At the end of November, I moved on from Lembongan to the Gili Islands, another small group of islands just off of Lombok. I had been there a few years ago but I was keen to return as it gave me the chance to meet a girl that I had corresponded with occasionally through a travel website/forum that I participate in. Like me, she tossed in her job as a nurse to travel in SE Asia for a year. But, rather than head home at the end of her year, she bought a small guesthouse on Gili Trawangan. I always admired her gumption to do this, and was keen to finally meet her in person. Besides, her small resort set amongst a coconut grove sounded idyllic!
These islands are pretty quiet, as long as you are not staying there in high season, are not too close to the central town areas (where the noisy parties are) and not too close to a mosque. (If you don’t know if there is a mosque nearby, you’ll soon find out at about 4.30am when the first call to prayer starts up.) Since there is no motorised traffic on the island, I enjoyed a welcome respite from the noisy motorbikes and horns that plagued me pretty much everywhere else.
Local transport here is by cimodo (horse cart) to get around. I’m normally not in favour of using the horsecarts for transport primarily because the horses always looked in poor condition and were generally not well-treated. Things seem to be changing (due to tourist protests) and there are more regulations in place for horse cart owners to help improve horse welfare. Of course, this gave them the ability to hike up the prices to fares that are now 10 times higher than taxis on the mainland.
My first stop was Gil Air for about 3 nights. I stayed in a pretty decent bungalow/guesthouse owned by a local family. What did I do here? Not much! Walked around the island, (that took a couple of hours, allowing time for refreshment stops along the way), laid in a hammock, read a book and that was about it. I didn’t even do much swimming since the tides weren’t in my favour.
Next stop was Gili Trawangan. I couldn’t believe how much this place has changed in the last 4 years. I think the entire central town area has been torn down and rebuilt. I didn’t recognise anything. I grabbed a horsecart and made my way to my accommodation on the northern coast. Last time I was here, the northern coast was just vacant land. Now, there are ritzy resorts all along the shoreline. Lucky for me, they were virtually empty so there were few people around.
I stayed at Eden Cottages, a ‘flashpacker’ budget place, set back a hundred meters or so from the coast, amongst a coconut grove. I admit I started to get concerned as the horsecart driver took me through some pretty shabby local villages in the central of the island. But Eden Cottages, with only 5 cottages plus the owners’, was a lovely oasis in the middle of nowhere.
I did an Indonesian cooking class one night. With a group of 5 others. We prepared a good range of Indonesia dishes and had a massive feed afterwards. I’m not sure I really learned anything new having cooked Indonesian myself over the years but it was a fun experience and a chance to meet others. And of course, an awesome dinner at the end. But honestly, I was amazed at how some (younger) people have no idea how to chop vegetables or how to use a food processor! What are parents teaching their kids these days?
My class/dinner finished about 9pm and I had to make my way back to the cottages by bicycle, about a 20 minute ride, in the dark. This proved to be a bit harrowing as there is no street lighting; in fact, there really aren’t streets! I had to find my way through a maze of tracks through the small villages and the coconut grove by trying to follow the hard-to-see dirt paths by the light of my small head torch. Thank goodness for GPS on the phone… I just aimed for the little blue dot, riding through cow poo, trying to stay balanced on the bike as I went over tree roots and god knows what else. But I got there, no problems. The next day, I tried to repeat it on foot during daylight and without my phone, and got utterly lost.
I have to say that although the food on Gili T was a bit pricier than elsewhere, it was really, really good. One of my favourites, Made’s, quickly learned that I didn’t like onions or tomatoes and cooked each meal accordingly. Needless to say, I went back for repeat visits. Pepes is just one of their beautifully presented dishes.
The place I stayed at on Gili T didn’t have internet so I used the WiFi one of the local restaurants on the beach. This guy was being particularly friendly. Is this a world-wide cat phenomena?
So, there you have it. Yet another blog update that shows I have well and truly fallen off the ‘intrepid adventurer’ trail, and instead am living the life of a sloth.
But it’s been enjoyable and relaxing. Life can’t get much more chilled that this when the big question of the day is whether to have egg and toast or pancakes for breakfast. It’s indulgent – and it beats working (for the moment, anyhow). What more can I say? Check out the slideshow for another few random photos.