Cycling Gili Trewangen was amazing and beautiful. We stumbled on ‘ Exile’ bar one night that welcomed the sunset with a djembes and cocktails. Like a tropical Glastonbury with cocktails! Yes.
There were swings in the shallows of the sea, so people could take photos of each other looking serene. What the photos failed to show were the banging bar and 20 people queuing up to have their picture taken on the swing at sunset on the ‘deserted beach’. A woman even asked Archie to get out his hammock- because he spoiled her photo. Instagram has got a lot to answer for.
We moved on to the night market in Gili T which was helpfully geared up for tourists. We were in heaven- authentic Indonesian food, cheap, fun and everyone tried something new and loved it.
The boys were like local celebrities and constantly high five-ing strangers. Surprisingly, after just a few days the locals all seem to know their names and shout it as we walk up the main street, running after them. When Finn wears his football kit with his name on the back it, he is treated like a rockstar and loves it.
The main focus of Gili T is diving and partying; I realise the buzz is getting tired, the ‘roads’ are starting to feel busy, albeit with horses & carts and pushbikes. I’m starting to wish that there were other children for ours to play with.
Gili Air is nearby and according to the Bible (‘Lonely Planet’) Air is more suited to couples and families. We take a day trip there to scope it out and as we pull up in the harbour, the water is the clearest I can ever remember seeing. We spot 10 types of fish including massive Sea Urchins all lining the harbour. There are no motorised vehicles- or dogs- here either, it is slightly smaller than Gili T but with much less people. We love it. We stop at a bar and the boys instantly go and play table football with the staff. I see nothing but families on the beach and bright coloured fish in the sea, I think we have found Nirvana… until we get bored anyway.
Walking up the track we look for family bungalows- but they are all coming in at 60 quid- ish. We keep asking and find a place called ‘Zipp’ which is right by the beach and has a bar- somewhere to hang out and maybe even meet some people, who knows! The staff are friendly and Finn starts getting chased by all the female staff who are trying to kiss him. Both boys start following round a man called Munich who is like the pied piper and training to be a teacher. We have fallen in love with the place and book in to their bungalows as they gave us a price of 40 quid including breakfast- and it has a pool! We will be here in 2 sleeps.
On the last night we decide to make the most of the Night Market, the boys have pretty much the same as before but I choose a nice piece of fresh Tuna. The fact that it is not indigenous to Indonesia should have raised alarm bells, and also the fact that it tasted tangy and fishy. I succumbed to our first bout of food poisoning and spent the entire night on or in the toilet. I cursed my desire for tuna and sadly acknowledged my relationship with the night market is over. It was short and sweet but with a very messy ending.
I spent the day dozing and the next day woke up to go to Gili Air.
The sea was a bright turquoise- we jumped straight in and saw so many fish; parrot fish, puffer fish, trigger fish, angel fish… all in neon colours. I was so proud of the boys and how they managed to take to snorkelling so easily- this time in deeper water. Each new fish we spotted was exhilarating and after years of phobia around the sea I feel like I am finally getting it. I understand! It’s great!
Come the evening, the boys had found friends on the beach; Archie was having bamboo battles with another boy and Finn was offered a ‘trainee’ T-shirt by Munich who he was shadowing.
We settled in quickly and thought, this morning we would hire kayaks to get a different view of the island. Archie paired up with me, Finn went with Mike- the boys had life jackets and my purse was put in a ziplock bag. Just in case. Totally got this adventure/island thing nailed.
The see-through kayaks were amazing and as we floated over the coral reef, I was so chuffed at how active and adventurous we had been. We were living the dream! We are having the best fun ever and we are totally winning. Archie was a natural, we found a rhythm; the turquoise sea changing hues as we passed over the different coral.
We tried to stay inland because if you go out past the buoys the current between the islands Gili Air and Lombok is strong, also it is the boat lane- and they really don’t look out for anyone as they speed past collecting and dropping off their divers or groceries.
We stayed within the buoys, avoided the swimmers and waved to our friends at our bungalow beach bar. Hello! We are winning! Hooray! Look at how much we are winning! Yess!!!
We went north, up the east coast of the island spotting the landmarks we knew. Archie saw a rock jutting out of the water and I started to worry, thinking that we were probably about to hit a reef… I was right, as a wave swelled up behind us but I was able to position the kayak so I could take it head-on. Winning. Still winning.
I looked back and Mike & Finn hadn't been so lucky, we started paddling back towards him- he and Finn were sinking under the wave and I could hear Finn screaming. I knew the water wasn’t deep, but I could hear his panic.
Archie and I quickly got to him and we pulled Finn up into the kayak with us. We had loads of water on board, and if we could paddle out away from the reef we would be ok… I paddled as hard as I could trying to cuddle Finn, telling him Daddy has not drowned, (he was waist height after all…!) at the same time shouting instructions to Archie. Another wave came and this time we were going under- but were further away than Mike had been and I was carrying all our stuff, not to mention the 2 children...
As the boat started to go down I felt sick, I am 1 person with a longstanding phobia of the sea. 2 children (1 screaming) and a boat full of our stuff. I realised that we may not ever get to keep a Go Pro EVER after we re-bought one that got stolen last week! That BLOODY CAMERA! Gone. Again, but at least I had the kayak and the paddles and our lives.
When I was a child I remember floating about in a dingy in Devon, with my cousin whilst Mum and Auntie Linda pulled us along. I saw the fear in their faces as their toes squelched in seaweed and they tried to stay calm when stuff touched them under the water. I have always felt the same about the sea- you just don’t KNOW what is under there.
Mum and Linda, you should see me now.
Another unexpected wave and our kayak started to sink too... slowly, i realised I had to hold it together it what would have been my worst nightmare. It wasn’t too deep I reasoned, I could touch the floor which felt sharp and slimy in equal measure. The children had life jackets so they could swim towards the shore whilst I struggled with the kayak and paddles. I dragged it along and walked through the coral. Something stung me in the water and I remember my friend Katie telling me not to sneak up on the fish.. having already seen puffer fish the day before and Scorpion fish last week I was more than aware of the danger of walking through the reef with bare feet. I took her advice and STOMPED through the coral, feet shredded. Sorry coral. Bad tourist. Sorry sorry sorry!!!!
I looked up and big brother Archie was carrying his screaming brother over the coral, and I could not believe how calm he stayed. Hero, I thought. What a boy! If I die now (which I won't, obviously, in waist height water) I will die proud.
Our feet were cut to ribbons and I finally made it to the shore, the waves though were relentless and mocking of my efforts to get our boat out of the water. There was hardly any sand in that part of the beach, just broken up coral which was burning my cut feet as I tried to drag the boat out the water whilst trying- and failing to comfort the children.
Not winning. Definitely not winning.
I looked out and saw Mike aground up the beach, then realised that my ziplock bag was floating past. After all that I had to get back in that bloody sea to get the purse and the sacred P20. Bloody hell! At least I remembered to Ziplock- still winning of a fashion.
Mike finally reached us and the boys were hysterical. There was no way we were getting back in the water, so we stopped for a Sprite, grateful again that my purse stayed afloat so we could buy a drink and regroup. Did I mention how much I love Ziplock? Maybe not to you but I definitely did to the German tourist on the table next to us who ran to see why the children were crying. It’s ok- WE HAVE ZIPLOCK!!!!
We gave in and called a ‘taxi’ (horse and cart) which we have avoided up to now, as the horses are seemingly never given water in this 42 degree heat. This was a crisis though, I apologised to the horse and paid the driver to take the kayaks back to the shop- so much hilarity from the local man who saw us leave full of beans.
45 minutes later, a lone but capable Archie on the cart cheerfully giving directions to the oblivious taxi driver who was dragging both kayaks back to the shop and couldn't understand a word he said.
It was funny, I knew it was- we limped home, bare footed and mortified- then we heard shouting behind us and a ‘BRIING! BRIING!’of a bike bell. It was the chap who sold us the drinks when we got out the water. A tourist had gone snorkelling and FOUND Archie’s sunglasses AND THE GO PRO!!!! All’s well that ends well, eh!
We had an afternoon of milkshakes (gin) and Uno after that, keeping out the water so our cut feet can heal. People fall out of kayaks all the time, no big deal- but we definitely won’t be trying it again…!
I think we’re going to hire bikes today and stick to snorkelling.
Where we stayed:
Zipp Bar and Bungalows, Gili Air. 40 GBP per night including breakfast. Lovely staff, great location. Our kids were right at home and we hardly left the beach/ bar/ pool.
How we got around:
The Gili Islands have no roads, and we avoided using the horses as they looked poorly treated. We walked form the ferry to the bungalows- it took 10 minutes.
When hopping between Gili Islands and Lombok you can catch the local ferry leaves 3 times a day and cost 1 GBP each, tickets available from the office at the pier.