So we were now certified scuba divers, after 3 days of 'homework', learning and being a 'student' again it was time to unwind in paradise. A fast boat to a set of 3 Islands off the coast of Bali's quieter sister island Lombok.
The boat, advertised as a 'fast boat', was hands down the least pleasant experience of our first few weeks. As we crammed in to ridiculous tiny bench seats on a boat that was a fair few people over crowded, all tourists bar one Indonesian family, out the back of the boat, we were ready for a short sail across the Lombok strait... Wrong. The 'fast boat' really was fast, in fact, it was by far the fastest boat either of us have ever been on, 3 massive motors fast, make everyone on the boat sick and all those at the back soaking wet fast. It was also hot, dripping with sweat hot, even the Indonesians were sweating hot. The child crying didn't help. Thank god it only lasted an hour, and thank nature for our destination, the beautiful car and moped-less Gili Trawangen.
We were greeted off the boat by a man we'd been given the number of by some fellow travellers a man by the name of Montana. Montana seemed to know everyone on the island, in fact they were all his 'brothers', including Josie. He looked after us, hailed us a horse taxi, and off we went to his U n Me homestay, quite literally down the road (you can walk the island in under 3 hours). The house was lovely, set in the Village area of the island, complete with Mosque, Cockerels roaming the streets and an unorganised maze of tin roof bungalows. It was authentic, cheap and exactly what we wanted we also made friends with the village cats, one of whom is now to be known as (Thierry) Henry. It was fan cooled, but never reached Kubu Kauhs extreme. The best part of it all was that Montana and his 'brother' who ran the house (was this really his brother or just another 'brother') sorted us out with great bikes for the week.
Cycling around Gili was perfect, the roads may be bumpy and mostly dirt tracks, but we were able to cycle around to different snorkelling spots all around the coastline, and whilst the main strip was always buzzing, a 10 minute ride was greeted with empty crystal white sand stretches of deserted beach. Also the beautiful sunsets could be enjoyed at the sunset bar, on the western coast of the island, along with Reggae jams, cold Bintang and a beach bonfire. There was also a cool little bamboo movie shack that screened nightly movies, a refreshing break from the bars, we saw Pacific Rim, which was actually really good, and then as the films final act literally just started the Islands power cut, luckily they had a diesel generator.
The snorkelling around the island was incredible, even though much of the coral wasn't in the best state due to a history of dynamite fishing in the area, it was clear that there was life forming once again. Just off the coast of the island you could see schools of fish, creepy looking eels, loads of cute clown fish and of course turtles. On a day trip to Gili Meno, you can catch the public island hopping boat in the morning, we had the pleasure of not only enjoying the peace and tranquility of Gili T's little sister, but the beauty of what is often called the 'honeymoon island'. There were some incredible bungalows, one day we will go back and stay on Meno! It was off Menos coast where we saw 3 turtles, and some of the richest and liveliest coral I've ever seen. Not on any sort of snorkelling trip, we just rented our snorkels and masks from one of Montana's brothers and swam out to sea. A real sense of freedom and exploration. (Unfortunately my GoPro app isn't letting me upload my photos so there aren't any photos of the coral, turtles etc. yet I will make a blog post just for GoPro shots when I've sorted out the problem, soz)
Gili T is not all peaceful bliss in fact it was a busy island full of tourists from all over the world, thankfully not all Australia. I (Olly) even had the surprise of bumping in to some people I knew from uni in Falmouth, bonkers. Gili T is famous for its hippy roots, and whilst there are many smart restaurants, resorts, and cookery schools opening, all over the island it's free living party island roots shine through. Every night live music blares all along the main strip that follows the beach all the way around the island, but never was it bad music or the sleazy Bali club vibe, it was Reggae bands, playing in heaving bars full of happy travellers sprawling out on to the beach. Whilst we never endured till the wee hours, we were informed these party's often continued till sunrise, one day we have to go back as a big group and spend a week. Sama Sama bar was the place to be, the Gili T band was the band to see, and the number of Islands in the Gilis is three... Dee dee dee.
We happily spent 5 days doing very little other than snorkelling, cycling, and relaxing. It was perfect.