Us all going to Gili Air is a classical example of why you should never plan too much (something I seriously need to learn considering I made a spread sheet for travelling in New Zealand). Previously convinced that the ferry ride over would stretch our budgets too much - internet prices are well over $120 - we were very interested to hear that one of mum's fellow DM's Roberto had bagged tickets on the fast boat AND return hotel transfers each way for $60 a person.
With my new found bartering skills I told everyone I'd handle the negotiations and marched up to a tiny tour desk, looking the guy squarely in the eye and asked, "four people to Gili Air give me a good price". Well to my astonishment right away he told us that for $180 all four of us could get the fastest boat and transfers from Sanur to Padang Bai - a 45 minute drive. Usually Wow, my skills were amazing! And nothing at all to do with it being the quiet season of course...
We got such a good deal that we were all a little paranoid that we'd been ripped off, but one look at the splendid artwork in the ferry terminal told us that our fears couldn't have been more unfounded.
And look at how lovely the ferry is!
Ah don't worry, I jest, we actually were on an awesome fast boat and on the advice of a friend made sure to clamber up top as soon as we got on board.
Unsurprisingly we caught the attention of locals trying to sell things and, encouraged by my Mum purchasing a sarong, we were soon flooded with new friends offering us things! They obviously saw us coming and we ended up buying a sarong each, some pineapples, a few bracelets and eight bottles of bintang with each set of four coming with a plastic bag that held a block of ice to keep them cool...which promptly melted everywhere and made Dot's bum all moist.
Wearing our new purchases and realising that Bintang evaporates very quickly when you're on the boat to a tropical island paradise (ahem) we took in the sights.
We were very lucky with the weather and Mt Batur was almost clear of clouds.
We even spotted a huge pod of Dolphins which dived down deep out of the boats way before my camera could switch on...but this is what the water looked like about 5 seconds later...gah.
Rather tipsy after 4 Bintang at 11am because, obviously, we belted out Queen songs (it being too windy to hear the music playing on my tablet) much to the amusement of the Chinese men sharing the top of the boat with us.
The views kept getting better, although that may have been helped by the never-ending supply of Bintang.
In the immortal words of my mother: "It's ok, we'll sleep it off and then chase off the hangover with cocktails later." A wise woman.
Nicole must have had a few beers - she thought she was superman!
It was a glorious ride, and we were almost disappointed when the tiny Gili islands slowly came in to view.
First up, the largest, Gili Trangawan known affectionately as Gili T.
Then the more sedate Gili Meno
And our home for the next 48 hours, Gili Air.
'Gili' means 'small island' and 'Air', weirdly means 'water.'..so a small island surrounded by water!
As the boat got closer and closer to our destination the different shades of blue and white came into focus and my heart almost leapt off the boat before me with the joy of spending time here. It is so picture perfect it was hard to imagine that the island had happened by chance, and hadn't instead been dreamt up by some romantic travel writer looking for the epitomy of castaway perfection.
Once off the boat we were surrounded by touts trying to get us to stay at various hotels. Dot's cousin had wisely suggested we take a 'smokers break' after getting off the boat, simply pausing to let the madness die a little. What good advice it was!
We came to Gili Air for some quality quiet beach time. We wanted sand in our toes, Bintang by the gallon and as few people around as possible...which is exactly what you get if your turn left off the boat and go to the quiet side of the island. After hanging around for a few minutes (and investigating a really terrible, overpriced place on the islands right side) we were approached by a very red eyed young man who told us his name was Aji Baji.
Thank the lord for him! He took us to his uncles place, Pongkor which was exactly what we'd had our hearts set on. Within the hour we had negotiated a price, moved our stuff in and settled down on the beach a stones throw from our rooms with a fresh coconut to hydrate us after all that boat Bintang...
|Our coconuts being prepared|
To get an idea of where our priorities lay at that moment just consider this occurrence...
We overheard a fellow diner/drinker say something to the waiter and his reply sounded like he'd said there was no Bintang. Feeling extremely panicked at this unwelcome development we immediately raised our concerns only to be informed that, no, there was plenty of Bintang. it was simply that right now there was no power.
Oh, thank God- only a powercut!
This was not somewhere you would come if you require daily comforts. Our water would frequently cut out with no explanation, same with the electricity. The sink in Mum and I's room wasn't actually plumbed in so every time you washed our hand it would start to be a foot wash too - ingenious really we thought, with all the sand!
Despite the water in our actual bungalows running out almost constantly they still found enough to water around our Bungalows every night.
So you must be thinking, the gardens must have been full of lovely plants and flowers? Nope, they watered the sand. I kid you not.
It was perfect.
Feeling refreshed after an afternoon snooze we set off in search of sunset cocktails and happened upon the 'Lucky' bar. With 2-4-1 drinks and a perfect view we settled in for what we expected to be a long time.
All the businesses on Gili Air seem to be a very family affair, with a seemingly endless supply of teenagers given jobs to do.
We watched as a few of them took some freshly caught fish to the waters edge and cleaned it before cooking it on an open fire.
It was a good job our tummies were filled with cocktails they were starting to rumble...
As the sun went down (and I took about a million pictures) we speculated about whether the perfectly positioned boat had been placed there on purpose. it just seemed too good of a photo... Traditional boat in front of Gili Meno and Gili T, and as the sun set further we were able to make out Mt Batur way over the water on Bali.
It was absolutely perfect, and Mama and I were very happy to be spending the evening together!
The cocktails slipped down almost as fast as the sun so we felt it only fitting that during 2-4-1 hour we should be frugal and order another round while the going was good.
My cocktail drinking was hampered by the need to take more and more pictures.
Each time I said "okay, enough now" the sky would turn that little bit more orange and I'd find myself setting down my pina colada and turning my camera back on...
I'm a picture-holic by nature anyway, and it was difficult to resist endlessly snapping such a perfect scene.
But eventually the sun went down and the cocktails were drunk and we found it impossible to ignore the rumbling in our tummies.
Declaring that after seeing the seafood feast the family at Lucky's had earlier we were craving some fish, it was a lovely surprise to find that our accommodation laid on a seafood BBQ every night!
That days catch was set out on a table and you choose your fish, bartered a price then waited with cold Bintags for it to be cooked and served.
Mum and I were slightly thrown by the fact that some of our favorite creatures to dive with were served up alongside all the seafood you usually get.
Poor little sweetlips!
We went for a red snapper, yellow tailed fusilier (a common sight while diving!) and squid.
The kitchen facilities were...interesting*.
But I was absolutely taken with their ingenuity in firing up the BBQ. Extra coals and a fan on full the blast it up! I felt sorry for the poor guy cooking in 30 degree heat while the nice fan breeze was just used to make his job hotter...!
We didn't have to wait too long for our food and pretty much died with happiness when it arrived.
I think it was the quietest we'd been the whole holiday. Aside from exclaiming how goooood the food was we were silent until the last mouthful had been eaten.
We made sure that every last bit of edible fish made it safely into our tummies.
Of course the night ended with improvised G&Ts on our veranda listening to the waves crashing and Mum complaining about our lack of ice...
*To be fair none of us got ill at all in Bali. In fact, Dot and Nicole got food poisoning only when they got to Singapore and from a McDonalds of all places. If we'd turned our nose up at every meal that looked like it hadn't been prepared in a western style kkithen we would have missed out on a LOT of delicious food.