Upon our return from Ubud, we spent a few days at a camp on the beach continuing our quest to learn to surf as well as doing some of the touristy things that Bali had to offer. One of the tourist attractions was amazing and another was a bit of a disappointment.
Let’s start with the enjoyable attraction. Bali has a zoo, a really nice zoo! Hobo L and Hobo M are huge animal lovers we booked, “A Night at the Zoo.” … pretty self explanatory. We arrived around 5 and the first thing we did was visit a few animals that weren’t nocturnal. This included a giant, ugly clawed bird and a group of gorgeous elephants you could feed.
There is usually a group of orangutans but they were ironically on Christmas display at the BeachWalk mall in Kuta, a 10 minute walk from our surf camp. We also got the chance to hold/have awkwardly perched on us a yellow boa constrictor and a bearcat.
After ordering our choices for dinner we went on a walking night safari which was pretty cool because we saw all the nocturnal animals awake and active. We got to feed the monkeys and the Bali deer and see lots of other animals that are native to both Indonesia and surrounding Asian countries. After a few months of very basic meals, dinner was a highlight. Fresh arugala salad (that had to have been washed because I digested it properly!), a large steak dinner, and lemon tart pie for dessert. All topped off with an ice cold BinTang beer. While eating we could gaze at the nearby lions in their open concept cage or laugh at the trained porcupine that was running around by our feet. As our after dinner entertainment we witnessed a traditional dance followed by fire dancing! The whole event was very professional and was money well spent.
The next day was a bit of a disappointment. We went “White Water Rafting” down the Ayung River. I was really excited for this because I absolutely LOVE WhiteWater Rafting! I was aware that after rafting some of the best rapids in the world in Zambia, I might find these a little tame, but the Ayung River rafting was an insult to White Water Rafting. “Babbling Brook Float” would have been a more accurate name. Upon arrival we were given helmets and life jackets (not that we needed them) and essentially floated down a creek with a few wavy patches. This rafting was so pathetic that at points the bottom of our raft would actually get stuck on the rocks below. These were Class .5 rapids at the most.
I’m really lucky I was with Hobo L and Hobo M because they saw how disappointed I was so they cracked jokes all the way down the river to cheer me up. The most exercise we got all day was hiking up the stairs at the end of the river float. There were three tiny highlights of the tour. One was the small gator that we saw swimming close to our raft, the other was the scenery that looked like it belonged in Jurassic Park, and the third was the buffet lunch that followed the “rafting”.
So after a win and a bust in Bali we cabbed it to the airport and bought a $34 ticket to the island of Lombok. The delayed plane sounded like a lawn mower and shook like an Earthquake but we made it! I would imagine that Lombok is what Bali was 20-30 years ago. The scenery is amazing and the island isn’t too built up yet. There were few tourists and it had a very laid back vibe to it. We scored a stunning hotel with a perfect location for a sweet price. The day after we arrived we decided we wanted to explore the island. What better way to do that than to rent $5 scooters! We were a little hesitant at first for a few reasons. A) We didn’t know where we were going. B) We weren’t sure how well maintained these scooters were. C) In Indonesia they drive on the left side of the road. D) Hobo L had never driven a scooter or motorcycle before. E) The helmets were in about the same condition as a 1940’s war helmet would have been. But those were all minor details, we’re capable women!
We hopped on the scooters and carefully pulled out into the honking traffic. We slowly made our way out of town and up the hills of the winding roads. We didn’t get too far because we knew we had to stop for some fuel. We pulled off on the side of the road at a stand that looked like it was selling vodka bottles full of urine. But no, that is how the locals buy and sell their gas. We purchased a few litres and set off again, slowly gaining confidence and speed.
The twisting hills following the coastline were stunning. It was difficult to stay concentrated on the road with such amazing views distracting us. We drove for hours and hours occasionally stopping to consult a map or ask the friendly locals where the heck we were. Our goal was to find Mount Rinjani which unfortunately we could not climb because the wet season had started. After one last piece of broken English directional advice we started our uphill scooter ascent feeling the weather get cooler and wetter as we rose in altitude. We drove as far as we could and after an inconclusive cloudy view of the mountain we made our way back down trying to remember the roads we had taken to get to our destination.
After hours on the road with no issues our confidence had skyrocketed. The trip back to the town of Senggigi, where we were staying, resembled a glorified go-kart race. There were no speed limit signs and just like the locals, we were pulling up behind cars and other scooters and laying on our horns until they let us pass. To the scooter owners surprise we returned the bikes at the latest possible time and told him that the three of us gals had made it all the way to the mountain and back. The only near injury we had was when a coconut flew of a truck and smoked Hobo M’s backpack. All in all, a solid day.
The next day we embraced the health and wellness scene that Lombok is known for. Our morning started with laps in our 50 meter infinity pool followed by smoothies, omelets, and bacon wrapped veggies at the complimentary hotel breakfast. We strolled to the beach then scouted out the best place for a massage. Our hour long incredible massage cost $6 and it was very professional. I also got my toenails and fingernails painted upping my spa bill to a whopping $8. Once feeling refined and relaxed we ate an authentic Italian dinner at a restaurant on the beach. It’s good that we had a day to unwind because the following day was a travel day again. We haggled hard for a taxi but had no luck and eventually caught a ride with some locals to get the harbor front. From there we bought a speedboat ticket that took us to Gili Trawangan Island.
There are many Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok but the three most popular ones are Gili Air (the laid back island), Gili Meno (the honeymoon island) and Gili Trawangan (the party island). Gili Trawangan was beautiful but upon closer inspection parts of it looked used and abused… you could tell it was the party island. The main strip was fun. It had a plethora of bars, restaurants, dive spots, and hostels or small hotels. The roads were dirt or sand and no motor traffic was allowed so everyone rented bikes for their stay or took a horse drawn cart to their destination.
We stayed off the main drag but still on the beach on the North part of the island. Once settled, we opted for a snorkeling tour which also took us to the other two Gili islands. Although the tour ended up being slightly sketchy, the snorkeling was the best snorkeling I have ever experienced. The coral was still relatively intact and there were so many types of fish that I never even knew existed! We went to three different dive spots in the warm turquoise water. At one point we followed a graceful turtle until it disappeared into the darker blue of the deep waters. We literally spent hours floating around looking at the different colours and shapes of all fish!
After lunch we headed to our last dive spot but the winds and rain had suddenly started. Our boat forged ahead through the massive waves with people literally hanging on and letting out ashamed little yelps or screams when the boat rocked sideways to the point where you were afraid of falling out. A few of us tried to snorkel at the last spot but it was difficult because the waves would wash over you and fill your snorkel with water leaving you to breath in the salty H2O. Happy to be back on land we spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing by the calm pool at our hotel. We ventured into town on our bikes for dinner and enjoyed some delightful Mexican food. After dinner it was an adventure attempting to ride our bikes back to the hotel in the dark. Since the North part of the island is not very developed the “roads” are still beach sand … not ideal for riding a bike. Instead we decided to cut through the interior of the island spotted with palm trees, local houses, fallen palm leaves, and some wandering cows. There are NO lights and the paths are not exactly easy to follow. After some unintentional off-roading and a near fall after hitting a tough coconut we safely made it back to the hotel. The next day we dedicated to exploring the island. The interior paths of the islands were much easier to navigate in the day time. We saw the huge corporate developments starting to build up the west side of the island. We saw a pile of plastic water bottles that must have been at least 10 m x 10 m. I have no idea how they dispose of all the waste. The island wasn’t equipped to deal with the consumption of all the island party-goers. It was actually quite sad.
We decided to end our stay on Gili Trawangan by doing a bit of a market pub crawl. This basically consisted of us wandering down the strip and into the market eateries trying to find the cheapest beers and appetizers. The night ended with a beach walk all the way home to our hotel.
The following day we bought speedboat tickets back to Bali. The boat represented the culture of the island. They had a sun deck, loud speakers blasting out dance music, and of course, beer. Unfortunately, it rained on our parade (literally) and most people took cover below the sun deck. Hobo M and I stayed on top, the rain was warm so it didn’t bother us too much except for the sting of it pelting us in the face. It was worth staying above deck though because when our speedboat came to an abrupt slow down we had the perfect view of a huge whale just meters from our boat! It surfaced, blew the water out of its blow hole, paused as if investigating us for a minute, and then disappeared again back into the depths of the Ocean. Back at trusty Pro Surf in Bali we prepared for the sad departure of Hobo L and planned the last leg of our Indonesian journey. Stayed tuned for Indonesia Part 3 – Java!