Lombok and the Gili’s with Thomas and Sonal
Friday 12th September was an exciting day, our youngest son Thomas and his lovely girlfriend Sonal were arriving for an 8 day stay with us in Lombok and hopefully the Gili islands. We had a message from them that they had arrived safely in Singapore and were checked onto the Bali flight ok so it was time to leave the boat and head down to Mataram where I needed to do some shopping. Medana marina, where we are staying, is an oasis of calm and order next to a little local village bordered by a frantically busy and dusty main road. Step outside of the gate and you are transported into the chaos of half finished houses with many people living side by side in a friendly but very poor existence. Bill and I agreed we would wait 20 minutes for a local bus to stop for us, if they didn’t we would call for a taxi. We were in luck after 10 minutes waiting at the side of the road (bus stop would have been too grand a word) a local minibus on it’s way to the market stopped for us. I managed to find a seat among the ladies and their wares in various boxes and baskets while Bill got into the front seat (commonly known as the suicide seat as there aren’t any seatbelts). He spent the rest of the journey observing the road rushing past through a rusty hole in the floor, contemplating Karma and brakes while taking care not to lean on the door, which randomly unlatched itself. The journey took 2 hours over the mountain pass and cost us 60,000 rupes, about £3, for the pair of us, I love Indonesia.
First stop in Materam was a coffee shop in the mall for our first proper coffee since leaving Puteri harbour and the afternoon was spent in the Hero supermarket stocking up on fruit and treats that you can’t get in the outlying villages. The airport was another half hour from the city so we took a citycab out to it. There was a bit of a hiccup because we had a message from Thomas that they had arrived in Bali safely but the flight to Lombok was closed. Luckily there was a Garuda flight also coming to Lombok and they managed to get seats on that. Finally at 18.30 they came through the arrival gate looking very tired but happy to have arrived. By now it was dark but when we got back to Medana (taxi all the way) Thomas couldn’t resist putting his feet in the warm tropical water. They managed to stay awake long enough for a lovely meal in the restaurant before getting into the dinghy and Sonal’s first view of Camomile, the family home, even though it was in the dark.
The next morning Thomas put his head up through the hatch and said ‘Wow’ when he saw this view.
I prepared a lovely breakfast for them of tropical fruits, yogurt, muesli and juice.
We wanted them to relax on their first day and have a chance to recover from the jet lag so we walked to a very nice resort behind the marina complex for a chill out day and lunch by the pool.
The resort was deserted and we all had a wonderful day catching up on all the news and gossip.
As the next day was Sunday I cooked a Sunday breakfast of sausage, scrambled eggs and toast while everyone relaxed on board.
Later that morning we all got in the dinghy and took the snorkels and fins over to the beach. The water is so warm here and the beach gently shelves so it was ideal for some snorkel lessons.
Thomas and Sonal both did really well although the water was a bit murky so after about half an hour we got back in the dinghy and headed out to the reef where the water was clearer, for a better view of the coral and fish.
Thomas took my waterproof camera and got some good shots of the coral and fish.
As we are here at the same time as Sail Indonesia the marina had a couple of events planned. The first of which was stick fighting. There appeared to be members of 2 villages present and it started with ‘fights’ among the boys first. We weren’t sure of the rules although the referee had a whistle, which was blown frequently to prevent anyone getting hurt.
When the adults started it became much more violent although it still seemed friendly. Several of the men finished with welts across their bodies. I’ll put a video on facebook of one of the fights. Not sure what the ‘elf & safety’ people would have said back home, let alone the NSPCC.
After a delicious buffet supper of local foods the Blues band started playing. There were about a dozen musicians available and they took turns in playing and singing. Once the evening got going and everyone was enjoying dancing they brought on ‘Aretha Franklin’, a local lady who was a little on the large side but her voice was amazing, she sang along with a guy in a top hat who also played the guitar. If they lived in the western world they would make a fortune. The range of their voices was incredible. The band stopped playing at 11pm but not before we had all danced the night away in bare feet on the sand.
As Thomas and Sonal had arrived in the dark they didn’t get to see the monkeys on the mountain pass so on Monday morning we hired a local taxi to take us on a bit of a tour. We drove through some local villages then up over the mountain pass where there are lots of monkeys sitting beside the road.
Our driver had bought some bags of nuts from a street seller but warned us to get them out one at a time. The monkeys were delightful taking the nuts from us so carefully and gently.
They are really clever. The driver gave the water to this monkey with the lid on but he carefully unscrewed it and drank from the bottle. There must be an advert there somewhere!
We spent about half an hour watching them play.
The drive continued across the valley with rice padi fields but a lot of them are unplanted this time of the year because it’s the dry season. This group were working out in the hot sun. We stopped at a wood carvers where we bought a nice bowl, and a pearl shop where Thomas bought Sonal a beautiful pearl necklace.
The circuit took us to Senggigi where we stopped for lunch before driving back on the coast road with tantalising views of Gili Air.
We got back just in time to see the other Sail Indonesia event put on by Medana marina. The marina guys had spent the day erecting canopies for us to sit under. Once the dignitaries had arrived the festivities could begin. There were welcome speeches from government ministers and 2 cruisers from 2 boats responded thanking them for providing the event and saying how wonderful Indonesia is. We were all presented with hand made scarves then invited to watch a wonderful dance programme.
A local band playing traditional music supplied the accompaniment.
These two men danced and played these drums at the same time, very clever.
These stunning young ladies were performing the fan dance.
These girls had a very interesting dance portraying cleaning the house. Videos on facebook again. After the show was over we were all invited to another Indonesian meal.
Thank you Medana marina.
Tuesday was hopefully going to be one of the highlights of Thomas and Sonal’s visit. We had booked a car to take us all to the Rinjani national park. The journey took 2 hours passing through green rice paddies and climbing the steep road to Senaru, the start of the 3 day trek to the rim of the caldera. Sadly we didn’t have time to do the trek but we opted for the 4 hour village walk that takes in two waterfalls. Eddie and Nemo were to be our guides.
First stop was a traditional village with houses made of bamboo. At first we thought it was just set up for tourists to look at but then we realised that there were people living in them. Many of the houses had fires burning with smoke just being allowed to drift out through the straw roof. We didn’t get to see inside but it must have been bad for their lungs.
I found this beautiful little chap and couldn’t resist a cuddle before handing him back to his Mummy and sisters.
Believe or not this is a petrol station. All of the bottles contain petrol for the numerous motorbikes in this area. Anyone got a light?!!
Lots of the houses had coffee beans drying outside; this lady is grinding the beans to fill the sack with coffee. Note the cockerel just strolling out of the house.
It was a wonderful walk and Eddie and Nemo were very informative about our surrounding. There were wild pineapples growing along the track and huge bushes of wild poinsettia’s that would only grow in a green house in the UK.
We couldn’t work out what these were but they looked like huge grape vines. Nemo said they make palm wine with them.
This lovely lady has been out in the bush gathering food for dinner, she very generously gave us some nuts from her gathering. Even with the pot on her head she’s still shorter than Sonal and I.
As we got higher and nearer to the waterfalls the area became more lush and green. The scenery was beautiful; very rustic.
This canal irrigation system using mountain water from the volcano was designed by the Dutch, built by the people of Lombok to keep the paddy fields watered and is used by local people for bathing, washing their clothes and washing up.
We’d already walked several miles but everyone was still smiling.
The last section before the first waterfall was along the edge of a ridge with spectacular views across the valley.
We started seeing wildlife; this little monkey was watching us along with several friends.
Finally we came to Air Terjun Sindang Gila, a spectacular waterfall. The foaming cascade exploded over the volcanic stone 40m above our heads. It’s impossible to get an impression of what it was like so I’ll post a video on facebook.
We sat and ate our picnic, which the guides had brought along. This picture looks like the water is landing on the table but it’s actually about 30m away. The noise was deafening.
The second waterfall was another hour or so uphill and it involved crossing the river. Fortunately it wasn’t flowing very fast.
We were up in the jungle now and lucky enough to see a black monkey in the distance. Our guides said they were rare. (It didn’t move, could it have been stuffed?)
We continued on, Thomas and Bill decided not to put their shoes back on so were barefoot for the last quarter mile, until we walked around a rock and Air Terjun Tiu Kelep appeared in front of us. So lucky to get this shot without any one in the water.
Rumour has it that if you swim in the water you will become a year younger each time. While the rest of us were trying to decide if we wanted to go in Bill was off across the rocks for his dip. Apparently it was freezing cold but bracing.
Thomas and Sonal joined him but I stayed back with the camera although I might as well have gone in because I was soaked by the spray any way. We all agreed it was the most spectacular waterfall we had ever seen. Our guides were telling us that in the wet season it’s closed because someone died last year by getting trapped in a whirlpool that the cascade produces.
Thomas took the camera into the pool for a closer view.
An amazing sight.
On the walk back the guides were telling us of a tunnel that’s a short cut through the hill. We thought they were joking until we arrived at it. After about a 5 minute discussion with everyone daring everyone to do it, we went ahead and took the short cut. The water was up to our knees but not flowing very fast but there were lots of spiders and bats in there. It had air holes at intervals that would have been escape hatches but a bit of a drop on the outside. Half way along Eddie, who was in front, warned us that the concrete was breaking up and be careful, we had to walk over a sort of criss cross mesh that normally holds the concrete but the concrete was gone, what was under it I shudder to think. We all felt really brave at the end, again ‘elf & safety’?????
After a total of 5 hours and about 8km we arrived back at the restaurant for an early dinner with a view across the valley one way and Gunung Rinjani the other, before our car took us back to Medana. We all slept well that night.
After our exertion the day before Wednesday was spent quietly. It started with Thomas and Sonal taking us for breakfast ashore in the restaurant as a late treat for Mothers day and Fathers day. We all had a lovely snorkel in the morning when we were lucky enough to see some bat fish among others. In the afternoon Thomas and Sonal had a look around the village outside the gate and had a peaceful walk along the beach. The wind had got up and Camomile was rolling a bit in the afternoon so they were happier ashore. We joined them in the evening for a delicious meal in the restaurant.
Thursday morning we dropped the buoy and headed around to Gili Air. The wind had dropped and it’s only an hour’s journey so at least Tom and Son could say they went to sea. The beaches looked very inviting on our approach. With 6 other yachts in the anchorage we didn’t think we would find a buoy but we were lucky to get the last one. Bill wanted to stay on board to check everything was ok with Camomile but dropped the 3 of us ashore in the dinghy to explore.
Thomas and Sonal had done really well and survived 6 nights on board but when they found that accommodation on the island was only £30 a night they couldn’t resist checking in. They found a lovely place with little cottages around a garden with verandas outside complete with hammock, a proper bathroom and air conditioning.
Gili Air is a great place to chill out with bars and restaurants all along the beach. This was our favourite bar man, we named him Bob Marley because there was reggae playing there all the time and he walked around with a joint in his mouth most of the time. Really friendly guy.
We had a meal at a table on the beach that evening. The boys had huge pizzas cooked in a proper wood burning oven and Sonal and I had massive kebabs from the BBQ served with jacket potato and salad. Mmmmm.
The next day, Friday, Thomas had arranged for us to all go on a snorkelling trip. The public boat was only £5 each for the day but a private trip for just the four us was only £30 which included a guide, so that’s what we decided upon. Tom and Son boarded the boat on the beach and then it came out to Camomile to pick Bill and I up, it saved having to drop the dinghy.
The first snorkel was off of Gili Meno turtle sanctuary and within 10 minutes of being in the water our guide had spotted a turtle rising to the surface. Tom and Son swam with it for a while and when it lifted his head out of the water to take a breathe, Sonal did too, she was really happy. (Forgot camera) On the second snorkel the guide spotted this conger eel poking out of the coral, it was very well camouflaged; he was looking for an octopus but didn’t find one.
Sonal didn’t want to join us for the next snorkel so the boat boy took us to the beach to drop her off and we went out for our third snorkel before we all went back onto Gili Meno for lunch. The island had beautiful white sand beaches, true paradise.
In the afternoon we had one more snorkel off of the reef that surrounds Gili Air. The water clarity was amazing. There were lots of fish. We dropped Bill back on Camomile then I returned to their room with them for a wonderful shower.
The only way around the island is horse and cart or walk. After our showers we decided to take a horse and cart for a trip around the island. It only took about an hour but it was a great way to see all around the island. On our last evening Sonal treated us all to a meal in Scallywags for our late birthday presents, it was delicious.
All to quickly their time with us came to an end and on the Saturday morning they checked in with the ferry that was going to take them to Bali. The original plan had been to sail there but we thought it would be too much for Sonal on her first trip, maybe next time. We all sat on the seats on the beach waiting for the ferry to arrive.
Tears were shed as they boarded the boat that was taking them onto the next part of their adventure, 4 nights in Bali and 3 nights in Singapore. We’ve all got 100s of photos so I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my selection.
Goodbye Thomas and Sonal, see you in March. XX
PS Miss you.