Gilli Air Island - Indonesia
From Darwin our flight took us to Den Pasar, where we caught a taxi to our first night in Sanur. The hotel was located on the new by-pass road, so very busy with traffic. The hotel was being extended and renovated. It was a typical international hotel, with not much character or charm. We were quite glad to be able to go by car and driver to Padangbai, some 3 hours away. The breakfast, however was magnificent, with typical authentic Indonesian food on the help-yourself buffet.
At Padangbai we had to wait for a couple of hours to catch the fast boat to Gilli Air. This took another 2 hours in very rough seas! So we arrived at Gilli Air at about 4.00pm and caught a horse and cart to our hotel.
This is beautiful and relaxing place. No cars or motor bikes allowed on the three Gilli islands! You can either hire a horse and cart or a push bike. Apart from our horse drawn ride to the Gilli Air Hotel, we have mostly chosen to walk.
On our second day here, we walked around the edge of the island. It is supposed to take one hour - we took two. We stopped and gawked at everything along the way; the warungs (shops), carving places and the bars and hotels.
Everything is very rustic and most buildings have been designed and built using at least some traditional styles and building materials. Palm thatched roofs abound, many relaxing dining and drinking areas built right on the beach, with comfortable cushions atop a wooden platform and small table.
The snorkeling is very good here - it's what the islands are renowned for. So many international tourists come here to dive. They are mostly young backpackers who rent very cheap local accommodation. We feel like the geriatrics on the island. The islanders now refer to me a mamma - I think a reference to grandmother.
We hired snorkel and goggles for three days from a warung, and used them to explore the reef. The reef, Han's Reef, is just a short walk into the water from the front of the hotel. So named after the Sassak (indigenous Gilli and Lombok Islander) owner of the hotel.
We have been very pleasantly surprised by our snorkeling experiences. We had expected to find a reef devastated by over fishing, cyanide poisoning and bombing, but instead we found a vibrant and alive ecosystem. Corals of every variety abounded, as did fish, shells and many invertebrates.
On the second day's snorkel, I was astounded to find myself swimming with a very large green backed turtle. He/she wasn't in the least bit frightened and with mouth still full of seaweed came closer to peer at me! It was just a meter from my mask! It turned slowly rose to the surface for a breath of air and then came back again to look at me. Peter had moved away some distance, so it was with great reluctance that I left it to it's meal! During this same snorkel we also saw an enormous stingray and Pipe Fish amongst the other most gloriously colored fish and sea creatures.
The local people are charming. The all speak Sassak; rapidly! Most speak at least 3 languages, including Bahasa Indonesia. My attempts at using some of the words have met with puzzled amusement! One of the hotel employees is hired purely as a translator. Madin speaks about 12 languages fluently!
The wages in Indonesia are very low. The poverty line wage is very low, being 800,000 RpD per day. In Ozzie dollars this is about $80 per month. Farmers and self employed people earn even less. Madin, for all his intelligence and ability only earned the equivalent of $100 AU per month. This makes it very difficult for the main bread winner to feed and clothe his family let alone give his children a good education. Given the low salaries and the disparity between rich and poor, there is no crime.
Madin previously was a guide, taking visitors all around Indonesia. His favourite two places are Borneo and Sumatra, which he says are still unspoiled. He has organised for his friend to take us on a tour of Lombok, on our way to our next hotel; Bumbangku Beach Cottages. This appears to be at the furthest southerly tip of Lombok and the last little bit can only be reached by boat. So goodness nows what we are in for on Sunday!