We stayed on The Gili Islands for a further 5 days following ‘Kayak Gate’. It was hard to leave there, meeting so many lovely people and our kids being treated like family by the staff at our bungalows. We were right on the beach so the kids had free run of the place and it was too easy not to move- despite the fact they were becoming more feral by the day. I started to wonder if the familiarity wasn't always a good thing- as F stole the waitresses calculator for the fifth time that day...
We weren’t completely lazy, though. One day we did a snorkelling trip and I was absolutely shitting myself. I’ve never managed to jump in off a boat into deep water before- my legs would never let me, but I realised how different you feel when your 7 year old jumps in first. Motherhood is amazing and terrifying in equal measure: snorkelling was a metaphor for life. Nothing could stop me jumping in after him and when I looked at the sea bed I almost lost my breath.
We must have been 8 metres deep- maybe more after the drop off. It was like being suspended on top of a cliff- and once I slowed my breathing down and realised I was not falling- it was spectacular. I looked over to where Big Bro was swimming like a fish, without a moments hesitation. I was so proud that he was able to get so much out of it- slightly worried when he kept following the turtles wherever they swam- my biggest fear was losing him, but I managed to keep up, luckily. Both boys managed to snorkel and saw the ocean that was teeming with life. F, 5 years old and a bit more cautious managed it- though 5 minutes was enough for him. Sensible boy, I thought whilst pretending there was absolutely nothing to fear in these deep, tropical waters.
Towards the end of the week, our friend and F’s mentor, Munich invited us to his friend's wedding and did we want to come?! Hell YES was our answer- though I panicked as we have hardly any clothes that might be considered suitable. We also had 2 boys (1 in particular) that was fast forgetting what polite behaviour might consist of. We had stern words about ‘behaviour’ and jumped right in.
I was covering up as it was a Muslim wedding and I couldn’t believe how much hotter I felt!! 41 degrees that day, wearing a long sleeved shirt and trousers seemed so cruel… big up to my Muslim sisters that who do that every day- and I didn’t even need my hair covered, unlike the other women.
We were taken in a horse and cart to Munich’s home, where we found 3 generations living together around a courtyard. There were babies and grandparents all hanging out together, and their relaxed attitude to children seemed to make sense: teenagers, single men, aunts, grandparents are all present all the time, hanging out and playing together. I liked it.
The wedding was amazing. We were stared at quite a bit and were honoured when the bride and groom sat with us in their home for the wedding breakfast. I commented on how bright their clothes were- and the grooms shoes were a detailed sparkly beauty to behold ‘like Cinderella!’ he said with a laugh. Well, yes, yes actually. Wonderful.
Our children even ate the Beef Rendang, which was spicier than anything they have ever eaten before. Not a complaint was muttered about the food- however unusual it was to their palettes. In light of the recent parenting doubts I have had, I will take any win where I can get it.
We went on to the Buddhist village next door- where they clearly don’t see many westerners. The boys’ cheeks were pinched, hair ruffled and a mass of people queued up to have their photos taken with us, or the children. Such a weird sensation- and the boys handled it well even though it was quite overwhelming. I told Big Bro that this is how Justin Bieber must feel. He blushed.
Back at Zipp Bar, the boys ran around with Pong, Munich’s niece and basically raised hell. It started to feel like the lunatics had taken over the asylum as the children were held in such regard that they were encouraged to do whatever they liked.. reigning our children in from this would be difficult. The following day would be Lombok and Senaru Waterfalls for 2 nights- in the actual jungle in an actual mountain lodge. Whoop! PROPER travelling, at last.
We hauled our massive rucksacks on the little boat, embarrassed at needing so much stuff. We made it though, just about, fighting with our bags and with people trying to carry them to then charge us (this happened a lot in India but totally slipped my mind…!)
At some point in the 3 hour journey there, we realised that we were heading to central Lombok… the place we had told our travel nurse we definitely would not be heading due to the high risk of Malaria/ Dengue Fever. Obviously it was too late now to take the anti malarials, so we vowed to cover ourselves in mozzie spray HOURLY to make sure we don’t get bitten.
Senaru Pondok's accommodation was sparse- with the most beautiful views of the waterfalls and jungle. Wild monkeys came up to the bungalow to steal the avocados off the trees, and we watched a family of them swinging from the trees for a good hour. We were excited about our trek the next day.. till we realised the bungalow had holes in the walls and mesh ‘windows’, also the outdoor bathroom door didn’t shut, and the TV didn’t work. No worries, we could play cards all evening and fashion a door closer with our elastic legless washing line (we are so clever and resourceful! Yes!)
We strung up our mozzie nets and headed out to the restaurant which had the most amazing vista of the waterfall and Mount Rinjani in the background which was active and smoking.
Thank goodness for the view because the food was the worst we had ever tasted. We quickly headed back to our room and wrestled/ bribed/ threatened the kids with disease to try to keep them inside their nets. A week of being rewarded for cheekiness was taking its toll on their behaviour and on our patience- and the boys thought it was all a game. I guess it is when you are 5 and 7- just not to us.
I woke up early, thinking how stinky it was in here- then at 6am Mike jumped off the mattress, hitting his back and muffling screams. Bed bugs. I looked at him and told him we are leaving today- we had done it, we had gone off the beaten track. 'Proper travelling' also means being fluid- so we got the hell out of dodge and took a guide to the waterfalls.
They were immense- huge, imposing green canopy of jungle lushness spouting hundreds of thousand of gallons per minute, fresh off the mountain.
The Guide totally got F's number, because from the minute he met him, he didn’t let go of him. As a boy who always wants to try his luck, the guide was taking no chances- I like to think Zipp Bungalows phoned ahead to advise him, but I think he just knew what he was dealing with from the start. The slippery rocks and Finn’s obsession with jumping of stuff and playing 'opposites' was no match for him.
Archie and I swam in the Air Tejan falls, it was beautifully fresh after the long humid walk to get there and exhilarating to stand under it- well, near it anyway, unless we wanted broken necks.
We immediately headed to Kuta in Lombok after the trek, so I quite sensibly decided to pass the 4 hour journey with a nap. Mike had a little taste of why people advise not to travel during the monsoon as at one point the driver had no visibility- he couldn’t even see the bonnet of the car. When we got out, Mike’s knees were like jelly- every time he asked the driver to slow down he laughed manically and swerved, but we made it, somehow avoiding the falling trees and other vehicles on the road.
Kuta, in Lombok was easy to find accommodation- we found a family bungalow at Segare Anak, with 2 double beds for about 30 quid, (60 on Booking.com- it pays to just turn up!) and with a pool outside the door too. It is directly on Kuta beach which is perfect white sand and you get the feeling that it won’t be long before it will be teeming with tourists.
If the number of hawkers are anything to go by though, they are expecting the hoards sooner, rather than later... there are many. Apparently the local government have cleared the land in front of the beach for development, following the building of an airport on the island. For now, though it remains unspoilt.
Tomorrow, we fly to Bali for 2 days in Ubud before we wave farewell to this beautiful country. Our next leg: Australia, but we will be back, Indonesia- I didn't spend all that time learning 3 phrases for nothing.
Where we stayed:
Zipp Bar and Bungalows, Gili Air. 40 GBP per night for all 4 of us including breakfast.
Senaru Pondok cottages. Lombok. 20 GB per night for all of us. Not very clean, terrible food and lots of mosquitos. Still, there were monkeys to watch outside so that was a nice distraction and the waterfall was just a short walk away.
Segara Anak Bungalows, Kuta, Lombok. 20 GBP per night in walking distance to Kuta beach.
How we got around:
On the Gili Islands there are no roads or motorised vehicles. We chose not to use the horse and carts as they looked so worn out and dehydrated! We used our legs, it was 15 minute walk to the ferry pier.
Local ferry to Lombok from Gili Air took 15 minutes and left 3 times per day. 1 GBP per person. Ticket available from the office by the pier.
At Lombok pier we got a private driver to take us to Senaru. It cost around 20 GBP and was a 3 hour drive.
We hired mopeds in Lombok for 1 GBP per day.