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Clare’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 12 Jul 2008

Location: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

MapGood old Air Asia punted me on to Bali last week and I landed in Denpasar in gorgeous sunshine (its peak weather season in Indonesia) and hopped in a cab to Kuta. its pretty strange to be here again - its changed quite a lot in 5 years, gotten a lot posher and more polished and they've built a really nice memorial fountain over the rubble of the destroyed bars in the bombs of 2001.

Its odd because last time we came here, it was the first time we'd been anywhere 'exotic' and EVERYTHING looked a little bit different and new and tropical, but now having travelled around SE Asia its surprising how countries start to look the same, just different languages and roadsigns and people. I don't mean that in a 'been there, done that' sort of way, but from the point of view that now that I expect things not to look like home, I see how really everyone is just living their life, exactly as we do and its just on the surface, it doesn't look like the way we live ours. I guess I've noticed it more here in Bali because I remember how amazed we were by everything then, and its such a contrast with how normal it feels to be here now. One thing is the same though, the air has a fragrance from all the little banana leaf baskets of frangipani, rice and incense offerings put outside the door of every home and business each morning - its a lovely smell and my brain remembers that it means 'Bali' in my head now I'm here again.

Amy was a few days behind me doing a bit more travelling in Malaysia so I killed a few days re-exploring Kuta and the beaches and sorting out our travel to the Gili Islands off Lombok, so when she arrived he hopped straight on a bus at 6am the next morning to start our epic slow-boat trip to the Gilis.

It was quite a trip, 2 hours in a minibus to the ferry port at Padangbai, then 4.5 hours on the ferry to southern Lombok, another 2 hours in a bus to northern Lombok and short hours hop in a longtail boat across to Gili Trawangan (the biggest of the three islands). Combining all that with assorted hours milling about and waiting for ferries to dock etc, the whole trip took about 12.5hours and deposited us a bit damp from sea-spray and sandy footed on the beach of the island with the sky darkening and no-where to stay.

The Gilis have the right idea when it comes to tourism and they've obviously twigged that if everyone holds their price, everyone benefits, probably stems from the fact that 80% of the islands 700 inhabitants apparently descend from one of two sea-gypsy families who settled there in the early 1900s. Anyway, the upshot is that relatively the islands are expensive and though we could find a room for $5 in Kuta, there was nothing for less than $10 that we could find on Trawangan. That said, the island is a perfect tropical paradise with white sand beaches, bluer than blue waters and the spectacular backdrop of the volcanoes on nearby Lombok and Bali. Tourism is relatively developed in that there are some gorgeous places to stay and eat in the mid-price bracket, but they are concentrated on the eastern side of the island so if you walk around to the west side there is untouched reef and beach and you start to feel a bit Robinson Crusoe.

This week on Trawangan was basically my last week of beaches and backpacking as once I get to Oz I need to buckle down to some work, so I made the most of lying about and not doing much at all! Amy did some diving and got a bit more active, but I'm going on a Diving boat to Komodo National Park next week so I saved my self for that trip. Its strange to think the days of toting my pack about are nearly over, but I'm quite looking forward to not having to swing 17kg onto my back every two days! Amy has decided to climb the big volcano on Lombok, we've been looking at it all week and its pretty high - about 3,500m and it'll take her 2 or 3 days, so she left this morning on the boat back to Lombok. My dive boat leaves Trawangan tomorrow to start heading towards Komodo. Komodo (for those of you that don't know) is where the Komodo Dragons live and its a smallish island in Nusa Tenggaru (which means Western Islands) region of Indonesia. Its sandwiched between Sumbawa and Flores and is next to Rinca another small island which also has a dragon population. If you look at the map on this page, the islands are located under the where it says Java Sea in the string of islands that extend out to the West. We'll get to make landfall on Komodo and go see the dragons as part of the trip, but for the rest of the week we'll be diving three times a day on some of the best walls and reefs in the world. Komodo National Park is pretty untouched as most of the diving is on Liveaboard boats (its too remote for day-trippers) so the coral is perfect and the bio-diversity of reef life here is legendary - should be great! In the meantime I'm going to one of the nicer restaurants here to have a slap-up meal, my last one on dry land for a while...