Heading back down the coast road we were heading this time for the port of Pandang Bai which is the main port and hub for transfers across to the Gili islands of the North West coast of Lombok. The Island we were heading for was Trawangan which is the largest of the three Gili islands. The Gili’s are special as they have no cars, trucks or motorbikes on them so it’s a great place to relax and let time slip by, and that’s what we fully intended on doing!It was also Trish’s birthday in a couple of days time so it was a beautiful place to celebrate her 29th.
As we got into Pandangbai we realised that this was just a hub and a place to wait for the boats as there was nothing there apart from a few restaurants and the port. Unfortunately there was only one ATM machine in town and that wasn’t working so we had to combine our cash together to pay for the crossing plus accommodation and meals. First we had to barter for the crossing and after a short session we had managed to buy tickets and handed over our cash and in return handed a small paper receipt. It only then really dawned on us that this might be a scam but the next morning we weren’t disappointed as we hopped onto our medium sized speedboat.
The cross over is generally unforgiving in choppy seas, but we were blessed with calm waters, however the way the captain steered and the general condition of the boat it seemed that there was more water inside than outside. We were grateful that we managed to get seats inside the boat because when we arrived at the Gili’s the unfortunate souls at the back of the boat were drenched. As per all new arrivals we decided to sort out accommodaion first. As it was Trish’s birthday they treated themselves to more luxury accommodation on the North East side of the island whereas I opted for the more budget end of town. The room I managed to find was good enough, clean and spacious and at a bargain price of £5 per night which was great as it was Ramadan and prices were generally increased during that month. One thing they didn’t tell me at the time of purchase was the constant power failures that occurred at very indifferent times of the day. Most power cuts lasted suspicously during the day but I wasn’t in during that time so it wasn’t too much of an issue.
The island itself is so small that you can walk around it in 2 hours so most things like bars and restaurants were situated down the East side and about a kilometre in length. The mode of transport on the island was the horse and cart but as the island was so small it only took 10 mins to walk to wherever you needed to go! Once settled into our rooms we soon found the rhythm of island life which was all about taking it easy! So the days and nights pretty much passed by chilling, swimming, free diving, eating BBQ’s, walking around, rummy, lots of snorkelling and Trish feeding the endless supply of cats on the island. Strangely enough there were no dogs there and all the cats seemed to half or no tails which we deduced was due to inbreeding.
I experienced my first Asian earthquake one morning as I was awoken with the feeling that someone was shaking my bed. No real issues on the islands as it only lasted about 4 seconds but it did provide much excitement and gossip around the island. We celebrated Trish’s birthday with a very nice BBQ and a few beers a very civilised night. Most days Gary and I snorkelled amongst the beautiful coral, schools of fish and the vast array of triggerfish (I have picked up a strange admiration of triggergish big and small!). The dive schools on the island pay the local islanders not to fish so the coral and marine life around the island stays health. We decided not to dive whilst there as we were bound to be disappointed from our last outings of Komodo and Tulamben and also the price was a little on the expensive side, plus we had heard mixed reactions from the previous divers. We also practised our free diving down a buoy line and made it down to 16 meters for 1 and ½ minutes, nowhere near the world record of 122m / 4 mins by Tanya Streeter, it felt very different being free of the usual scuba diving equipment.
On one of the days we hired out some bikes and did a tour of island which took us all of 45 mins but we stopped off for lunch along the way to get out of the heat of the midday sun. The island (along with Gili Meno and and Gili Air – the neighbouring islands) is very flat the highest point being a mere 200m high and with one long road encicling the island it would be very difficult not to get lost!! With all the peace and quiet the 6 days we spent on the island slipped by very quickly, most of it basking in sun on loungers underneath palm and coconut trees with the beautiful blue water lapping at the white sand. Gary and I (Trish isn’t a big drinker!!) had one night out where we watched a thrilling Manchester derby, we were tempted to stay out late but after seeing the prices of hard liquor and the fact that we felt much older than the party populous we decided on one JD and coke then bed. We must be getting old, either that or we were far too relaxed to be bothered to go out and party! We needed to head back before we became permanent residents and the next exciting chapter was going to be totally opposite from all the relaxation we had been enjoying. We were heading tot he delightful sounding town of Senggigi were we were then going to book ourselves on a 3 day trek up the active volcano of Guang Rinjani!!