Relaxing in the Gili’s
The two weeks seemed to fly passed in Kuta and it was sad to leave a place we had become so familiar with. Spending a longer time in a town really lends itself to having a richer experience. We had gotten to know the locals around our guest house, been gifted sarongs, knew where to get the best food and cheapest beer, as well as the fastest wifi. When you are cycle touring, which is by its very nature about being on the move, getting the opportunity to put down roots for a while is lovely. The time had however arrived to meet the first of our awesome friends who were coming to visit us, the wonderful Misch and Key. We had not seen them since Sydney and were very excited. Due to Astrid’s back having been a little sore, we opted for the backpacker option of a mini bus from Kuta to Bangsal, the harbor where we would catch the local boat to Gili Meno to meet the ladies. I must say I was skeptical, when a van already packed full of hung over Canadians, backpacks and cartons of beer rocked up in front of Enjoy Guest House. I thought; this will never happen, there is no way we are going to fit. Ah, such Western thinking. I need to remember everything is possible in Indonesia, for the right price. Sure enough, our bikes where hauled up onto the roof of the van, and us and our 5 items of baggage each were crammed into the van with the hung over Canadians. For the next two hours we listened to a mixture of soppy pop and The Eagles, winding our way up and over to the other side of Lombok. It was a fine ride but reminded me of the constraints of the backpacker trail. We both definitely prefer the freedom of the open road.
We were all ceremoniously dumped at Bangsal Harbour, a place I remember as being slightly overwhelming last time I was in Indonesia. It’s funny how perceptions change, after a month here the hassling and shouting just rolled over me. As there were no boats for three more hours we managed to barter and bribe our way onto one that was just about to leave. Our bikes and panniers were heaved onto a boat already bursting with locals, produce, and even a few traumatised chickens. I don’t want to know how overloaded the boat was, as we rocked and bumped our way over to Gili Meno. At least Astrid and I can swim, I doubt many of the locals can. Once on Meno we cycled the short distance to Sunset Gecko, a small eco resort on the other side of the island.
We spent a few hours relaxing before meeting Misch and Key. It was so exciting seeing them getting off the boat and we immediately celebrated with ice cold Bintangs. The day and a half we spent on Meno were pretty chilled out, consisting of swimming, walking, eating, reading and talking over beers. It was wonderful to hang out with people that have known me forever. It felt like no time at all had passed since I had seen them last. Following this lazy introduction to island living, we hauled our stuff back onto a boat and set sail for Gili Air. It’s funny, I really loved Meno last time but this time I have found it wanting. It’s a great place for a short holiday, quiet and secluded, or if you are diving. But because it’s so small the variety is lacking. There appears to be very little local food, most of the places catering to what they think westerners want, which ends up being bad imitation western food or local food without any spice. Gili Air was different, it comes in somewhere between the crazy touristy party island of Trawangan (although I hear you can get away from this on the north side) and mellow Meno. There is heaps of choice, you can eat yummy Western food and excellent local fare at a good price. It is touristy but I liked it.
On Gili Air we met up with Brooke, another awesome friend from Tassie, and the five of us settled into a lifestyle of tropical island bliss. Most days went something like this; a relaxing morning on the beach, followed by snorkeling (we took a glass bottom boat one day and saw turtles), long lunches over Bintangs (Astrid and I embraced Western food for a while as Gili Air possessed amazing baguettes), maybe a nap or a read in the afternoon followed by sunset cocktails (Harmony is the best!! NOT) and dinner. We played cards and modified scrabble and talked about life on the road and back at home, and what the fuck was going on with Australia. After six months on the road it meant a lot to catch up with friends from home. Travel is not only about having fun and exploring new cultures. Sometimes you just really miss the people that give your life meaning and connection. It’s easy to feel isolated sometimes in a culture that is not your own, spending time with close friends revitalised our souls for the journey ahead.
It sure was sad to see them go, another chapter of our voyage over. We waved and waved as the three of them became smaller and smaller shapes on the fast boat back to Bali. Then it was just Astrid and I with the vastness of our trip stretching before us, somehow thrilling and sobering at the same time.
So now after a month of experiencing a different and more leisurely kind of travel it’s back to the open road. Well, scooter, truck and potentially cow and chicken filled road anyway. What stands before us is unknown and exciting and I am looking forward to it.
Thanks again, Misch, Key and Brooke. Your visit meant the world to us.
Till next time, perhaps pints in Glasgow?!