Snorkelling when you’re petrified of the sea is always interesting

Don’t get me wrong the ocean and what lives in it has always extremely fascinated me. After watching the blue planet as a child, I made it my ambition to become a marine biologist. That dream soon faded though when I realised I wasn’t good at science and hated even paddling in the sea. I always want to go for a little swim but as soon as the water goes past my knees, I run out. So when a few years ago I told my family that I wanted to go scuba diving in Thailand, they thought I was joking, but I proved them wrong and conquered the fear! See my fear is slightly irrational and more about not knowing what’s below me rather then the fish themselves. I scream at the sight of seaweed more then I do a school of fish. Once my head is under the water then I find snorkelling a very peaceful, enjoyable experience. It’s just a matter of getting in the water to start with.

So bearing this in mind, Steph and I boarded a very crowded boat to take us to four different snorkelling spots around the Gili Islands. Fair to say Steph looked a little shocked when I told her there was every chance I’d wimp out and not get in the water once. But I was brave and after jumping off the boat the first time and Steph reminding me to breathe, my head was down and off we went following our guide in the hope of spotting Turtles. Trying to swim through 30 set of flippers hitting you in the face to get the best view as the turtles came up for air was quite a struggle. We saw two different turtles peacefully gliding along the ocean floor, they were very cute!

Unfortunately I don’t think we went out on the best day as the sea was a bit cloudy and at times hard to see clearly. Steph also made the vital error on the third spot of the day (the one time I decided to stay safely on the boat) and decided to go without her flippers as they were annoying her. Fair to say she will never make that mistake again after struggling to keep up with the group and arriving back to the boat very out of breath!

The last spot on our trip was the best. We snorkelled above a large coral reef off Gili Air, where there was a range of all sorts of tropical fish. Again we struggled with the visibility and the sea was pretty choppy so not the easiest swim.

Sad to say that while we had a good day, it definitely wasn’t the best snorkelling I’ve ever done, there wasn’t huge amounts of fish or colourful coral to see. I’m glad I went and it’s always good to test my fear of the sea, just not the most exciting view! A little disappointed but at least we had a chance to fully test Stephs gopro.

image

Lunch/Sunbathing stop at Gili Meno
Lunch/Sunbathing stop at Gili Meno

The best coral pic we managed. Too cloudy to spot any fish!

A very exhausted looking boat on the way home
A very exhausted looking boat on the way home

Tour De Gili

We arrived on Gili Trawangan just over a week ago now. The Gili’s are 3 islands off Lombok, and we’re starting on the bigger island, also known as the party island. I came here a couple years ago and even in that short time it seems to have really grown, there must be nearly twice as many restaurants and bars. Although it’s a big party place and still popular with holidaying Australians, it’s much nicer than being in Kuta as it has an ‘island’ vibe. We arrived on the island after a pretty rough boat trip from Bali and settled into our room at Coral voice.

I assume this is the sort of place people picture when I tell them I’m backpacking Bali. Beautiful beaches, wooden shacks bars serving cold beer, local food stalls, hammocks to watch the sunset on, acoustic reggae bands and a village mosque with its constant songs of prayer that fill the island. Catch it in the right moment and it really does feel like paradise. And then there’s the occasional moment when you’re walking down the main strip and there’s a drunk Aussie in a feather headdress, and every local you pass is trying to sell you magic mushrooms. That’s when you realise how this island is purely designed for tourists.

There’s no motorised vehicles on the island so they use horses to carry people and goods
The main strip

Our favourite guys on the island
Stephanie cooling off
Stephanie cooling off
Too. Hot.
Reggae street party one night
Beer pong anyone?
Enjoying a dip in the pool of one of the luxury resorts on the island

As you can probably imagine we have spent our days relaxing on the beach, reading books, listening to music and working on our tans. Evenings have been spent enjoying food at the local market or a beachside barbecue restaurant followed by some Bintang’s or cocktails in the many island bars. I know there’s lots of family reading, so I will spare you any drunken details!

One day we were feeling a little adventurous and hired bikes so we could cycle round the whole island and see what we were missing. Apparently it takes an hour and a half to cycle the island, however it was very hot so we took our time to enjoy a few stops en route. It was a lovely bit of exercise and chance to see the quieter areas of the island, inland where the locals live, and the baby turtles at the turtle sanctuary. Cycling in 35 degree heat when there is little breeze was very sweaty work. Later we joined the masses in watching the sunset by the famous Gili T swing and taking many photos. So cliche but had to be done!

image

Starting the journey through the village where most the locals live
Bike buddies!
This sign was painfully inacurate
Pit stop at the beach
Gili T turtle conservation centre
Baby turtles before they are taken into the wild
The dream….
…the reality

Next stop, Gili Air for a much needed detox!

image

Welcome to my quarter-life crisis

I turned 25 on the 18th September. This was a hard day for me as I’m struggling to come to terms with the idea of being a grown up, and 25 just sounds so old!! I can feel 30 looming already.
However I’m trying to remain optimistic about it all instead of worrying about all the milestones that seem so far away still. As a good friend said to me “you’re in a great position in life where you only have you and your backpack to think about”. I have to agree I’m currently revelling in the fact that I have no stresses in my life right now and can enjoy each day as it comes.

Ok so that is proper soppy! My friends will be glad to hear that I spent my last moments of being 24 doing tequila shots at midnight and bar crawling Gili T until the early hours!

Steph treated me very well on my birthday, she bought me two bracelets and treated me to a nice lunch and a facial. For dinner we went for a BBQ on the beach at Scallywags, after getting ready and opening some birthday cards I bought with me in the pitch black due to a power cut on the island! The food and atmosphere were great, little pricier then what’s we’ve been used to but definitely worth it. We had hoped to stay up late enough to watch the start of the rugby World Cup which was on at 3am here. But we were just too full from dinner so retired to bed early, like the true granny I now am in my old age.

I also tried very hard to skype my family but unfortunately the wifi on this island is just not strong enough. Very sad that I haven’t got a chance to speak to them in person yet, but at least what’s app makes them never seem too far away and hopefully when I’m back on the mainland I can finally see their beautiful faces.

Birthday cocktails
Birthday cocktails
Scallywags BBQ in full swing
Scallywags BBQ in full swing
Sometime before the tequila
Sometime before the tequila

Now I know how Leo feels in ‘the beach’

So you know that scene in the beach where Leo goes back to Koh Phangan to get supplies and freaks out about all the people and lights? Well that’s how it felt for us arriving in Kuta after our cultural start in Java. Kuta is basically the Aussies version of Magaluf. It’s very western and commercialised and full of party goers. The main roads were full of chain stores and fast food joints.

We were staying the next town over in seminyak, which is basically a posh holiday resort with lots of fancy hotels and restaurants, but at least there’s still a little local feel to it and not a Pizza Hut or McDonald’s in sight! We were staying at Neds Hideaway, which was a basic room 15 minutes from the beach. It did the job.

After a busy start to our trip it was nice to have some time to have a lie in and chill on the beach. For some reason we decided to head to the Kuta strip one night to see what all the fuss was about, it’s fair to say it wasn’t exactly our scene. We won’t be going back anytime soon, too many bogans (I’m learning the Aussie slang already!). I guess it can’t have been all bad as we didn’t get home til after sunrise the next day…

After a very hungover day on the beach, we decided to stick to soft drinks so had a nice relaxed evening watching the sunset on the beach and listening an acoustic singer.  Was a very chilled out enjoyable evening, got a true sense of being in paradise.

The sea can get pretty choppy!!
The sea can get pretty choppy!!

#beachselfie

£2 beach pedicure courtesy of Julia and her friend
£2 beach pedicure courtesy of Julia and her friend

Bintang, beanbags, beach and 'brellas
Bintang, beanbags, beach and ‘brellas

Settling down to watch the sunset
Settling down to watch the sunset

Blending into the beanbag!

I have the ability to sleep almost anywhere at anytime

This might not sound like the most useful or exciting skill, but nonetheless a skill that has made the last few days of travelling a lot easier.

Sunday was the start of our two day journey from Java to Bali. We were sad to leave Hotel Neo where we had been spoilt with a nice room, hot showers, breakfast and a pool. Probably our last bit of luxury before we give in to the standard backpacker £5 a night hotels

After stuffing our faces at the breakfast buffet we got on a minibus at 8:30am, and 14 hours later we arrived at our hotel for the night, tired and hungry (or thungry as Steph now likes to say) as all we’d eaten since breakfast was a handful of coconut biscuits.

For the second time in less then a week, we woke up at 3:30am to be picked up by a jeep to take us to a viewpoint in the hope of seeing a sunrise over mount Bromo. Think the driver was half asleep though as he managed to get stuck down a ditch reversing out the hotel. Being stuck in a jeep at a near vertical angle while about 10 people tried to push us free was definitely enough to wake us up.

We reached the viewpoint just in time to see the most breathtaking sunrise over the mountains. We’d been warned that it would be 4degrees and to wrap up warm (bit hard when our bags are mainly beach clothes!). The locals were all in massive coats and hats but us English girls are obviously more used to the cold so we were quite happy in a thin jumper and leggings.

The viewpoint was incredibly busy but we managed to find a good spot with a selfie stick free view. Annoyingly at the time when we most wanted to take pictures my camera and Stephs go-pro both decided to brake so we were down to just an iPhone. The photos are still stunning though and took us so long to edit down to our favourite few.

image

image

image

image

image

Once we were happy we’d taken every picture possible, we got back in the jeep to go to mount Bromo. Getting out the car was a very weird experience, it felt like being on the set of a western film, the volcanical sand was full of horses and jeeps.

It was a steep 30 minute climb to the top (we decided to walk instead of squish the small exhausted looking horses) where we could see straight in to the volcano and admire the surrounding scenery, it was so beautiful. It’s no secret that I’m not a morning person but it was so worth it. Beats my old Monday mornings!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Back in the jeep heading back to the hotel, Steph and I had front row seats to enjoy the ride across the sand. That was until the jeep door I was leaning on decided to swing open, luckily I managed to keep myself inside!

To think we’d done all this and it was only 8am!

After probably the worst breakfast I’ve ever had (if you could even call it that), we were loaded onto a bus for the 12 hour journey to our next destination, Seminyak.

image

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice….

Ok…so I probably should have learnt by now to question everything and if it’s too good to be true then maybe it is. The guys selling tours out here are more than happy to mislead.

On Saturday at 4am we forced ourselves out of bed and into a minibus that would take us to see Indonesia’s most famous landmark, Borobudur. We paid equivalent of £5 to go and watch the sunrise at the Buddhist monument. However the bus stopped and we climbed up hill for 30 mins to watch the sunrise on a random hill that was just engulfed in clouds (the photos we attempted are just grey and dull. Afterwards they took us to Borobudor where we had to pay a further £15 to get in (we were not prepared for this!)

After the tiredness wore off and our purses had been emptied, we made the walk up to the top of the temple. It’s incredibly beautiful and amazing to think how it was created 1200 years ago and how well it has stood the test of time. Luckily we got there and took all out photos just in time before bus loads of school children turned up.

Borobudur is absolutely stunning, although in my opinion it’s not a scratch on Angkor Wat, but I guess that’s bad of me to even compare!

It was also a shame to see how much they’ve capitalised on its popularity by making you walk for a good 30mins through a market stall maze. Unfortunately it leaves a bit of a sour taste, as by the end you can’t wait to leave, and I’d never go back knowing I had to walk so much to exit

On the way back to Yogyakarta I provided the mini bus with plenty of entertainment after I fell asleep and In the process fell off my seat into the gap next to me hitting my head on the door. What a way to meet new people!


   

Settling back into life as a backpacker

As I mentioned before this is the third trip my backpack and I have made to South East Asia over the years but the culture shock is still the same when you land in a new city. We decided to start our trip in Yogyakarta (Jogja), Java which was definitely not the easiest starting point! Maybe we should have eased ourselves in with a nice beach spot!

It’s a relatively small city known for its culture and arts and is quite a popular base point to visit local tourist attractions. We could walk down streets and barely see a single westerner and my blonde hair definitely draws attention from the locals, kids were all vying for a photo with us. It’s crazy to think that seeing a westerner would excite them that much but they were all so sweet and just wanted to say hi. I tried to do my best Kim Kardashian impression

As for Jogja itself, once we got used to it and gathered our bearings it’s a very sweet city with great personality from its graffiti covered narrow streets, scooters and rickshaws weaving around children playing and huge amount of market stalls lining the pavements.

  

New Life, New Blog

Hi all!

So I recently made a bit of a big life decision… I left my job, shoved as many clothes as I could into a backpack, joined forces with my good friend Steph and jumped on a plane taking me far away from England. 

I decided I’d reached a point in my life where I didn’t see a reason not to go and at 24 I had no strong ties keeping me in England so decided it was now or never. Steph and I have plans to spend a month in Indonesia before getting a flight to Australia where we have a working holiday visa. 

So September 9th I got dressed in my backpacker uniform (loose printed trousers, baggy t-shirt, Birkenstocks, and travel pillow) and headed to gatwick airport for an emotional farewell to my family before starting the 22 hour journey to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. 

Here goes nothing! 
Robyn x