Around The World In Eighty Words : 11. SHIRT

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point? For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – /// – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Africa, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was on the plains of Angola in Africa (///ironing.basket.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words – shirt.

“It’s called Lombok”, I said to Lucy as we walked through the rice fields of the Central Regency of the Indonesian island of Lombok. “That’s a silly name,” was the only response I got from my dog who was busy sniffing around to check whether any hyenas had followed us from Angola. “Well, no doubt Huddersfield is a silly name to people from these parts.” I continually tried to fight against the xenophobia of my canine companion, but it wasn’t easy, she was a quarter Labrador after all. Our eleventh word change had taken us to the other side of the world and landed us on a volcanic island east of Java. “Wasn’t there a film with a title something like that?” I asked my dog. She didn’t reply, which is all too often the case.

Lombok is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands which form part of the West Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. As if being part of a chain of islands known by the term “lesser” wasn’t enough to give you an inferiority complex, Lombok is generally described as being “next to Bali”, which is a bit like being described as being the unknown brother of the famous whoever. It even capitalises on this reputation when marketing its tourism, describing itself as “The Unspoiled Bali”, which is a bit like Cleethorpes calling itself the “Unspoiled Las Vegas”!

Dog and owner had come to land in the middle of a rice field, a mile or so away from the Pendem highway in south-central Lombok. There was clearly plenty of farming going on in the area, and there was a fair amount of variety, so I made efforts to discover what was cultivated other than rice. “They seem to have become fixated with the letter C,” I said to Lucy, “like parents who call all their children names starting with the same letter.” “There’s coffee, cotton, cinnamon, cocoa, cloves, cassava, corn, coconuts and copra,” I said, reading from the guidebook. “Not much chance of sausages,” said Lucy, mournfully. “Nor beer,” I added with equal dismay.

Having reached the main road, we were trying to decide where to go. To the west there were beaches, to the north there were monumental volcanoes, and to the south and east there were …. cloves, corn, coconuts and copra. “Do you think they will have any cinnamon rolls?” asked Lucy. I ignored her question and continued my efforts to educate her on the wondrous features of all the exotic places we were travelling to. “Lombok changed the world in the thirteenth century,” I said. Lucy yawned. The 1257 Samalas volcanic eruption was perhaps the biggest eruption in recorded history. Its after effects helped trigger a mini ice age with famines and crop failures throughout the world. There is still volcanic activity in the north of the island, with the most recent eruption having taken place in 2016.

“And there are earthquakes,” I continued enthusiastically. In 2018 there were massive earthquakes in these parts, with hundreds of people being killed.” Lucy had stopped yawning and I detected a return of that troubled look she displayed when we heard the hyenas in Angola. Yet again I was forced to question the suitability of my companion for a life of international travel. We decided to head for the nearest city and find a luxurious hotel, so we could forget about our fears. A quick Google search found that the nearest suitable candidate was the Hotel Queen in Praya, and so we headed for that with a song in our hearts and a purposeful stride in our steps.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, we were a tad disappointed, to say the least. As we stood outside, I read Lucy some of the reviews that had been posted online. “Location is very strategic and pleasant,” said one. “The waiter is very friendly,” said another. “So what’s it to be?” I said to Lucy, “do we take advantage of the strategic location and risk the very, very friendly waiter, or do we choose a new word?” Lucy shrugged, as only a dog can. The decision was clearly mine. “Right,” I announced with a degree of conviction I’m not sure I could justify, “Let’s pick a new word and head off somewhere else, somewhere we can find a decent hotel, a quiet but well-stocked bar, and perhaps even a cinnamon whirl.” “And someone to do our washing” added Lucy as she sniffed my socks.

So off we go again. We’re heading for ///washing.basket.shirt. See you there.

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