Chilling in Gili Air
Trip Start Nov 07, 2009
20Trip End Jun 17, 2010
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Where I stayed
Gili Air, where we stayed, is quite small - about 90mins to walk around the outside. On two sides of the island there is almost untouched beachfront and the rest is made up of small restaurants and bungalows. The water is about 30 degrees over the reef so the snorkelling is incredible with turtles and stingrays swimming by.
There are no motor vehicles so the only traffic is from pony and carts that circle the island on a sand path. The background noises are from the wildlife, children playing, or from cows and chickens. This is the rainy season so pretty much daily a storm passes through so we spent quite a few days sitting on our bungalow porch just reading and listening to the distant thunder which just seems bigger and louder in this part of the world
The island is Muslim and there is a mosque in the village which broadcasts the calls for prayer 4 times per day which echos around the island making it almost hypnotic! We ended up using the calls for prayer almost as a way of telling the time of the day. One nice touch is that they are teaching a 10 year old child to sing the broadcasts so everyday during the late afternoon he has a go for a few minutes - cute!
Yet again a great accommodation offer found us on the boat over a resort of only two bungalows set back from the beach by about 100 metres across a field of coconut trees. The guy who runs it is officially the most relaxed person in the world; apparently absorbed and totally enthralled by his life there. Most days he spends working in the gardens or just sitting listening to the sounds of the island, smoking and always talks about how nice it is.
He'd often come up and sit with us on the terrace and hang out for a while then go back to pottering in the garden. He was also the chef and made a damn good banana pancake in the morning. He was also a dab-hand at frying almost anything for munchies though his on/off relationship with the deep fat fryer would often see him stood 3m away from the thing spitting away in the corner looking a bit scared
One evening we sat with him and some of his friends on the porch chatting, when all of a sudden one started talking to his mate close by in Indonesian and pointed at Gaby's legs. Wondering, what they were talking about her she asked and they guy asked her "You do sport? Have big powerful legs!". When she then explained that she's a PT it explained it all to him... though not something she was used to hearing: "Hey, check out your fat calves!"
Talking to the locals was really interesting - the guy running the bungalows lived on the beach for 10 years with no cover. In the early 80's before tourism reached the island there were no toilets (they just went in a bush). Power and TV (1 for the whole island) arrived in the late 90's.
One further highlight of the trip is that we were joined by our friend James from London - a great place to catch up! The scuba diving around the Gilis is excellent so Gaby decided to do the Advanced PADI course and James did the Open Water. As there weren't that many people around it was basically one-to-one tuition. James, fresh from reading an NLP book somehow managed to brainwash his instructor into getting around doing any theory at all, and the exam was held over banana milkshakes with the text book and us helping
The diving was incredible with the reef in really good condition and teeming with life. On one dive we swam over 12 turtles feeding in a coral garden. One turtle got stuck in the coral so super-Matt came to the rescue and lifted it out. That's my version of events anyway. The turtle wasn't available for comment.
James was officially an air-hog and managed to run out completely on two dives; his thought process being, "check air, hmm a bit low. Must tell dive master...ooo look, a fishy!" (see "theory avoidance" above!) On one occasion he came to me and showed the air gauge on zero and I pointed him in the direction of the dive master. Not the thing to do as everyone has a spare air source! (in my defence I thought it must have been a dodgy gauge as we'd only been in the water 15 minutes but I think this precludes me from becoming a rescue diver!!)
Apart from going around using twice as much oxygen than the rest of the human race James also has feet of jelly - both trainers and flip flops causing all kinds of sweaty wounds. (You don't walk much do you James?!) At least his ability to get restaurant staff running around in all directions making everything just right meant he didn't have to walk very much, "music a touch too loud, not enough bass, lemons not lemony enough...you have a lovely smile by the way...move that parasol an inch to the left..." Smooth!
Apart from diving and snorkelling around the island we spent most of the days reading, writing, and rather ambitiously inventing new religions after a Bintang (beer) or two.
After an initial plan of a week-long stay here, 18 days slipped by so we packed up and moved on further East, to Flores, which we heard great things about. Next update from there!