Next on the South East Asia map was the Gili Islands, as mentioned on the previous blog this was a suggestion given to us by someone we met in Australia and it sounded appealing and we were in the area so we decided to give it a bash.
Next to Bali is an Island called Lombok, at the north west of it is three small islands called the Gili Islands: Gili Trawangan being the livelier party island, Gili Meno a quite island and Gili Air seemed to be the one in-between so we all decided on this for our first port of call. Our plan was to travel to all three islands and spend a few days on each and then move on to the next part of Indonesia.
We first had to get there which proved a little difficult as all the boat staff were so unorganized and laid back (strange that for Asia - not!) we spent far to long trying to find out which boat went where then the rest of the morning bartering. Eventually we got onto a boat that we hoped was going to take us to Gili Air.
The boat took a long time to get across to the islands and wasn't the cleanest or nicest boat we have ever seen, lunch which was provided- well you had to be very hungry to eat it especially after watching the dirty boat lads prepare it in the filthy kitchen agh! It helped to pass some time when we had the pleasure of a visit from a group of dolphins swimming along side the boat as we trudged through their playing field.
We were getting a bit concerned and started thinking we had made the wrong decision on our choice of Island as nearly everybody on the boat got off at Gili Trawangan, however it was too late to change our mind and we had to stay on and continue until the next stop.
It says in all of the traveling guide books for Asia- never get into boats at night time as this can be very dangerous and generally unsafe. But unfortunately we didn't have much choice and we don't seem to be very good at living on the sensible or safe side of traveling. So by torch light we lowered ourselves and our backpacks onto this tiny boat and headed into the pitch black ocean.
Waiting for the anxious and tired foreigners at the shore was a horde of locals all trying to get you to stay in their bungalows or to have a ride on their horse and cart (will come back to that in a minute). This all seemed a little daunting and overwhelming in the pitch black as you are wadding through the sea with your backpack and haven't got a clue where we have landed.
Before going any further a bit of information on Gili Air maybe required: It is a small/ minute island, it has no police, no hospital and no motorised vehicles - hence only horse and cart, no fancy restaurants or bars - actually no fancy anything, no 'proper' shops, no bank or ATM and hardly any tourist. So you are probably thinking exactly the same as us at the point of getting of the boat 'What the hell are we doing here'!!
We gained control over the situation as we all got into the horse and carts with the young boys that had just been trying to pick pocket us five minutes earlier- well forgive and forget and all that!! We got taken along a sand track past a few wooden shacks to hopefully find somewhere to stay for a few nights. Vikki and Steph were taken to view some accommodation, a local lad introduced himself to Lisa as 'Cuming' umm we wont go into the rest of the introduction but we became a little apprehensive and on our guard to say the least! We weren't put at rest as we were lead up a long dark dirt path to our very humble accommodation. On the way up Lisa had managed to step on a big nail (not quite 9inches though Lisa), as this was partly a building site and her flip flops didn't offer much protection. So all in all our first impression of this place wasn't as spectacular as we had hoped.
After taking one quick look at our wooden falling down shacks with the salt water shower and bucket flush system for the loo we decided to go straight out. We took torches this time to avoid any more injuries and headed for the nearest bar/ restaurant- who are we kidding, wooden shack with an old drum barbeque and a few bottles behind the make shift bar.
As we sat there in our new destination: Steph in a blind panic about the place especially after hearing in the last few hours that there were no police on the island and the welcome committee trying to rob her: Lisa nursing her foot, now with a shabby dressing on and convincing herself that her foot was going to drop off: Vikki ordering food that wasn't on the menu- a regular habit of hers, very difficult in somewhere with only four dishes on the menu and all slight variations of each other (Fawlty Towers: duck with orange, duck with plum ..... or duck surprise!) and trying her hardest to confuse the waiter and as usual succeeding: Sarah sussing out the alcohol situation whilst trying her hardest to convince Lisa that she wasn't going to get gangrene (hopefully) and saying to Steph that's it only seems worse as we have arrived in the dark (hopefully). But after eating some lovely fresh tuna and listening to the sea a few meters away from us whilst sitting in a raised open bamboo hut with comfy cushions the place didn't seem so bad after all.
Everything did seem better in the light of day, it wasn't difficult really! Ok our wooden shack still wasn't the Hilton but after a short walk down our dirt track we stepped out onto the most unbelievable pristine perfect beach, pure white sand every shade of blue sea with a coral reef five meters out, lovely wooden simple huts dotted a long the shore line, no noise of mopeds continually tooting their horns and hardly any one in sight so we had it all to ourselves!
After a day of meeting all the locals, having a cocktail from the shack/bar, eating fresh lovely food it started to dawn on us that we may have stumbled across paradise! How quickly things can turn around- never judge something/ someone on first impressions! The lad who had first scared the whit's out of Lisa and introduced himself as 'Cuming' wasn't lying that really is his name, its actually spelt Komenk in Indonesian. He turned out to be our cleaner, barman, cook, body guard, waiter and generally a great guy that really looked after us and became a good friend! Actually all the locals were so friendly, we soon felt right at home and Steph had finally found the community she had been searching for.
After a few days of doing nothing we were well and truly in the Gili Air mode and we all agreed that we have never been so relaxed in all our lives. As we had been on the move for so long it was lovely to do absolutely nothing except lie on the perfect beach ordering cocktails and fresh fruit. Even simple things like turning our beds around to face the sun now became a chore; we knew it was bad when we found it hard work to lift our glass of rum and coke!
The snorkeling was tremendous there were so many different types of fish and lots of huge turtles to swim a long side, it was even better as you only had to walk out a few meters to see this whole new underwater world!
So the three days turned into four, then five, then six…………… Oops still not gone anywhere and it's been ten days…….. Oops ran out of money. It was like a scene from 'The Beach' - remember no shops or banks, so we all wrote a list of things we required and Sarah had to go off with one of the friends we had made to get a boat then hire a bike to go to the next Island to stock up- gutted not Leonardo De Caprio!. Now we were all sorted again so we could stay in paradise for even longer (just don't show anyone the map).
AND THEN THERE WAS FIVE!
It was so exciting to hear the news that Lisa's friend from home was to come out for a holiday and join us, it would be a good thing to give us a kick up the bum and wake us up from our Gili Air trance.
We frantically started to clean our shacks and our selves ready for the new arrival; it felt like we were preparing for a visit from the queen. We were so worried that it had taken us months to become accustomed to these living conditions and weren't sure how someone fresh from home would take to the shacks with a salt water shower, bucket bog and an Indonesian called 'Cuming' who had now taken up residence on the hammock outside. But at least she wouldn't be in Viks and Stephs shack where they found a scorpion in the bathroom, sure that would be a little off putting!
Lisa's friend is also called Lisa, so her nickname from home had to stick with her here as well so it was Planty all the way!
Lisa had tried to explain the best she could of how to get to the Island, Planty had quite a journey ahead of her from London to Bali, staying over at Denpasar for a night then getting a taxi to the ferry terminal and a boat across to Gili air. She was supposed to get to us by the afternoon and when it started to go dark Lisa was pacing up and down really worried as she had a text saying she had missed the main boat so now she was being taken to the next Island and a speed boat was bringing her.
We waited and waited on the beach in the dark when finally we spotted a light of a boat and heard a Stokey reply to our shouting and thank god Planty our new arrival had got there safe and sound! We had been worried as she had been traveling for so long but she got off the boat and seemed to take it all in her stride, now we just had to see what she thought of her new accommodation!
We were also worried that we might have lost our accents especially since being in Gili Air as we all seemed to pick up the annoying habit of speaking in broken English and finishing everything off in 'Yeah', so we had been finding it really funny the past few days practicing our Potteries talk to each other and trying not to say 'Yeah' in preparation for Planty's arrival. As it happens within a couple of hours she had picked it up quicker than us: 'can I have another cocktail yeah', 'can't believe how cheap fags are here yeah'.
For someone that likes her luxury hotels and home comforts she took to the shack really well and soon settled in with a cocktail in her hand on the beach, filling Lisa in with all the gossip from back home! It didn't take long for us all to slot into each others living habits, although Planty's smoking and eating chocolate in the middle of the night took a bit of getting used to ha!
It was nice to have someone to fill us all in with the latest news and goings on from back home; we got way too excited over a new batch of magazines and the smell of 'Bold' coming out of her suit case! She put us all to shame as on her first morning she did what we had all been trying to get around to and watched the sunrise, having a head full of the local rum soon puts a stop to that kind of thing!
We continued on with the easy flow of sunbathing and partying that Gili Air offered so well and everyday we kept saying that we would leave soon and visit the other Islands; we did see Gili Meno for a little while on a snorkeling trip but never could tear ourselves away to stay anywhere else.
It was a good job in the end we had a flight booked for Singapore as jobs as cleaners at the nearby hotel started to sound tempting. But before Singapore we had to head 'Back to Bali Yeah' and some of the Gili Air locals came along for the ride.
BACK TO BALI YEAH!
A few of the local lads were going to Bali to meet a friend so we all went and got on the boat together, it turned out to be a bit like a Samaritans trip as we stopped to pickup more of their friends along the way who were on there first trip to see Bali.
It was so strange to get off the boat and to be back amongst traffic and crowds of people, talk about being institutionalized. If we felt weird just think how those lads felt, Komenk still had a sarong on and amongst all those westerners in the busy resort of Kuta stuck out like a sore thumb, we all found it highly amusing as he trailed behind us into a smart bar with his sarong on and a flower behind his ear- just like Crocodile Dundee!
We had a few brilliant days back in Bali and had the first of many goodbye meals for Lisa as it was now getting closer for Lisa (and Planty) to be leaving…….boo hoo!!! But not quite yet as we all had Singapore next to look forward to!!