Thursday, 8 April 2010

No parking lot in this paradise…

On previous visits to Bali my prejudice has kept me from visiting the Gili Islands off the North West coast of Lombok. Dubbed a travellers paradise my visions of stoned, dreadlocked, friendship-banded euro geeks gamboling about the place overshadowed the reported beauty of the 3 tiny tropical islands… and I guess the supposed lack of surf didn’t help.

Sofie really wanted to visit so in an admirable act of generosity and compromise I consented to the trip. My lips, burnt to a crisp from over-zealous midday surfing in Bali, were raw and cracked so a few days out of the water wouldn’t harm anyway. We chose the quieter of the 3 islands, Gili Meno, and from the moment we waded ashore from the shuttle boat the serene seclusion of this tropical idyll enveloped us. Time warped and heart-beats slowed whilst in stark contrast to it’s near neighbour, Bali, the sound of silence generated by an absolute absence of motorised vehicles was deafening.

Sandy tracks circumnavigate and criss-cross the 2km island, the only transport is shank’s pony or bell-jangling pony & trap cidomos. The island is fringed with white sand beaches protected from the surf by coral reefs and the pure, clear water reflects blues of every hue imaginable as the tropical sky evolves and transforms throughout the day. Sun rising over the active volcano Gunung Rinjani on Lombok, tropical squalls passing as quickly as they appear, azure clear skys give way to firey sunsets over Bali’s extinct volcano Gunung Agung. Snaffling a coconut infused carrot and bean salad-like lunch of Urap Urap one stiflingly hot lunch time the awesome Rinjani coughed and spluttered into life sending an immense plume of thick grey smoke into the atmosphere. Not a bad digestif actually.

A tempting right-hand reef point wave reels down the south west coast of the island, an even better looking one off Gili Trawanagan, yet my ravaged lips thwarted all but the briefest forays into the salty water, yet to slow down for a while, rising to watch sunrise and sleeping not long after sunset and doing very little in between besides snorkelling the teeming outer reefs, lolling, lounging and sprawling sprinkled with delcious cheap local Sasak food was enough to fall in love with this as yet unspoiled tropical Eden.