Gili Trawangan, Indonesia: Turtle Haven
Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
76Trip End Feb 06, 2014
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Packed in like sardines it was an hr or so drive across the island to the port... or not as the case may be. Why they insist on dumping you at a stupid cafe frustrates the hell out of me. Refusing to eat any of the mank food on offer but opting for a drink in order to use the internet (which didn't work) we sat twiddling our thumbs for half an hr before being told - "Port is that way, you walk 1km or take horse and cart". Great, so not only have you made us sit here for no apparent reason but now you want us to pay yet more money to get a lift with your water deprived horse that looks more fit for the glue factory. Sparing the horse unnecessary labor we walked but not without a lot of huffing and puffing on my behalf.
On reaching the port we exchanged our ticket for a new all important coloured piece of paper and lined up on a rubbish scathed beach to board a longtail type boat to Gili T. Once we were in the right queue with the right piece of paper it all worked relatively well. Arriving on Gili T was like stepping from a pocket of rain and onto a ray of sunshine. The boat pulled onto the sand, we jumped into the water with our bags and all was good. With our routine down pat we found a cafe, ordered a drink and then I waited whilst Sam honed his nose for an accommodation bargain. It never takes him long, back in 15 min I think. Were it me I would have insisted on walking the whole length of the beach before finally settling on one which was no doubt nextdoor, or better yet, in the place we were eating.
First impressions of Gili T were para para paradise but after a few days that lessened to more of a, yeah it's ok but there are nicer places in the world. Still, in saying that, it is a wonderfully chilled out relaxed place. Perfect for a week's holiday and therefore full of holiday makers from Bali. The main dirt street stretches about 1km along the coast which is always swimable, even at low tide (unlike the other side of the island). Clear turquoise waters lead into deep blue rocky patches ideal for snorkelling, turtle spotting or paddle boarding.
The jingle jangle of horse and cart echoes along the street as they ferry people to and from hotel. With no vehicles it is the main form of transport on the island with bicycles being the only other contender. Shops, restaurants, hotels and dive companies (most with swimming pools) line the street. Tables, chairs, beanbags and day beds are dotted along the sand. Unfortunately they have been unable to bring across the high restaurant standard often experienced in Bali and as a result most of the food is bland and/or downright horrible. Definitely a place where it is better to stick to Nasai Boring over anything Western. I thought seafood might be a goer but it was so bad my plate was left virtually untouched.
After spending a few days doing nothing in particular we hired bikes and rode around the island. With no motorbikes on the island to make a profit they seek it in the prices they charge elsewhere. A days bike hire IDR 50,000 (A$5). Snorkel hire IDR 35,000-50,000 (A$3.50-5) depending on whether you hire at the same place as bikes. Unfortunately the snorkelling off the beach isn't that great due to most of the coral being dead and torn apart by anchors. We did however spot two turtles only a couple of metres from shore. We were sipping beers on beanbags but saw four Australian girls spot them. They loved it.
We went on a snorkelling trip and did a dive. Both were good and bad. Due to all the rain the visibility wasn't that great but we did see about five turtles which was wonderful. Our overly annoying snorkel guide wouldn't let us dive down to them yet it was fine for him to do so and scare them off. Very annoying. Our dive instructor on the other hand was brilliant. There was also an awful lot of rubbish on the snorkel trip which made parts of it like swimming in a rubbish tip. Once again this was probably due to all the rain. Or the fact that each day the locals sweep the beach and bury the rubbish under a couple of cm's of sand which the tide then comes up to wash away. Human stupidity at it's greatest.
The little bungalow we stayed in was great. Clean, outdoor shower, verandah and just a few steps back from the main street. The only downside was having a salt water shower. You can just imagine what my hair was like after eight days! Coupled with the fact it was so hot you had a permanent layer of salty sweat so never felt clean. But, that's what you get for paying on the cheap. Up the price and you've got yourself air con, a fresh water shower and swimming pool.
Sunsets were incredible so one night we walked down to our favourite little surf bar to watch the colours explode across the sky whilst people surfed in a sea of pink gold. Another night we continued a little further to a place called Sunsets which was packed with camera clicking sunset lovers. No matter how hard man tries, there will never be a camera good enough to capture the exquisite colour of nature.
With an unlimited amount of time on the island we were going to do a free dive course but then I got sick so didn't think it wise to do so with a cold. Definitely something to keep on the must do list though. Instead we took advantage of my aches, pains and cold by laying off the beer and enjoying a few early nights. We caught up on some reading, watched movies and dozed on beanbags. Perfect place to recuperate.
On our first night we were haunted by the same rain cloud that had been following us since Bali. Seeking shelter in a bar we watched as the sea merged with the sky and the street turned into a river. Waves rode into stores and restaurants as horses and bikes splashed on by. Not the best weather to start our stay but with a few live bands playing we were kept well entertained.
Waking to a new dawn brought with it sunshine, calm seas and a hangover. At least the stories were right - Lombok's mountainous terrane captures all the crap whilst the flatness of the Gili's means, more often than not, it blows straight past. True to form for the 8 days we were there it only rained on Gili T twice whilst Lombok was covered in storms every day. It was fabulous sunbathing on the beach whilst listening to the thunder echo across the water.
Having done everything we had set out to do on the Gili's - snorkel, dive, see turtles, bike the island, catch an amazeballs sunset, walk through the town and up to a non existent view point - we thought it time to move on. That and the fact we were sick to death of being woken up by prayer call at 0430 every morning. Why they insist on inflicting their beliefs on everyone on the island I've no idea. I fully embrace peoples right to practice their religion - I just don't like being woken up in the process.
Oh another thing - the island prides itself on no vehicles and no dogs but it appears puss-in-boots was left off the memo as half of Indo's cat population have decided to call it home. Quite strange to see them roam the beach chasing crabs.