So, where did we leave off? After spending all of 15 minutes on the hectic Gili T I’d booked an island hopping boat to the neighbouring Gili Meno (couple central) and the quieter Gili Air. The harbour was chaotic, with travellers and locals alike clutching coloured bits of paper, looking either lost or lethargic depending on if you were viewing the former or the latter. A loudspeaker made intelligible announcements at regular intervals and, somehow, those holding the appropriate ticket seemed to understand and make their way down the sand into the crystal clear water and onto the boat. I had a white ticket, and as I was clearly struggling to make sense of the system the most sensible option seemed to be to follow another group who also had white tickets. Fool proof. Lucky for me that group were awesome! Tori, Aimi, Harriet and two guys they had met along the way. Harriet and Aimi are friends who met in a hostel one night three years ago and have done seasons and summers together since before embarking on an epic adventure around the world. Tori is Aimis big sister, who’s currently cycling the globe on her little blue bicycle. Amazing right?! You can read about her adventure here: http://littlebluebike.net
The group were so welcoming, and before I knew it we were on Gili Air and splitting into three teams to locate accommodation for the 6 of us. Of course the boys defected (which is why they are ‘the boys’…I can only remember one of their names!), having haggled for a gorgeous house in Elephant Bungalows (I KNOW!) with a pool etc, whilst we girls had turned down places which couldn’t accommodate the whole group. Pfft. Within a few hours though we were safely nestled in Santigi homestay, with our host who had been born and bred on the island. He told me the island had changed a lot since he was a boy, when no foreigners came at all and there was no currency or tourism. I joked with him that it must be nice to be able to make a little money from the trade, but his reply suggested he’d prefer to return to the simple life. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have your home change almost beyond recognition.
Many of the younger locals however are embracing the changes, as it gives them entrepreneurial opportunities to start businesses such as homestays, gelato shops, tourism centres (there’s one on every corner) and the like. The people here seemed so friendly, happy to just chat to you and discover little about your life, without the feeling that they’re just hoping you’ll spend some money on whatever services they’re offering. The pace of life on this island, which you can walk around by foot in under 2 hours (it’s that, bicycle or horse and cart – as there are no motor engines allowed here), is slower and less hassled, with a ‘don’t worry, be happy’ mentality. The girls and I felt right at home. In fact for the first 12 hours or so I’m pretty sure I annoyed everyone with the amount of times I expressed joy and disbelief at where we were.
It could be a long and repetitive blog if I were to sit and describe each and every one of the following days. We did spend one day on a snorkelling tour of all 3 islands in this area which was pretty magical. I was lucky enough to swim solo with a turtle as he came up for air, as the rest of the group had gone in search of shallower waters. When I rejoined them they were surrounding a huge one who was happily munching away on seaweed growing on the coral reef. He was shallow enough for you to swim right alongside him as he surfed the seabed. Such a dude! I’d made a purchase in Bali I was keen to try out – a see-through dry bag meant to hold mobile phones etc for use in the water. I’d seen the kids using them in the pool in Battambang, and picked one up in Kuta…but dare I try it?! I did dare and it was fine! The pocket of air trapped inside the bag even makes the whole thing float so you’re even not too scared of dropping it. Unfortunately by the time I braved it we were in very choppy seas which affected the underwater touchscreen capabilities, but the following day in the calm shallows it worked a treat! The sea outside our favourite bar, Mowies, is sheltered from the waves by a reef around 300m from the shoreline. This meant the water close to the sand was still, shallow and warm, though the bottom was covered in uber sharp coral which made walking a bit of a mission (very funny to watch, not so funny to do). Just perfect for a dip when you got too hot on the beach!
Today, day 6, my friends left, and for the first time all trip I was sad to have said goodbye. They’re such fun loving people and I’ve laughed a lot with them. In fact within an hour of them leaving I was at the harbour ready to set sail to the next adventure. Gili Air is a perfect paradise, but if I’m going to make new friends for my remaining 3 days in Indonesia I’d rather it was somewhere new. So I’m off to Lombok, not sure where yet, to see somewhere else I haven’t seen before!