December 30th 2013 saw us wake in the plush (by our standards at least) Bintang Flores Hotel in Labuan Bajo. With the morning our own, we made the most of the breakfast buffet, walked along the beach and refreshed ourselves in the pool.
Our Viator guide collected us once more, and with some time still before our return flight to Denpasar, we opted to investigate a local site known as the “Mirror Cave.”
Apparently originally discovered by a Portuguese missionary, it is said that when there is water in the cave and sunlight streams through a skylight in the roof it reflects like a mirror, hence the rain.
It had been raining recently when we arrived, however we seemed to miss the mirror effect, but did discover much mud! We looked a little skeptical when on arrival, we were both issued with hard hats, but it wasn’t long before we’d both banged our heads on several occasions, thankfully avoiding any actual damage.
As already mentioned, there was however plenty of mud, and in short time we were finding our thongs (flip flops) would quickly become stuck in its vice like grip. There was nothing for it, but to go bare fit, and hopefully avoid any scratches whilst our feet remained in this mud and bat guano mixture (we survived unscathed, and quite enjoyed our little side trip to the cave).
So, our time in Flores officially done, it was a short flight later that saw us again touching down in Bali, and a short transfer later in the coastal town of Sanur (a brief stopover before we fast boat the following morning to the Gili Islands).
It was immediately apparent that here, as we got closer to the eve of the new year, that things were busier. Thankfully we found a place closer to the harbour, and away from the resorts. It wasn’t much, but all we were really after was a bed.
After a beautiful dinner of duck, whilst Sarah found herself an appointment for a bikini wax, it was I who found a beer and a table at a local reggae bar. With the appointment complete, we both indulged in a few more beers, took in some good tunes, before eventually retiring for the evening.
Those few beers would have a lasting legacy, for by morning when the car arrived to whisk us away to Benoa Harbour (it wasn’t until we’d actually gotten to Sanur we’d learned that other boats could have taken us from there) and our fast boat, Sarah was feeling a little poorly. Those beers, seemingly the cause.
Weather and sea conditions permitting, it promised to be a 2 or 3 hour boat trip, and it wasn’t long before the combination of small, fast boat and choppy seas (which saw the boat rock up and down like a yo-yo) left Sarah, and a few other passengers, looking very pallid and unwell.
The problem with seasickness, is that even if you do physically vomit, unless the seas calm, or you get off the boat, the cause of unease does not leave, so as one can imagine, it was a very long hour or two.
But finally landfall we did make (after a brief wade through shallow waters to shore), much to Sarah’s relief. At first glance, Gili Trawangan looked rustic enough, although it was certainly much busier than we’d expected.
One thing we did quickly discover however, is that nowhere is far from anywhere in the Gili’s, and before we knew it, a young gent from our bungalows had appeared to lead us through a couple of narrow laneways, found our room and it was time to explore.
Although by now, there was only one type of exploration I was interested in, was in ascertaining my lunch options! This decision was left solely to me, as the thought of food was still in no way appealing to Sarah after her trials on board the fast boat (for the record, lunch was a delicious chicken with Sambal and obligatory Bintang affair).
With no solid plans, we went for a stroll, and before we knew it, found ourselves doing a complete circuit of the island.
Unfortunately for us, the weather remained overcast, but I can certainly see the appeal of the western side of the island, both for the amazing sunsets it would offer, and for the scarcity of people in comparison to the east coast.
By late afternoon we’d locked in a snorkeling boat trip for the following day (another chance to use our new gear and camera), and the early evening found us settling in to a waterfront bar for some cocktails, beers and a delicious dinner of BBQ Snapper.
Perhaps it was the successive early mornings and our hectic schedule catching up with us, or the after affects of a rough sea voyage (or perhaps we are both just getting old), but after the odd Pina Colada, Mojito and Bintang had been downed and dinner consumed, glancing at the time and realised midnight was still almost 4 hours away!
Thankfully for us, fireworks seemed in plentiful supply, so even whilst we sipped the last of our beverages and contemplated how to fill the rest of the evening, a small light show was launched from the nearby beach
By 9.30pm we were already in bed reading our Kindles, and as I like to view it, we’d celebrated our midnight Melbourne time, instead of local time!
At least it would leave us fresh for the following morning (no sore heads this year), and I couldn’t help but have a small chuckle to myself at 4am (as I imagined many a bleary eyed, head pounding tourist waking in confusion) when the first Muezzin call to prayer echoed over the island…