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Published: August 19th 2011
Sometimes you just play your hand wrong. I guess I should have known better than to underestimate Indonesia. Everyone that we've run into on the road said that Indonesia was incredible and sure enough it really was... that being said we messed up through sheer lack of planning and missed out on seeing as much of the country as we could have. In the end we found ourselves wishing for more time in Indonesia to see the rest of this eclectic and diverse nation. Each of the country's main islands is like a small country to itself and worthy of exploration, in particular we kicked ourselves for not visiting Sulawesi (Tana Toraja, July/August has several festivals) and the island of Papua (Native population of African descent, yet located in S.East Asia... see also Papua New Guinea, Australian aborigines). Our time in country was great and some friends came out to visit us (tip o'the hat to Hale and Norma) and share some sun and good times.
We flew into Bali from South Africa and crossed from winter right into the heart of summer, after a quick wardrobe change we fell into island life in beautiful Bali. We ended
up spending a few days in Kuta catching up with Hale and Norma and getting offered the odd combination of pirated dvd's and Cialis. It became a running joke, we would sit down to eat and invariably some guy would come up selling pirated dvd's, after declining the dvd's the guy would then discreetly pull out a small box of Cialis and pitch those at us too... not sure what the connection between dvd's and Cialis is but it was funny. After Kuta we headed to Ubud (of Eat, Pray Love fame) to take in the town. Driving to Ubud was our first foray away from the south of the island and we kind of just took it all in before arriving and going through the inglorious task of finding lodging. We ended up at a killer lil guesthouse down some backalley and Ubud grew on us very quickly... it really is the kind of place where you can just chill out for a week with ease. In Ubud we visited a temple, watched the preparations for an upcoming ceremonial cremation, some traditional dancing and diligently avoided a small army of stray dogs before heading on to Lombok and "the
Gilis." In Ubud we also did a hike around the city to some rice fields and took in the awesome scenery.
Getting to the Gilis and Lombok meant crossing the infamous Lombok strait. While researching this leg of the trip I found numerous warnings about crossing the strait and the importance of crossing with a reputable ship operator (make sure there are lifejackets) and under good weather conditions as the boat traffic between Bali and Lombok is unregulated and the strait... while not wide... can be treacherous. The treacherousness of the straits is compounded by the boat operators determination to operate "fast boats" that slam into and plow through the rough seas... there have been accidents and if you run into trouble you are at the mercy of the sea and any passers by that come across you. We booked our tickets and crossed on a fairly clear day... even so its a rough ride and I was glad to make it to the other side to the lovely Gilis.
The 3 Gili islands were great, a recap... Gili Trawangan is the "party" island. Trawangan's beaches are lively during the day and the small collection of bars/restaurants
are "busy" by Lombok standards. The water is really nice also so big thumbs up to Trawangan. As a side note, for a country with super strict drug laws there sure were a lot of people selling drugs... that and mushrooms are legal (no thank you), they are sold as "smoothies" at all the restaurants. Gili Meno is the next island over from Trawangan and in comparison to Trawangan is all but empty and abandoned, we ended up finding a beachfront bungalow and camped out for a few days. Next we were off to Gili Air, which is a mix of the two, not "busy" but far from deserted. All three have great scenery but each moves at its own pace so there is something for everyone.
After the Gilis we headed to Lombok proper and made our way down to Kuta which was supposed to be oh so nice but we were none too impressed and only hung out a day or three before heading back north to Senggigi for some relaxation. Aside from venny getting held hostage by a rather large spider, Senggigi was all rest and relaxation and we plotted and planned our way back to
Bali and onward to the good ol' US of A.
On our way back to Bali we crossed back over the Lombok strait, however this time on a day with choppy seas and we were in for a terrible bone jarring ride through large swells with water breaking over the deck of the boat to the background music of another passenger losing her lunch one row back from us... good times... nothing like your small boat getting punched around on the open sea to remind you of your mortality.
We made it back to Bali and prepared for the eventuality of heading back to the states. As our time to return crept closer we struggled with alternate endings to this story... we dragged our feet and thought of ways to extend the ride... but it looks... like its... the end of the... road =(.
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