We are up with the larks (it was the cocks day off) for an early start to Gili T. Pack up the sac-a-viande and the mossie nets and all the other little essentials not already nestling securely in one of the 5 rucksacks. This time it seems we have less space than before… why can’t we have a TARDIS or Hermione’s little bag from Harry Potter VII?? We have also purchased some large binsacks to put the rucksacks in for the crossing as the boat is an open one and the guide says that there is a good chance of us, and them, getting wet. Especially as the landing is on the beach and you have to wade from shore to the boat, and the same when we arrive, but in reverse.
The transport arrives; our luxury coach to the port is no different from all the other minivans we have travelled on before. Again, Family Pillet-Smith is squashed onto the back seat, and we are loaded to the gills after several stops to pick up more people and their luggage. None of it goes on the roof this time, it’s all packed in with us passengers!
We set off, the minivan groaning with the weight and the engine wheezing painfully as the driver descends the gears on each hill we climb – I really thought we would have to push on one or two of them. Still, the trip to the port gave us the opportunity to look around at the countryside we had missed on the scooters as we had been concentrating too much on the road, and staying upright! On our left we had views of bay after bay of white sands and small fishing villages with boats dragged up on the beaches as the road hugged the coast. On our right we saw fields of rice and small settlements, new buildings being constructed, and farmland on the near vertical slopes of the hills overlooking the sea.
As we neared the port the settlements grew larger and evidence of tourism reappeared in the form of bungalows to rent, ticket/travel agencies and tourist shops. We arrive at last at the port and in true Indonesian style cannot get to the boats as the route is barred. Instead we descend the transport at a cafe where we are told to wait. The boats are 500m along the road and the only allowed means of transport to get there are walking (not attractive with all of our rucksacks) or by horse and cart at 30,000 Rp. I chatted with one of the drivers for a while about Lombok, school, free education, work, chilli peppers (they were picking them across from us) and when the time came and the call went out to go to boats, I secured his services and those of another for 50,000 Rp the pair. Going on the horse and cart really made Mateo’s day and we had a round (or three) of “Horsey, horsey don’t you stop”.
Finally, the port. When I say port I really mean a stretch of beach upon which a dozen boats were half grounded, and a ticket office much like you would find in front of an amusement park ride that had fallen out of favour with the general public. I marched up to said office to secure our passage across the straits of Lombok and we were booked onto the next ocean going vessel leaving immediately. After a bit of a scare as they tried to keep my receipt which also covered the accommodation on Gili T and the return passage we headed for the boat. We waded out to the stern and heaved our rucksacks onto the boat along with the children, found ourselves a place to sit, and we were off.
The straits were not exactly calm with a heavy swell that caused the boat to pitch and roll. The skipper was highly skilled and rode the waves well using the engine to flatten out their effect as much as possible. Still there were one or two moments when there was a tiny leap of the stomach, and the tourists opposite me laughed nervously when we hit a particularly big one! The crossing took longer than usual because of the rough sea, but it was not long before Gili T came into sharp focus and we arrived at the port which was similar to the one we left on Lombok, but without the ticket office. Here on Gili T there are no cars or motorbikes, only Horse and Cart, bicycle, or Shank’s pony. Nothing is grown or manufactured here, everything has to come over by boat, and is then moved to its final destination using the humble horse and cart. Fantastic!
Now our friendly travel agent had told us we would be met from the boat (no one there) so we tried to ring (no answer), so we asked a local where we could find the Lombok Dive Bungalow (on Lombok?). With a mounting sense of trepidation we walked in the direction of the Mosque as we knew it was somewhere past there and enquired of locals along the way, none of whom seemed to know what we were talking about. To the agent’s credit – and that is being generous – he had provided us with a leaflet in which was a photo of the bunglows and eventually we found someone who knew where they were. Following their directions we arrived and dumping our sacks set about tracking down someone who could unlock them for us as there was no one there when we arrived. After numerous calls we were rewarded with a member of the Lombok dive team who came and then went again – to make a phone call to the owner, he said. We waited nervously and a little angrily until another person arrived with a key for one of the bungalows.
Hoorah! We were in. Only one bed, albeit a large one. Why do we have the feeling that you can’t trust anyone?? The gentleman who had furnished us with the key departed to fetch the key for the other bungalow saying that it should be no problem for us to have both, and later called to say that the key would be left above the door. Hot and bothered we grabbed the snorkelling gear and headed for the beach. Gili T is purported to be a superb place for snorkelling and we were not disappointed. Vibrant colours in the corals and the schools of fish and a dizzying drop off as island meets sea and plunges away to the depths impenetrable to a snorkelers eyes. And to provide the aqua-icing on the cake, on one of my solo adventures, I saw a sea turtle swimming sedately along the bottom 5 or so metres below me – amazing!
I flippered to shore as fast as I could to break the news and soon the whole family had donned fins, masks and tubes and were heading out to the spot. After some searching Mateo was too cold so I went back with him. Meanwhile, Oskar, Luca and Tania carried on and were rewarded with a sighting, albeit from afar as the turtle had descended to the edge of the shelf and was lying still some 20 metres deep. OMG! What an experience! It made up for the trials and tribulations that had gone before.
As the sun set on the other side of the island we headed for home still marvelling at what we had seen. The day was capped off with dinner at the Blue Marlin (one of the best fish restaurants on the island). A sumptuous meal with fresh fish grilled on the BBQ at a very reasonable price, delicious. Home and bed, happy and full…. can it get any better? There is always tomorrow!