Monday, June 25, 2007

Indonesia - Bali and Lombok

After leaving Darwin I landed in Singapore about 4 hours later. Walking through the transit area I realised that this was my first time north of the equator in almost 5 months. I only spent a couple of hours there, waiting for the connecting flight to Denpasar which would take me south of the equator again. I arrived in Bali around midnight and was fairly exhausted. It hit me when I got into the arrivals hall that I was no longer in a western country. People harrassed the tourists to carry their bag to the exit only a few metres away, where they then demanded payment. I've seen this type of thing before, so I didn't allow anyone to touch my rucksack. When I exited the terminal of course I saw dismayed tourists arguing with these touts. I hadn't had to deal with this since south america and I was tired, so it was kind of annoying. I met an Aussie guy and a German guy at the taxi stand, so we shared a cab into Kuta. After about 10 minutes arguing with the cab driver over the price, because he wanted to charge per passenger. Josh (the German guy) and I searched for a hotel in the Poppies 1 area of town and found somewhere after being followed around by several people, trying to take us to hotels where they get commission.

The next day I spend walking around the town and the beach. People try to flog me all sorts of stuff on the way down the road. Not sure how many times I said no, but it felt like a thousand. This place was a tourist trap full of hawkers and touts, so I decided to go somewhere more peaceful. Josh and I got tickets to leave the next morning at 6am; destination Lombok and the Gili islands.

We get picked up at the hotel and drive about 1.5hrs to Padangbai. There we stop for the obligatory breakfast at the tour companies restaurant. We get hassled by hawkers the whole 400m walk to the ferry. Even on board they follow us up onto the deck and try to sell food and water. Now acclimatised to the way of things here, I switch off and ignore them. Shortly the ferry departs and we spend the next 5 hours lying in the sun and listening to music. Now slightly sunburnt we arrive in Lembar port on Lombok shortly after lunchtime and get on a minibus to continue the journey. The route takes us through Mataram and then the monkey forest to Pemenang. This is where we take the small boat out to Gili Trawangan, the last in the string of the 3 Gili islands. Pemenang is just a collection of a few houses and shops and hundreds of touts trying to rip off backpackers with various scams. This place was a true dump. After half an hour we finally left and arrived on the island 45 minutes later.

Upon disembarking at the beach we are met by a local who takes us to a small hotel he runs called Karisma, set back 100m from the beach. The village consists of one street with restaurants, bars and dive shops. There are also no police on this island, makingh it a hedonistic paradise. About 460 locals inhabit the island, with probably the same amount of tourists. There were the usual touts, but this time they were selling dope and magic mushrooms due to the non existent police presence. This practice would receive a very lengthy prison sentence on the mainland, but here it was accepted. There were definitely some crazy people hanging around there that had probably stayed too long...

After a few days relaxing on the beach and catching up on some sleep, I decided to start an advanced scuba diving course with Blue Marlin Dive. This would comprise of 5 dives over 3 days. 1 night dive, 1 deep dive to 30m, 1 underwater navigation dive, 1 underwater photography and a peak performance buoyancy dive. The course was fantastic and I passed it successfully. Unfortunately we didn't see any sharks this time, but there were loads of turtles and fish.

In the evenings I go up to the lookout on the hill and watch the sunset, a huge firey mass dropping into the ocean. I've seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets on this trip, but this one was the best by far. After a week on Gili Trawangan unfortunately I had to travel back to Kuta, another 12 hour journey. However I was thoroughly relaxed and had enjoyed my time there away from the hustle and bustle. I stay in Kuta for a few days more and then leave for Singapore on 23rd June.