s time to leave! I hope not yet.
Aggiornato il: mar 20
That’s me in the red circle above.
When we saw, for the first time, the island where we live, I think we realized immediately, to be in the right place at the right time. During that first visit and all the time that we spent to admire and evaluate it, we only heard the sounds of nature, the amazing lack of civilization and the relaxing atmosphere.
My husband and I sometimes we do not need words to communicate, we looked each other and we nodded. A small island but not too much, far from the mainland but not too much to be able to move without difficulty, a place almost frozen in time, without haste and with all the necessary time to get lost in own thoughts and dreams. Not near the sea but on the sea. I regret I didn’t spend more time to immortalize those moments with more pictures.
The promontory, which we then purchased, are about 300meters beachfront, overlooking the sea to the northeast and southwest, and then we would have enjoyed the beauty of the red sunsets and the sweetness of the sun that breaks the darkness of the night.
Only a project, though detailed and accurate is not enough to make something exciting, we need the dream, the fantasy that makes you see the dreams already realized in the mind. I must admit, I don’t have the ability to see these visions, have been transmitted from my husband. He is the only able to do things that have already been completed in his mind and describe it to me that I don’t have his ability, like if watching a movie. In the hot afternoon after having already completed our depéndance(annexe), we sat under the only shady tree, on top of the hill overlooking our land where we could enjoy a unique view of our property and the turquoise sea in front.
We began to speak of things already done but still more about those still to do and that is the point when my husband began to show me around the fantastic things, places trees covering this and that corner where to create a relaxing place to lie down to read a book, see a fountain in a pond that flows out its water in a stream which then flows into a lake with goldfish and a profusion of exotic plants and flowers on the sides to give coolness to those who want to spend time nearby, the sound of water that flows downstream.
I must say that if those were the dreams of a visionary, now I live in the reality of those visions and nothing is missing from what he told me. But my husband was a boy who was making tree houses in the woods to emulate Tarzan, one of his heroes as well as Sandokan. I’m used to believe my husband because he has always kept his promises, and when he does, it means that he has already seen it made. After the visions, we jumped on the boat and go in search of a sea bottom where we could enjoy a view of the nature that has more fantasy of my husband.
Our first destination has always been an atoll that is emerging from the sea less than a mile that with the right tide, has a fantastic pool lagoon with the bottom of coral sand, blue starfish, shells, small corals and shellfish. The children that we take there go crazy splashing down in the sun for hours. All around the deep blue but at times along the edge, there are other corals terraces 2-5 meters deep where the marine life is an explosion of colors.
With so many islands available, there are many beaches and seabed intact available for our excursions. There is Turtle Island, where we found traces of several nests, which unfortunately eggs are often captured by the locals to sell them to the market of the village nearby. The island outer west is the target of local fishermen divers catching delicious lobsters for the hotels locally and in Bali. Often it happens they bring natural pearls found while diving and even more often, exquisite fish that they bring to us for sale.
The underwater life is simply amazing and fishes of all shapes and colors. Our Mediterranean octopus, are an insignificant gray-brown, so I was attracted to a baby octopus with red dots and streaks turquoise and orange along the tentacles. It stood motionless on a coral as the little mermaid in Copenhagen.
I reached out my hand to touch it when my husband grabbed my arm in a strong clear message. He told me then that it’s extremely poisonous. Nature can effectively defend itself and at these latitudes is also deadly at sea and out.
These memories were rekindled to my mind vivid, when some time ago Ernest, a fifty from New Zealand knocked at our gate to stand as our neighbor, having bought land just beyond the village. Visiting our property he’s quietly released “Here is! this is just what I have in mind to achieve”. My husband and I exchanged a smile and in a moment, all the difficulties, the sacrifices made have resurfaced forcefully to my mind and knowing the location of his property, I could imagine the enormous difficulties that Ernest must overcome to realize his dream. We offered to have dinner with us, and he agreed without hesitation and my husband and I, again, exchanged a look recalling the skipped meals so many years ago when we had no time even to look for a “rumah makan”.
When the preliminary studies were completed, I was a little scared for the inconveniences to deal with. My husband is a man out of the ordinary, I saw him delighted by the challenge that stimulated his creative sense and ingenuity but if I had asked him to give up he would, but I didn’t feel to break his dream that was already clear in his mind and just needed to bring it to completion. I helped him for what I knew and I could, sometimes I gritted my teeth to move forward, there were difficult days but I would not have merit for the solutions he found, I just followed the “current” clinging to his hand. When he explained to me a project or a solution, it really seemed that he already saw it completed in his mind but not like a dream. The phrase “did you see! It took longer to say than to do it” has become customary at every single step ahead, after late nights at the computer to draw this or that particular to put in place the next morning.
Day by day, a wild place, a bush with 16 coconut trees, with poisonous snakes, scorpions and centipedes it has become a magnificent park. Years later, we preserve the certainty that the project has given us so much satisfaction, experiences and allowed to lead a life that has always been in contact with nature and at the height of our desire for freedom.
Our trips in the rest of Asia, in the following couple of years, have not been as engaging as it was in our initial program but have given us many wonderful holidays, because our residence is right at the center of our desired travel territory. After several years spent on Gili Gede, our enthusiasm for this accommodation is still intact.
The accomplishment of what we had in mind to build required a great intellectual, organizational, conceptual effort and vision.
The constructions at these latitudes require special techniques and solutions. We wanted environments as open as possible to light, perfumes and space. At the same time, the houses had to be inaccessible to “animals” living in such a sub-equatorial environment like snakes. The houses had to be sheltered when the torrential rains would have plagued the area and strong winds have ripped what were not solidly fixed to the ground; could not forget that we were in the most volcanic area of this quadrant and then with a high percentage of earthquakes.
Ultimately, we were in a wonderful paradise but occasionally the devil would or could raging.
We discarded a reinforced concrete construction for several reasons: heavy, bulky and available workers unable to learn the techniques needed to obtain a good product, but first of all we had to keep in mind that being on a small island although distant less then 1km from the main island, we would not have heavy vehicles nor we could get them there unless involving great financial resources and appropriate means such huge pontoons, cranes etc. Our project had to be economically feasible. Our tools were the brain and then the arms.
We opted for an iron skeleton that in addition to being anti-seismic, if well treated, was resistant to atmospheric agents, to earthquakes, termites etc. it could be achieved in a workshop and transported to the place to be assembled with plates and bolts. It was required only to make the excavations for the foundations, the “feet” of the skeleton and drown them in cement.
The beams were all the same length of 6 meters and then the construction for simplicity must be a multiple of 6. We chose 12×12. For the walls, partitions and floors we had a wide choice of materials: wood, glass, bricks and stones. We used all of these materials but from the floor up, was predominant wood. Locally we could have the best and precious wood in the world, from teak wood to iron-wood, mahogany with its warm tones colors. Woods that did not accept the nails, the best steel do not penetrate this wood so dense and nails bend inexorably. Local carpenters use pins from the same wood or wooden nails and countless joints that do not require any nail, besides the fact that to use nails must first make a small hole with the drill, then enlarge it and finally nail it.
We spent quite a time to study prevailing winds and local climatic condition to choose the best location where to build our two homes. The position north-east of the hill was to protect us from any winds that would have blown directly from Antarctica and to shelter by lashing rains of the monsoon season that come from the northern quadrant. Years later, we realized that we had done a good job of predicting and planning. The first house, which was to become the guest house, was made first, and it would host us during the entire construction of the main house. Being smaller and simpler would be completed relatively quickly, allowing us to move on the site.
Many other problems waited to be solved in the meantime. Where to stay until the end of the work for the dépendance(annexe), how procure water and electricity. Three jobs were immediately on the top priority: the digging of a well, a perimeter fence and a security service to prevent so much valuable material could be stolen. The initial one was the most difficult period because every day we had to bear the burden of a three hour journey back and forth the city. There were no hotels in the area and no restaurant. Things changed in the following months and we found a bungalow at about 30min. drive where we lodged in the evening to sleep.
We were fortunate to find on the island, a talented carpenter who could build boats with primitive tools. My husband staged for him, a real carpentry workshop, where we produced not only the artifacts for the home: doors, windows, paneling etc. but the same working tools and wheelbarrows, scaffolding etc. We were concentrated looking for solutions to the needs and working problems, but we were studying to find simple solutions requiring less work and maintenance.
I am pleased to point out that in two years of work, accidents were few and were limited to abrasions, cuts and splinters under the skin. The knowledge acquired as first aid volunteer was very useful but mostly it was rumored that I was a doctor who also gave medicines and all for free. Began to come people with stomach pain, bronchitis, flu, diarrhea, skin and eye infections; I’ve taken care of with a few medicine that I had with me and I never did harm to anyone: I or the sorcerer of the village, there was little to choose. I have always strictly refused to treat children and when I realized that it was of some importance, rather I was accompanying them, forcing to go to the hospital and then I was paying the bill. One day I noticed that a two year old child who was brought to me with a fever of 39.8C had a strange marks on the forehead, I realized that the mother before leaving the village had visited the shaman to protect themselves from “witchcraft” civilization.
Remembering that initial period, still excites me, years later I still have not figured out how I could manage to overcome the difficulties of being in a wild place without even a sheltered corner where to pee, without water and electricity, these achievements occurred over time. Still I wonder, and I can’t give me a reasoned response, I can only think that if you really want to see a dream come true, makes you overcome, perhaps ignore the difficulties in a way sometimes reckless.
My husband and I got used to what we have now, we do not get excited so much, we enjoy what we have: electricity, running water, two lakes and water fountains, a swimming pool, telephone, internet, pay TV, a home that is a dream and a park of more than one hectare of plants and flowers overlooking the sunset on one side and the other on the rising sun, and only people who have seen the original wild terrain before and the achievements after, they remember us what for us is now the norm.
On mainland we have a garage with our car and it is also the point where a submarine pipeline of a kilometer starts to our island; from there the water is pumped from a well that we dug at the foot of a nearby hill and reaches us.
True, we have got used to these comforts but sometimes we stop incredulous to think “… we really have made all these things.” We have planted hundreds of fruit trees and flowers in profusion. Depending on the time there are different scents in the air but all heady.
Over the years, friends have joined us and they gave their unconditional friendship: a beautiful Labrador, she loves the water even more than my husband does and follows him everywhere, but especially when he goes into the sea or dips in the pool and the other is a mischievous naughty Beagle who fears the water as our alley cat that showed up or was brought to our gate a few days after birth.
After the first year, we also started to travel without ever forgetting our favorite and the basis of all our tours in Singapore from which we are just only 2 hours of direct flight.
It’s time for us to leave and this is why we want to sell our paradise but I intimately hope this will not happen yet and I can still enjoy this timeless passage of time in such idyllic perfect surrounding.