vrijdag 27 juli 2012

Indonesia: day 5, day 6 & day 7

Day 5 - To the Gili's

Waken early by Mark's cellphone, we got out of bed for the last time at the Gemini's hotel, to pack our backpacks for our move to the Gili's. Time to say goodbye to busy Bali, for now! We had breakfast near our hotel in a super cheap Indonesian café...I really didn't wanna know what the kitchen looked like, let's just say it wasn't a very neat place...but the breakfast was okay. After we finished our much needed coffee, it was time to take up some more money from an ATM, and Mark wanted to change some books. I never saw these kind of backpacker bookstores before, really love them! These little shops are literally stacked with books, most in English, but also quite a lot in Dutch, German, French, etc. They're al read, none are new, so you can get them for a good price...and when you've finished them, you can bring them back for a small refund or exchange them for other books. The concept is perfect: books are read way more often than when bought by a single person, and you don't have to carry a lot of books with you when traveling. I've always been quite a bugger when it comes to books: I like them new and neat. No folded corners or tears please, I want my bookshelves full of new-looking pretty books. Recently a change has been going on in this convulsive habit...it has something intriguing when a book shows off it's been used. Holding a book at the bookstore in Kuta, I wondered how many people read it, and where it had been before it arrived at this specific bookstore. It might actually have made quite some travels, and been enjoyed by people from al over the world, considering it was a backpacker bookstore! Plus it's quite economical, and an earth-friendlier use of paper...but well, I'm rattling now. Sorry :P Let's move on to our boattrip to the Gili's!

When we were ready to go, we sat down on the side of the street, to wait for...yeah, for what? The man from the transport office we spoke to the evening before, said someone would pick us up at our hotel, but we had no idea who or what we were actually waiting for. After a little while someone showed up, asking us if we were waiting for transport to Padanbai, from where the boat to the Gili's would leave. Well...yes, we were! He couldn't drive his van into our narrow street, so we had to hoist ourselves and our backpacks on the back of two scooters that somehow magically appeared. (One of the scooters was even driven by a guy that actually worked for a competitive transport firm in the street, who saw us struggling with our luggage...how kind!) At first Mark and I were the only ones in the van, but soon other travellers were joining us on the trip to Padangbay. I remember I was pretty tired, probably from al the impressions of the last few days and from getting up early, so it didn´t take long before I fell asleep... Using Marks shoulder as a pillow, with my head in the fresh air coming through the open windows, I was dazed by the background noise of the Balinese traffic. I actually believe we had a tiny rainshower during this trip (although I'm not sure anymore...I might have dreamt it :P), the only rain we saw in Indonesia!

The little ferry terminal in Padangbai was quite a busy place. A lot of Indonesian women were hanging around on the pier with baskets full of cookies and chips. The sellers in Kuta were okay, but these women were a bit too persistant...they just wouldn´t go away when you made clear you didn´t wanna buy something from them! It´s quite annoying when a woman keeps standing right in front of you while you just politely said ´no thank you´.... We really didn´t want to be rude, but honestly they made it difficult for us not to be! Unfortunately we had to wait quite long for our boat...so a lot of futile ´no thank you´s´ were said...but finally, our ferry arrived. In a short time it was fully stacked with travellers and backpacks, and we took off to Lombok. It was a glorious trip! At first we had to sit inside on the lower deck, but soon the crew allowed us to go upstairs to sit on the roof... With the music from my iPhone in our ears, the wind in our hairs, the sun on our skin and drops of water condensing around us, we flew over the Lombok Strait on full speed.

Early in the afternoon we arrived at Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the three Gilli islands. You can´t speak of a real harbour here, our ferry just stopped at the beach, and we had to wade onto the mainland. A lot of other traditional boats were lying around us, in al their colorful glory, waiting to be used for transport, fishing or snorkling excursions. They gave us a cheerful first sight at this beautiful island! Sweating with our heavy backpacks on our backs, Marks first priority was finding an icecold Bintang, and I agreed :) There´s enough booze on the Gili´s anyway...a lot of people come here to party (there´s not much else to do on the islands anyway). Cocktails and magic mushrooms are on almost every menu, signs on the side of the road claim to take you to the moon and back again. Even though drugs are strictly prohibited in Indonesia and penalties are severe, somehow the use of the shrooms and stuff are tolerated on the islands (as well as in Kuta, and probably lots of other places).

Once cooled down a bit, it was time to find a place to sleep. The crazy Canadian guys we met in Kuta (remember, at the Green Box?) told us about a place that sounded like paradise (especially since one of those guys was only going back to Canada to quit his job and return to Gili Trawangan, to start working at this specific homestay...I wonder how drunk he was :P). Whoever we asked about this place though (I can't remember it's name, it was something with 'coral'...), nobody seemed to know about it. Instead, loads and loads of other guys (some not older than 12 years old) tried to lure us into theír hotel, inn or homestay. Some were hard to refuse, cute little boys with big afro hairs (aahw...). In the end we gave up looking for that coral place, and tiredly surrendered to one of the recruiting little Indo's. He preceded us on his bike (his 'oh it's just about 100 meters away from here' didn't turn out to be a very accurate estimate of the distance to the inn, but oh well). Did I already tell about the Gili's not having any motorized traffic? There are only bicycles, and little horse-wagons. Only this fact makes it só relaxing to spend a couple of days on these islands. On Gili Trawangan, almost al buildings (= homestays/inn's, restaurants, bars, and rental offices) are on the main road, an unpaved way right along the beach. From this way, some small sandy roads turn inland, here you can find a couple of little houses (some don't even deserve that name) where the island inhabitants live. The rest of the island is, well...empty. Only palm trees, fields and beach!

The homestay the little Indonesian boy lead us to turned out to be a very beautiful place, even though it was quite a walk from the mainroad. It had cute little wooden cottages with a tiny veranda. The bathroom was roofless and had (yay!) hot water, and the bedroom was provided with air-conditioning. What else did we need? After installing our stuff we went for a walk right up the only hill on the island, to see the sunset. We took the ´touristic´ route, through the fields, meeting some Gili goats and cows along the way. Once on top, the sunset wasn´t that spectacular though, it was a bit cloudy. So...we went downhill again, deciding it was time to eat. Somehow we ended up on a silent road beside the beach, lighted by tiny torches alongside the quiet, sandy way. Slowly we we´re getting into busier areas again, while the scents of freshly roasted meat and fish floated towards us. The Lonely Planet really recommended eating at Scallywag´s, and since that was one of the first restaurants we we´re passing, we quickly settled down. The spare ribs on the menu looked too good to refuse, unfortunately we only got a couple of ribs...way too few for both Mark and me. Yeah, we´re carnivores, more meat please! Raawrrrr!

After finishing our ribs, Bintangs and probably watermelon juice (can´t remember, but chances are high I had one ;)) we had a big cup of Lombok coffee in a huge relaxing chair that could just hold the two of us. Mark almost fell asleep before the coffee was served to us...so his big cup of black yummie liquor was quite neccessary. Strolling down the mainroad a little bit later, we headed back to our cottage. Actually it was a good thing that it was so far away from the main road, ´cause the bars are open untill late at night and the music is loud. We weren´t covered from the Muslim prayer calls though (the Gili´s are, unlike Bali, Islamic), 5 times a day. Every summon was first performed by a child (which was pretty cute), followed by an adult. Oh well, you get used to it...even in the middle of the night :)

Day 6 - Snorkling & a Campfire

Yesterday we arranged with our hotel manager to go on a snorkling trip this day. After a lovely breakfast on the porch of our wooden cottage (banana pancakes, again!) we took off to the beach, accompanied by a boy from the inn. He asked us where we're from, and as soon as he found out we're Dutch, he began talking about drugs (of course, Amsterdam) and bicycles. He claimed to own a real Gazelle (it took us a while to understand what he was talking about, it's weird to hear a Dutch brandname said in English) from around the 80's or something, made of...here it comes: bullet-proof steel. Whaha, this made us laugh out loud! He was talking so proudly of a bike that would be só dated in the Netherlands, the cute silly boy! We soon arrived at the beach, to gather with the other snorklers. We met a girl and a boy from Brunei (they were both teachers there...what an amazing job!), who already did the Gunung Rinjani climb (which Mark and I were planning to do as soon as we´d arrive on Lombok). The girl (not too sporty) said she still had trouble walking due to muscle aches...and they didn´t even go to the summit! As a result of superbad weather it wasn´t safe for them to go any further than the mid-camp. So we started crossing our fingers for good weather already then...but we weren´t too worried about the toughness of the climb (if she could do it..then wé definitely could :P). As soon as everybody got a pair of flippers and goggles, we left the shore in our glass-bottom boat.

According to the plan of action, the boat would stop at three special places at sea, where we would jump into the water for our snorkling experience. The first stop was between Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. Hoopla, we let ourselves fall backwards out of the boat, and started exploring the beautiful underwater world. Slowly we floated over the stunning coral, surrounded by countless little fish. Mark´s all-proof camera came in handy, I probably took hundreds of photos, heheh. Snorkling has something so hypnotizing...everything is covered in a blue-greenish glow, as soon as you submerge and enter that quiet aquatic atmosphere, the outside world seems far far away (even though it´s just centimeters above you).

Our second stop was at a place where wild turtles were often seen. There was quite a strong current, so peacefully snorkling wasn´t really possible here. Our guide jumped in first, and we had to follow in a long row. Whilst floating along the current, everybody carefully looked around, trying to spot a turtle. It took a little while...the current was probably tóó strong, even for the turtles. At last we found a few though (still not sure if it were two or three of them...it was a bit confusing, with al of us drifting at one place, trying to spot the beautiful animal). He was deep under water, but slowly came swimming upwards. He really had something majestic over him, so peaceful! Not much later our boat came picking us up (impossible to swim back against the current ;)), proceeding to Gili Air.

At Gili Air we tied up for lunch. There was a nice restaurant alongside the beach, with snug corners to sit down and relax. These comfy seats can be found everywhere in Indonesia (or at least at Bali, the Gili´s and Lombok). I´m not sure what they´re called...but it´s like a small wooden terrace (about 2 by 2 meters) above the ground, covered by a wooden roof on four corner poles. You just sit down on the wooden floor (most are provided with pillows). I really want one of these at my roof terrace at home! We ordered a heavy lunch, hungry from our snorkling experience. Mark went for some spicy Indonesian dish, but I decided to be kind to my belly, which was sputtering a bit against the change of climate every now and then. Gili Air is the smallest of the three Gili Islands, and also the most quiet one. We didn´t see much of it besides the restaurant (almost al bars and restaurants are in open air though, to give you a good image of our scenery :P), but the relaxed mood that is so typical for the Gili´s was definitely present.

Finishing our lunches, we took off again with the boat for our last snorkling spot. At this spot we were allowed to feed the fish with soaked bread. This was so funny! The fish just ate out of your hand, so you constantly felt their little o-shaped mouths tickling against your fingers, hahah! A huge crowd of fish gathered around us, I found it a challenge to let the bigger fish eat out of my hand (the smaller ones seemed a bit more heroic in obtaining the bread). Snorkling makes you tired though (don´t ask me how, but it does), and after a little while it was finally time to head back ´home´. While our group was under water feeding the fish, the weather had changed a bit, and the sea had become a bit rough. This resulted in a harsh navigation towards Gili Trawangan, at which no one kept it dry. Oh well...good reason to be thankful for our hot water shower, back in the cottage!

It was still early in the afternoon when we finished our shower, so we decided to do a bit more exploring of the island. Starting at our inn, we took off further inland. With every hundred meter we saw more Indonesians and less tourists... I guess most of them stay at the mainroad, only a couple of them passed us on the bike or by foot. A shame, because the inland (as far as you can speak of an ´inland´ at such a small island) has something pretty too! Strolling over one of the sandy roads again, we passed hundreds of palm trees standing in empty fields. It made us fantasize about buying a piece of that (probably cheap) land. (Oh well, dreaming is allowed, right?!) Arriving at the other side of the island, we came into a more touristic area again. It was still way more quiet here than the main road area though, there are only a couple of hotels, bars and inns at this side of the island, and most of them are a bit more expensive, more intended for older adults, romantic couples and families with children.

We turned right, away from the hotels and bars, and continued our way along the beach, almost completely empty. After a few hundreds of meters we found a nice spot to sit down and eat some cookies (those cookies accompanied me everywhere, since hunger seems to take me by suprise at the most unexpected moments). I built a coral garden (don´t ask), and Mark took paparrazi pictures (keep practicing hun :P). When the sun went down, Mark (the pyromaniac) couldn´t resist building a campfire. Don´t ask me how he did it, I wouldn´t have been able to make a fire at that place in a thousands years, but he succeeded. Such cosiness!

When it became darker and darker, it seemed sensible to head back, since we still had quite a long way ahead of us (longer than the outward journey, since we had to walk alongside the beach now, around the island to the other side). We sank down at the first restaurant that seemed fairly okay after our long stroll, and played with the kitties while waiting for our dinner. Did I already tell about the kitties on the Gili's? There are lots of them! I googled this, and it is said that there are even more cats than inhabitants on Gili Trawangan... There is something weird with those cats though: almost al of them seem to have a strange, short and stumpy tail. I should've asked one of the locals about this, but forgot about it, so Google was my rescue again. I was happy to find out the cats are not harmed or anything. Cats in Indonesia (yes, we also found some of these funny-tailed cats at Bali and Lombok) and elsewhere through Asia probably have descended from the Japanese bobtail breed. This, combined with the interbreeding taking place at such small islands as the Gili's, increases the chances that a cat will be born with the stumpy tail. Anyway, the cats are very friendly, and the perfect form of entertainment while you're waiting on your dish. Of course they get plenty of meat and fish from the open aired restaurants, so even though they seem not to be owned by anyone specific, they can live a happy and nutritive life at the Gili's.

I'm not sure anymore what we did after dinner, probably drank some Bintangs or cocktails somewhere alongside the main road, before falling asleep tiredly again in our pretty wooden cottage... I wondered if our cottage was waterproof, which was a véry stupid question according to Mark, but I really thought I saw cracks in the roof! Oh well...with a bed, airconditioning and tv with dvd player inside, the builders probably made sure no water would get inside...okay, stupid question :P

Day 7 - Relaxing Day...

We decided to stay one more day at Gili Trawangan, before leaving to Lombok. Time to recover a bit from our adventures :) Tired of al the walking the day before, we agreed on renting bikes for this day. I was happy, 'cause the bikes at the Gili's look so colorful and vintage! They are pretty small (a logic consequense of the fact that Indonesian people are never very tall) and some of them have cute little baskets on the steering wheel. I had to focus myself on the road pretty intensely though, since I suffered from an inflammation on both my inner ears a couple of weeks earlier...which still effected my balance a bit. Add my tendency to clumsiness , and you have a very unstable girl :P I also found out that biking on the sand of the beach is pretty much NOT possible, even though Mark said that I just had to ´speed up real quick´. Yeah right, like if that´s going to happen when your back wheel keeps slipping through the sand...aargh!

We hang out at a couple of nice cafes/bars on the beach (claiming our own snuggly wooden seats again of course), and swam a bit. I had trouble walking inside the sea over the coral stones in the water, and fell on my bum a few times. Ouch! Must have seen quite laughable, luckily Mark got used to my awkwardness already... At a cafe on the other side of the island (a very ´romantic´ (ahum...) place where a lot of couples were probably celebrating their honeymoon) we had a good view on a manly couple (manly is only pointing out here that they were of the male gender, and saying absolutely nóthing about their appearance). We really had a good laugh there, the two of them looked kind but SO misplaced at the island, haha!

Now we had the bikes at our disposal, we wanted to make the most out of our journey back to our cottage. So Mark preceded, and guided us through a real maze of sandy inland roads. The sun was already down, the bikes had no headlights and it was quite dark without the lights of the main road, so we had a few near-crashes. We passed some kind of open-air Muslim service (already wondering earlier what that monotonic sound we were hearing came from...) and a lot of cute, half naked Indo kids, waken up by the fresh evening air. Suddenly we were standing in front of the entrance to our inn, which took me totally by suprise, but which seems to happen regularly with Mark, whose navigation capacities are miraculous (in contrast to mine :P).

I had a little depressed moment at our cottage, suffering from the dumps. I guess you really have to be a woman to be able to feel down at such a wonderful island :P Oh well, Mark managed to cheer me up again with his silly songs. It was time to have our last meal at Gili Trawangan...the first meal at Indonesia that was a real failure. We made the mistake to order pizza at a restaurant that shouldn´t have pizzas on their menu. Mark ordered some (very regular) ingredient that - according to our waiter - had to be gathered in the garden first, and I had so many onions on my pizza that Mark would have slept in another cottage that night if that would´ve been possible. I couldn´t even wash away the taste (and smell :P) with the bucket of mojito we had after dinner. At least it was a memorable last night!

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