Feb 22, 2008

Gili Air and a mountain town with a man named Yoga

So I'm back in Ubud, Bali on the grid. We thought Senggigi on Lombok had slowed our pace, but in the off-season the 3 Gili islands just off the coast of Lombok are even slower, maybe as slow as Fiji time - maybe slower. After a couple amazing scuba dives (a lil' shipwreck, turtles AND sharks) in pretty rough currents but good visibility [we literally didn't have to use our fins but just drifted along - fast], we landed on the medium size island, Gili Air. [note, Gili means island in Indonesian]

No motorized vehicles on Gili Air, so the non-walking mode of transport is horse-drawn carts. We didn't need 'em though, bc the perimeter of the 900-person island is only 5 km. most of the tourist activity is on the beachfront all the way around the island, with gaps of nothing - or wrecked boats washed up, in between. The rest of the population lives in the middle of the island, which doesn't take long to cross trough. But there really wasn't much tourist activity, as we saw maybe 10-15, if that, other tourists in our 3 nights there.

Sat around one night on pillows on the open-air raised-platform-with-thatched-roof tables, singing the type of songs tourists know & love with some local guys - "every breath you take", "you look wonderful tonight" & some beatles tunes. Yoga, a.k.a. Lombok man, also sang some of his originals in Indonesian. He said one song is about tourists and how the locals should take care of the coral so the tourists will keep coming. apparently he's somewhat of an activist on the island, as Susan learned in a heart-to-heart conversation with him. Alas, when we took Yoga up on his offer the next day to be our guide up to a mountain town in north Lombok, a day trip we were considering anyway, we ended up finding out that Yoga is somewhat of a lier/scam artist who took us for a bit of a ride. and then no ride home. we paid a pricey (relatively speaking), but comparable rate for a day tour that we had researched, and his was to also include dinner & overnite at his "family business villa". what his did not include, that the other options would have, was a ride back to Senggigi after our overnite stay in Senaru, a town at the base of the island's volcano. of course we didn't realize Yoga wasn't going to take us the 2+ hour ride back until the next morning. so we had to hire another driver, as we weren't about to pay him any more money. good lesson learned. oh, and of course another guy in town who we hired the driver from said Yoga is definitely not the 'cousin' of the place where we stayed [which was so ridiculously miserable, a board of a bed, no running water in the middle of the night, and they tried to charge us for toilet paper]. Yoga's not from Senaru as he claimed, and the guy said he's really not on the up and up. When we tried to convince him that he had to drive us back, Yoga claimed that he was upfront with us and that we were now confusing and upsetting him. Sad end to what was a fun day trip - but we could've done without the meal that was included (hot water with tomatoes - aka soup - and top ramen, we opted out of the deer meat that seemed to still have hair on it).

I don't mean to harp on a negative experience, and we're certainly a bit wiser and expected to be scammed sooner rather than later, but it's humorous now. Also, we got to see a part of the island that few tourists travel through, rice paddies, markets that smell like bad fish even from the car as we drove by, cute kids in Muslim school uniforms (well, cute kids are everywhere), and Lombok folks just living their lives. Pretty primitive and very rustic.

So Yoga's song about the tourists, well, we now think it might really translate to something about keeping the tourists coming so Yoga can scam 'em. Whatever it is though, we had a great time on Gili Air.

1 comment:

  1. Travel to Lombok is much easier from Bali either by plane or public ferry. You will find something natural around the island. Exploring the island of Lombok is even easier by motorbike or joining the local sightseeing tour. Check also special deals on Lombok hotels in Senggigi Beach, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air.