The Gilli Islands
All I could think about after climbing the Gunung Rinjani was relaxing on a beautiful sunny beach in the Gilli islands off the northern coast of Lombok. Everyone talked about them, and I think they are quickly becoming the backpacker destination after Bali and Lombok. But my plans to sit on the sand, read the third book of The Hunger Games and sleep like an insane person proved harder than expected. Indonesian men must be, up until this point, the most annoying I have yet encountered when it came to leaving me alone.
The French firemen and I went straight from our volcano adventure to the boat to Gilli Tarawanan, which is the main Gilly, or “the party Gilli.” On the little boat I ran into Pablo, the Chilean I met in Bali! We had talked about renting a villa in the Gillis if we found enough people, but I was starting at this point to become restless, since I had had company for three weeks or so. And in spite of what many believe, I am an introvert, so I need solitude to recover my energy. After my epic and very amateur climb up the Gunung Rinjani, I just wanted to just go to a bungalow by myself and read. Yet it became difficult; Pablo introduced some Canadian friends of his, so together with them and the firemen we were a little group again. Since it was very dark we began looking for a place to sleep: of course, a guy on the beach dragged us inland to a “cheap and good place.” It was so dark and it had just rained, so my roll-bag ended up quite soaked by the time we arrived. But it was an old, filthy house, and dogs kept barking. It did not give us a good feel so we went back to the beach and stayed at the first hostel that would take us in.
Yet the next day I fled the island. Like a fugitive. Saying goodbye to the firemen and leaving a note for Pablo. Off to the neighboring, sleepy tiny island of Gilli Meno, where I had wanted to go in the first place.
Gilli Meno gave me a weird feel since the moment I stepped on its sandy beaches. It is beautiful, yes, but Indonesian beaches are yet to impress me. Our sweet caribbean absolutely kicks butt in this respect. There was only one restaurant and about five little hotels on it, which is what I had wanted. But the tranquility stopped since I would not be left alone by the locals, and they all knew of me and about me in about a day and a half. A non-white tourist! Who could be Indonesian! If I sat in a restaurant, in second I would have an Indonesian man sitting with me, trying to become my friend to probably try to sell me something as it always turned out to be. Usually young, nice and amicable local who worked there, but nonetheless my plans of solitude were not going very well. In Thailand I was always left to be, but alas this ain’t Thailand. I started to regret bailing on the group. I also became paranoid cause I heard and read that male prostitution in Indonesia is a big thing. In Bali I did see the reverse than in Thailand, meaning older, likely overweight, white women with young, local men. In Thailand all the males I encountered told me they couldn’t tell between local girls and prostitutes, and I started to think all these amicable young men could be the same? Especially since most Indonesian men outside of Bali were NOT nice to me regular places, like waiters etc. When I’m actually with men, like when leaving Lombok with the French men, they don’t even talk to me! The driver would actually ignore my comments, and the boat ticket dude would not even glance in my direction. He only spoke to the men. So I don’t know if the prostitute thing was speculation, but it was enough to send me flying off every time.
A very cool day though was my second day, when I met an Argentinian soccer player and his family. Again with company everything became easier. The Argentinian played for a team in Java and his parents were visiting. We went snorkeling and in a span of a couple of hours I saw three turtles. Yet on the fourth day I got tired and decided to go back to Bali to spend my last nights in Indonesia somewhere I could truly relax. I had wondered what the reason could be behind Bali’s success and Lombok/gillis more unknown status, and that could be the locals. Bali could be different because of the Hindu religion or because they are more used to tourists. But I think this is the first time I have felt uncomfortable traveling as a woman alone. Not scared or threatened, just not at ease.