Back to the Gilis and onto Ubud, Indonesia
The speed boat back across to Gili Air had us all excited looking forward to an air conditioned room after 6 days of sweltering heat would be pure luxury and not a bowl of boiled rice insight! The best night sleep was had by all only being woken to the noise of a commercial pump and the putrid smell of a septic tank being emptied……..not to put a damper on our day though!
Today's mission was to try and swim with turtles so after breakfast we headed to Turtle Bay, the tide was low, Arabella braved the low tide and rocky walk to deeper waters in search of turtles whilst Edwina, Maddalena and Luca watched from the shore amused at our determination to negotiate the rocks whilst trying to maintain our balance and stay on our feet. We finally make it to the drop off and head out to swim sticking close we swim along the end of the drop off. Within 10 mins I notice Arabella is trying to tell me something, we have snorkel masks on peering straight down so can't hear each other. She is excited about something, frantically point down and repeating the action every 3 secs, I look down in the general direction she is pointing and see a large rock, think nothing of it and continue to swim, mmmm, aaagh, Arabella does stop making frantic movements trying to get my attention, I look down again and this time see it. It's a turtle right next to the rock I spotted before, we observe for a few seconds and then takes off swimming directly below us. Mission complete we swim back to the drop off and negotiate the rocks back to the rest of the family. When we get back Arabella is so excited at what she has seen and can't stop demonstrating with her arms just how big the turtle was, something we immortalised with a photo. Turtles was one of the reasons we wanted to return to the Gili Air and we were pleased that it didn't cost a penny to view turtles, a lot of people pay for glass boat tours where only 20mtrs from shore you can see for yourself. Maddalena and Luca wanted to return at high tide later in the day for another attempt and this time Maddalena was lucky enough to see puffer fish but no turtles. Luca didn't want to go, over the last few days he has become more hesitant about the sea.
On leaving Gili Air we all piled into a fast boat headed for Bali with another 120 passengers it was crammed, all seats full and passengers on the roof. Maz couldn't help think once again what the safety record was like, I did notice above our heads brand new life jackets neatly packed and still in the plastic bags……ummmm I wonder why? (Later in Ubud at our accommodation Maz researched the boat company and found out that one of their boats had exploded on the same crossing injuring 25 passengers with 3rd degree burns only 4 months ago.) It was a really bad crossing passengers holding on for their lives, the boat flooring it and over 2 metre swells, passengers on the roof drench unable to move below, vomit bags mainly being used by travellers who joined us from Gili T the party island, I couldn't help but snigger at their pain and suffering but as for our kids they were great playing top trumps to pass the 90 minutes of torture for many of our fellow passengers. Glad to reach the port we all piled into a minibus heading for Ubud, basically they get paid per head they manage to cram into the minibus and boy they do a good job of that, AC not working fully it was a long, hot, sweaty journey once again the kids amazed us and didn't complain once.
It was dark on arrival at our accommodation in Ubud and I wasn't too sure what was installed as the place looked a little like builders were at work. At reception we were told that the place was closed as they were busy renovating the cottages and not due to open till tomorrow, a sense of dread…….but not to worry they were pleased to tell us that because we booked so far in advice they had upgraded us to their private villa. And wow what a site it was, very secluded, private pool, outdoor dining and lounge areas with large TV and 2 AC bedrooms total bliss! Maddalena asked if we could buy the villa and live here, she had never been in a house before with a swimming pool between the lounge and kitchen. To top it off the restaurant a few doors up making wood fired pizzas delivered directly to the villa.
Next day we were keen to explore Ubud and set off to see the monkey forest since it was walking distance from the hotel, ever since the Monkey attack in Nepal the kids have been very wary of monkeys and the kids were not keen on going, but guess we just wanted them to just get back on the horse by taking them there. The monkey forest is a very cool place, lots of Banyan trees, small valleys and of course lots of monkeys. Initially the kids were very jumpy around the monkeys but they started to settle as we made our way around the forest, the breakthrough came when a friendly ranger persuaded the children one by one to have a monkey climb on them, Maddalena took the most persuading but eventually allowed a monkey on her. We walked back to the hotel to make full use of the private pool at the villa stopping at a lovely restaurant overlooking the rice fields.
We had 2 full days left in Ubud and decided to have 1 full on sightseeing day and then we could enjoy a down day at the villa enjoying the pool, watching movies and generally relaxing.
The attractions in Ubud are spread far apart and the best way to see them is to rent a car and driver for the day (around £30). First stop today was Pod chocolate factory, a small organic chocolate factory setup up in-between and elephant camp and some sun bears. The tour goes from the pod on the tree all the way to the finish product and the kids really enjoyed tasting the chocolate at each stage, at the end they got to make 12 chocolate elephants which was the highlight of the tour for them.
We then asked the driver for a recommendation for lunch, he shrugs his shoulders so we just get in the car and drive, after 5 mins we pull into a local restaurant which has fish as the speciality, this was by far the cheapest meal we had in Indonesia and order noodles and fried chips which the kids enjoyed, the restaurant was in a rural setting surrounded by ponds with catfish in them, the highlight came when we got up to leave, a waiter told us to throw the leftovers into the fishponds, the kids just loved watching all the catfish coming to the top to eat all our leftovers.
In the afternoon we had booked a tour of the green school claiming to be the greenest school in the world. Initially I booked this for the children as they would get to see a Balinese school, but me and Edwina completely underestimated the setup and were left blown away by the school.
The school was setup up by a western family who were home schooling their children that wanted a better environment for their kids schooling. The school consists of a number of bamboo structures, the kids are encouraged to recycle and plastic is banned from the school, each child is given a metal bottle which they can fill up with water provided for free which they filter from the river. They have greenhouses built of bamboo and car windshield, car windshield white boards, long drop toilets and generate their own electricity and most fun of all they do mud wrestling for PE. Kid's activities/projects include building bridges, bamboo structures, generating electricity, building bamboo buildings and how to climb a coconut trees. It felt like these children educated at the Green School come away with a huge sense of their world around them, what responsibility is from looking after a seedling to building a bridge, common sense, how to achieve, team work, being an individual thinker, allowing for dynamic brilliance and the importance of taking ownership and valuing everything. With so many private schools in the UK I am surprised no one has created a school like this one, I would love for our kids to be educated in this school. Leaving the school I couldn't help but wonder how fantastic something like this would be in the UK, buildings which take the heat from the ground, hay bale buildings, etc.
Next stop was a small plantation where Luwak coffee is produced it was great to see the cats that eat the coffee beans and then poo them out after which they are collected and roasted to make a strong coffee similar to expresso. Here the kids got to sample over a dozen different coffees and teas including the Luwak coffee which they enjoyed. Partly because whilst there you get to see the trees, plants, herbs all growing naturally to produce the drinks and this in itself was educational for them.
We had one last stop before returning back to the villa and that was to see the impressive rice terraces north of Ubud brilliant lush green fields, on returning home much to Arabella delight we had sushi take away at the villa for the first time on our trip, sushi is Arabella's favourite.