They say getting there is half the fun. We would be hard pressed to call our journey to Gili Meno fun, but it certainly was an adventure. And throughout the day there were many lessons to be learnt about living in Indonesia.
Gili Meno is one of three small islands off the north-west coast of Lombok, famous for clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, great snorkelling and generally stepping down from the hustle and bustle of Bali. From our home in Ubud it was quite a journey, we took a car to the coast, then a fast boat to the main island, then another boat to Gili Meno.
I had confirmed our boat booking several times just to make sure it was all in order, having learned from experience that things don’t always pan out as expected in Bali. We were packed and ready at the pre-arranged time for the drive to Padang Bay, where we would get on an EkaJaya fast boat to the Gilis. We went to the front of our villa at 9am, only to be told the driver had been there at 8am to pick us up, and had now gone. A quick call to the boat company had them sending another driver, but we would be moved to a later boat.
At Padang Bay, there was obviously no record of us as passengers on the later boat, and at the last minute they rushed us on to the boat, while the other passengers waited for us. Contrary to some reports of rough trips across the Lombok Strait, it was a pretty smooth ride this time, taking just 1.5 hrs. We all still felt a little seasick sitting downstairs with the air con struggling to keep it cool (the return trip wasn’t as uneventful, Olive throwing up and it taking twice as long to get back due to two extra stops)
We had initially been told that the boat will take us to our destination on Gili Meno, they only told us after we had booked that we would be dropped at Gili Trawangan (Gili T) and have to make our own way across to Gili Meno. We took the cheap Island Hopper public boat across from Gilt T to Gili Meno. It was only a short trip, though it took longer to get the anchor up and get the motor started than the journey across. Due to the rough waters, the landing was on the opposite side of the island to the usual spot, and we had get off the boat and walk about 100m through knee-high water, carrying three big suitcases and two children – thank goodness for some helpful passengers.
The journey was not over, we still had to get to our hotel. There is no motorized transport on the island, just cute horse and carts (called cidomos). We did not have far to go, we tried haggling for the price but the transport cartel would not budge and we had to reluctantly pay the exorbitant $8 for a short ride. We had no choice, but the kids loved it.
At the hotel there was another situation, the family room that I had specifically booked a month earlier, paid a deposit for, and conversed with them several times about, was not available (no explanation given). They put us in another room which they insisted was the same size (we were not convinced) and further back from the beach. We needed an extra bed, and we had to ask three times to arrange it, so it took them several hours to get it done. They are not the friendliest hosts.
We considered moving hotels, but the island was pretty busy and family rooms are hard to come by. We were tired from a long day, so we decided just a meal at the hotel would suffice. But, crazily the restaurant does not open for meals until 7pm, a little late for the kids.
So things didn’t start well for us, though once settled we were ready to make the most of the relaxed pace of Gili Meno. From our room it was only 20 metres to the gorgeous white sand, crystal blue beach! Five nights here, and not much else to do but hang out, eat, swim and snorkel. Ahh the serenity!