Gili Air

Posted on November 24, 2014

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After leaving Scrat I took a bus and then a boat and headed to Gili Air. It is an island off the mainland of Lombok and is supposed to be the Goldilocks of the three islands: Gili T, Air and Meno) T being too mental and a party place. Meno being secluded and quiet and Air “just right”. Magic mushrooms are ironically sold everywhere even though the islands are populated by a strict muslim community. You can get them either solid or blended up into a cocktail. I abstained.

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As soon as I set foot on the sandy white beach the hassle began. I have been really fortunate so far because Scrat is pretty fluent in Bahasa so people tend to treat her with a bit more respect than your usual bulay (foreigner). Being with her I benefited by default. But not anymore. I was now a cash cow like every other tourist.

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After an afternoon adjusting, swatting away mossies, touts and walking around the island twice (you can do it once in under an hour) I grabbed some lunch and a papaya juice then headed to one of the many dive centres on the island. The team at Manta Dive were really friendly and a mix bag of nationalities (Brits, Yanks French and Germans). I signed up for a 2 dives for the following day and was excited to hear that turtles were a definite and perhaps, if I was lucky a black or white tipped shark. Please oh please, oh please!!!

A quiet dinner on the beach and an early night followed ahead of my day of activity.

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The next day i headed to the dive centre and arrived early. While I waited I met a young American from Nebraska who now lives in Oz working for an oil and gas company in Brisbane. We chatted for half an hour while people started arriving. He was doing his Open Water certificate and by all accounts was a bit of an adrenaline junkie – boarder, wrestler, football player, hiker….so another string to add to his bow. I was summoned to join my advance team as they were loading up the boat. I could have sworn he said his name was Josh, I’ll explain later why.

On the boat I was put into a group with a lovely Dutch couple and an older Swiss woman who has been living in Thailand for the last 30 years. Our first dive was fantastic – moray eels, black tip shark, Titan trigger fish – I have never seen anything quite that big in the water. The coral was beautiful and very varied, visibility crystal clear and temperature 30 degrees. Indonesia has to be some of the best diving in the world for me. I was blown away, even knocks Mexico off my top spot. I wondered how in earth the second dive would top it.

After lunch of green papaya salad and mie goreng, I was starving, I fell asleep on the comfy big sandbags laid out on the decking. The warm breeze gently brushing against my skin and the sound of the waves crashing was blissful. I think I finally felt relaxed and really happy.

At 2pm we headed out for the second dive and my, oh my i never expected to see so many turtles. Not one, not two not even three but SIX! Most were Hawksbill (endangered) with a couple of green. There was a very old large turtle he was magnificent and allowed us to hover over him for several minutes, not bothered by the audience he had attracted at all. There were a couple of cleaner fish on him too. I don’t have a camera, but here’s a pic of one that was three time smaller than my fella.

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Back on the boat we raved about the fish. This time my buddy was a young lad from Newcastle – I put him at 24. He left England two years ago and is remarkably well travelled. He has a degree in engineering and lives in Oz. He also has a cheeky, let’s-see-what-happens attitude. He told me when he climbed Rinjani, a volcano I wanted to do but have not got enough days left, he was completely unprepared. The summit is freezing and you camp overnight. He did it in converse trainers and borrowed a pair of trousers from some random guy in a youth hostel. He is a real free spirit and says he is dreading going home. He went underwater with a go-pro camera attached to a headband with an elastoplast. I told him if he had used that to cover a cut on his finger that plaster would have been off in 4mins, but 55mins underwater at 30m and his camera was still attached – unbelievable! He’s going skiing in Europe in December before slowly making the trip back to the UK. Poor lad is so depressed about the thought of leaving sunshine for grey skies. Another reason for me to keep coming back home to work, so that the post adventure blues don’t floor me completely.

On my way home I bumped into Mr Nebraska who was cycling around the island on a bike with the most ridiculously large tyres. We caught up on the day and agreed to meet up for dinner. There is a BBQ fish place on the beach which is always rammed. At 1930 he walked straight past the place while I watched sitting at the bar. I yelled Josh because that was what i thought his name was. The entire staff from behind the bar, waiters and the maitre’d joined in. It was quite a racket. Needles to say he didn’t turn around because that is not his name. I got up and legged it out onto the main drag, where he’d just done an about turn.

“Hey, I take it your name is not Josh…” I said to him
“Christ no,” he said. “I heard people yelling but didn’t think it was for me,” he said laughing.
When we sat down to dinner the entire staff called him Josh all night!

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Posted in: Asia