Day 8. A Day in Gili Air or How to Go Crazy Celebrating your Birthday…

Day 8. A Day in Gili Air or How to Go Crazy Celebrating your Birthday…

I have started to write this while I listen to a playlist of ‘Two Steps from Hell‘, I warn you just in-case during my story I suddenly lose my head and start to fly and defeat dragons. The thing is that with this epic music telling reality seems a little bland: that we went from Kuta to Serangan with sleep in our eyes to wait for a boat that (oh, what a surprise) set sail late… that with the sleep still in our eyes we breakfasted on some pineapple jam on toast while we wondered why we were the only ones having breakfast at breakfast time… and once we had boarded the boat that travelled some 100 miles (Serangan Harbour – Gili Air) in two hours and fifteen minutes we clearly understood why nobody was having breakfast. The understanding comes when you notice the pineapple from the toast at the top of your uvula…

It’s award-worthy that the photo taken from the boat came out with the horizon horizontal…

And since these aren’t things that go with the rhythm of epic music I will tell you about how we ploughed through the windy seas in the poop deck flying all the way, not touching the sea but flying, our swift little transport and of how we turned up our noses and walked to the outer walls of the boat and went out to the water without fear, like good pirates (well, second-rate once you’ve seen the crew jumping barefoot above the four motors (like Concorde) of a moving boat without holding onto anything and with some standards of workplace safety that would put the hairs of any of my British colleagues on end (Translator’s Note: the above is apparently a famous Spanish poem, now butchered into English by yours truly). It’s not a joke, at my work there’s a poster reminding you that you should communicate and take very seriously any working accident, a message illustrated with a photo of a finger, a sticking plaster, and a cut that could only be observed with an industrial microscope… some have so much and others so little… (Translator’s note: at my work there are signs reminding us not to over-fill mugs of tea or bowls of soup in-case we scald ourselves….)

In such an epic manner (I’m a public sector worker in an organised country, my standards of epic have rather decayed…) we arrive to Gili Air. The Gilis are some little Indonesian islands (technically part of Lombok) with an unsettling number of Australian tourists. Fortunately, the majority of them are concentrated in Gili Trawangan that according to what I’ve read go there for an eternal rave. The Aussie Magaluf. The island in the middle is Gili Meno, which is the calmest… so calm that our boat didn’t even stop there… and the third is Gili Air, that was our destination and I suppose was a little calmer and more Bohemian, more about connecting with your inner self and all that trendy middle-class left winger stuff we like… or that’s what the forums said, but that flies in the face of the three hundred guiris (Translator’s note: A Spanish word that means exactly the sort of person that comes to mind when you think of the typical British tourist to Malaga, in socks and sandals complaining about the heat and anything remotely foreign in the country they’ve just paid to visit) in a port that only has room for three boats if one drops anchor just off to the side…

Once we went further into the island we noticed that the forums were right in a way and that there was a large concentration of people in the port because that’s where the bars were… let’s not kid ourselves, Gili Air is no stranger to tourists (five cash machines in an island with the surface area of a button), populated with hotels, warungs (places to eat), activity stands (diving, snorkelling, etc), little shops, people that carry you by horse and cart (little horses, more like ponies…), etc. But it’s also true that it has a special air, calm, that made me feel a little like I’m at home (I’m a countryside girl). Translator’s note: This is because Nieves’ family are farmers, not because we’re incredibly posh and own countryside holiday homes.

To go walking at night by unpaved paths, without electric light, listening to the insects of the night, smelling the damp earth, the plants, the fruit trees, seeing the geckos slink between the roofs, seeing the stars… all those little things whose importance and beauty you only appreciate when you’ve lost it… by the way, speaking of being lost… the stars there weren’t organised like they should have been according to my European memories! I’m sure it’s silly but I really noticed that difference… (Translator’s Note: I imagine many would feel the same way but as a city boy I was only vaguely aware that the stars existed in the first place).

But I don’t know what I’m doing talking about the night when we arrived to Gili Air around 1 in the afternoon (pfft, almost not even late). Our enchanting hotel was almost at the other side of the island (some fifteen minutes walking) and arriving there was a little micro-adventure since we didn’t have signal (well, in my case I didn’t even have the equipment with which to get signal…) but there is something magical about finding your way without the help of little machines. I say that because there were maps from time to time and we ended up finding it , otherwise I’d no doubt have a less accommodating opinion… on the way we stopped at a cash machine that gave rise to another of the GRRRRRR moments of the journey, that besides being out of order it almost emptied our holiday payment card. Don’t worry, be happy, all of this was solved and they’ve already returned up to the last million rupees (we took a weswap card.) Besides all of that we only realised the problem another day so for the moment you can visualise us walking happily as Heidi in the mountains towards the hotel. In reality it was more like a group of bungalows with a garden, swimming pool, individual veranda, mosquito net (which I know are to scare away bugs but make me feel like a medieval princess), and bathroom half-outside. I mean it had walls and a ceiling but less than it should have so you were in the outdoor air when you went for a pee. One of these days when I’ve recovered from writing this mountain of posts I’ll leave a review on Trip Advisor for the Balengku Homestay because besides being super cute there was an unbelievably good breakfast (pancakes made of banana) and a terrible coffee. It seems that isn’t the hotels fault but the Indonesian way of making the coffee, that leaves all the dregs at the bottom of the mug, lying there without being filtered at all and sure, you’ll end up swallowing some of them. If you gave the people that read the future in these things a mug of Indonesian coffee they could tell you what’s going to happen from now to the apocalypse… but I’m getting ahead of myself again, talking about breakfast the following day when we haven’t even reached the food of today.

The view from our veranda at Balgenku Homestay… It’s so hard to move your bum…

I left off at the moment that we arrived at the hotel, left our things and had a little bath in a swimming pool that wasn’t exactly intended for children or people that don’t know how to swim, where the slope progressed little by little and went happily from 50cm to 2m depth in a step: “Oh, it only goes up to your knee….Gmphllphphhgrh…glug-glug”.

Continuing with our arduous tourist tasks, we felt obliged to abandon the pool to go to eat… in particular to go to eat at a high table placed right on the very edge of the sea, reclined upon cushions, drinking super cool watermelon juices from watermelons recently pressed while the sea breeze tangled our hair and the waves of the sea pampered our ears… I said it, the hard life of the tourist…

As a special birthday meal, I enjoyed four pieces of bread with some kind of salsa that might not sound like a great delicacy but was wonderful and entered like May water into a stomach mistreated from so much good eating and a little agitated by the little boat trip…

We ate veeeeeeery calmly, for our part and for that of the waiters, who’s motto (printed on the back) was “Smile while you still have teeth”. I’d like to have a t-shirt like that myself because I loved it…

The hard life of the tourist. As the wise message of the restaurant said: “Smile while you still have teeth”.

After eating we went for a walk from the south to the north of the island by the east coast (I swotted up well on the geography to be able to speak with knowledge) and on the path we bought snorkelling equipment for the price of diamonds covered in platinum. The thing is that you’ve read all about haggling but have never done it in your life, which makes you go blank when the moment really arrives… my plan was to hire the equipment but Fergus showed brilliantly his posh child’s snobbery (“But if they’re rented then somebody will have used them before”) and we changed the idea. (Translator’s note: It’s not that I’m opposed to renting snorkels per se. It’s more that I’m opposed to renting something you put to your mouth from a place where ‘health and safety’ is ‘a trio of words you use to encourage tourists to visit your place instead of the one across the road’). So now we have snorkelling equipment for that Thursday every fifteen years in which you can bathe in this country without risk of hypothermia… and this year I forgot to go to the beach so there’s nothing more to do until 2033…

Joking aside, I was very happy putting on the glasses and the tube because we arrived to a little piece of beautiful beach and it was there we tried our new toys… I have to say that on the one hand it was a little disappointing because I went with the expectation of seeing Nemo, Dory and the surfing turtles but, hey, it was getting late and they’d gone to sleep because they didn’t come to greet us… Nevertheless it’s impressive to see what it’s like down there, even so close to the coast: sea anenomes, coral, star-fish, little coloured fish… and some very ugly beasties that I’d yet to look up… Well, I’ve done a little research but I’m not very sure… I think they’re called cucumbers? and frankly they’re disgusting, almost as disgusting as the other beastie that stuck to my swim shoes and never let go. Because who knows why, these things happen to me, and while others have the little birds come to sing to them and the turtles greet them, obviously I get a big, brown, slug-like worm coming to grip me.

The best thing was taking the head out of the water and seeing a beautiful sunset from the sea… at six in the evening but beautiful… we thought we’d stay there and finish watching the sunset in a cool little corner with beanbags at the foot of the beach but Bali wasn’t quite as hot as we believed so we returned to the hotel for a hot shower then went out again, this time for dinner. I repeat: This thing about ‘touristing’ is a torture…

The sunset was beautiful but my action camera is that of a poor person that has spent all of their savings on going to see it…

We had dinner in front of the beach again, although if they’d given me the option I would have preferred to eat next to a brazier… (Translator’s Note: The traditional form of heating in a Spanish home in the countryside)… the dinner that night had me a little worried and in an existential crisis… ever since I remember I’ve never liked fish, however that was one of my favourite dinners of the journey, and hey it’s up against some pretty stiff competition… and if you’re wondering why I asked for fish when I don’t like it… I know, I asked for an ‘ikan kari bunbu rajan’ or I don’t know what, that according to the waiter was something typical of Lombok, and who would have thought that the typical meal of an island could contain fish… well it turned out that what I asked for was a type of curry that had no right to be so good because it was fish, God, I don’t even like fish! Now I’ll have to reconsider everything I believe in life thanks to a bloody curry… although I’ve also not discarded the idea that the existential crisis could have something to do with having turned thirty-two…

A greeting from paradise, where the fish is good and wearing spaghetti straps isn’t just a fantasy
I have started to write this while I listen to a playlist of 'Two Steps from Hell', I warn you just in-case during my story I suddenly lose my head and start to fly and defeat dragons. The thing is that with this epic music telling reality seems a little bland: that we went from Kuta to Serangan with sleep in our eyes to wait for a boat that (oh, what a surprise) set sail late...
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Day 8. A Day in Gili Air or How to Go Crazy Celebrating your Birthday…