Bernie handed me  a wet towel and said to cool my heals. I threw it back. It was his wank towel, and knowing him, he had a tug between the time I was looking at the restaurant sign and waving good bye to Fitri.

You can talk, I said, and couldn’t you have wanked in the toilet, like an ordinary decent citizen?

I cut him some slack. We were mugged by jugs.

I’m not sure if our lives would ever be the same.

On the way out of town, Bernie pulled over to an abandoned warung near the beach.

It was the statue that caught our attention.

The statue was basically a set of big boobs defying gravity. The goddess was rinsing her long hair that went down to her flippers. She was half mermaid and human.

She radiated sex and seeding.

‘I wouldn’t mind seeding her at all.’

Can you read the plaque, I asked Bernie.

It said she was the Goddess of the Eastern Seas.

This was a real find.

‘And we found her human form at Hooters.’

Hang on I said, there’s more to this and a porn gratification.

The Indonesias, a throwback to their Hindu roots, believed in these kind of deities.

‘But what about the tit connection.’

Another good question, Bernhard. I’d say that through ancient medicinal practises, the art of propping up the big boobs of their deity still continues to this day.

‘You’re making this shit up.’

Well you did ask, at this stage it’s all speculation.  I said lets hit Mt. Ejin, the sacred mountain, and see if we can find any answers there.

My knee was bunged, Bernhard had a bad hip, and there were other ailments we kept secret.

No one wants to admit they are getting old and falling apart, do they?

I google mapped our location.

‘Says the warung is called Watu Dodol.’

‘What to what?’

I  said we need to head back into town, and head east to Banyuwangi.

‘I’ll go the backroads from here,’ says our driver, ‘fucked if  I’m back tracking.’

I was all for exploring too, I really was.  This is what traveling is all about, taking the roads less traveled by.

‘Correction,’ said Bernhard, ‘it’s Warung Alex. Get your facts right, and you want to  be a travel writer.’

The sneaky bastard was doing his own checking on his iphone 4.

You’d think he’d upgrade to a seven.

‘I heard that cunt.’

He took a  few back roads and were now on the main road to Mt. Ijien.

‘Besides, I don’t want  apple to have my finger and eye prints and nor do I want fancy animation on my selfies.’

He never took selfies.

We were gaining altitude, tobacco plants were now replaced with coffee crops. Coffee and tobacco, man we were in the right part of the world.

‘Pass me another coffee bitch and hand me a Dunhill.’

See, we were aficionados of the stimulants.

It was four in the afternoon by the time we arrived.

After paying for parking, near the entrance to the track heading up the mountain, swarms of tour guides offered their services.

‘Give me your number,’ said Bernie, ‘and if my knee buckles on me up the top, I’ll call you and pay you handsomely.’

I was worried my knee would collapse too. Walking ten kilometers a day was one thing, but coming down a steep mountain might be the end of my dodgy knee.

‘No worries,’ says an old man, in his sixties, but all bone and sinews, ‘have herb that will make you feel good. No problem with pain.’

‘How much.’ Bernhard took out his wallet and handed over two red notes.

A little packet of green herb was handed over.

‘Just take a pinch, and start chewing, after ten minutes, you will  notice the difference.’

The old  man introduced himself as Beni.

‘See you in a few hours,’ I said.

‘I think it will  be much less than that,’ said the old man.

I had my doubts.

‘And so do I,’ said  Bernie, but he just couldn’t help throwing around money and helping those who actually need it.

‘Fucked if I’m going to give  my money to an Australian run business in Bali.’

I felt the same, and tried to spend most of my cash on locally provided services.

‘Like big titted whores.’

That’s  right Bernhard. That would be later, I hoped, if only I  didn’t kark it up the top.

Beni said he’s a miner.

‘You’ll see a  few of my brothers up, just say you know me, and they’ll treat you kindly.’

Being treated kindly and fair and square always worked  in my books.

Ten minutes into the walk, the heavy breathing ceased. We were smoking like  billies but everything seemed much lighter. Even the air. Gravity wasn’t an enemy any more. I felt like a mountain goat.

‘And fuck like one.’

Bernhard was obviously feeling the effects of the herb.What ever it was, it was working. My bunged knee never felt any better. I tested it. No aches or creaks,  or general tiredness. My neck was feeling liberated  from tight muscles.

‘Not far to the top  now,’ said Bernhard. We had only been walking 20 minutes but were making great time.

‘Not sure what they put in the herbs, but it feels like high grade coke. The energy from it is sensational.’

I couldn’t have put it any other way. And the medicinal qualities. My back was straight and I was a few inches higher. I felt like I was 24 again.

‘Give  me some more,’ I said.

‘Nope, last thing I want is for you to break dance on a precipice. Lets save some for tonight, we might be needing it if things pan out right.’

He was right. This stuff was potent and needed to be used sparingly.

I thought I heard the  old  man who sold us  the herb that it wore off after an hour.’

‘Should get us to the top and back with  time to spare.’

Bernhard was striding ahead.  We past a few Western hikers.

They probably think we are Swiss, the way were ascending the mountain.

‘Swiss on speed more like it,’ said Bernhard who was puffing away on a Dunhill.

The miners were making their way down carrying a large hessian sack full  of sulphur stone.

‘I bet they are chewing the herb too.’

I doubt they could afford it. Bernhard said we’d find out soon.

At the summit, sulphur brewed with other toxic chemicals.

The lake in the crater was a simmering turquoise.

Cough cough.

‘Toughen up princess.’

We walked over to some workers at a makeshift hut.

‘Friend’s of Beni,’ said Bernhard, in perfect Bahasa.

Fuck a duck, where did you pick that up?

‘I’ve been around the block a few times, you should know that.’

We thanked the boys for the coffee.

About ten of them work the enferno. Another ten do the evening shift.

Bernhard said that when the sulphur rock is broken down, it’s mixed some bitter herbs that grow on the slopes.

‘They say that the volcanic ingredient can be found no where else on the archipelago. And  that the herb concoction likewise is a guarded secret. Since the crack down the communists in the sixties, the locals here have been keeping their alchemy to  themselves.’

Like herbs that make your tits bigger.

‘And cunt tighter.’

Bunyuwangi has always been connected to magic.

‘And the last crack down in the 90s saw many locals killed for performing the dark arts. It was politically motivated.’

I had to give it to you, I said, ‘you really have  done your homework.’

‘It was just a quick conversation with the boys, one miner to another, now lets get a move on, we got a date at Hooters remember.’

The walk back down was easy, but gravity started to assert itself.

‘Of course it did you fuckwitt, we are going downhill.’

‘But those ache and pains are coming back.’

Bernhard looked at his watch.

‘One hour on the dot,’ he says, ‘but the fall from youth shouldn’t be too bad, most of the hard  work is behind us.’



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