Gili Air is one of the three Gili Islands, furthest from Bali and closest to Lombok. We got an early shuttle bus from our homestay in Kuta to the port, connecting with the boat that took us to Gili Air. Having read a few horror stories online, and knowing that we are both pretty bad when it comes to sea sickness, we decided to shell out a bit and book our journey with an expensive company. This meant that we were sat on the fast boat being handed cold towels and mints whilst we watched a film. This is made me feel like a prat when we saw how the locals travel: crowded boats sitting very close to the ocean… But I didn’t feel too guilty about it…
After about two hours on the boat, we arrived to Gili Air and realised that there are no cars on the island, just horses and carts. What a refresher, and contrast to the bonkers streets of Kuta!
We ambled down winding tracks to find our hostel, seeing hundreds of chickens and roosters and brown cows. When we found Bengadang Backpacker’s, we were surprised by our accommodation: it was a small wooden shelter with a mattress, mosquito net, and fan.
That night I slept for about two hours. It was incredibly hot and sticky, and the mattress was much smaller than a double bed. I’d also got bored and started reading a Wallander book on Tom’s kindle, and freaked myself out a bit… When I’d finally drifted off, I was awoken by the mosque doing its 5am call to prayer, and then the same thing again about half an hour later. (The Gili Islands seem to be mostly Muslim, whereas Bali is mostly Hindu.)
Anyway. It was an interesting experience. The following evening actually, I was chatting to a local in one of the bars, and he asked where we were staying. I replied “Begadang.” I asked what the word meant in Indonesian, to which he said “Begadang means all night awake with no sleep.” Ho ho ho!
The following day we hired snorkels from the hostel and went in search of the turtles. We found a quiet bit of beach and started walking out into the sea. It was so shallow, and we were walking through seaweed. Tom said “oh, I’ve just seen an anemone, we should probably swim.” So we started dragging ourselves out doing breast stroke in very shallow water, eager not to be stung. When we got about 200 metres out we realised that it wasn’t getting any deeper. I stood up. It was so bizarre being stood up in what felt like the middle of the sea! We weren’t getting anywhere so we belly swam back and walked about half an hour further down the beach. There we met a woman who said she’d seen the turtles, so we got really excited, went to put our snorkels on but the realised we’d lost one of the mouthpieces… Fuck. So we walked all the way back along the beach but couldn’t find it. A truly unsuccessful trip really, but we later decided to book an official snorkel trip on the advice of a girl we met at the hostel, who was taken out on a boat and saw loads of turtles. Exciting!
As we walked back to the hostel we came across an elderly Indonesian chap who was very smiley and keen to speak to us but didn’t speak much English. He was really friendly. I noticed that he had a handful of mushrooms. He explained that they were in fact magic mushrooms, and he was on his way home to make himself a nice cup of tea with them. No wonder he was happy!
That evening we met a few people at the hostel and had a nice evening drinking at one of the beach bars. I slept like a baby that night. Not so begadang after all.
The next day we checked out and headed to the H2o yoga retreat, where we were due to spend one night. I know, yoga retreat sounds ridiculous but we just fancied it haha! We signed in and enjoyed the coolest hut with the best outdoor adjoining bathroom. I’d love one of these at home if it weren’t for the weather. There’s something so nice about showering outside, looking at the sky.
We chilled out all day, wandering outside for lunch and then headed to the 5pm yoga class. Those of you who know me will know that I’m always the person laughing at the most inappropriate moments (dentist anyone?) I managed to make it through the entire class only laughing once (whilst I was attempting a handstand against the wall with no luck whatsoever) and then the teacher got us to close our eyes whilst she started banging on some Tibetan prayer bowls. Everyone else seemed to find this relaxing, but to me it sounded like the X Files, and I started imagining aliens teleporting into the yoga class and completely lost it. We’re talking silent laughter that leaves you unable to even breathe. I shuffled out of the class red faced.
We’d heard that Indonesia was due a solar eclipse the following morning so we set an alarm and headed to the beach at 5.45am. The island has a huge population of chickens and cockerels, and I’ll never forget that there were so many cocks crowing at that point in the day that there wasn’t a second where we couldnt hear “cockadoodledooooo!” We waited around for a few hours watching the sunrise, which was beautiful, but alas, no eclipse.
We had breakfast and checked out, then headed to our next accommodation. As I mentioned, there are lots of very knackered looking horses who carry cargo, locals and tourists around the island. I feel really sorry for them as they don’t look too happy so we’ve taken to walking everywhere instead. I realise this is just how it works on the gilis, but I’d rather walk. Cue entire body sweats with the backpack on and twisted ankles walking in sand.
Once we arrived, we settled in and had a lazy day on the beach. I managed to burn my legs and looked like a total British wally. I truly believe that you can always spot the Brits abroad because we’re usually the ones who are a bit overweight, sunburnt, drunk, and looking for free stuff.
Committing to the stereotype, I was now burnt, overweight (thanks Australia) and in need of a drink. We found a bar offering buy one get one free cocktails and, thus having got something for free, I ticked all the check boxes. I fell asleep once we’d got back and was awoken by a cat fight underneath our hut. One of the cats legged it off and returned later literally shouting “ow! Ow! Ow!” Which made me laugh. I met the cat the following day, she’s very chatty, would give Mishka a run for her money. Hard to be annoyed at being woken up when she’s so cute! I asked her what her name was and she said “maw!” So that’s what we call her.
Then it was time for snorkelling.
We picked up our gear and then headed out in a boat with a glass window in the floor. We stopped after a few minutes and before I even had time to panic I was in the water, following a huge sea turtle. I’ll never forget how chilled the turtle was. He barely moved in the water, just drifted with the current, and calmly looking at us when we swam past. We also saw loads of beautiful fish, and a stunning coral garden that was absolutely fascinating. I think the New Zealand dolphin experience has truly destroyed what little sea legs I have…. The engine smells took me straight back to nausea land, despite the sea being fairly calm. Idiot. Needless to say, I got over it when we saw another group of turtles. I loved watching them slowly blinking and ducking their heads under their flippers to have a little scratch. Gorgeous. Since we missed out on the turtles in Hawaii, swimming with them has been firmly on my bucket list, and I felt so SO happy and privileged to see them.
Things I want to remember:
– sitting in a cafe and hearing an enormous crash, bang and something rolling across the roof then “doof!” on the floor and realising we’d been hit by a falling coconut.
– the welcoming smiles of the locals.
– seeing something cross my path and crouching down to discover it was a tiny frog the size of my thumbnail.
– watching a local wash his horse in the ocean.
– feeding the stray cats, thinking I was being very discreet until I was surrounded by a choir of singing cats in the restaurant.
– a baby cockerel, who was a perfect miniature of the full sized.
– the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen.
– discovering johnsons baby wash for sale on the island. Sensitive skin sufferers rejoice!
– chickens with their chicks.
– staring at a really cool house and then seeing something skulking across the garden.. Doing a double take when I realised it was a lizard that was easily 6 foot long. I’m 80% sure it was a Komodo dragon.
– the food the food the food.
– the turtles, the turtles, the turtles.
Things I’d like to forget:
– having an unhappy tummy 95% of the time
– the scorpion in the bathroom
– pockets filled with serviettes because the Indonesians don’t really do toilet roll, instead offering what we call “the bum gun” (a special tap for….. Well.)
– feeling really sorry for the horses that have to run full pelt with a carriage full of cement/bricks etc, and just look really knackered and unhappy.
– fucking idiots swimming right up to the turtles and touching them and crowding them. It makes me SO cross.
– the mosquitos