Copyright © 2009 by Eric Kaufman

Chickens and Chanters, Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Our place in Gili Trawangan is great. It's an upstairs room where we can catch a cooling breeze, that's nicely furnished with a shared outdoor living room area. We negotiated it for 80,000 rupias per night, roughly $8, which we were pretty happy about. It's very comfortable and restful, however we didn't sleep well during our first night.

Many chickens run around on this island, and at any point in the night (not just the early morning) if one of them decides to let off a cackle, it sets off a chain reaction of chickens cackling in turn across the entire island. The first one nearby wakes you up, then you hear it echoed over and over, growing more faint as chickens further away repeat the call. Then in a slow moving wave it comes back closer to home.

Some religious group on the island likes to do early sunrise chanting. In the haze of early morning sleep, the sounds build bizarre dream images. For some reason they use a P.A. system and broadcast their chanting. Thanks. It makes me think of scenes from Apocalypse now. But chickens and chanters alone don't complete the rhetoric of threes.

This is why there are the mysterious whirling whistles. Think of that kid's toy that was basically a piece of hose that you swung around faster or slower to get different pitches of whistling. Now imagine twenty of them cut to different lengths, harmonizing with each other and circling overhead, spanning two or three houses. I was stumped and unable to sleep in a puzzled stupor trying to figure out what it was. The mystery was solved at daybreak when I saw the flock of birds circling and singing their strange constant cries.