I made friends with a German girl named Sofia and together we walked to Bangsal as it was only 6km. Walking is not a concept that is understood in Indonesia. We constantly got hassled by scooters and cars asking us for a ride. Just a random man on a scooter would curb crawl us thinking we would just jump on the back without a helmet. Err, no.
As we got closer to the harbour it got worse and worse, now we had the men with the horse and carts hassling us as well. Then came all the people trying to make you pay 350,000 (about £22) for a fast boat and there were bewildered looking tourists everywhere. We were going to get a public boat for 14,000 (less than £1) but when we found out there would be a 3 hour wait at the harbour we decided to pay 85,000 (around £5) for a fast boat which left in 20 minutes, much better than the first price we were quoted!
I said goodbye to Sofia as she got off the boat at Gili Air and I continued on to Gili Meno. There are 3 Gili Islands (Gili is the word for island in Indonesia so they are named Island Islands). Gili Trawangan, affectionally named Gili T, is the largest and is known as the party island where most of the backpackers can be found, drinking Bintang and getting high on magic mushrooms, also known for it’s SCUBA diving but definitely not the island for me. Gili Air is the middle sized one and has a more relaxed feel, with plenty of vegan restaurants and yoga classes to keep the slightly older backpacker occupied. I chose to go to Gili Meno which is the smallest at just 2km long and 1km wide, it is supposed to be quieter than the others and it’s known as the honeymooners island, which of course put me off a bit, but the accommodation was a lot cheaper on Gili Meno and as I chose to stay in a hostel I figured there would be other solo travellers there.
I was a bit disappointed when I got to the Gili Meno Eco Hostel because there was a lot of building work happening right next door and it didn’t appear to be the relaxing place I was looking for!
The eco hostel has a certain charm that I think you will either love or hate although for me I was a little in between. It is pretty cool because everything is constructed from bamboo and the rooms are big open tree houses, but the whole place sways when someone moves in their bed or walk across the floor. The toilets are composting toilets which are ok, they didn’t smell bad and they seemed to be well maintained, but the showers are salt water which is terrible because you never feel clean, and brushing your teeth in salt water is an unpleasant experience. You leave your shoes at the door and walk around barefoot which is common practice in Indonesia, but all the pathways are a kind of dirty sand so you are filthy the whole time!
I wanted to come here for 4 nights to take some time out and think about how I wanted to continue, or whether I wanted to continue. I was going to lie on a beach and relax, try and get rid of my tan lines and swim in the sea. But I can’t seem to lie still at the moment and I needed to find myself some things to do. The hostel try to arrange activities in the days and nights, but this is Indonesia and doing an activity at 11am never means that, and after waiting two hours I generally gave up.
I walked around the perimeter of the island which only took about an hour, and I was surprised by a lot of things. How many people were there. How much rubbish and plastic was lying around and how much dead coral there was on the beach (the effects of dynamite fishing).
The plastic situation is terrifying. I made a little movie to better explain my views on the matter. Watch it here. Pictures make to look like paradise but I have no idea how people overlook all the trash.
One of the activities arranged by the hostel was to go and help the Trash Heroes, which is a group of mostly locals who go around picking up the trash from the beaches. Great in theory, but it is obviously not working. Of course we left too late and only caught up with them once they had finished, and on my way back I saw no change in the amount of plastic bottles I saw lying around. Although a good idea, it seems that it may have a negative effect on the island. The locals see a group of people picking up trash after them and there is no incentive to get rid of their own trash responsibly, why do they need to when someone is going to do it for them?
The only way to tackle this problem is to address the root cause, and that is we use and produce too much single use plastic. Do you need to use that straw, or that plastic bag? Could you use a refillable water bottle?
On my last day I met two really nice girls, Kate from Australia and Sandra from Germany, and we hung out together which was nice. We relaxed on the beach, had dinner and went to an open air movie screening. On the morning I was going to leave I decided to stay another day because I really wanted to go snorkelling, but I had this irrational fear of going by myself which was completely crazy.
I put the fears to the back of my mind and I went snorkelling with this new style of mask which I had never seen before, and it was awesome, I wish I had done more of it! I went out for about an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Directly outside the hostel you can see the reef where the see changes colour and as soon as I got there I saw a sea turtle. It was so cool!
There were lots of weird and wonderful fish, Finding Nemo stuff. No clown fish but lots of those black and yellow striped ones and I had ‘shark-bait-ooh-ha-ha’ going round my head. There were plenty of other people out there and I had absolutely nothing to be worried about. If I had more time and money I would have taken a snorkelling tour, I think it would have been worth it.
On my second trip I saw loads of turtles, they were coming up to the surface to breathe and then going back down into the deep ocean which dropped off pretty significantly from the reef.
I had to leave eventually and I got the public boat back to Lombok with Sandra. It was quite a wait and the ride was terrible as it was going up and down and side to side in the big waves. I felt nauseous the whole way and had to shut my eyes. There was a French girl sat at the front of the boat and she was having a worse time that me. She was getting soaked by the spray and the water was dripping off her face. They tried to build a protection was out of life jackets but it wasn’t much good! I think it might be worth paying the extra for the fast boat.
Back at Bangsal harbour I realised how nice an island with no motorised vehicles had been as I was thrust into cries of TRANSPORT, TAXI, WHERE YOU GOING? As I wasn’t feeling too well after the boat ride I decided to walk the 6km back to the hostel and I had heaps of time to spare. It was so stressful. I got hassled even more than I did on the way there.
I didn’t walk because I didn’t want to pay for a taxi, I walked because I like walking and I thought it would make me feel better. To be honest walking along the road didn’t really feel that safe, but neither did getting on the back of a scooter without a helmet or riding in a car where the driver is constantly on his mobile phone.
I decided to keep my head down and ignore everyone when a lady on the side of the road tried to make me buy water. I decided to only say hello the the kids. They are still genuine right? Well no. They say hello and then put their hand out and ask for money.
One guy because really abusive when I told him I didn’t want a ride. He told me I was stupid and that I would have to walk 50km to get to Senggigi. Well, I wasn’t going to Sengiggi and even if I was it is only 25km away.
It was nice to get back to the hostel where I was greeted by name and Abdul cooked me a banana pancake. I found my bike exactly where I left it and my luggage safe.
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