We arrived in Brisbane to an apartment on the outskirts of the city centre that we had booked, and we couldn’t believe our luck. The previous night we had stayed in an actual shed, now we were staying in a one-bedroom apartment with a large living and kitchen area, a big outside terrace overlooking the city and mostly free parking outside as it was a weekend. It felt like a dream. It even had a washing machine and tumble dryer, Stac was like a kid on Christmas day.
We set off from cairns and headed south without a real plan of where we were going, all we knew was that we wanted to be in Brisbane in around 8 days time. The first day we drove down the main highway and stopped after an hour in Innisfail, we were just stopping as the weather was nice so we thought we would have a breakfast picnic by the river. This all went great for about the first five minutes, then we noticed a full marching band and street procession turning the corner at the top of the road and heading down towards us, we’ve still no idea what was happening, because we packed our things up and moved on before it arrived.
An hour later we stopped in Mission Beach, after a couple of ‘tourist routes’ which are drives sign-posted by the government to direct tourists on nice drives through scenic areas, rather than just driving the main highway. These are great but usually just involve passing endless sugarcane fields, so I think it might actually be a wind-up by the Queensland government sending you round in circles.
We arrived in Cairns on an overnight flight from Bali, it wasn’t exactly what springs to mind when you think of a long-haul overnight flight, no movies and leg room here. The experience of flying overnight (but only four and a half hours) with Jetstar is similar to if you decided to cram yourself in to a box that was just a little bit too small to be able to move in any meaningful way whilst air hostesses walk past regularly, with disgusting unaffordable food, looking like they’d breathe fire if you so much as politely requested the £45 sandwich that was made three weeks ago.
We arrived to cold and rain in Cairns, not exactly what we imagined of the tropical Queensland coast, but the bad weather would only last for the day, we called an Uber, which turned out to be a huge pickup-truck, so exactly what you picture of Queensland, and were soon picking our car up that we would use for the next two and a half weeks over 3,000 km.
We travelled back from Gili Meno the long way, but again for more comfortable than we assume the fast boats are, and definitely cheaper. We got the public boat from Gili Meno to Bangsal port in Lombok at 8am, for about £1 each, it did feel a little like we might die on it, but like the locals, we’re getting used to that feeling now.
Then it was a 1.5 hour taxi to Lembar to take the public ferry back to Bali, we managed to negotiate this down to about £12, the same price as the shuttle bus would have cost for two people and much quicker and more comfortable. The public ferry was similar, but a little older and busier than the previous one, there were no seats left inside so we sat in the shaded part of the top deck and just chatted for the five hours back to Bali (again, a large chunk of that was within sight of the dock, but being unable to get off, and again, something we were now more used to).
We arrived at Bangsal port in Lombok to take the public boat over to Gili Air, the public boats are only about £1 each for the short crossing, the boat is only small, seating about 30, but of course more than that got on, we clambered on from the beach and set off to the legendary Gili Islands.
Gili Air is the Gili closest to Lombok, the medium-sized one about 2km across, Gili Meno is the next island over, a little smaller at 1km across, and Gili Trawangan is the biggest and furthest away, the island for partying. We decided we’d only go to the quieter islands, but Gili Air was still fairly busy.
We took an Uber from Ubud back to Padangbai port to take the public ferry to Lombok, we would be going to the south of Lombok, to a town called Kuta (very different from Kuta, Bali) for a few days before going to the famous Gili Islands further north.
All went smoothly, we got to the port, bought our boat tickets for £2.50 each for a four-hour ferry, boarded and went straight up to the top-deck. When I say this boat was a ferry, it was more like a mini-ship, it transported trucks, cars, people, live-stock, petrol, basically anything that needed to go from Bali to Lombok could go on this boat, it was big.
We sat down on the top deck and a couple of the locals gave us some funny looks before one said to us that we might want to go downstairs where there’s more seats, we looked a little confused because we had a seat on a bench up here. But, I went for a walk to see what was in the downstairs section we hadn’t been in.
It was time to move on from the Nusa Islands, we had plans to go to Lombok and the famous Gili Islands from there, but first we would go back to Bali by public ferry and go to Ubud. Ubud is famous for being used as a setting in the book and subsequent film; Eat, Pray, Love.
We set off from Nusa Penida early morning, rode the bike down to the harbour and the owner of the bungalows came with us again to carry our bags and bring the bike back afterwards. The local boat was a big ferry and would only take an hour to get to Padangbai in Bali, we were on our way.
We got chatting to some locals and the boat was good, decent seats on an outside covered deck area, and it did only take an hour to get there. Plus an extra two and a half hours sat on the boat just outside the port waiting to dock up in a queue of other ferries.
After a fantastic week in Singapore, we flew on Sunday 4th June to Bali, Indonesia. We plan to spend a full month in the area around Bali and Lombok, so should have plenty of time to explore a few areas, a lot of where we are planning to go to is influenced by several friends who have been here before and recommended certain places, but Bali is very well-known tourist spot so we assume it’s where most people will go.
One of the first places we wanted to go was Nusa Lembongan, a small island about 30 minutes from Bali, but because we landed at night, we couldn’t go straight to there, so we headed over to the east side of Bali to Sanur, which is the closest port to get the boat to Nusa Lembongan, it’s more of a holiday destination than a backpacker hub, we just spent a couple of nights there to do some planning for the month ahead and sort out a boat to take us over.
Three and a half months ago, on our first weekend in South East Asia, we were sat at a Bia Hoi stall in Hanoi, on tiny plastic chairs, drinking beer for 5,000 Dong (16 pence) per glass, and we meet a couple of friends who are from Singapore. Fast forward 106 days and here we are, arriving in Singapore, and heading towards their home.
There are lots of reasons why we think the last six months have been the best of our lives, but right at the top of that list is the amazing people we meet everywhere we go. Meeting people in the street, sharing a few drinks and laughs, and those very same people inviting you in to their home, thousands of miles away, is just one of the many things that seems normal to us now but was something we had never experienced before.
We flew back to Cebu from Palawan, and stayed in Cebu City again for one night before taking the boat the next morning to Bohol. On the way back to the airport in Palawan, the bus company we used forgot to charge us for the bus, they just dropped us at the airport and drove off before we’d even got our bags sorted, so that was 1,000 pesos saved.
We got to the boat pier the next morning, to go to Bohol, to be told all the normal seats had been sold already, and only business class was left, to save waiting a few hours for the next one, we’d have to pay for business class, which coincidently cost us an extra 1,000 pesos, it’s funny how karma works sometimes.