● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sengigi, Lombok

24th - 27th September

Our final destination in Indonesia was to be Sengigi, on the Lombok mainland. The Lonely Planet does a great job on making Sengigi sound like a destination not to be missed. We picked out a recommended place to stay – the Pondok Siti Hawa – named after the owner - and settled in for a few days. Siti Hawa cooked up a feast for us on our first night, and we learned a lot from our hosts about the island and the projects that they were involved in.

Sengigi was pretty deserted, with few tourists and lots of empty restaurants and bars – we didn’t really sample the nightlife her as there didn’t seem to be any! The big draw of the area is the beaches, but they did have a problem with litter and weren’t as picturesque as those we had come across on the Gili Islands.

We hired a motorbike for a couple of days so that we could head into Mataram to sort out our onward travel arrangements, and take a ride father afield to the north of Lombok.

As we said, Siti Hawa and her husband, Hussein, do a lot for the local community, including organising litter patrols on the beaches and developing new ways for the local people to make the most from their land. Hussein (an ex-pat from NZ) has invented a way to use old plastic bottles to irrigate the land so that crops can be grown year round as opposed to only during the wet season. We rode up to one of Husseins pieces of land where he is trialling his inventions, and were given a sack to bring back some samples of the produce that was being grown.

The ride back with Ady, Sam and a huge sack of vegetables on a small scooter made us blend in with the locals and their overloaded two wheel vehicles. We also nearly ran out of petrol so Ady had to ride at a snails pace in order to make it back to the petrol station! On the way back to Sengigi, we wound our way past a number of beaches – some deserted, others lined with boutique hotels. We stopped off at one such hotel owned by a friend who we’d met on Gili T. The place was amazing – a far cry from any place we’d stayed at for the last six months! Our friend was out of town on business but we were shown around by the receptionist and arranged to come back and meet later in the day.

When we headed back later in the day we were treated to cocktails in the bar and then given a tour of the private villa complex near the hotel – another amazing place that we wouldn’t have expected to see in this location. We were invited to come back and use the pool the following day – unfortunately it rained very heavily and we ended up having a swim in the rain, not quite the last day in Indonesia that we had expected!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Gili Islands

6th - 24th September

The Gili’s are situated just off the north-west coast of neighbouring Lombok. Lombok is a short distance across the water. The journey there should really have been straightforward but involved two buses and two boats and 12 hours of our time. The sun was setting as we took the second boat for the short 45 minute hop across from Lombok to Gili Trawangen. The sea was quite rough and Ady got a soaking but that didn’t really matter as the culmination of the journey made up for it.

Gili Trawangen is the largest of the 3 Gili islands, and is home to the main backpacker community. With golden beaches and coral reefs, it’s an idyllic setting and one we decided we would be able to spend quite some time at.

Along with a couple of people we met the previous day in Ubud, we took the first decent room we could find. By now it was dark and trekking around the island was the last thing we wanted to do!

The following day we moved accommodation to a much nicer place called the Pondok Sederhana. We decided that we would stay at least 6 nights on Gili Trawangen, giving us time to both relax and recover from our month in cold Australia, and to do our Padi dive course.

Our first few days were spent on the beach and in the tro
pical water. At 28°C, it was like a bath! We donned our snorkels and fins and explored the many reefs around the island. The variety of colourful tropical fish and corals were breathtaking, along with huge Turtles, it meant that more time was spent in the water than out!

Options for cheap eating were limited, especially as
it was Ramadan with many places closed during the day, but we managed to find a few places where lunch and dinner could be had for a song! Kiki Novi Café deserves a mention, as it was run by who we presumed to be Kiki. She made up a different price for things every day but was hard to beat with a ten thousand padang special at lunchtime. Pumpkin curry and Nasi Goreng were our favourites from here. The Bakso stand near the Jetty also served up a great noodle soup with meatballs.

We met some people who were also staying at our accommodation and it turned out that two of them, Chris and Karleen were also looking to do a dive course. We teamed up with them and were able to get a discount on the course. Big Bubble turned out to be our dive centre of choice and our instructor was to be Vanessa.

The 3 day Padi Open Water course allows us to dive to 18 meters and consists of some theory, several pool dives, and 4 open water dives. Sam was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to equalise the pressure in her ears as she has always suffered on aeroplanes. Ady convinced her to give it a go, and all was going well until we got out into the sea on the afternoon of day 1!

Sam was able to equalise after all but Ady failed mi
serably and wasn’t able to get down below 2 meters! After 10 frustrating minutes, Ady ended up back on the dive boat and was learning to pack up his equipment by himself 

On her first dive, Sam managed to spot a Green Turtle, a Hawkesbill Turtle, an octopus, a lion fish, a seaslug and lots of Nemos! Ady was left spotting divers bobbing on the surface but not much else!

Ady was unsure of what he could do to catch back up with the others, but our instructor, Vanessa, suggested that Ady tried again first thing the following morning, by heading into the sea from the shore outside the dive centre. The plan was to swim out to one of the mooring buoys for the dive boats, and then to use the line to slowly go deeper and try to equalise again. Somehow it worked, and before he knew it Ady was 12 meters down and had caught back up with the progress of the others.

The morning of day 2 was spent in the pool going through more exercises and then we were back out on the dive boat in the afternoon for our second open water dive. This second dive, also to 12 meters, was at Hans Reef, a spectacular coral formation with thousands of colourful fish. We didn’t ta
ke much notice of the scenery as we had a number of other exercises to carry out on this dive, including taking our mask on and off while 6 meters down, which neither of us were looking forward to given that we both wear contact lenses! We completed all the tasks successfully and we could then continue on the fun part of the dive, swimming around the reef!

The final day was supposed to be straight forward – 2 further open water dives, and an exam. In the morning, we headed out to Shark Point to dive down to 18 meters. Unfortunately, Ady’s ears failed him again and he was going nowhere. Back on the boat while the others were underwater, a feeling of deja-vu came over! If you have any degree of congestion from a previous cold, it can make it very difficult if not impossible to equalise the air pressure inside your ears. Ady decided that the best course of action would be to give the diving a rest for a few days to see if his ear would improve. Sam continued and completed the course with flying colours and even beat Ady’s score in the theory test!

Over the next week, we whiled away our time on the beaches and around the Big Bubble swimming pool. We met lots of people and spent the evenings in Tir Na Nog (the Irish bar!) - t
he only bar with any atmosphere (it was very quiet in most places given it was Ramadan). Most of our meals were of the budget variety, but occasionally we splashed out and headed to the Scallywags Barbeque. Although dinner here would cost 5 times the cheaper places, the food was excellent and an all you can eat salad bar for starter (and dessert if you weren’t full!) made it possible to eat until you were fit to burst.

On the 16th September it happened to be a special day for Ady, and a meal at Scallywags was called for. We were joined by several friends that we had spent our time with and this made for a good atmosphere. Ady splashed out and had a steak, cooked rare, which was delicious. A special dessert of cheesecake was brought to the table along with candles and ‘Happy Birthday to Ya’ was played over the sound system! Suitably embarrassed, we headed on to the Irish to have a few drinks to celebrate. The local vodka was a bargain here and as this was a special occasion Ady decided to try the notorious
“Vodka Joss”, a firm favourite amongst the dive crowd and involves pouring a sachet of sweet energy powder into ones mouth, quickly followed by the vodka, shake it all around and swallow!

Unfortunately, due to the sheer amount of food we’d eaten the Joss didn’t have quite the desired effect and we didn’t manage to stay out much beyond midnight. Well, what do you expect at the grand age of 31!!!!

Towards the end of the week Ady decided to give the diving another go and hopefully complete his Padi. He still had to complete dives 3 and 4, but fortunately this time his luck was in (that or the Sudafed had finally kicked in!) and he was able to equalise and dive to 18 metres – the required depth to gain the certification. Finally, with both of us now sporting our bright orange Big Bubble dive t-shirts we packed our bags and took the next boat to Gili Air.

The short boat ride over to Gili Air was pretty hairy – we very nearly capsized a number of times and everybody got completely drenched whenever the small narrow boat tipped from side to side. The Foreign office website warns of a high incidence of shipwrecks in Indonesia and advises against boat travel unless necessary. Now we know why!

Gili Air is the second largest of the three islands, and although diving is still popular here the scene was a world away from Trawangen. We stayed just three nights as we were running out of cash and there are no ATM’s on the islands. Gili Air gets touted as the “family island” by Lonely Planet, and we very almost gave it a wide berth. In reality we found the island much less developed and more backpacker oriented than touristy Trawangen; the sleeping and eating options were more rustic and low key but the island was all the more charming for it. We found a hut just off the beach and spent the days basking on the sand outside Bar Zipp and snorkelling on the nearby reef.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


2nd – 6th September

We broke our time in Indonesia up in three main parts – Kuta and Ubud in Bali, the Gili Islands and Sengigi in Lombok. First stop was Bali.

Stepping off the plane in Bali we immediately had that holiday feeling again as the heat and humidity hit us – and it was 11pm at night! Ah, it was good to be on the road again!

As we passed through the airport, the immigration man decided that Ady must have looked like rich pickings as he whispered ‘give me ten dollars’ over the counter. Ady refused and nothing more was said. Welcome to South East Asia!

Our first stop in Bali was Kuta, what can only be described as Tenerife for Australians, only fortunately for them, more upmarket than the European version. With an amazing beach and great surfing, we were happy at least, even if we couldn’t afford the cocktails in the pricey beach bars!

We hired a motorbike for a couple of days and headed down to the Bukit Peninsular to see what the beaches were like. After riding round without a map, we spotted a tourist with a surfboard on his bike, and followed him. Before long, we were stopped by a couple of policemen who wanted to see our documents. Ady proudly produced his International Drivers Licence (thanks Ben!) and got away without any ‘fines’. The guy we were following was not so lucky! Not knowing where we were going again, we stumbled upon Pedang Pedang beach, which turned out to be a beautiful small cove with white sand and turquoise sea backed by chalky white cliffs inhabited by monkeys. The monkeys also liked to shower the tourists that chose to sit under their trees… how lovely!

In Kuta, we had a mission finding decent places to eat and drink which didn’t cost the earth. The majority of people here are on two week holidays, and the prices are inflated because of this. We decided to move on after three nights, and headed inland to Ubud.

Ubud gave us a taste of the real Bali and had a really nice chilled vibe about it, but it was still full of tourists on day trips from Kuta. We stayed just one night and decided to go straight to the Gili Islands in search of some dive action.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

At last! MASSIVE update from the last 2 months!

As you'll see below, we've finally got our act together to give you all the latest from our trip.

In chronological order, we've just uploaded the following stories and pictures!

9th - 11th July - Guayaquil
11th - 14th July - Riobamba
14th - 15th July - Quito
15th - 18th July - Panama
18th - 22nd July - Los Angeles
23rd July - The day we didn't have...
24th - 31st July - Fiji
31st July - 30th August - Sydney
30th August - 2nd September - Melbourne

We know you've all been waiting for these for ages so we hope you enjoy them!

Following on from Indonesia, we are now in Malaysian Borneo. We won't wait as long to update next time!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


30th August – 2nd September

You may think that Melbourne is just another Australian city, but we found it a world away from Sydney.

Simone, who used to live in the flat below Ady kindly offered us a place to stay while we were in Melbourne, and showed us what the city had to offer.

With only 3 nights, we set about exploring the city by day and night. There’s no denying that Sydney is a beautiful place, but we both found that there was one big thing missing as far as we were concerned – decent bars and nightlife (The Annandale excepted!) Within the first 48 hours we’d discovered how different Melbourne is in this respect.

Like a small version of London, we felt instantly at home and hope to be able to spend more time there the next time we are in Australia.

A big thanks again to Simone and Jason for putting us up and entertaining us while we were there!

Visitors Since 19th May 2009...