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 turned out, that when you went inside, you passed through areas of bunk beds where locals sleep for the journey, then in to a big lounge area with rows of aeroplane-style seats inside and upholstered benches with tables lining the windows of the air-conditioned lounge. It had films on, a snack-bar, local sellers bringing round Nasi Campur and coffee, a band playing music for tips.
It was THE way to travel this journey! We still can’t believe tourists pay over £40 each to go on a torturous fast boat for 90 minutes, over stomach-churning seas, when you can sit here on this huge ferry for 5% of the cost and meet the locals whilst relaxing in comfort and eating and drinking.
The ferry took four hours, but then we had to sit outside the port for a couple of hours again, it seems that is just the norm here for these boats, the ports aren’t big enough for the number of boats using them so you have to wait in a queue.
A one hour drive to Kuta followed, which meant that it had been a long travel day but much cheaper and more comfortable than a fast-boat would have been.
The three days in Kuta were spent riding around to different beaches during the days, the occasional stop at cliff-top view-points (which also included a cliff-top cafe with the best tempeh ever), meeting a couple of new canine-friends, and having a great time meeting amazing local people.
The puppy I half-adopted was well-behaved, walked with us, even hiked up to a view-point with us and was generally chilled out. The puppy Stac half-adopted was a little s**t, that caused mischief all the time, and stole one of her flip-flops to chew when we wouldn’t let him in the room with us 🙂
One day, we were eating dinner when an old lady who owned a clothing shop nearby came to try to sell us a sarong, over the next twenty minutes we laughed so much as she persistently, and I mean that, tried to sell us anything she could, at one point we were told we could buy this sarong as it could be used as both a scarf or a table-cloth.
I had to doubt whether this would be a fashionable thing for Stac to wear if it’s other use could be to stop you from dirtying your table with spilled food. Obviously, as I’m sure you’re already thinking, we bought the Sarong, and we’re pretty certain we paid way too much for it, but it was worth it for the laughs.
By the end of the conversation, the family of the old lady, and I don’t mean old in a negative way, she was 89, had also come to join in the fun, we chatted to them for a little bit then got invited back the next day to have some coffee with them.
When we got back the next day, she tried to sell us more stuff, but we managed to avoid that this time, we sat and had a coffee with the family and arranged with Tona (the Dad of the family) that he could drive us to Bangsal port for the Gili Islands in a couple of days time.
The day came when it was time to head off for the Gili islands, Tona picked us up for the two-hour drive to Bangsal, we were barely 40 minutes in when the police had a road-block set up pulling people over, we were one of the unlucky ones and it became immediately apparent Tona’s day was about to get a lot worse.
The police said he didn’t have up to date paperwork on him for carrying passengers so there would be a fine (obviously), and fined him by the roadside the full amount he would get from us for driving us for two hours, convenient we know. That made the rest of the journey a little awkward to say the least, but when we got there we gave him half of the fine so that he wasn’t out-of-pocket and he seemed genuinely touched that we had, he even invited us back to his house for dinner whenever we can be back in Kuta.
It’s meeting people like Tona and his family that make certain places so special, and Lombok is definitely a place special to us now.