Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Journey to 3 Islands: Medang to Gili Lawang to Gili Air

After our hasty retreat from Wera and our unexpected overnight sail, we made our way towards Medang, a small island off the main island of Sumbawa. The overnight sail proved to be uneventful, and we arrived in Medang around lunchtime. We dropped the anchor just in time as a squall brought a big downpour of rain. We love the rain after a sail, as everything on the boat gets a good rinse and the salt water gets washed off. It’s also nice for the rig to get a good rinse, so everything was nice and clean when the sun came out again!

Our Medang anchorage during the squall
 After some lunch, we hopped in the dinghy to explore the anchorage. It was a little rolly where we were, the swell coming around into the bay, and rocking the boat from side to side, a bit of an uncomfortable movement. We wanted to see if we anchored a little closer in, if it would be any better. There was a nice sand patch a little closer in, but it would put us a lot closer to the coral reef, and although the swell was slightly diminished there, it was not completely gone, so we decided it was not worth the effort to move. We did put a stern anchor out, which effectively pulled the boat around into the swell, so the movement was now up and down instead of side to side, and it was much better! Dave, Gaby and I snorkeled over the coral for a little while. It was nice, but not spectacular.

Much better when the sun comes out!
We left early the next morning, heading over to the next island of Lombok, and an anchorage we had read about called Gili Lawang. “Gili” means little island, so there are lots of “Gili’s” around! We were probably about 2 or 3 hours out from arriving at Gili Lawang, when the sky just blackened. We had been watching it for a while on the horizon, behind and next to us, and Dave decided to put the radar on, to see the size of the storm that was brewing. It was massive, and moving at quite a speed! It was time to batten down the hatches! First we took down the mainsail, and rolled up the jib. Then we put up all the canvases and stowed anything that could possibly fall or fly away. And then we waited. Soon it was upon us, and while we only had about 26 knots at the most of wind, the rain was torrential! Visibility was almost zero, so if there were any fishing boats around without AIS, we would not have seen them. The storm lasted about an hour, and we just put out a little bit of jib and sailed with it. We didn’t want to get to the point where we had to pass between two small islands to get to our anchorage too soon, so we were happy to just go slow. Our friends on “Aerial IV” did not have as easy an experience with this storm. They were a day behind us, and had just anchored in Medang, where we had been the day before. The direction of the storm put them on a lee shore, which means that the boat was being pushed onto shore, the worst possible direction to be anchored in. They had much fiercer winds, and waves started breaking over their bow. Their anchor started dragging, and they were heading for the reef! The story they told us when we finally met up with them two days later was quite terrifying, and they almost lost their boat that day! You are much safer being out at sea when a storm like this hits, and we were lucky to be away from land when it hit us.

This is what we saw during the storm - not much, is it?!!

So after the sky had cleared a little, we were able to make our way into Gili Lawang, which was a little challenging, as there was a cut in the reef we had to find, and whilst it was not stormy, the sun was not out, and that’s how you can normally spot the coral. With everyone in position (Gaby and I each on a bow, Ben standing on the coachroof and Dave at the helm), we edged our way in through a narrow pass in the coral into a calm little bay. We later discovered that we did not, in fact, enter through the pass, but just a small cut in the reef! Just before the sun set, we saw some sails on the horizon and realized another boat was coming into the anchorage! As I’ve mentioned before, there are hardly any boats sailing here, and to see another cruising boat is quite rare! As the sun was about to set, it was almost impossible to find the pass, so Dave and the kids went out in the dinghy to help guide “Take Two”, a Maverick 400 catamaran, into the anchorage. The Maverick is a boat that is built in Cape Town, South Africa, and we had seriously looked at buying one at one stage. After “Take Two” was anchored, we had a quick drink with them, and then a quiet evening aboard. “Take Two”, like “Popeye” was going in the opposite direction to us, so we were able to pick their brain a little on what lay ahead for us in Bali.

Fishermen on the reef at Gili Lawang

The view of Lombok from GiliLlawang after the rain cleared next morning
The next day we said our farewells to “Take Two” and headed out the correct pass this time, and on to Gili Air. There are three Gili islands off the North West corner of Lombok. Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. Gili Trawangan is supposedly the party island, Gili Meno is the quiet island, and Gili Air was reported to be something in between. We had read that it had changed a lot over the last few years, but we still wanted to check it out. We arrived around 3:00pm, and were able to pick up a mooring ball. After getting settled, we took the dinghy ashore. While it was quite built up, it was a pleasant respite from the poverty stricken villages we’d seen on the other islands. There were lots of tourists, many were young backpackers there to dive, but the island had a very cool, funky vibe to it!  We loved it!!

Enjoying spectacular views of Lombok’s highest volcano, Gunung Rinjani on the way to Gili Air
There are no cars on Gili Air, only bicycles and pony carts! We did see a few scooters, but they were electric. The tree-lined sand streets were swept and clean, and the small island can be circumnavigated by bicycle in about an hour. We were starving and after exploring a little on foot, had an early dinner of delicious Indonesian curry, which, for the 4 of us, along with drinks and a little starter of guacamole and chips, cost us around $22! 

Tree lined streets of Gili Air

You can see where the priorities lie in Gili Air

Pony Carts!

Gaby is determined to get one of these hats!

The captain enjoying a cold (and large!) one!

The sign says "Paradise"...need I say more?
The next morning we went back to shore, and explored the other half of the island. At the dock, we were approached by an old man, who was trying to tell us something about the mooring. At first we thought he was just asking if that was where we were from (the boat on the mooring), but we soon realized that he actually was asking for something. We followed him to a dive shop/money changer, who told us that he was owner of the mooring, and we had to pay to use it. We were more than happy to pay the small fee for the convenience of the mooring, and forked over a whopping $5 for the privilege! 

Images from walking around Gili Air on our second day there


Cool and funky: beanbags on the beach

Side streets on Gili Air
Gaby had been dying to go for a pony cart ride, so we negotiated with one of the drivers to take us around the island. The poor little pony had to pull all 4 of us and the driver, and while it was certainly not the most comfortable ride, it was a great experience, and we got to see the interior and a little bit of the “off the beaten path” part of the island. The pony was hot and sweaty and panting when we were dropped off again after our little island tour, and so were we!

Ben and Gaby on the pony cart

Gaby and our trusty steed
More Gili Air streets

We headed back to the boat and got our snorkeling gear and Dave’s surfboard and headed out to the reef to cool off. The kids and I snorkeled while Dave paddled out to the break to try his hand at surfing again! The waves were not huge, but he had to be very careful as they were breaking on a shallow coral reef. We kept a close eye on him from the dinghy and he managed to catch a few waves! He kept saying, “just one more”, which turned into about 10 more, but he was having so much fun, who could deny him?!

Waves break on the reef at Gili Air
We had just gotten back to the boat and were giving the hulls a bit of a clean, when we saw some familiar sails round the corner of Gili Air. “Aerial IV” had arrived! It was really great to see them again as it can get a little lonely being the only cruising boat around! Luckily there was a mooring ball right next to us that they were able to tie onto. About an hour later and hugs all around, we were back on shore, walking the streets of Gili Air once more. We had a lovely evening with Eric and Birgitta, getting caught up on their stories of the past few days over a bottle of local Bintang beer, and some more delicious Indonesian curry!

Night falls in Gili Air

We headed out the next morning, while “Aerial IV” opted to stay for a few days. We were heading to Bali to explore the north of the island before heading back towards Denpasar, in the south, where we ultimately need to check out of the country. We plan to meet up with “Aerial IV” again there, and hopefully also with our friends on “Moby”, who will be making a quick stop here after their unintended visit and stay in Australia after hitting the log on the way to Indonesia.

We loved our stay in Gili Air and would have loved to stay longer, but time waits for no-one, and with our visa deadline looming, it was time to pull up the anchor (or in this case, release the mooring lines!) and move on once again!  Destination:  Bali!

1 comment:

  1. I like the look of Gili Air a lot. Never heard of it. Looking forward to hearing about Bali.