Another month, another break. Well, this break was actually spread over two months (the end of December and the beginning of January) but you get the point. Working for Super these past fifteen months I feel like I’ve been on as many holidays as all my friends back home put together…which may actually be about fifteen! Our final break before the two-month sprint to the end of the semester took place as the sun was setting on 2010. Eleven days to venture as far and wide as we desired….
I have always spent New Years Eve on an island. Most have been spent on a medium sized island called United Kingdom. One was spent on a super big island on the other side of the world from my home but not too dissimilar nonetheless; Australia. Last year was spent on a pretty small island in the shape of Ko Lanta just off the west coast of Thailand. This years was spent on by far the smallest island to date however when I found myself on Gili Meno. (The name Gili even translates as “Small Island”). Meno is one of three islands just off the coast of a slightly larger island, Lombock, which itself is off the coast of an even larger and well-known island called Bali (it is to here which you would fly into from Thailand to reach the Gili’).
The transport system on the Gili’ is reasonably simple to understand and negotiate. There are no traffic lights, round-a-bouts or even tarmac roads for that matter. Indeed, you will find no cars or motorbikes. Even police are absent! Instead horse-drawn carts line the side of a sandy track under the shade of palm trees close to where the long-boat arrives and departs with it’s twice daily hoard of people sporting Deuter and The North Face backpacks (or little pink handbags in the case of one unlucky passenger cruelly made to carry his girlfriends Christmas present for the entire trip). Not that transport is required at all. By foot (minus the bags) it is possible to stroll the circumference of each of the islands in less than two hours. And dependant upon which of the three islands you find yourself, you will discover a varying number of little cafés/restaurants/bars and bungalow accommodation. Gili Air is the closest island to Lombock and the smallest too. Here you will be met by only a handful of locals trying to persuade you to spend your time in their bungalows. Mr. Lucky of Lucky’s Bungalows will suggest coming with him as “you will be able to watch the sun set every evening in the cool breeze that you don’t feel on the east side. Do you like to smoke? We have if you like!”. “But his are 150,000 per night. I give you 80,000 with breakfast” counteracts Mr. Mussan of Mussan bungalows. Our budget makes our choice for us and after satisfying Mr.Lucky with a promise to head over to watch the sunset on the west side with him later we set off to lay our heavy bags down(and of course our not so heavy little pink ones).
As with a lot of the small islands found off of the Thai coast, accommodation on the Gili’ is rather basic. The electricity doesn’t function the full 24 hours of the day and you must get used to brushing your teeth and showering using salt water (fresh water accommodation can be found but obviously at a higher price). For New Years Eve we decided to change islands having spent two days on Gili Air already and with a flight back to reality quickly approaching. John and Janet took the early morning long-boat (a fifteen minute voyage) across to the middle of the three islands Gili Meno. Brittney and I failed to make the crossing without getting a little wet though. We found ourselves 20m under the oceans surface with flippers on our feet and tanks on our torsos! Scuba diving here is world-renowned and at $35 a dive, is an opportunity tough to pass on. I was down for just fifteen minutes because of equalizing problems but saw some stunning coral in this short time. Brittney got full use of her tank and saw some giant turtles along with a plethora of other fascinating looking fish. We made a quick detour to the largest island Gili Trawangan (known as the party island) as this is the only one with an atm machine. After paying the scuba people (who very kindly wavered my payment due to the problems I experienced) we were dropped off on Gili Meno to join up with John and Janet who we found gazing out to sea sipping on Avocado shakes. After some great seafood “Nasi Chumpor” for lunch we set out in search of a bar to sink some happy hour beers and watch 2010 come to a close. Our last supper of the year was a healthy affair and consisted of some nutritious vegetables such as onions, peppers and mushrooms. A tropical storm created some epic scenes on our walk home where pitch-blackness suddenly changed to bright whiteness with everything becoming illuminated. On those sporadic occasions the place appeared as a Tim Burton film set. Lightening crashed down, fireworks shot up and thunder deafened us all. A monumental end to a holiday and a magnificent beginning to a new year.