We were up an on our way by 5:30 am, yes AM! We had a short walk to the ferry office (past a gross dead rat) where we had the first of many waits. The ferry company told us that the vans to other parts of the island were full so we had to stay in the Kuta area and meet at the office at 5:45 am….so here we were waiting for the 6 am van to come. It was a bit confusing because the ferry didn’t leave until 9:30, so that gave us 3.5 hours to get to the ferry…..looking on the map it seemed a bit off. It was; our half full van then took a tour through the various small towns looking for passengers – meaning we could have stayed almost anywhere and been picked up. UGH! About 9 am we got dropped off at the company’s office just outside the ferry terminal and sat and waited…..then in the most unorganized way possible we boarded with a few hundred others along with cars, trucks, scooters and bikes. It was typical Asian confusion at its best. We managed to get a table and set in for the 4.5 hour crossing. There are speed boats but they cost $85 /person compared to $20 /person for our slow boat. We ended up chatting about travel with the other people at our table.
Once on Lombok we were sheppared into another van and driven another 2 hours to Senggigi. The ride to Senggigi was interesting. First of all we were 11 foreigners in the van and James and I were the only ones whose first language was English. Second was Lombok. After being in the Kota area with its five million tourists crawling all over the place like ants in an ant farm Lombok was quieter and more natural. The road followed the coast and I was reminded that Lombok was volcanic and the beaches ranged from white white white to black black black with all the colors in between. Every turn seemed to reveal another beautiful secluded beach a different color from the last. We passed small wooden homes, rice paddies, cows, goats, chickens and small villages all with an amazing backdrop of the mountains. It was beautiful and I could feel the stress and fatigue of so many days of travel start to ease away.
Lombok and the Gili Islands (three beautiful tropical islets of white sand beaches, plenty of tourists and horse drawn buggies but no cars) are just a short boat trip away from Bali and attract divers, surfers, hikers, and backpackers and the rich and famous. The islands are very different from one another and just about anyone looking for any type of sun vacations will find it here.
The van stopped at the office in Senggii and seeing as though it had already been a long day we took the van driver up on his offer to take us to our hotel. We really had no idea where it was, Agoda said one spot and its own web site said another. We were a little nervous about the hotel. We had booked online and splurged a bit hoping to get a decent place, clean being first on my list, seeing as though we’d had crap places for so long and we’d be spending an entire week here. As the van pulled up I was feeling optimistic but James quickly reminded me that in Kalimantan the hotels spent a fortune on the outside of their hotels and this might be the same. Noooooooo. It was a gorgeous old stone building surrounded by big, leafy, mature plants and trees and fish ponds on either side of the entrance. Once inside the hotel I let my breath out, it really was beautiful. Clean, even smelled clean, and the big, leafy, mature plants and trees were even more abundant inside the courtyard. We were shown to our third floor room that had a beautiful view of the ocean. I had a big goofy smile on my face….just what we needed; a big, clean room a few steps from a wonderful pool (that had water) in a friendly hotel a short walk to town. I almost felt guilty and for sure thought we might be losing some of our backpackers edge. Oh well, if it’s in the budget why complain!
We headed to the beach, then back to the restaurant to have a quick bite to eat before having a swim. The pool was loaded with chlorine and I felt the grime of the past week dissolve away. Gross – but man did it feel nice.
Our hotel offered a free shuttle to town; we could have walked the 20 minutes but decided to be lazy. We wanted to book some diving and maybe pick up some snacks (we had a mini fridge AND access to hot water!), and check out the restaurants. We had a look around and caught a cab back (yes, feeling very lazy) to our hotel where we had hot showers and crawled into a clean bed.
Today we slept in. It was wonderful. Then breakfast, a swim and a doze on a pool lounger. I was so relaxed that I resembled a jelly fish. The ocean was about 20 steps from my pool lounger and I could hear the waves breaking. The hotel was actually a bit busy but was big enough that it wasn’t a big deal. The staff were also some of the friendliest we’ve encounter in a very long time.
James somehow convinced me to get up and we caught the free shuttle into town. The night before we’d tried to find a fruit stand or a grocery store with fruit with no luck so decided to try again today. We ended up walking down a side street that led us to a huge stretch of public beach where people were sun bathing, swimming, sipping drinks on patios and people were trying to sell everyone “genuine pearls” and hemp sea shell bracelets for roughly the same price. A big loop and we were back on the main street. We found out that to get fresh fruit you had to go to the next town (not sure why) so we stopped and had nachos and fajitas instead. Not a bad trade off. Lombok had such a laid back feel. There was no pressure to buy or rent anything even though you got asked every few steps. We had a table next to the sidewalk and watch sellers, sunglass sellers, sarong sellers and the “genuine pearl” sellers would show you their stuff but when you said no thanks they’d wander off. Even getting into a cab was stress free, they actually looked at us a bit funny when we kept asking for the meter to be turned on, it was just done without asking here. I started to let my guard down.
After a quick swim we headed to our room for hot showers and a clean bed. I was excited, we had diving planned for tomorrow and I was more than ready to get under the water again!
Grumpy Looking Leaf Scorpion Fish
After our noodle breakfast we caught our 8:05 pick up. We were staying on Lombok but the diving was done from the Gili Islands so we signed up with a shop that had cheap transportation to the Gili Islands. The one hour van ride along the coast to the ferry was beautiful. Again I was amazed at the beauty of the ocean, beaches, farmers fields and mountains. We jumped on the dive shop’s boat and made the short crossing to Gili Air. We had been told we could pick where we wanted to dive so decided to do Gili Air one day, Gili Trawangan another, then the day we were to catch our liveabaord we’d do a morning dive and use the cheap transportation to get to Gili Trawangan where it left from. As we got close to the island we made a bit of a detour to a broken down boat of the dive shops. We then towed it to a dive spot, stopped, waited while they got kitted up and watched them back roll in…then towed the boat to a mooring line at which time we then went back to where we picked the boat up – which ended up being right in front of our shop and where we had to get out. Not sure why they just didn’t let us out so we could go get ready and not tag along for the 30 minute detour. Oh well! We finally got on our way and did two great dives. They didn’t end up being around Gili Air but actually at Gili Trawagan but still great dives.
Grumpy Looking Diver
Back on land we signed up for our next dives and caught the boat back to Lombok. On the ride back in the van we decided it would be nice to rent a scooter and be able to stop and enjoy the views so that got added to our “to do list” for our planned to do next to nothing week. Diving always makes me hungry so we showered quickly and headed into town for supper. We decided to walk back and although tired (diving also makes me tired as can be) we enjoyed it. There were a dozen or so stands selling roasted corn and they looked and smelled good. We just wondered why no one thought to be selling something different, like coleslaw or baked beans to go with the corn. I think I see a gap in the market.
We tried to sleep in again today but even I was up fairly early. Over breakfast we got some more bad news from home, the first being a few days ago. I think the hard times, the times when friends could use a hug, are the worst to be away from home for. For us it was a reminder of how fortunate we truly are and we took a few moments to donate a few dollars to our favorite charity and to check our Kiva account. Traveling can be very humbling and it gets harder, not at all easier, to see children begging and entire families living on the streets all the time. I understand the reasoning behind not buying from kids or giving them money but it breaks my heart. We have found an outlet for this (guilt for lack of a better word) thru an organization called Kiva. Basically you lend money to people of your choice for a variety of reasons (to buy a pig, salon supplies, a scooter etc.) and they then pay you back, at which time you can re-lend the money or withdraw it. So our money gets used over and over and over again. It’s not much but in the past few years we’ve sponsored dozens of loans. We think it’s a great way to encourage sustainable living, not just throw money at problems, but to be honest it doesn’t matter what you give to, donate to or support; it just matter that you do. I have always tried to follow the 10% rule. 10% of my money, if I can’t afford that then 10% of my time, if I can’t find time then 10% of my stuff.
We were in somber moods so had a quiet day reading and swimming before heading into town to have some more fajitas. We really do miss our Mexican!
First glimpse of our tiny Komodo liveaboard
James on his way to help push.
At 8:05 we were picked up again for another day of diving! Yeah! We spotted a beautiful sail boat in the bay where our dive boat was and we joked that it might be our live aboard we had booked for next week. James joking asked if said the Ikan Biru on it. What? I asked, a little startled. We had actually just past a little, itty, bitty, tiny, weeny sail boat docked – with that name in big bold letter. Yikes! We jumped out of the van and walked back the 20 or so feet along the beach to check this boat out. Oh yeah….that was it. I’m not sure if seeing it ahead of time was such a great idea. We had booked two dorm beds on a budget boat to dive the Komodo Island area……for a week. A whole week on this boat! Now we knew it was budget so we weren’t expecting much…but it really looked small. I think we should already thank Sandra for helping James find the sea sick patches, looks like he will definatly need them.
Ah well, nothing could be done now (said with a smile) so we waded onto the boat and headed to Gili Trawangan. There was a few little problems to be sorted (first that we were diving not just booking transportation) before our dives but once in the water it was great! The Gili Islands did have some great diving.
The cute faces of a cuttle, puffer and box fish.
The smart passengers brought garbage bags
After our dive we walked down to the dive shop that the live aboard was based out of, we had some questions and had to book a room on land for night we got back. When we walked into the shop and asked about it the guy’s very quick reply was something like “can’t go on boat, broke”. Now even with the lack of English he had we think we got it right. After a few minutes of panicked questions we decided he didn’t know much and we should wait for the guy in charge, Will. Will actually worked at another shop so we headed there. He wasn’t in but the girl working assured us everything was fine and called Will so we could talk to him. I must admit I was a bit nervous.
About 4 pm our boat back to Lombok was leaving, well after the guys got it off the beach. The water level had dropped, again, and they were very happy James was around, again, to help. What is it with Indonesia and needing to push start everything? It was a fun, wet, rollercoaster of a ride back that I thoroughly enjoyed.
We had an early dinner in town and crawled into bed to watch some bad tv. What a fun day!
After breakfast we hopped on our rented scooter and headed to Mataram town. Mataram is the biggest city on Lombok and has markets, malls, fruit and hopefully a lens that James has told me he needs. Lol Not so much needs, but would be useful for some of the underwater stuff. Who am I to object, the pictures have been amazing!
We followed the coast again for a bit then turned when we came to the city. It was such a contrast from the quiet one main road of Lombok and the carless roads of the Gili Islands. Traffic was thick and almost amusing with the horse and buggies holding it up even more.
We found the mall and parked then took a walk looking for camera shops. Funny, we found a few but the staff kept telling us no one would carry the lens. James said it was a very popular one so we kept trying. We found a few and one place even had a second hand one for a decent price. Whoo Hoo! The walk around the city was also interesting. We got to see the Water Palace, another really old temple/pagoda thing where we had to pay to borrow a cloth belt (for respect we were told?!?) and some interesting little side streets. At the mall we stocked up on fruits and veggies and a stick of crusty bread – that proved interesting to carry home on the scooter (it got a bit mangled).
Pura Meru Temple, built in 1720 (the roof is supposedly horse hair). And a side street we took after some confused directions.
Guys playing pool outside and a cow in a cemetary. For reasons known only to her, Susan felt that it was essential that these pictures be included in her blog.
My monkey protectors
We made a quick stop at our hotel to throw our groceries in the mini fridge and had a quick swim to cool off then jumped onto the scooter to go up the coast in the other direction. It was the same way we’d gone to catch our dive boat but this time we planned to stop and enjoy the stunning views. And we did. One stop was where James had been seeing monkeys so I was a little reluctant. I saw a pearl seller sleeping on the side (these areas had rest stop benches and such) so I stood close to him, hoping the monkeys would get the sleeping guy not me. He woke up and started to chat me up. In a very lazy, sleepy voice he asked if I wanted to buy any jewelry. I didn’t, but was feeling guilty I was going to let the monkey eat him so said I’d have a look. We got talking and he reminded me it was the beginning of Ramadahn, which explained why it was so quiet.
We continued on to our little ride and couldn’t resist stopping to take a good look at our boat. “sigh” It was very small. I’d say cute, maybe even cute as a button…if I wasn’t about to spend a week on it with 8 divers and 6 crew. Where did all the food and water even fit? Laughing we got back on our scooter and went as far as the next town before stopping for a drink. The scenery was amazing. Just before the small town we passed huge rice paddies, all bright green with new shoots – the backdrop being the ocean. And a slight turn of the head and I was staring at green mountains. I may have fallen in love with Lombok.
We made it back in time for sunset then had another relaxing night complete with veggie sandwiches and fruit for supper. Yummy!
Passerby making my lounger seem extra comfy
Another day off? For real? We had our noodle breakfast (yes, I am officially sick and tired of noodles for breakfast) then headed to the pool, grabbed loungers, one in the shade and one in the sun, and plunked down. Around lunch time James brought down our veggies and dip (sour cream and onion soup mix – the last of my stash!) and just as we dug in B&J skyped us. We caught up on all the gossip back home and had a laugh about our upcoming boat trip. It really is weird to be able to skype from the side of a pool in Lombok –but I enjoyed it.
Feeling lazy and needing a bit of exercise we walked to town, did some souvenir shopping (well looking, I bought nothing) and had fajitas for dinner….we couldn’t resist!