Instead of stopping in Medana Bay on Lombok where the planned rally stop was, we decided to duck out of the official dinner this time and head to the island of Gili Air, just off the north west of Lombok. Along with neighbouring Gili Meno and Gili Trawandan these islands are a well known holiday destination among backpackers - we increased the average age considerably. The anchorage was very peaceful at night, but in the day we had constant washes from ferry and snorkel boats coming in and out. We originally picked up a mooring ball only to find that we dragged on it so we changed to a larger one which had a much bigger lump of concrete on its base. Together with a number of other rally boats we had a great few days of partying. The first night was Brooke’s birthday (Psycho Puss) and two days later was Lynne’s (Sunchaser) - each time we celebrated with cocktails on the beach followed by dinner - how civilised - so we didn’t get out of training we did the same the evening in between as well!
Gili Air was a lovely, very flat island, nice beaches and no cars - only pony and trap as transport. A pure holiday island with lots of single story hostels, cabins, shops, restaurants and bars. We were able to walk around the island and across the middle - past the one mosque for the locals. Everything comes on and off the island by boat and, with no vehicles, is unloaded by hand. We saw building stones being carried up the beach one at a time and the foundations for new buildings being dug by hand.
We slipped from the mooring ball in Gili Air (intentionally this time) at 2.00am for the sail along the north coast of Bali to arrive in Lovina beach before dusk the next day. During the night we had a full moon and by the time we were off the coast of Bali we had daylight which was just as well as there were numerous fishing boats out at first light and the coastal waters were littered with fish attractors - some of which were barely visible until very close - a known hazard in this area and hence the timing of the passage.
We only had five days in Bali which we were determined to make the most of. The island has a very different feel and look to it, principally as it is predominantly Hindu with ornate temples and architecture. The northern side of Bali is much quieter than the south where the tourist mecca is centred - Kuta beach near Denpesar, know for its large waves and parties. Although quieter, everything is relative, the roads were very busy with motor bikes buzzing amongst the lorries and buses, often laden with an entire family, and animals - we even saw a mattress on the back of a moped. In order to have a good look around we decided to take our lives in our hands and hire a scooter for the day - in fact we borrowed one from Dalman, the boat boy who greeted us as we came into the anchorage and who arranged to fill our cans with fuel. Unlike many we at least wore helmets - Chris drove and started off quite gingerly as we wended our way through the hills behind Lovina past paddy fields, clove and cocoa plantations taking in the intoxicating smell of the spices and the incense from the temples and shrines, trying to ignore the piles of plastic rubbish. As Chris’ confidence grew we got faster and faster and by the time we got in to the town of Singaraja we were swerving in and out with the best of them - luckily we returned to Lovina unscathed.
The rally’s stop in Lovina coincided with the annual Lovina Festival with lots of competitions, local music and dancing each day. We were invited to one such event which was billed as bull racing so we all walked along to a nearby village to witness this event and quite a spectacle it turned out to be. Rather than racing for speed the bulls, elaborately adorned with bells and bright colours, were paired into yolks pulling a low cart on which the ‘driver’ balances. They would go from end to end of the the field with their tails up and heads back - prizes being awarded for the most coordinated, high stepping bulls and seemingly the exuberance of the driver. Whilst eagerly awaiting the verdict of the judges (Chris had a beer riding on the result) we were yet again entertained with balinese dancing and music.
The following day, and our last in Bali, the rally participants were invited for a day out including a visit to the Brahma Vihara Arama buddhist temple, a cocoa museum, hot springs and we were welcomed into the home of the farmer in the village of Umagero - well inland from the coast. Chris decided that he had done with being a tourist so stayed with the boat whilst Sara joined the tour. It was a great day, again having a good look at the countryside, towns and villages (this time from the more relaxed seat of a car rather than a moped). The village of Umagero had not opened its doors to visitors before and their welcome and hospitality was overwhelming - the farmer (who employs most of the villagers) and his wife opened their family home to us and the village laid on a magnificent feast including suckling pig, with lots of music, dancing and entertainment for us to watch and join in with. There were of course the inevitable speeches from the owner of the farm, the village chief, the community chief and chief of local police (at least this time they were translated for us) all welcoming us to Umagero and encouraging us and our families to return soon. Just after the lunch and entertainment were finished the heavens opened and we had a huge sustained down fall - this was the first very much needed rain for five months and all the locals were overjoyed and credited us with bringing good luck to the village. Yet again we were humbled by the heartwarming hospitality of this very proud farmer and the Balinese people.
Although we could have stayed in Bali for quite some time there is still more of this wonderful country to see, so off we set for Karimun Jawa off the coast of Java......