29th Oct - 4th Nov 2014
Coming in to land at Bali's airport was as much fun as it looked when we watched from the beach. We came in fast and low, parallel to the sea, we were inching closer to the waves, then the end of the runway came in sight, and we were down. We had a bit of a wait for our bags which gave us time to decide our plan of action regarding a taxi. Now we have probably caught in a few taxi scams before, but poor Shaun and Jodie had been ripped off when they arrived in Bali, so we knew now what the normal price should be (50,000-100,00 max. £2.50- £5). We found a taxi station and they first said 80,000 but reduced it to 70,000 so in we got. It felt familiar to us, to be back in Bali. Which will strangely and not intentionally be our longest destination.
The taxi took about 20 minutes to arrive in Legian which is a stones throw from the centre of Kuta, and get dropped at our hotel the number one ranked hotel may I add in Kuta. The 'Terrace Hotel Kuta' was recommended by Shaun and Jodie who stayed there the night before we arrived. We paid £30 a night including a very nice breakfast with yummy noodles. Most of the rooms like ours face on to the swimming pool like a courtyard and the hotel is newly built so everything is clean and well presented.
At night we headed back to The Sky Garden for our £2.50 BBQ including tonight’s special- Mexican. Food as before was tasty, but the queue so long. And I had a moment in my head- the place was full of backpackers. Then I thought, hmm we are backpackers too, but I just wanted a normal meal in a quieter atmosphere.
After a good sleep and nice breakfast we went out for lunch and found a nearby 'warung' (small local business, ie restaurant) and had some nice food. Then we booked our ferry tickets to go to the Gili Islands tomorrow. We went to an ATM to withdraw cash from both accounts (apart from our money being stolen we would have ran out by now as we have extended this part of the trip, so we keep going to ATMs every few days, not ideal as they only let you take out around £80 in one transaction.) But both our cards were declining. We tried another few ATMs and finally Shannon's worked.
When we got back to the hotel, armed with washing powder, as I would be doing our last wash of the trip, and it was too much effort to take to a laundrette. I checked facebook to see my mum had messaged me saying the fraud department at the bank had tried to contact me. I went into a bit of a panic but then checked my internet banking and all was normal on there. So then I realised I had informed the bank that I was travelling and also said when I would be in each place, and by now I said I would be in New Zealand. So mum very, very kindly called the bank for me after work, as I didn't have access to a phone. (Now it was 1am our time, my mum skyped, I was confused in my sleep, so hung up, then emailed her). Mum asked me to confirm if I had made x, y and z transactions, I had, and then they reinstated my card.
Went left out of the hotel towards the beach and walked to the Beach Walk where there are shops and restaurants (near where we went to Hard Rock). We found an American Diner called Johhny Rockets, I had a Philly Cheesesteak and Shan had the Houston Burger. I washed mine down with their famous milkshake.
Both there and back from the hotel we had the usual people appear from the shadows to ask if we wanted any weed, marijuana, or mushrooms. We can't believe these people, do they not know it's a death sentence if caught with drugs in Indonesia??
In the morning we got up, packed my small rucksack and headed out the hotel for 0630. We have booked back in to the Terrace when we come back so they kindly let us keep the rest of our bags in storage. Shannon received a text from his mum. The fraud department at Shannon's bank had called her. Both of us on the same day?! Very odd! Still waiting to hear the outcome of Shannon's so can't tell you if everything is okay or not.
We got picked up and drove 1hr and half to Padang where we would catch our high speed ferry to Gili Trawangan The port was something else. Chickens squawking from their cages, dogs biting at their own fleas, locals selling sunglasses galore. We were dropped at a café and collected our stickers to determine which stop we were to get off at. We were told to wait for 1hr until boarding, then the waitress gave us a menu. We didn't really want anything, however when we told her that 'maybe later' we would she told us to 'go outside'. Blooming cheek, so went next door, nice place, but I could see a thick layer of dust on the cutlery, I ran my finger along the silverware and produced a long smear of grey dust. We left. We found another café, it was busy. No one came to take our order, I looked around, no wonder the other waitress kicked us out, everyone in this café were just sitting like it was a waiting room. But as no one showed interest in us, we left. Still peckish but annoyed.
The boat was rammed full of backpackers, some of which were on the breakfast Bintangs already and singing at the top of their voices. The boat was to be direct and take 1hr. However we assumed it would be longer, and we were correct. It stopped first in Lombok, then Gili Air then our stop Gili T. I happened to be reading the section about the A-Z of Indonesia and found the part that said the waters were notoriously dangerous for crossings, and many boats crossing between the islands have sank in as many years. (Indeed we had heard of one just a few months before we left home).
Arriving on the island we were to jump into the sea before getting our luggage. As we hadn't booked anywhere to stay here, when guys started approaching us for a room, we went with one of them. We found the 'Secret Garden' which was just 2 minutes walk down a lane from the beach. We got an air conditioned room, basic but decent size, with a patio and hammock. We knocked the guy down to 500,000 for both nights (£25) maybe a little over priced but we were happy with it. Although there was annoyed mossies in the evening.
We went a walk and found a nice café for lunch, after moving a sleeping cat who got to my seat before me, we enjoyed looking out to the beach and relaxing. Then we confirmed ourselves for our return journey, as this is a must, because the boats fill up fast. Afterwards we grabbed our complimentary snorkels from our room and took to the clear blue waters which were even more amazing beneath the surface, We spotted hundreds of pretty black and yellow butterfly fish, many other species I don't think I have ever seen before, and then we spotted several turtles!!! It was super cool to float above them while they got on with their business. Not many photos unfortunately as we are having troubles with our underwater camera.
At night we headed out for dinner, for all the people that were on our boat, the place seems dead, like eerily quiet, there are tons of restaurants but they are empty, with the poor waiters calling after you for your service. I felt sorry for them. But from October onwards is the off season. So we headed to a place we had seen earlier, called Bamboo, named so because the roof only structure is made out of lots of lovely bamboo. And we were in luck- there was a band playing, and they were good, and there was several other tables filled too. So we watched and listened to the live band and both had a wood fired pizza which was well, pizza-ish. Grabbed an award winning (trip advisor) gelati ice cream on the way back to the hotel.
After a night being bitten with mosquitoes * slap * ha.... at that exact moment I was spelling the word mosquitoes one cheeky bugger flew past my screen!! But for me at least, it was a decent nights sleep. We got up after another lazy morning lying around, and rented push bikes from our hotel for £2.50 each for 24 hours. We got on the saddle and bumped our way down our lane and onto the main strip, dodging pedestrians, other bikes, and the only other vehicle on the island, the horse and cart. We weaved our way past numerous beach restaurants and then found an Irish bar I had read was good. So we parked the bikes up and went for lunch, which was really tasty, and exciting as they had HP brown sauce, so Shan poured it over his tortillas as you do, and I had spag bol and there was Worcestershire sauce so I went crazy with that.
Then back on our bikes we sailed past the last of the buzz and headed to the bottom of the island where it was quiet with stunning bungalows starting to crop up, if we had researched the island more we would have chosen to stay down here. . Top tip for anyone coming to Gili with a bit of money, stay out of the town. We then came across steps which would lead us to the highest point. So we parked our bikes and set off on a rather long hike up this hill - in our blooming flip flops. Our feet were manky when we were done. At the top we could see Gili Meno the closest to us, then Gili Air behind and then in the near distance, Lombok. But we could see that view from the beach really as the islands are so close together. We then clambered our sweaty backsides down the dusty path and hopped back on our bikes. However a little further along then dirt ground turned to just sand and it was impossible to ride along, we spent a lot of effort pulling the bikes along, jumping back on at flat ground, and repeat ten times more. Dripping, we found a lovely cafe which had bamboo pods to sit in complete with cushion and table, so we cooled down and looked out over the beautiful blue water.
Gili Trawangan is 3km long by 2km wide and we circumnavigated the whole island, we then went snorkelling again, we were armed with our underwater camera but unfortunately we didn't spot any turtles. But we did see lots of fish, including one which was longer than my hand and very thin and most of it was it's mouth which was open with teeth, I got a bit scared but you know me, not one to panic. (!)
After snorkelling we jumped on our bikes to watch the sunset around the other side of the island. It was a lovely setting, and looked like the sun was going behind Bali which is 37km away from us. We were joined by a 13 year old boy named Henry who told us a sob story that he lived and slept on the beach as his parents were dead. We were unfortunately sceptical and knew he wanted some money, but he was cute and interesting so we gave him 20,000 (£1) he was so chuffed and shook our hands, he remembered our names as he said 'thanks'. Then he went off and found another couple to chat to. After the stunning sunset, still in our damp clothes, we cycled back through the busy bit to find some food. We came across 'Scallywags' restaurant, which again I read in the Lonely Planet, we were seated on the sand with a sea view. Shannon had his trusty old caesar salad and I had a very yummy (if small) tandoori chicken curry. After dinner we needed to get rid of the bikes fast- our bums were killing us- we couldn't sit down properly. So we dropped the bikes back at the hotel, grabbed some Bintang from the shop and sat on the beach and chilled out.
So also I need to mention that we had originally planned to visit Gili Air and Gili Meno, but we didn't realise how close in distance they are, and as Gili T isn't that built up or indeed as wild with it's partying as we expected (maybe because we are in the off season it's quieter), we didn't really see the need to island hop. We can see the other two islands from the beach and we are happy with that.
Time to leave and start a longish journey back to Bali. Check out for 1030, and walk to the ferry shop to confirm our spaces. Wait until 1130 on the beach until boat should arrive. We had fun watching the boats sailing past or coming in to shore bouncing around as the sea was so choppy. Our boat finally arrived at 1215. The next 2 hours were to be long. The sea was indeed very rough and the boat was getting battered around, with no safety records or spot checks ever being conducted on these types of boats we knew what we were in for should the worst happen. The boat was smacking against the water and sea water was pouring in, even through the closed windows and doors, like emptying buckets of water over the place. Even the luggage in the hold in front of us were jumping in the air- and that included the bags at the bottom that had 200 kilos piled on top! Also to top off the journey, as the doors and windows needed to be closed to attempt to stop the water coming in, the whole boat was hot and sweaty .
So we didn't capsize and drown which at the time was a strong possibility - we had even checked the life jackets, which would have been useless as there were all tied together above our heads, and we made a plan if we were to jump ship- Shan taking our bag and hoisting it above his head to keep the passports safe. We were back on dry land, we got hassled for a taxi, but made our way to our shuttle bus, same van, same driver, picked the seats up front again so we could watch the road and it's going ons.
Back to the Terrace Hotel, back in the same room, back to Sky Garden for Steak and Seafood BBQ buffet. We, for the first time, made it early enough to get the free beer offer. We assumed just one beer, but no... they kept coming and topping it up from a jug, we started downing what we had just to get another refill. It was great! So I take back what I said about it being full of backpackers- it is, but it's so cheap. Our buffet and beer cost us £2.50. Cant beat that! (Not even Mum and Dad with all the groupon/5pm vouchers you use!)
Back at the hotel feeling tipsy, it spurred me on to apply for jobs in NZ. I ended up applying for around 12 jobs! And by the next morning I had three replies, two saying they will be in touch, and one saying if still interested please call this number! So fingers crossed getting a job will be easy. (From experience I know it's not always easy).
We spent our last few days on eat, sleep, repeat. We had lots of food, Bintangs and watched films on HBO on tv, applied for tons of jobs, ate some more, drank milkshakes, chilled out and ate some more and had one last Balinese full body massage.
On our last full day, we went to the beach. We went in the water to play in the waves, but then disaster and sheer panic unfolded. We had drifted quiet far out, and all of a sudden I couldn't touch the bottom and the waves were crashing over me and I was gasping for air, in turn swallowing lots of sea water. Shannon is a strong confident swimmer so he was a bit further out, when he seen me he came swimming to help but by now I was panicking like mad and flailing helplessly around the water, my brain to busy to work out how to kick my legs and move my arms. More huge waves were crashing down, Shan was pulling me along but I couldn't catch my breath. Then we spotted a surfer and his instructor and they were pointing left and shouting to move over. So we did, and soon we were out of the current, we made our way out of the shallows and back to our sunbed. I was in shock and felt sick, like physically sick as I had swallowed so much salt water. Shannon truly was my saviour, but I have warned him that's the last time I go in the sea. I have had too many problems over these past few weeks, what with snorkelling and all. (Family please don't panic! I'm fine now!)
That fine actually, that I managed to wolf down another lot of fajitas from Hard Rock Cafe. We had to give ourselves a good send off from backpacking didn't we?
Today to kill some time before our 2110 departure we went to the cinema at the Beach Walk and watched 'John Wicks' which was, apart from lots of bloody deaths, really good. We were in the 'premiere' theatre, and we had full reclining lazy boys, a drawer with blankets, and we had a waiter that brought our burger and popcorn. It was really cool! Might have managed one last milkshake too. And also might have found a New Look and bought some jumpers!!
We are now just about to get taxi to the airport to start the long journey to our new home land.