The Rush & Rain of Gili Air
Days 252-255 (April 5-8):
Our final stop on our tour of Indonesia was the island of Gili Air, the second biggest and second busiest of the three Gili Islands. We would be meeting back up with Katie and Justin, who had been on the island for a couple days already. Adam and I caught a speed ferry out to Gili Air, our boat running right up on the golden, sandy shore upon arrival. The island itself is quite small, taking only about 30 minutes to circumnavigate by bicycle. There are also no cars or scooters or gas-powered vehicles allowed on the island. The only way to get around is to rent a bicycle or to hoof it (and by that I mean walk or take on of the many horse-drawn carts). We opted to walk, winding our way down the small dirt lanes, making friends with a playful foal on the side of the road along the way. We had rented a private bungalow at a little hotel on the side of the island opposite the port. We quickly checked in, dropped our bags, and headed for the beach.
Along the way we saw numerous small cafes and restaurants, many right out on the water. One thing I found unusual was that they all seemed to be advertising drinks, shakes, and pizzas containing magic mushrooms. I later found out that while they are technically illegal in Indonesia, some of the islands are so small and remote that there isn’t even a real police force to enforce some of the federal laws. We found Katie and Justin lounging in the sand and sat down to catch up with them and what they had been up to the past couple days. We got some grub at a place nearby (sans the mushrooms), and Katie and I enjoyed a brief foray into tandem bike riding before returning to our bungalows.
Our time on the Gili Islands was mainly spent relaxing, eating, exploring all the roads by bicycle, and attempting to escape the rain. The island got hit with a lot of rain while we were there. We spent one whole day out on our porch drinking beer and playing euchre as the storm dumped absolute buckets on us from sunup to sundown. It rained the entire day after that too, although it did slow long enough for Katie and I to venture out and find a spot for our last cheap Asian massage ($8.10). We got trapped under a pavilion for a while during a random downpour, but at least the pavilion itself was conveniently full of beanbag chairs (when I say full I mean literally piled to the ceiling). So, we pulled a couple off the stack, set them up facing the water, and watched the storm roll through.
Thankfully, the day before we left, the rain cleared and Katie, Justin, and I were able to try scuba diving for the first time (Adam had developed a sinus infection and opted out because of it). We absolutely fell in love with it. Since we were just doing an intro dive, we spent about an hour in the pool practicing using our equipment, learning safety procedures, and getting comfortable with the feeling of breathing underwater. We took a break for lunch, before boarding a boat headed for a dive site off the coast called Turtle City. The forty-five minutes we spent underwater were the fastest ever. Although the visibility wasn’t great because of all the recent rain, we saw a ton of awesome sealife on the ocean shelf. We quickly discovered why it was called Turtle City as we descended to the ocean floor and spied our first of half a dozen giant Green Sea Turtles sleeping on the coral. For the most part they seemed perfectly content to just snooze on top of the mounds of coral, occasionally floating to the surface for air before sinking back to their turtle beds. They were huge, at least three feet across the shell in some cases. It was so amazing getting to see them in their natural environment, feeling weightless as we floated by. I know for sure it will not be our last venture to the ocean depths.
We had a good time on the island despite the weather. While on Gili, we discovered a place with the best fudgy brownies in the world, tried satay, and stumbled upon a near abandoned resort complete with hot-air balloon shaped gazebo. One night we stumbled down the beach and right into a techno party we were just a bit too sober to appreciate fully. We tried our best to soak up our last little bit of asian culture (and asian prices) before we left the continent for good.