Bali dealers target Aussie schoolies
UNDER bright light and on the steps of a Kuta minimart, in full view of everyone, a drug dealer tries to shove two packets of magic mushrooms into the hands of schoolies.
The two Tweed Heads teenagers protest angrily, shoving his hand away, eventually throwing the mushrooms to the ground and running away.
They want none of it.
Earlier another group of schoolies buys pseudoephedrine from a dealer in clear view, just outside the Engine Room nightclub, one of the designated schoolies hangouts.
Down the road a bit and opposite the Bounty Bar, a dealer discreetly shows us what he's offering, secreted inside the plastic of a cigarette packet.
His cocaine is about $150 for one gram or he will take about $210 for a gram of cocaine and two ecstasy tablets.
Another dealer says he will sell his cocaine for $100 a gram and $50 for two ecstasy pills or $150 for 15 grams of marijuana.
While the "pseudo" as they call it on the streets is legal when sold as cold and flu medication, the magic mushrooms and the rest are not.
Since late 2014 magic mushrooms, formerly legal on the streets of Bali, have been classed as a type one narcotic - the same as marijuana, heroin and cocaine - and earning a maximum 12-year sentence for possession.
But with Australian schoolies converging on Bali for their end of year celebrations, the dealers are hanging around the Kuta central nightclubs.
One tells us however, he draws the line at offering hard drugs or trying to sell to schoolies.
"They are just school kids. I don't sell to them. They could get in big trouble," the dealer said.
He doesn't want that kind of trouble. The dealer says he works for a boss and sells on the streets at night when he needs money. It's the only job he's got.
But the mushroom dealer was not so discerning.
On the steps of a minimart, next to the memorial to the 202 people killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, he is insistent the Tweed Heads schoolies take two packets of mushrooms as News Corp Australia watches, within metres.
But the teenagers want no part of it. The dealer insists, trying to make them take the mushrooms in plastic bags.
One of the teenagers later tells News Corp Australia that the dealer was offering them for about $10 a packet.
"He says, 'I sell you mushrooms'. I kept saying no. I don't want them. I know what goes on, they try to make you take it," the teenager said.
And once its in your hand, it's possession under the law.
After a period of education the ban on magic mushrooms was officially enforced in January 2015 but dealers are still selling.
In May last year, a Singaporean student died after jumping from the fifth floor balcony of his Kuta hotel room after consuming magic mushrooms mixed with orange juice.
The pseudoephedrine the dealers are selling is a cold and flu medication mixed with antihistamine and is readily available as a legitimate medicine in pharmacies.
Pseudoephedrine is also a precursor to methamphetamine.
Dr Mieke Magnasofa, the clinical director at Bali International Medical Centre and Siloam Hospitals, says the medication makes people more alert and active but taken wrongly and in high doses can cause the heart to palpitate and have other adverse side effects.
She warns schoolies to think about the fact that their actions can have tragic consequences, especially if taking drugs or overindulging in alcohol.
"A holiday in Bali is very exciting, just stay away from drugs and alcohol or you will have a tragic history," Dr Magnasofa said.
"Also make sure you have travel insurance. That determines how the medical treatment will be delivered. Medical costs are not cheap."
One of the lures is the cheap alcohol. One of the clubs is selling cocktails like Sexotic, Blue Bella and Bali Aussie made with house brand alcohol - locally made legal vodka -for about $6 and offers two for one during happy hour. Local alcohol, arak, is offered for about $4 with a mixer.
It is arak which in the past has had tragic consequences, causing blindness and death, with only a small amount containing deadly methanol.
While arak produced locally in legal factories has not been the problem it is the arak made in backyard factories which can be lethal. One of the clubs on the main strip of Kuta is serving its arak from plain unlabelled bottles, in one case an old Bintang beer bottle.
So far schoolies celebrations in Bali have been muted, with little trouble, and the police presence in Kuta is limited.
There have no major incidents, save for a couple of drunken street fist fights between rival schoolies and no one has been arrested. Hospitals report few injuries.
News Corporation has witnessed a number of rowdy fist fights including one on Monday night which stopped traffic in busy Jalan Legian. Police intervened, getting the victim into a taxi, as punches were thrown in all directions and people screamed.
The Red Frogs, a volunteer group that assists schoolies, have set up a tent drop-in centre near the 2002 bombing memorial and next to a police post.
They have been helping intoxicated schoolies back to their hotels. They have about 35 volunteers in Bali.