Indonesia.

Andy, Albert and I spend a night on Lombok and then get ourselves to Gili Air. You get around Gili Air by horse drawn carriage, we’re a captive market, not wishing to walk across the entire island from the ferry and back with our packs on, and they charge accordingly.

We find a nice spot on the Northern side of the island, quieter and less populated with tourists than the other sides. We spend 2 nights and one day here, the day is of epic relaxation, sunshine and beers before noon. It’s the day we coined the phrase “swamp belly” for the prodigious amounts of sweat I can produce, which all comes to rest in my belly button, whilst baking in the sun doing nothing more strenuous then lifting my beer repeatedly. In the evening we eat and have drinks and meet a couple local guys who smoke copious amounts of pot and play guitar badly. It’s great.

We go to Nusa Lembongan and stay in the place I went before, Tamarind Bungalows. They remember me there and treat us very well. We rent 2 bikes, Andy is my passenger (a first for me) and I show them all over the island. Mangrove Beach, Dream Beach and sunset at Secret Beach are the highlights, as is the amazingly good dinner we splurge on.

We book a snorkeling tour, something I very much wanted to do the first time I was here but couldn’t due to that lingering ear infection and chronic ennui. This time we’re doing it though, we’re going to swim with manta rays! We meet our captain early in the morning at Mangrove Beach. As we start to head into more open water he stops the boat and makes an offering for a safe journey. He places a little square boat made of leaves in the water. It’s filled with bits of flowers and food and he says a prayer, a lovely little ritual. And then we’re off, zooming through the water on the way to the areas the mantas like to hang out.

Mantas feed on jellyfish and plankton, something I was not aware of until we were already out on the water. I don’t like jellyfish; in fact I’m down right paranoid about them and start to rethink this whole thing. But then we get there and it’s so exciting trying to spot the mantas and the brief glimpses of these magnificent creatures that I can see from the boat convince me to be brave and go for it. Andy is super supportive (as she always is) and holds my hand the whole time we are in the water. The visibility is not fantastic but we see them, 3 in total. One comes out of the murkiness heading right towards us, we can see the beautiful rhythmic flapping of its wings and it’s glorious as it passes only a few feet away from us.

Having enough of dodging the jellyfish we make our way to a place called Gamut Cove for some more snorkeling. This is really my kind of place, the water is crystal clear, not more than 4 meters deep (mostly less) and it’s like dropping into a tropical fish aquarium where not one of the fish is longer than my arm and most are closer to the size of my hand. It’s perfect. There are literally thousands of tiny fish all in this one small cove, it’s beautifully colourful with lovely coral formations and we hang out here for ages. Our captain hands Andy a banana which she peels underwater and starts a frenzy of dozens of little 3-4 inch fish nibbling away and the banana rapidly disappears. We don’t really want to leave here but finally have to go. We’re waterlogged but happy.

Our final stop is Ubud. Albert stays with us for one night but then leaves as he wants to go to Sanur but I haven’t been here yet and had to see it before I leave in a couple days.  Andy and I spend the remainder of our time wandering around looking in shops, art galleries and eating many glorious meals. I’m leaving a few days ahead of her, on to Australia, and I’m so sad to part with her. She rates top marks with me and I’d travel with her again any day.

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