Being Robinson Crusoe
We had our Christmas Holidays break and took a side-trip from China to Indonesia and Malaysia, since we are in their neighborhood, so to speak… that is, within 5 hrs flying time!
We went to Indonesia, landing at Bali, and on to the Gili Islands, off the bigger island Lombok. We went specifically to the Gili Island named Meno, as it was described as a place you could “play Robinson Crusoe.”
Now, getting to Gili Meno required taking a “fast boat” from Bali (it’s called a “fast boat” because the regular ferry takes 5 hours to go to Lombok first, then you have to travel overland another 2 hours, then hire another boat to take you to the Gilis…). The “fast boat” took 2 1/2 hours to get to Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the three Gilis, the most built-up, and “touristy.” None of the Gilis has docks that boats use. Instead the boats back in, after throwing the anchor out in front, and you jump off the back of the boat into ankle-deep seawater and walk up the white beach, keeping your luggage up out of the water’s reach. From Gili Trawangan, we hired a boat to take us to Gili Meno, one island over. The boat we hired was long and narrow, and pitched about on the waves. There was some spray, much rocking back and forth, but we were able to get to our destination, Gili Meno.
Before Tom continues the blog, here is a Barbara statement as we began our trip from Barbara’s view:
Hmm… should I mention the very first thing that happened before we even left China, with a jerk in the airport?? OK, I will mention it, since it is still going on in my brain. We are in line at the currency exchange. This guy (who happens to be American…sad to say…) steps in front of me (Tom is in another line next to me). The guy is taking a long time so I say, “This guy, who has broken the line and gotten in front of me, is taking a LONG time!” He said he didn’t cut in front of me, then called me many words including the C-word. I, being an easy-going, laid-back, mild-mannered female called him a DICK-head. That was when my tall gorgeous (that is what the Chinese ladies have called him!) man stepped in to intervene before blows began. Tom said, towering over this jerk, “You got in front of my ‘wife’, you lied about that, so, now cut it out!!!”
So we began our trip to Gili Meno. We stopped on an island waiting for our smaller boat to get us there. We noticed that there many cats on this island. Barbara (me) thought they were very cute with their bobbed tails…..until one backed up and peed all over my canvas suitcase! That is how our trip began for me…..
Gili Meno was pretty much as it was described in the guidebook: small (you could walk all the way around its beach in a little over an hour ), quiet (there were times we were the only people on the beach, and if we weren’t, we just walked a little further to be alone), and the best beaches (white sand, beautiful blue warm Indian Ocean water, coral reefs around the whole island). Gili Meno has only about 300 people who live on the island.
Gili Meno, like Bali, is located below the Equator (yes, when you flush the toilet the water goes in the opposite direction from above the Equator), is warm (80s) and tropical, and has lots of palm trees (there are coconut plantations on the island). Unlike Bali which is mostly Hindu, the Gilis and Lombok are Muslim, like most of Indonesia.
Our accommodations here were very simple, a small new A-framed bungalow with thatched bamboo roof, cold-water shower, located a short walk from the beach. Chickens scratched about in the yard. One young rooster visited us daily at breakfast time looking for “handouts.”
We spent our four days at the beach, resting, sunning (with sun protection, thankfully, there was shade, and some clouds), swimming, reading, snorkeling, napping, walking along the beach.
In the evening, we would walk to one of the restaurants on the shore, look over the fish selection, pick out one for dinner, have them grill it with corn and potato, order a Bintang beer, and eat by the water. We had red snapper, white snapper, and some other great-tasting fish. Life is good!
One of the great features of the beach were the “fruit women,” who balanced baskets on their heads, and offered to sell you pineapples and mangoes.
They would peel the pineapple so you could hold it by its top green leaves (upside-down), and eat it like an ice-cream cone. They would do the same with a mango.
Gili Meno really seemed like paradise. We went snorkeling one day and saw countless colorful fish in brilliant blues, yellows, and reds around the reefs. One note about the reefs which is less than perfect…the island people have done a lot fish-dynamiting, which has damaged many of the reefs. You see pieces of coral washed up on the shore.
There is much diving, both scuba and snorkeling going on around the islands, so the diving companies have been paying the fishermen NOT to dynamite the reefs, and the reefs are starting to come back. So that is good news. There also was a turtle conservation program on Gili Meno. They had tanks where they had baby sea-turtles being raised to the age of 8 months to a year, before they would be released into the ocean. The first year is when most of the turtles do not survive because of predators, humans, and other events.
We were fortunate enough to see a large sea-turtle while we were snorkeling. It was the highlight of our snorkeling at Gili Meno. So there is hope for these creatures.
After four days, we left Gili Meno, wishing we had time to stay longer. We really felt like Robinson Crusoe had the right idea!