A Travellerspoint blog

Indonesia - Gili Islands

Written by Tom

sunny 30 °C

In the morning we rose early and walked off to the little harbour to catch the speedboat for the 1.5hr journey to the Gili Islands which are just off Lombok. We had bargained hard for our ticket the previous day and had got it down to about $45US each. There was a cheap public ferry and bus for about $5US but the journey would have taken 9 hours (no thanks!). Anyway, our speedboat had 5 outboard motors on the back and we zipped across the glassy sea under bright sunshine passing the stunning volcano and highest mountain on Bali called Mount Agung.


Once we landed on Gili Trawangan (the largest and most outgoing of the three Gili Islands) we wandered down the main street looking for some bungalow huts to stay in. The great thing about the Gili Islands is that no motorised vehicles are aloud. Luckily the islands are small enough that you can walk all the way around the outside in an hour or two or you can hire a horse drawn taxi cart. We found some great bungalows (called Good Heart) with hot water that were only 10 metres back from the beach and you could have breakfast served right on the sand.


In the afternoon Coralie & I went for a swim /snorkel right off the beach infront of our bungalow.
The water was so warm it was like a bath. It was also incredibly clear and we snorkelled over some great corals and reef fish including a Titan Triggerfish but best of all was swimming with a large wild turtle. That night we went for a quiet dinner right on the beach with Peter (a Canadian guy we met on the boat over). Coralie got her delicious tuna steak (cooked rare on the bbq) while I caved in and had to have the cheeseburger (I'd had too much rice recently but have to say it was one of the best cheeseburgers I will ever have in my life!).

The next day we decided to walk around the whole island. It took longer than we thought (2 hours) but we did get to stop off on some secluded deserted beaches for a cool-off swim. It was also some much needed exercise after all the chillied out laziness and good food we had been involved in on Bali. Along the way we saw some remote village huts, some exclusive expensive hotels and even some plots of building land for sale (we were tempted to buy our own piece of paradise). In the evening we met up with Peter again for sushi and met two fun lads from London in a crazy pub called Rudy's. We got involved in some of the locally made "booze" and had the funniest night for a long time. As the bar emptied we stayed behind drinking more and laughing so much that our sides hurt. We were so wasted as were two hilarious Brazilian guys we met who were also wasted. At 3am we decided to call it a night.


Our third day was spent chilling out on the beach and I went off with Trawangan Dive for a great boat dive at Shark Point. I didn't see any sharks but I did see 7 (yes, SEVEN) large turtles. One was as big as me and I just lay next to it, only a foot away, on the ocean bed, 10 metres deep, while it relaxed and looked straight back at me. I was needless to say, absolutely elated on the boat journey back to the island.

On our fourth and last day, after another breakfast of toast & tea served on the beach at Good Heart, Coralie & I got a local boat to the next door smaller island called Gili Meno. We walked around the island in only an hour and stopped off for some snorlelling on the way at some recommended spots. The island was much quieter than Gili Trawangan, with only a couple of bars, and we were told that some nights there are only 2 or 3 people in the bar. However, the island was without doubt absolutley stunning!!!


In the evening we went for Coralie's tuna steak again and decided to have a few drinks afterwards. Not that we drink a lot you realise but purely to celebrate our last night. The local spirit is called "Arak", a sort of palm wine, and we were drinking double Araks with orange for about £1 each. One too many was had but it was a great last night on the island.


In the morning we had to get up fairly early and I was so hungover that Coralie had to pack my bags for me so we could check out. We even had to get a horse drawn cart down to the harbour. Then we jumped on the speedboat again back to Bali and the sweet little Padangbai for our last night in Indonesia. Luckily the sea was calm, the sun was shining and the cloud-fringed Mount Agung volcano welcomed us in.

Back at Padangbai we checked into our old bungalow and I went off for one last scuba dive while Coralie read her book by the pool. It was just me and the dive master and we went off to Blue Lagoon in search of sharks as I hadn't seen one in Bali. It was a mind-blowing last dive, passing sting-rays, triggerfish, moray eel, a school of large unicornfish and 2 large grey reef sharks. My heart started racing uncontrollably when I saw the 1st shark, it was 2metres long and they just swim along looking menacing! Back at Padangbai we had a quiet last dinner in Kerti's and an early night.

In the morning it was back to Bali airport (1.5hrs away for just £12) and a flight to Singapore.

Posted by tomcoralie 11:56 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Indonesia - Bali, Padangbai (via Singapore)

Written by Coralie

sunny 30 °C

It was definitely with sad hearts that we left Sydney, disappointed that our plans to get work there had not materialised, however, to cheer ourselves up on the way home, we decided we would have a little pit stop via Bali! We felt we were really entitled to another holiday before coming home! Mike kindly dropped us off at the airport, huge rucksacks in tow and off we went, landing 7 hours later in Singapore where a friend from London (Danny), very kindly put us up for the night. Of course, Tom was thrilled upon arriving to see that Newcastle were playing and that pretty much took prededance! I crashed out early, with Tom promising that he'd be just a few minutes after me.....there was no way he was going to miss that match though so it was at about 1.30am that he finally crept into bed only to be woken up by a very unwelcome alarm about 4 hours later!

However, the thought of blue seas, white sand beaches, cocktails etc was enough to get us up pretty quickly and off to the airport for our last 10 days of travelling. We landed in Bali in the mid afternoon - the heat and humidity was a stark contrast to the Australian winter we had been experiencing, but it was amazing!! After a quick bite to eat, we picked up a taxi who took us the 1.5 hours to the east of Bali to a town called Padangbai. Before leaving Sydney, we had met a friend of Emily's who had just spent a considerable amount of time in Bali and recommended this place to us along with what to do and where to go - it proved to be a life saver! So we arrived in Padangbai after a slightly hair raising cab ride - we had forgotten how insane the road traffic was in Asia - there is no such thing as 'right of way', it's all a game of chicken!


Back to the good old days of Asia and we spent our first hour walking around the small town trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night and found a gorgeous set of bungalows, just off the beach with a lovely infinity pool, bar and our own outside bathroom! (Padangbai Beach Bungalows) It was perfect!


We then got ready to go out and have some dinner at a lovely restaurant called Topi Inn where I had some fish kebabs and Tom got stuck into some Barramundi, washed down by some cocktails and my first taste of the local palm wine, called Arak - it was evil! It literally tasted like petrol and made us both gag, we were staying well clear of that! After dinner, on Julia's recommendation, we went out to find Sunshine Bar and the guy who runs it, called Nyoman - he was a legend! When I say it was a bar, it was tiny and very cosy, probably only about 4 meters wide so very relaxed atmosphere. From the minute we arrived, Nyoman welcomed us in with open arms and we basically spent most of the night just chatting to him and some of the other locals, as well as two Canadians who were staying in the same bungalows as us.


Nyoman had me try the Arak again (managed to convince me his was a lot nicer as made from coconuts, as opposed to palm leaves) - he wasn't wrong, and that was the end of it for me! A lot of those later (plus plenty of Bintangs (local Indo beers) for Tom) and we stumbled back to our bungalows, absolutely thrilled to find ourselves back in Asia - it made us realise how much we had missed it!


Having said that we would only spend a night in Padangbai, we completely fell in love with the town and the locals so thought we'd spend another day there. We headed up to the Blue Lagoon which is renowned for it's snorkelling. The weather was amazing but the sea was a bit choppy so we spent the day sitting out on the sun loungers, reading.


In the evening we went to a place called Kurti's for dinner (which was so cheap!) and then back to Sunshine bar where we spent the evening singing along with the locals to a guy playing the guitar.

On our third day, Tom went diving in the morning (2 dives) and saw fantastic corals, stingrays, and amazing fish whilst I chilled out and read my book by the pool. We went to a restaurant called Joe's Place for dinner - we were the only ones in the restaurant and got chatting to the young guy who was running it called Wyan. We spent a good few hours finding out about his life and the life of the people out there which was really interesting. Having had two pretty big nights previously, we hit the sack early.

Our fourth day was spent searching for White Sand Beach, which was interesting to get to, up a dirt track and through some trees, but well worth it when we got there. It was just stunning and there was only one other person there. We swam, snorkelled, ate delicious 'nasi goreng' (fried rice) and enjoyed massages on the beach - it was tough!


Then in the evening, we went to try out the local 'Kinky Reggae Bar' (compulsary to have one in every town in Asia!). There was a local band playing who were actually really good - they were playing some good old classics and the atmosphere from everyone, including the bar staff who were really getting into it, was amazing! We had such a great night singing along, dancing with the locals and generally really soaking up the atmosphere. Then back to Sunshine bar for a few 'nightcaps' which of course, turned into more than just one or two....there were vague recollections of walking home whilst singing 'I will survive' at the top of our voices!

Oh dear, very sore heads today so a day of chilling out by the pool was in order - we just about made it to the Blue Lagoon for a bit of snorkelling, but even that was a struggle! Tom then managed to get roped into going on a night dive (his first) with one of the Canadian guys we had met and his instructor, Putu. He was so hungover though, it was hilarious watching him get ready to go! Whilst he was out doing that, I was chatting to some really nice Australians that we had met earlier in the day and was most impressed when he arrived back all in one piece - totally elated by what he had done and seen. Pretty scary dive by the sounds of it with big sharks just keeping out of the end of the torch light.


That was then our last night in Padangbai - having said that we would only stay for one night, we ended up staying for five due to the awesome people that we met, both locals and travellers. The evening was spent pretty quietly as we had an early start the next day to get a boat across to the Gili Islands.

Posted by tomcoralie 01:34 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Australia - Sydney (last couple of months)

Written by Tom

semi-overcast 23 °C

I got back to Sydney on the 16th March and was very thankful to Mike and Emily for putting me up again. Whilst Coralie was in New Zealand for a month (she has promised she will eventually get around to writing the blog for her time there) I started searching for a job. After a week though I decided to take a break from the job hunting for a bit and headed back up to Byron Bay to catch up with Mum, Steve and Lee.

The weather in Byron was great and Steve & I spent most of every day there body surfing the waves whilst Mum sunbathed. We generally drank too much wine and had a fantastic time. On the drive back to Sydney we seemed to be in the middle of tremendous rains. Luckily we decided to spend the night in Port Macquarie to break up the drive and not Coffs Harbour as that night the town flooded really badly. The next day we drove on to Nelson Bay about 2 hours from Sydney and as there was nothing else to do in the rain we went to the Shark & Ray Centre. It was fantastic and we got to stroke and feed all these rays and sharks and I even swam with them.

Back in Sydney I spent a few days with Mum & Steve before they flew back to England. Then at Easter I met up with Dave and Katie Pearce (old Reading Uni friends) who were on their way back to England after spending 6 months in L.A. We had a few nights of drinking together and a pizza on the last night. Great to see them again.

Then I knuckled down to get some work, completing my OHSS course to get certified to work on building sites. I then started to find some random jobs. Unfortunately the work was not constant (average 2 days a week) and did not pay great as well as being totally undesireable jobs. But still, it gave me some beer money.

Shortly after Dave & Katie left, Coralie got back from her month in New Zealand. I picked her up from the airport after pretending I had overslept and forgotten to collect her. We were both delighted to see each other again and promised we wouldn't spend so long apart from each other again.

I continued to do some odd jobs I got through an agency but the work was not constant and wasn't enough to keep us in Australia and Coralie couldn't seem to get any work.

We therefore decided we would head back to the UK and try to find work there instead. To break the long 24hr journey back to London up a bit we decided we would stop in Singapore for a day and also 10 days in Bali as we had heard such good things about the place.

Before we left Australia we had a week of sightseeing. We walked around the Botanical Gardens and saw some of Sydney in fantastic weather.

The best thing we did that last week was an overnight trip to the Blue Mountains which are just 1.5hrs from Sydney by car. We did some long walks down something like 800 steps into the heart of the forest on the first day.
We got a great sunset that night near the Three Sisters lookout.
We had also managed to land ourselves a fantastic B&B for the night in Katoomba where they only had a spa room left...oh well. It was so nice and sweet and very english feeling and we even had a four-poster bed.

On the second day after a delicious full english breakfast at the b&b we did walk in the blue mountians at a place called Black Heath before driving onto Wentworth Falls. Here we did another fantastic walk.

On the last couple of days in Sydney we took Mike and Emily for a steak dinner at Wooloomooloo to thank them for putting us up for so long. If it wasn't for them we would of had to come home long ago.

Finally on Sunday 24th May we drove to Sydney airport to fly to Singpore for a brief night before flying onto Bali. Goodbye Sydney...what a great city!

Posted by tomcoralie 04:27 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia - The Great Ocean Road (part 2) & Melbourne

Written by Coralie & Tom

overcast 24 °C

The following day, we were back in the car and heading further along the Great Ocean Road, with our first stop being The Arch. Sadly the weather wasn't really on our side during the day which was a bit of a disappointment as we went to Loch Ard Gorge which is a stunning beach set in a steep gorge where it would have been nice to have chilled out for a couple of hours.
Onwards from there, we went to have a look at the Otways Rainforest and did a 45 minute loop walk through clusters of thick ferns, tall eucalypts, trickling streams and culminating at a very old wide tree. The tree was called (you guessed it) Big Tree.

With most of the day gone, we headed on to our destination for the night - Torquay. Whilst driving, we noticed that quite a few cars had pulled up along the side of the road and were looking at something in a tree so being the sheep that we are, we did the same. And it turned out to be a gorgeous koala, sleeping happily in a tree right by the main road and not more than one meter above our heads, which is really rare as they are very shy animals who normally sit high up in the trees. It was such a treat to see one so close and in the wild, and he was totally oblivious to all the fuss around him!

We arrived in Torquay and found ourselves another little cottage which was really lovely - beef stroganoff for dinner was delicious and the mandatory games of sh*thead began. Claudia bowed out early and took herself off to bed but Tom, Steve and I had some serious competition going on and were still up chatting when Claudia came out a good few hours later begging us to shut up! Oh dear! Another late one...

Our final stretch of driving took us into Melbourne (past the Vegemite factory) where we were booked into a really nice serviced apartment for 2 nights. We got there around midday and went straight into town to drop off the car and do a spot of sightseeing and shopping, for Claudia - she finally got her birthday present from Steve, a good pair of Aussie Ugg boots. Steve and I then went and had a look around the Old Melbourne Gaol whilst Tom and Claudia went and did some internet. The Gaol was pretty cool, if not a little eery! All the people that were hung there have had 'death masks' made - basically, they took a mould of their faces after they died and set it in stone, so every cell you go into has this 'mask' and the story behind the person and how they came to be in Gaol. Some were really gruesome! It was interesting to see though and it was where Ned Kelly was finally imprisoned and hung - in fact, the beam which was used to do the hangings is still there, with the rope! Moving on...

From there, we got the tram down to the other side of town and walked back to the house, through the very modern Federation Square and over the river. At the apartment we met Lee, who Tom and I had met up with in Byron Bay and is an old friend of Claudia's. We all got a bit spruced up for a night out and we went straight to Melbourne's Crown Casino which is HUGE! First port of call was dinner so we went out to the riverside and found ourselves a Greek restaurant - not before getting very lost inside, trying to get out! From there, we went back to the Casino and had a walk around - the amount of money being spent in there was ludicrous - we all decided we were in the wrong business...it was incredible! Tom tried his hand at some Black Jack and left a few dollars down.

We completely lost track of time in the casino - no windows and no clocks does that to you. So we finally left a few hours later and went back to the flat to get stuck into some wine there and good old catch ups. We were all pretty exhausted though so it wasn't quite the late night that we'd all had planned, thankfully!

The following day was our last day in Melbourne - we were all fairly hungover and Tom and I were craving Dim Sum so found a place in Chinatown and headed out in that direction. It was rammed and absolutely delicious! Steve, Lee and Claudia went to St Kilda for the day. We all met up back at the flat for our final night together! Having said we would all have an early one as we had very early wake up calls the next morning, that was never going to happen...especially when the boys went out to top up our dwindling supply of wine! Take away pizzas, we were happy as larry and of course, we couldn't part without a game or 10 of cards...which Steve and I managed to lose specatularly. Rock on 1am....not very amusing when my alarm went off less than 6 hours later...

Sadly, our trip together had come to an end and the day of the 16th saw me leaving to fly to Christchurch in New Zealand, Tom getting on a 13hr bus and going back to Sydney, and Steve and Claudia flying up to Airlie Beach. It was a somewhat teary/half asleep goodbye - having had such an amazing two weeks together, I couldn't help but be sad that it had ended, although I couldn't help but chuckle to myself in the back of the cab at all the laughs we'd had.

Posted by tomcoralie 00:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia - The Great Ocean Road (part 1)

Written by Tom

semi-overcast 24 °C

After crossing into the state of Victoria we came to Portland. Again we had no accommodation booked so we went to the tourist information building down by the harbour. These guys in Australia are so helpful!!! They have long lists of all the accommodation options in town. The lists are then split into types like hotels, self-catering or backpackers hostles with phone numbers, address, prices etc. We asked for something self-catering and they recommended a couple and even phoned them up for us to check availability. In the end we went for this house only a couple of minutes away, next to the town centre with views of the harbour. It was such a delightful & complete house (even had a spa bath) and it cost us altogether $130, so so cheap!

Once we were settled in we headed down to this national park just 20km away. We stopped at a secluded beach and after dipping our big toe in realised it was too cold to swim in (England sea temperature). Then it was on to the petrified forest which was pretty cool but whilst walking to and from the car park to the stone trees we were followed by a sweet (lost-looking dog). We then walked to a blow hole but the dog still followed. No-one else was around and nobody seemed to be looking for it. When we called the number on the collar the person knew nothing about any dog so we took it with us in the car.
On the way home we got a call back and the story became clear (the woman I had originally spoken to had left the dog with her mother and it had wandered off quite far away). We then met the mother along the road and all was sorted.

In the morning we drove to Port Fairy, which is a bit like Sidmouth, and walked around Griffith Island to the lighthouse.
Shortly after Port Fairy we detoured to Tower Hill Volcanic Craters for a steep walk along the edge of some extinct volcanoes.

Then we started on the Great Ocean Road (one of the most beautiful drives in the world...official) a road through rugged coastal scenery and rainforest. Our first stop was at the Bay of Islands. Unfortunately the weather was becoming stormy, so we didn't have the idyllic sun and blue sea we wanted, but it still made for an atmospheric photo. The funny thing was, due to all the static electricity in the air, Mum & Coralie's hair was standing up on end at all angles, like you see at school when you use the Van der Graph generator in physics class.

By the time we walked to the next feature (the Grotto) the rain was starting to come down. We therefore skipped a few sights along the road and headed straight to Port Campbell and checked into the Port 'O' Call Motel. Whilst Mum prepared a delicious cottage pie, Steve, C and I headed out to the 12 Apostles (tall, isolated rock stacks in the water) for sunset armed with a box of red wine.
Luckily for us the clouds cleared a bit and we got the most beautiful sunset. It began with rays of sunlight behind low lying cloud, turning to red skies lighting up the apostles and ended up with a moody, angry fire-bursting sky.

Posted by tomcoralie 20:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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