Saturday, July 18, 2009

East of Bali

Nusa Tenggara is the collective name for the islands stretching east of Bali. We head straight to Gili Meno, a tiny island off Lombok, where Gayle had been on her previous trip here about 18 years ago. It is one of three tiny islands that are now at different stages of tourist development. Meno is the quieter island: no full-moon parties or booming sound systems, except for the mosque, the only vehicles are horse drawn buggies and the greatest disturbance is the chorus of cockerels just before daybreak. We notice the cockerels more because we are staying in a stilted bungalow in the village and it sometimes sounds like their favourite spot. As a result, we actually catch a couple of sunrises during our 12-day stay. The island is the perfect place to recover from our travels thus far in Indonesia and prime us for the run to East Timor. Needless to say there is lots of sunbathing, reading, beachcombing and swimming. It might not be the perfect beach place, but it's one of the best we've found so far. We meet here Chris and his son Craig, from Newcastle, who are on a diving holiday and we meet up each evening to chew the fat and eat as well, accompanied by some very welcome duty-free vodka and tonics. They're great company and a good laugh. Chicken curry and rice hasn't tasted so good in ages, as Gayle and Craig will testify. During the day we can enjoy the white sandy beach, Gayle goes snorkelling with Chris and Craig, or there's the circumperambulation (?!) of the island. The time flies by too quickly. Gayle celebrates her 40th birthday - Chris and Craig rustle up some candles. We eventually say our fond farewells to our new friends, who are kindly carrying a parcel home for us, and who also donate a snorkelling mask to our travel kit.

We don't dither on Lombok but catch a luxurious air-conditioned bus all the way to the end of Sumbawa. Now this is the way to go - legroom for a basketball player, no loud Indo pop to keep us awake (it's a night bus) and just before sundown a pleasant two hour ferry across to Sumbawa. The reality comes at 3.30 am when the bus turfs us out short of our destination and we have to cram into the usual rusty tin-can minibus for the final two hours. But first we have to wait for two hours. There's a few other westerners going this way, including Judith and Kent, a friendly Canadian couple who are also heading to East Timor. Good company for the next stage which is an all-day ferry ride over to Flores. The weather is good as we pass by the infamous Komodo island, too far off to catch sight of those big flabby lizards. At last we arrive and find a 'cheap' hotel (it's high season and somewhat overpriced) and it feels good to shower and eat a good square meal.

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