The 90-min crossing from Nusa Lembongan to Gili Air turned out to be more of a 2-hour crossing to Lombok, where we docked for 20min, followed by another 20min to Gili Trawangan, the biggest and partiest of the Gilis, where I had to change onto a smaller boat for the final 15min to Gili Air. But it was a very unbumpy and enjoyable ride – I spotted a dolphin and a turtle and even got given a little snack box onboard! My tummy and I were both very pleased about that.
I hopped off the boat, avoiding the various offers for horse-drawn carts/accommodation/boat trips/diving courses/massages, and made my way along the sandy lanes to my homestay where I was greeted with a smile and an upgrade to the new detached bungalow. What a treat! And it had a hammock out front. After dumping my bag, I decided to go for a little wonder and ended up strolling the whole way round the island in about an hour and a half – that should give you an idea of size! However, as pleasant and relaxed as it was at this time of year, in the low season, I’m not sure it’s somewhere I’d like to be in high season.
I spent a couple of days just chilling, getting a massage, swimming in crystal-clear waters and ambling along shady paths lined with fruit-laden mango trees, but I also made the most of the downtime to catch up on some admin and plan for New Zealand – it turns out January is the time everyone on Planet Earth decides to visit the land of the hobbits, and many places are already fully booked!
On Wednesday, I attended a fantastic cooking class, which turned out to be one-on-one for lack of other punters, and learnt to make sate, fried tempeh, mie goreng (fried noodles with vegetables and a fried egg), chicken curry and some coconut-based Indonesian sweets. The good news is I got to eat it all, the less good news being that it was only about 5.30pm by the time I’d finished, meaning I was still rather full from lunch and couldn’t try the dessert! I did take it away for later but unfortunately forgot about it, only to find it to be a molten mess in my room when it came to packing.
On Thursday, I hooked up with my French buddies, Manu and Mehdi, met in Lembongan, and we chartered a private boat to go snorkelling around the 3 Gilis, namely Trawangan, Meno and Air. I was a little unsure at first as I do have to watch my pennies, but it was absolutely worth it as it was just the three of us and our guide who swam with us and was an expert turtle-spotter. Yes, that’s right, we saw turtles! It was a little challenging to spot them since they blend in to the seabed rather well and can go very deep (I take pride in spotting the first one!) but they occasionally swim up to the surface to breathe and it is magical. They are so peaceful and elegant, drifting along in the deep blue sea.
After all the excitement and all the swimming, we felt entirely justified in gobbling up a Nutella crepe, and ended up once again walking all the way round the island, aiming for the West coast for sunset. After cocktails at Mowie’s, it was time for wood-oven pizzas at Zipp – nom!
I think what I liked most about Gili Air, on top of the turtles and the beautiful turquoise water, was the warmth of its people. You couldn’t walk anywhere without someone shouting hi or serenading you with their guitar. It is also somewhere, and again I can only vouch for this in low season, where real life is very much still present. You can walk through the village and get lost amongst people’s shacks, watch the children splash around in the sea at dusk, and generally witness locals going about their everyday business – something which I find oddly comforting .
And here I am, in Sanur, having made my way back from paradise yesterday. It’s been a bit of a weird limbo as I felt I’d said my goodbyes on Friday, and have had a couple of days’ transit before my flight to Australia tonight. I am sad to be leaving Bali, I have made some incredible memories here, both with James and without, and am both excited and a little anxious about the next stage and stepping once again out of my comfort zone.