These early starts are becoming far too frequent, 3.30am taxi today for a 6.15am flight zzzzzzzz. However, we were more than happy to do this as it meant that we were on our way to paradise- Bali to be precise.
After a 4 hour flight full of turbulence, we arrived at Denpasar airport on the island of Bali. As soon as we stepped out of the airport, the first thing that hit us was the heat and humidity- literally felt like no air to breathe! Definitely the hottest place we had been so far. We'd booked ourselves a night in the popular tourist area of Kuta, just so we could get our bearings and figure out how to get our next location, the Gili Islands.
Kuta is probably the most well known town in Bali, full of surfers and Australian families on their holidays. It's a typical "tourist" town, beautiful beach with plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops and the gateway to get to many other places in and around Bali. After a quick walk around Kuta and a bit of food, we headed back to our hotel and contacted Lou's friend Adam who lives on Gili Trawangan, for some advice on how to get there. The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands — Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air — just off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia. Within half an hour, we were booked to leave our hotel at 7am the next day headed for the port of Padangbai to get the fast boat to Gili Trawangan.
So the following day, after a minibus transfer to the port, we boarded our fast boat to Gili Trawangan. After a smooth crossing over sapphire blue seas and past some beautiful scenery, we arrived at Gili Trawangan. We certainly were not disappointed when we arrived, it really did look like paradise. First task was to get off the boat- which basically involved jumping off the back and into the sea- no great hardship when its 35 degrees, the sea is crystal clear and the sand white! Next task was to get to the dive school that Adam works at. Although we knew that there was no motorised transport on the island we hadn't really thought about the alternative mode of transport would be- enter the horse and cart! After a rickety 5 minute ride, we arrived at the dive school. We were met by a warm welcome from Adam and he answered all of our questions about Gili T and advised us about where to look for places to stay. Without bags safely stored at the dive school, we headed off in search of some accommodation. The island itself is pretty small; you can get round it on a bike in an hour, and laid out on a grid system. There is a "main" road along the beach front, which houses lots of bars, restaurants and guest houses and then a series of roads parallel to this. The further you move away from the beach, the cheaper the accommodation but wherever you stay you are never more than 5 minutes walk from the beach. After checking out a few guest houses, we settled on "Rumah Purnama" run by a friendly local called Abdul. For about £12 a night, we had a lovely little room with a terrace area (complete with hammock) and a delightful outside bathroom with salt water shower (standard for the majority of the accommodation on Gili). After getting acquainted with our new surroundings, we spent a couple of hours on the beautiful beach, had a swim to cool off and then met Adam and his girlfriend Sarah for a few drinks at the dive school before heading to the night market for some delicious dinner.
The following day, we headed back to the dive school to begin our PADI dive course with Adam. After being told all of the basics and commands, we were suited up and in the pool with 2 Aussie girls and a German ready to learn to dive. Unfortunately I (Hannah) had some trouble with my breathing in the pool with the oxygen tank and subsequently this meant that my PADI course was over. Whilst Lou and the others carried on with the course, I headed off to the beach, which would become my home for next few days whilst they completed their course - they may now be certified to dive but I've got a wicked tan!
Whilst sunning myself on day 2 (actually quite a difficult feat in 38 degree heat, I actually had to sit in the shade at one point and anyone who knows me and my love for sun will know that that is pretty shocking!), I saw a girl called Kelly, who we had met on the boat over to Gili. Kelly and her friend Patrick had got off the boat at Lombok and spent a couple of days there before heading over to Gili. We arranged to meet them later in the evening for dinner and a few drinks- Wednesday night on Gili is "party" night at the Irish pub!
So, whilst I was busy sunning myself, Lou was busy learning to dive.....
The course was brilliant in a word. The first dive was a bit daunting. We flipped backwards off the boat - James Bond style - and as we started to go down I heard a massive bang behind my head.... Adam looked at me immediately and gave me the signal to go up to the surface. Eeek what had I done?? But it turns out that the tube connecting the tank to the mouth piece had come apart - Adam later told me that he had never seen this happen before under the water - I like to feel special! So, with a quick change of tanks we went back down. We saw loads of different fish and even turtles which was awesome!
After this initial day of trying it out I then went onto do the final two days of the course and saw some amazing dive sites, including a wreck and a site called Shark Reef - but alas we did not see any sharks..... maybe in Australia?
We did have a bit of a scary moment when a very protective Trigger Fish (about a foot and half long with some sharp teeth) decided that Adam had got too close to its nest of eggs and went in for the attack. Adam gave as good as he got and in the end the battle was called a truce as we moved away from the nest - but Adam in true Pompey fashion did encourage him a bit.
So I made friends with the entire cast of Nemo - Clown Fish, Angel Fish, Rays, Turtles and saw loads of coral which looked like a mixture of heather, mushrooms and trees - hmmm very hard to describe but hopefully that gives you an idea of the completely different world it is down there.
We had to do an exam of the course - I got four wrong out of 50, which I don't think is too shabby and am now certified to dive to 18metres. I am looking forward to diving in Thailand and will try to get some underwater pictures to put on here to show you. Adam is an excellent teacher and I would highly recommend Trawangan Dive School if any of you make it out there.
So, after 3 days doing our thing, on our last full day, we got up early and rented bikes to do a cycle tour of the island. Easier said than done, a large part of the track that goes around the whole island is sand. Bikes and sand do not mix well so we ended up walking quite a lot of it! It was well worth it though as we had mostly spent our time on the more "developed" side of the island and the opposite side was much more untouched apart from a few large private residences- which we have earmarked for our future second homes. We had gone out at 8am to try and avoid the heat- no such luck within 5 minutes of being on the bikes we were sweaty messes!!! After our bike tour, we had some breakfast and headed for our last day on the beach. I (Hannah) decided to hire a snorkel and see what I could find in the sea. The main swimming beach on Gili Trawangan is white sand and crystal blue sea but not off the shore line, there is a large amount of coral which you can easily swim to and snorkel above, I saw some pretty cool fish and lots of vibrant colours. By the afternoon, the heavens had opened (generally, the Gili Islands are spared rain and have their own sort of microclimate, it rains most days on neighbouring Lombok - you can see the clouds from the beach on Gili but doesn't tend to make it to Gili itself) and after sheltering in a restaurant for an hour or so, we had one last swim before heading back to our guest house to get ready for the evening.
We had arranged to meet Patrick and Kelly, along with Heidi who Lou had been diving with and another Dutch girl called Henny who Patrick and Kelly had met earlier in the week, to watch the sunset on the beach. After a short walk to another part of the island, we stood on the beach and watched the colours of the sky change, it was absolutely beautiful. Quite romantic you might say! We then found a peaceful beach side tree house restaurant/ bar away from the main drag of the bars where we continued to watch the sunset while drinking cheap cocktails- perfect!!! A little while we headed back towards the main drag of Gili T and found a lovely seafood place for dinner, I (Hannah) had the most delicious tuna steak which I had picked myself from the fresh selection of fish. Friday is another party on the island at a restaurant called Rudy's so along with our new friends, we spent the night dancing and drinking more cheap cocktails and generally enjoying last night in paradise.
Next morning, it was time to bid a sad farewell to Gili Trawangan after an amazing few days on paradise. We headed back to Kuta on the fast boat and a rather torturous minibus journey. Henny had recommended us a hotel in Kuta, so we arranged to meet Heidi there for our last few days in Bali as she was also leaving on Tuesday. We spent our last few days, chilling out by the pool and soaking up the atmosphere of Kuta with Heidi and Henny, as well as sampling the nightlife of Kuta and suffering for it the next day (we're too old for the amount of cocktails we drank!). Oh and finding Boost Juice which totally made my day! Then it was another early night ready for another early morning flight, this time onwards to Singapore.