Our time so far in Indonesia has been spent away from the major tourist areas, but now we are approaching the holiday hot-spots of Lombok and Bali. Apparently you haven’t been to Lombok unless you have been to the Gili’s; 3 small islands that form part of Lombok, but are a boat ride from Bali.
The anchorage at Gili Aer was a surprise. Leaving Florence to see what all the fuss was about ashore required us to batten down the hatches like we were taking to sea; nothing left on the counters, everything lashed down on deck. Then we watched from the beach as trip boat after trip boat zipped past within inches of her, leaving her tossing and rolling violently in their wake. We began to wonder if Gili Aer was really as ‘chilled’ as Lonely Planet would have you believe. As we were wandering along the beach bar packed sand tracks around the island, it soon became clear that to make the most of this place you need to be on holiday.
Two ice-creams later, Matt was really getting into the swing of things. By the time we met up with good sailing friends from ‘Paws’ and ‘Osprey’ for drinks and dinner, we were really letting our hair down. As much as we have loved travelling through the less visited parts of Indonesia, a day off from having to cover knees and shoulders and just be another anonymous tourist, in an area where drinking beer is acceptable was a welcome break. We were in great company and the sun was shining so we made hay that day, but ultimately one day was enough for us on Gili Aer.
Having sailed down to Marina Del Ray in Southern Lombok under the promise of several events, including surfing and local boat racing, the blow that they had never actually been organised was only slightly softened by a couple of free days on the dock. Access to the first fresh water in months meant that all we really saw of Southern Lombok was the showers/marina dock.
Not happy leaving Lombok without having seen some of the interior, we headed back to the north of island where we hired a scooter for the day in search of some waterfalls. Taking to the roads in Indonesia is an adventure in itself. Cars, trucks and motorbikes all compete for their space on the often limited road. The only rule seems to be try to avoid hitting anyone, especially if you are going against the normal flow of traffic. Be it a family of 5, or a whole market stall you can carry anything you can balance on a motorbike as long as you smile and look good whilst doing it. Stopping at a red light should be avoided as it only causes a pile up behind you, and shows your weakness.
Vehicles and objects whip past in the blink of an eye. Was that? Did you see that? Yep, he was carrying a 10m scaffolding pole on a motorbike. At least he was on the correct side of the road
Lombok is still recovering from last year’s major earthquakes which killed 563 people and destroyed around 80% of structures in Northern Lombok. Most villages we passed through were ongoing construction sites, the mosques, schools and clinics being the first to have been rebuilt.
Bumping along the dusty, rutted roads, we watched the town give way to lush green countryside as we waved at farmers in cone hats, tending their rice paddies. A quick stop at one of the many road side stalls for a litre bottle of benzene (petrol) allowed us to power on and wind our way further up into the hills.
Two hours on the road and we were ready for a refreshing dip. Although we were early enough in the day to beat the majority of tourists, the many local food vendors overlooking the first main Terun Jeruk Manis waterfall meant a swim would be anything but private.
The Sedang Gile waterfall further up the track was more of the secluded spot we were looking for, yet the landslide from the earthquake had filled up the plunge pool, leaving a natural shower under the smaller falls, the only option for cooling off.
Taking a side route off from the falls, we meandered along the irrigation channels for the local villages and rice paddies. Some cheeky monkeys our only company.
It turned out their lunch menu was very reasonable, particularly as it included use of the infinity pool overlooking the vibrant hills and rice paddies.
Don’t worry, putting our sweaty, dusty clothes back on for the two hour hot bike ride back to Florence was enough to stop the luxury going to our heads.