Two Weeks in Tasmania


We got to Port Melbourne at about 7am to board the Spirit of Tasmania which was due to leave at 9am, on an unusually cold and rainy morning – even for Melbourne! It didn’t take too long to get parked on the ferry, which was actually smaller than we’d expected, and smaller than previous ferries we’ve got between the UK and mainland Europe. We’d forgotten about the interstate quarantine laws, and we had some fruit and veggies confiscated by an officer, although we tried to eat some while he stood waiting – waste not want not!! Docked beside the ferry was the Norwegian cruise liner which had been in the news for being stranded in the Bass Strait with engine failure, and had been towed to the Port. Everyone went out onto the deck as we left to wave to its passengers and take pictures.

As we left the Port the captain made an announcement that due to the weather it was going to be a pretty bumpy crossing, with swells of up to 3m. We weren’t really worried, but thought we’d buy anti sickness tablets just in case, however found that they were all sold out just half an hour into the 9 hour journey! We got some ‘natural’ tablets which are basically just ginger tablets, and as soon as we hit the notorious Bass Strait we were seriously depending on the ginger! It became impossible to watch our film or to walk around; we even had to help a few elderly people who couldn’t get back to their seat or had dropped their belongings on a particularly violent swell. We ended up just trying to sleep as even watching the tv made the nausea worse, and had to move seats when some surrounding passengers became seriously sea sick. In the last hour the weather finally subsided, after what seemed like forever, and we managed to go out onto the deck and watch as we docked in Devonport. Our first impression was that it looked like the English countryside! Pretty exhausted, we drove an hour to a little town, had some beans on toast and camped for the night. 

The next morning we set off for nearby Launceston and visited the pretty impressive gorge near the city centre. We stopped here for lunch, where Dan was unlucky enough to be stung by a wasp! 
Having put ice on his sting (he was a brave patient), we set off for the fairly long drive to Bay of Fires on the east coast. 


It was even more stunning than we expected; perfect white sand and turquoise sea beaches with bright red lichen covering the rocks around the bay. We’d heard the east coast had some good surfing spots so we drove down to Bicheno in the morning and had a shot. I was inevitably half drowned by the first wave I went for, but we had fun and the sea was absolutely crystal clear. 


We realised we were close by to the winery of one of our favourites, Devil’s Corner, so we headed there for a tasting which was pretty amazing coupled with the warm weather and the view of the surrounding hills.


We set off very early the next morning to hike up Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park which we knew was one of the most popular things to do in Tasmania, and cars are regularly turned away. The view was stunning, and we continued down onto the beach, ranking one of the top ten in the world. Dan had a swim, and then we headed to get a spot at one of the gorgeous camp sites, Honeymoon Bay. 

We chilled out and swam there for the rest of the day, and got treated to a jazz band practicing out on the cliff at sunset…pretty perfect.


One of the biggest things on our list was MONA, so we drove there the next day and took a few hours wandering around. It’s definitely got some impressive, whacky, different and exciting art, but it somehow wasn’t as awesome as we’d expected. 


We drove into Hobart which was reminiscent to me of a Scandinavian harbour town, very cute. We got some drinks in the sun at a trendy beer garden and then had the ubiquitous Hobart harbour dinner; fish and chips from the floating take away. My first taste of Tasmanian salmon and it was incredible. Our camp spot that night was the glamorous parking space at the side of the main road running through Hobart…surprisingly peaceful!

In the morning we felt like more culture vulturing so we went on a tour around the first Hobart penitentiary. It was seriously interesting and gruesome, with the solitary cells (some only crawling height) having been built under the church built by the prisoners. Some bricks for the church were shipped in from England, but most were made by the prisoners and still had finger prints in them where they’d tried to turn them out too soon. The church was eventually made into court rooms which we had a tour of, and were also even shown the gallows…

We then drove to Cambridge not far from Hobart for a tour of a completely different kind at Sullivans Cove whiskey distillery. The tour was so informative about the making of whiskey and we had a full tasting of their award winning whiskeys and gin. I’ve never particularly liked whiskey before, but I had a sip of their $470 bottle and I’ve been miraculously converted!

Richmond was just around the corner which we had heard was an interesting historic town. It was very quaint and felt exactly like an English countryside village, but was extremely touristy. The main ‘attraction’ was the bridge built by convicts in the 1800s.
We drove back to Hobart in the morning for the famous Saturday Salamanca market, which although completely overrun by tourists (including us), was colourful and fun to wander around. We even bought a few things including some local cheese.

With our Tasmania plans being very loose and ‘go with the flow’, we doubled back from Hobart towards the Tasman Peninsula and camped near Cape Raoul right at the southern end. Although we had to pay (a small amount), it was really picturesque and featured a cute cabin with a wood fired sauna and shower…too good to resist! We got chatting to an Aussie couple from NSW who were a similar age to us and joined them in the sauna later on with a couple from Europe too. It was actually a seriously cold night so a sauna was perfect, and we both braved the freezing cold outdoor shower afterwards too!

Feeling refreshed, we set off in the morning on the 20k Cape Raoul hike which took us through the rainforest and along the rugged coast where you could see a seal colony. It was seriously beautiful but my legs were quite sore the next day!

Later that day we drove to Fortescue bay also on the Tasman Peninsula. This turned out not to be a great decision as there was a pretty arduous drive along a potholed track to get to the campsite. Fine for a 4×4 but not great for Millie!  


We left in the morning after a rainy night and decided to get the ferry to Bruny Island (leading us to drive through Hobart once again). The ferry was extremely small and only lasted 15 minutes; enough time for us to jump out of the car in the pouring rain and grab some lunch from the boot! We’d heard great things about the produce on Bruny Island, and we pulled over for a cheese tasting on the way to our walk at Cape Elizabeth. Despite it being our first dull drizzly day, the walk was amazing and definitely blew the cobwebs away! We the went to a camp site at the National park beside a stunning beach.

The next day was really hot and sunny and we headed to Cloudy Bay in the south for a look. The sea was far too rough to surf here, so we (naturally) went to the nearby Bruny Island winery for a tasting. This is the most southerly vineyard in Australia. We stopped at Adventure Bay beach for a picnic lunch and stayed for the rest of the day. Dan had a go at surfing and I went swimming although some of the waves were seriously big! It was pretty idyllic, even if the sea was colder than in Tasmania. But hey, we’re Scottish, it’s got nothing on the North Sea.


Just before we went back to the campsite we walked up the monument and lookout at The Neck which is a thin stretch of land between the north and south of Bruny Island. There is a monument at the top dedicated to an aboriginal woman who lived on the island in the 1700s and lost her family and freedom to the European settlers. We made a fire at the campsite that night and decided to head back to the mainland the next day.


We went for a hike in the morning, which although was meant to be a popular walk, was clearly a seriously overgrown track which hadn’t been used in a while. About half way up, Dan stopped in his tracks and told me to stay still. A black snake sat in the path about two metres ahead. He took a look at us before slithering calmly away. It was over a meter long, and although it didn’t make any movement towards us we realised that we weren’t really on a walking track, more like trekking in the middle of the forest. The whole way back we expected more snakes to appear on the path. Our first snake encounter in the wild! 


After returning to the Tasmanian mainland on an even smaller ferry, we drove the fairly short distance to Mount Field National Park. We walked through the rainforest to Russell Falls which were amazing, and got one of the last spots in the seriously busy camp site. There were even hot showers at the camp site which was a luxury!


Seeing that there was a window of good weather up at Cradle Mountain, we set off in the morning on what turned out to be almost a 5 hour uphill journey. Millie struggled up the steep winding roads; second gear was seriously put to the test! But we made it to the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park, and decided to take the 2 hour walk around Dove Lake. It was a stunning walk with Cradle Mountain as the backdrop, and the weather was amazing which is unusual up there; it’s common for it to snow during summer. There were wombats wandering around freely which was amazing to see, we’ve only seen them before in a sanctuary and they’re known for being quite elusive!

We drove to Launceston the next day to pick up some supplies (and get a decent coffee), and pressed on towards our favourite spot, Bay of Fires. On the way we stopped off for a tasting at the Bay of Fires winery just north of Launceston, where my favourite Pinot Noir is from. As it turned out their Pinot Gris was also absolutely amazing and we bought a bottle to enjoy later. 

It was a stunning day, but as we drove 2 hours east to the coast it became stormy. We got a gorgeous spot at a free camp site overlooking the white sand beach and sat in the rain for as long as we could with our camp fire going. Our camp site neighbours also gave us some abalone which they’d hand dived that day, and I’ve always wanted to try it! It was cooked in lemon and actually soo delicious. The majority of Tasmanian abalone is exported to the Asian market, but I’d definitely order it if I saw it again.

With 3 days left in Tasmania, the current ‘plan’ is to swim, surf and generally chill out and enjoy Bay of Fires until the ferry back to Melbourne… Tasmania has definitely been our favourite place in Australia so far and will be hard to top!


Next stop – Blue Mountains, NSW!

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The Gorgeous Great Ocean Road


After almost a year living in Australia, working in super trendy and fast paced Melbourne and relaxed rural SA, our Australian road trip has begun! Highlights of Melbourne included their amazing coffee; AFL matches; trips to Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley; wandering around the different suburbs and markets; and of course Melbourne’s favourite cocktail, the Espresso Martini. 


In South Australia McLaren Vale was amazing for wine tasting and bike rides, as was the Barossa; and the Innes National Park and Point Turton beaches on the Yorke Peninsula were incredible and deserted. 

The loose plan for the road trip is to drive as far as we can from Adelaide up the east coast via Tasmania, into North Queensland.  We bought a ‘travel’ van in Adelaide before we began visa extension work on the Grain Harvest on the Yorke Peninsula. The van had been modified to include a second battery; plugs; sink; water tanks; kettle (!); a bed; table and cupboards. We took it for a 2 week, almost 6000km return road trip up to Alice Springs and Uluru which gave us a taste of life on the road, and we loved it! I’ll cover this trip in another blog post.

Our first stop just before arriving onto the Great Ocean Road was Mount Gambier (The trip had almost failed before we’d even begun – we had to call the RAA after the engine cut out just outside Adelaide. Luckily he was able to fix it at the side of the road, in the pouring rain). We stopped at The Blue Lake which was a really gorgeous vivid shade of light blue, before visiting the sink hole gardens which were kind of surreal! 

That night we stayed at a campsite surrounded by fields of horses in the small village of Fort O’Hare, the sun was shining and we made a pretty tasty Mexican dinner out the back of the van, Millie (named after our neighbour’s gorgeous blue Russian cat in Melbourne).


The next day we had lunch in Port Fairy, which had a stunning beach, and as the weather wasn’t great we stopped for the night in Port Campbell and sat on the cliffs watching the sun set into the sea.  


In the morning Dan went for a swim in the sea but it looked too cold for me!! We had a coffee and breakfast and headed to Loch Ard Gorge which was absolutely incredible. A boat from England called the Loch Ard was shipwrecked here in 1878. Since it was now quite warm and the sea was so clear and turquoise I went in for a quick swim which was amazing. 


The 12 apostles were a ten minute drive away, and although we’d both seen lots of pictures of them they were pretty breathtaking! We jumped back in the van for the stunning drive to Apollo Bay where we stopped for a coffee and picnic lunch on the beach, and carried on to Lorne. The drive to Lorne was so insanely stunning that it’s hard to concentrate on the road! And we managed to pull over and check out some koalas in the eucalyptus trees. 


We headed to a popular camp spot in the forest half an hour from Lorne where we got the last spot in camp, right beside 4 other young British couples! After it being such a hot day, it became a very humid night and was almost impossible to sleep, even with the window down and mosquito nets – something we’ll need to look at before heading up into the tropical north!

After such a hot night we drove back down to the coast in the morning and ran straight into the sea, which I was so glad was cold – and I never thought I’d say that! We set off towards Torquay and stopped off on the way at ___ lighthouse which is famous for being in the programme Round the Twist which was on tv a lot when we were younger so it was cool to see it in person. 


We got to Torquay at lunchtime where we’d organised to meet our friend from Melbourne who’d recently moved there. We were considering buying a surf board and our friend convinced us to go back to the shop where we’d seen one earlier, and where she’d bought hers too.  We went for a new 7ft epoxy lime green board which would be good for both Dan’s surfing ability (good) and my ability (yet to stand up)! Since we don’t have a roof rack, we managed to get some straps from Bunnings and strap it to the bars on the wall inside the van where it fits pretty snug – we were pretty chuffed with our ingenuity! 


We stayed in Jan Juc that night and in the morning went to Torquay surf beach which had amazing waves near the shore which were perfect for beginners. Dan managed to catch a few waves and turn the board and I managed to catch a wave and half stand up so we were pretty pleased! We carried on to Melbourne where we caught up with friends and got prepared for the ferry to the next stop…Tasmania!

Chic Canggu, and Bukit Peninsula

The journey from Kuta Lombok back to Bali took about five or six hours as the boat stopped off at Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan and Nusa Lembongan to let people get on and off. It was funny seeing the places we’d been to a couple of weeks earlier, and Nusa Lembongan in particular seemed a lot busier than when we’d been there. The ferry company we were with also provided onward travel to wherever you wanted to go in Bali, and we ended up sharing a van to Canggu with two Dutch girls. We weren’t sure about our choice of Canggu, we had only heard from a couple of people that it was quite chilled and handy for getting to the town of Seminyak without staying there. However, the two girls in our taxi said this was their second stay in Canggu during their month trip; they were returning because they had loved it so much! All of a sudden we felt like we’d made the right decision.

The boat trip from Lombok to Bali

We got dropped off at our homestay and were delighted with our little room which was immaculate and homely compared to our damp hut in Kuta. There was also a huge wardrobe which was a huge bonus! Dan had seen a Vietnamese food place on the way past in the taxi, so we headed there and both had some pho bo – yum! We then headed to a bar which the girls had told us was having a party that night. We thought there would be a modest amount of people, as this area was apparently quite quiet. However, when we got there the place was brimming with people; there were probably four or five hundred people there! This was more people than we’d seen in over a week as Gili Asahan and Kuta had been quite quiet! There was a live band playing, cheap local red wine and everyone seemed really friendly – the crowd was mainly a mix of expats, surfers and hipsters. We even bumped into the Dutch girls, and saw a couple of other people we had met in Gili Trawangan. 

Deus

We hired a scooter the next day and went exploring – Canggu is so spread out that you really need a scooter or car to get around! The drives are so pretty, down cobbled streets with rice paddies either side and the Bali volcanoes in the distance. We went for some brunch in one of the local cafes that the girls had recommended and quickly realised that there was a massive food scene in Canggu, with emphasis on health food. Despite a lot of it being western, the food was amazing and there were so many gluten free options for me. 

  

 

The scenery on the drive through Canggu
 
We then drove about an hour north of Canggu to visit Pura Taman Ayun – a stunning temple surrounded by a moat, where the Balinese go to leave offerings for their Royal ancestors. We stupidly drove in the hottest part of the day, and had to ask directions a few times. At one point we even went the wrong way down a one way street! But when we got there it was definitely worth it. 

  

Pura Taman Ayun
 
   

We drove back later in the afternoon, and went to the beach where Dan surfed and I spectated as the waves were ferocious! Watching the pro’s surfing really far out was good fun. For dinner that night we went to Warung Dandelion which served amazing Indonesian food at really good prices overlooking their gardens and the rice paddies. We went to play some pool afterwards, and I’m pleased to say that I beat dan at the first game. The fact that he then beat me in the next game is irrelevant! 

We had heard that the temple Tanah Lot was stunning, but that at peak time there could be thousands of tourists there trying to get the perfect picture. So we got up really early the next day and drove about an hour west to the temple. We were glad to see that at 8am we were the very first people there! The temple is situated on a high rocky island with waves crashing into the surrounding cliffs – pretty amazing! However, disappointingly tourists can’t climb up to the temple. A local man called us over to the base of the cliff and blessed us with the spring water (which he then asked money for), but he was really friendly and it was funny to see Dan with a flower in his hair! 
 

Tanah Lot
 
  
We rewarded our early morning with an amazing breakfast at the extremely popular Pelaton, a vegan and gluten free friendly cafe which wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne! 

   

Good coffee = happy Dan

   
We then had a much needed nap and went for a drive along the coast. We headed to Potato Head Beach Club which is a pretty fancy, infamous pool party hang out. The bar had extensive security, and we had our bags searched and got frisked on the way in. We weren’t sure if this was common practice, or a response to the events in Jakarta in January. The place was seriously busy with a mix of families enjoying the restaurant, and young groups of friends and couples getting stuck into the beach bar and infinity pool overlooking the sea. To us the place felt a bit ridiculous and the cocktails were almost the price of one night where we were staying in Canggu! Needless to say, however, we got involved and enjoyed some drinks in the pool with the sun going down over the sea behind. 

Joining the pool party for the afternoon

Having heard that the sea was better for beginner surfers in Kuta/Legian, we drove down the next afternoon. Despite the sand being golden, we didn’t like this area – it was far too built up and busy, and the sand was covered in rubbish! We took turns surfing though, which was fun until I fell off and hurt my toe again! I had split it open the day before when I tripped on a loose paving slab. Ouch! It’s fine now though, I just hobbled around for a day or two.  

Drinking away the pain at a beach bar in Seminyak

We drove back to Canggu for dinner and went to Deus, where the party had been on the first night. We had amazing pizza (the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had!), and then looked around their shop which sells surf boards, motor bikes and clothes. 

 

The best pizza ever?
 
The next day, we hired a driver to go and explore Bukit Peninsula in south Bali. We hadn’t really wanted to hire a driver during our trip, but it was a long drive through the most congested parts of Bali so we thought this way we could relax properly and have a drink if we fancied. We stopped at Jimbaran fish market first, which had the most amazing array of fish and sea food that I’ve ever seen! You can buy seafood straight off the displays and have it barbecued out the front, but we had heard of a great seafood cafe on the beach which we planned to have dinner at later.

  
  

We headed down to Blue Point at Uluwatu, the most southerly point of Bali. We walked down a few flights of stairs, past some monkeys, to the most incredible beaches I’ve ever seen. The water was turquoise and crystal clear and the sand was so soft and yellow. 

 

Uluwatu
  
 

After some nasi goreng, we went along to Uluwatu temple which is perched right on a cliff edge. The monkeys around here steal anything in sight so we were warned not to take a handbag or glasses with us. We did see someone have their sunglasses stolen which was quite funny, but unfortunately the sun was so strong that we didn’t really enjoy this part of the day! There was no shade and we had to wear full length sarongs even though we weren’t actually allowed to enter the temple area. The views down to the cliffs were amazing though.

  

Bingin
 
We drove back to Jimbaran to the seafood cafe and managed to get a table on the sand, despite the fact that it was very busy! We had barbecued whole tuna with different Indonesian sauces and garlic fried greens – I thought it was the best meal so far! It was made even better by the view of the almost empty white sand Jimbaran beach, and the sun setting over the sea. A perfect end to our last full day in Bali.

 

Seafood dinner at Jimbaran
 
  
Today we are sitting on a black sand beach chilling out before our flight at midnight tonight. The owner of our homestay has kindly said that we can have our room until 8pm which makes things a lot easier to get organised before the flight! 

All in all we’ve absolutely loved our Indonesia trip, and we will be back without a doubt. Next stop, Melbourne!

Lazy Days and Surfing in South Lombok

We left Gili Air early in the morning and got a boat to mainland Lombok for our bus connection down south. The journey was ‘interesting’ to say the least…Our first van broke down half way through the journey which prompted half a dozen locals to approach us and demand obscene amounts of money to take us the rest of the journey, which we refused. Our driver sorted us a new bus and driver who said he’d take us the rest of the way for no extra charge. This turned out to be the local bus which picked up and dropped off a few locals on the way. The scenery on the drive was stunning; turquoise rivers, green paddy fields, beaches and mountains. However, our driver decided to stop in the middle of nowhere and demanded more money to take us to our destination. Things got a bit heated, and realising we had no other option, we agreed to give him a small amount extra to take us to our boat pick up point for Gili Asahan. The van then got a flat tyre in the next village, which the driver actually changed quite quickly – but we were starting to wonder if we would ever get there!
 

Van number two
 

After 5 hours we finally arrived, for what we had been told would be a 3 hour journey max. We got a little boat across to Gili Asahan thinking ‘this better be worth that journey!’, and it definitely was. We were staying at one of the two resorts on the island, which consisted of a few bamboo huts and deluxe bungalows all situated in gardens looking over the beach. 

Our hut on Gili Asahan

Electricity was only available for a few hours a day, and there was no internet at all on the island. We only saw a few other tourists, and there were no cars, bars or shops – we felt a little bit marooned, in a good way! We spent the next 3 days walking around the island (which only took an hour and a half); snorkelling; playing chess; playing cards; reading and lazing in the hammock. It felt like a little holiday from our holiday!

Gili Asahan beach
  
The turtle sanctuary

Our journey across to Kuta from Gili Asahan was a lot less eventful than the previous one, however with the lack of internet on the island we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay in Kuta. Not knowing our way around, we decided just to go for a cheap, basic hut near where the taxi dropped us. Kuta was quite small, and completely geared towards surfing, which is how it came about as a tourist spot. Realising that the local beach was not one of the famous white sand Kuta beaches, we hired a scooter and went exploring. The beaches are amazing, and are a mix of swimming beaches with calm seas and beaches full of surfers.
 
Aan beach, Kuta
  
Rice paddy views on the drive west
 

We drove an hour west on our second day to a beach called Selong Blanak, which was pretty stunning despite the not so great weather. It was a really good spot for beginner surfers because the surf breaks were so close to the shore and the waves weren’t too big. We rented a board and took turns surfing. With dan helping push me onto the waves I finally managed to surf a full wave without falling which I was pretty happy with! That evening we went out for food at one of the warungs for some nasi goreng and went to the ‘Lombok Bus’, which served drinks and Mexican street food out of a red VW camper van – it was quite cool!
   
 

Dan in action!
 

One of the sad things about Kuta was the amount of kids olds wandering the streets for hours on end trying to sell bracelets. They all spoke amazing English, and one of the kids even asked us to give him a quiz on European capitals which he was really good at!  

Camper van bar in Kuta
 

We were a bit disappointed with Kuta when we first arrived, based on our first impressions. However, after exploring the surrounding beaches and surfing we found that we really liked it. With less than a week left on the trip, we left Kuta and the rain behind the next morning, and headed back to Bali.

As Good As It Gets – Gili Air

The next day we left for Gili Air which is another of the 3 small islands off the north west coast of Lombok. It was only a 20 minute boat ride away from Gili Trawangan, and as soon as we arrived we could tell it was a lot more chilled out and quieter than the previous island. We thought it was similar to Nusa Lembongan with the laid back vibe and amazing beaches, but there are no motorised vehicles here so everyone walks around on the beach or gets a bike. 
   
 

Storm clouds rolling in
 

Dan decided to do his Open Water dive course here, which was only a 2 day course as we already did 1 day on Gili Trawangan. In the mornings while he did the course I went to yoga classes at H2O Yoga in the centre of the island. My commutes each morning were a 20 minute walk past coconut trees – I could get used to that! The yoga classes were amazing – the Vinyasa Flow class in a round, 12m high bamboo hut with thunder rumbling in the distance was extremely relaxing! The Hatha classes were really good too, and I even managed to get Dan to come along to one with me on our last morning.

 

The yoga studio
 
In the afternoons, after our morning classes, Dan and I met for lunch at a beachside bar. Then I would watch his dive boat leave and read or snorkel round the coral reef while he was away… not a bad life! 
 
The Manta Dive boat
 
Dan passed his dive course, and that evening we went down to the dive school bar for drinks. We followed everyone down small dark lanes to a ‘secret’ bar, which they said could stay open much later than bars usually do on Gili Air. The best bit about the bar was the table tennis which was really good fun, and we got chatting to an Australian and a Belgian who joined in too. The Australian was from Melbourne and gave us some hints and tips for when we arrive which was handy!
 
Open Water diver!
 
 One evening we walked round to the north west tip of the island and got an amazing sunset view of Gunung Agung volcano on Bali – the highest of Indonesia’s volcanoes. We’re looking into the possibility of climbing it when we get back to Bali, has we had planned to climb Rinjani volcano on Lombok and then discovered it is closed for monsoon season.

 

Dinner with a view of Rinjani volvano
  
Sun setting over Gili Air, Bali’s Gunung Agung in the distance
 
We extended our stay on Gili Air, and it’s the longest we’ve stayed in one place so far on the trip. The beaches; friendly people; food; fashion boutiques; peacefulness; and range of activities on offer make it hard to leave. Melbourne has a lot to live up to!

Time to Dive – Gili Trawangan

The next day we reluctantly left Nusa Lembongan. We loved it so much that we may go back toward the end of the trip. We got a 1.5 hour boat to Gili Trawangan and once we’d arrived we spent some time walking up the ‘strip’ which is full of bars, dive schools, and shops – nothing like Nusa! The island was really quiet at the north side and we had some dinner on this side of the island after booking a scuba dive ‘discovery’ 1 day course for the following day. 
We arrived at 10am for the course and met our friendly American instructor who got us in the equipment and took an hour showing us the ropes. We dived in the pool initially, trying out skills like how to clear the mask, and how to use your breath to alter your position in the water. After lunch we set out on the boat for a dive – and while Dan was extremely excited, I was quite nervous! For me, the hardest part was rolling off the boat backwards, which I refused to do at first and heard my instructor shout from the water, ‘just push her!’. The dive was amazing though, and despite the weather the visibility was good and there was no strong current. We saw loads of amazing colourful fish, a turtle, squid, and a couple of octopuses which the instructor tried to goad out of their hiding place. 
 

Post dive with our instructor
 
After some beers and charades games at the dive bar, we had dinner at the local night market which had a large selection of Indonsian food and barbecued meat and fish. There was a party that night at the dive bar as some of the students had reached their dive masters status and had dressed up as teenage mutant ninja turtles in celebration. We met some Australians and Brits who were out there doing their PADI – apparently it’s cheaper to fly over from Australia than take the course there! Needless to say, there were slightly sore heads all round the next day!

Beach bar antics

Lovely Nusa Lembongan 

The following day we had a taxi booked early to take us to the closest town, Bedugul, for a Perama bus to Sanur. From Sanur we got a boat to Nusa Lembongan – a small island off the south east coast of Bali. The boat was a fast speedboat and it was pretty terrifying! There were no life jackets on board and one passenger had bad seasickness as the sea was really rough and we were going so fast and dropping off high waves. Never again! It was so nice to see some beaches after beginning our trip in the hills of Bali, and on the first evening we got a spectacular sunset from the beach bar of our hotel.  

 

For the next couple of days, we rented a scooter and drove round the island, stopping for some grilled fish at beachside warungs for lunch or dinner. There were thunderstorms at night, but we had really amazing weather in Nusa Lembongan. Two days in a row we drove to Dream Beach which was stunning, and to our amazement – deserted! The sea was too rough to swim in properly but the waves were good fun in the shallow. We really loved the relaxed vibe in Nusa Lembongan, and everyone was extremely friendly! The staff at Rama garden retreat were great, knew everyone by name and were always chatting to us about our day or our plans. They also did loads of healthy smoothies and shakes – and gluten free pancakes!

Grilled tuna at the amazing Warung Bambu
Dream beach

On our last day we decided to get a surfing lesson, which was my first ever surfing experience, but Dan already had some experience surfing back home. The lesson was really thorough and it was such good fun – just extremely tiring!! Falling off your board; being tumbled about by a huge wave; coming up for air and being hit by another wave – then having to paddle back over to start again gets quite tiring! But it’s addictive and when you’re standing up on the wave looking at the beach it’s amazing. Of which Dan managed a fair bit more than me!

Munduk in the Mountains

After a 2 hour bus we arrived in Munduk, which is a small village in the mountains north of Ubud. We immediately noticed that there were only a handful of tourists around, partially due to it being low season. However, it was nice to be out of the hustle and bustle of Ubud.

We stayed at Aditya Homestay, which along with the outstanding view made our stay perfect. The family went out of their way to meet our every need and as it was a homestay, we got to meet the whole family and the little babies which was really nice.

Room with a view

We had heard that there were some amazing waterfalls in Munduk, and the next day we set out with a hand drawn map provided by our hotel. Needless to say that we got lost a good few times and had to ask some of the few locals we saw along the way. And once I had realised that the local dogs had no intention of biting us (as one had lightly bitten me in Ubud!), only barking like crazy at us, I enjoyed the trek a lot more. After a 2 hour hard trek through the hot and humid jungle and coffee plantations we made it to the first waterfall, which was made even better by the arduous journey getting to it!

  

  
The next waterfall was even more spectacular, with a lagoon at the bottom for swimming – Dan was straight in! There were a handful of tourists at this one, who rather amusingly asked us where our driver had parked.

That evening, although we were exhausted, we decided to take a cooking class as we had read amazing reviews for one in Munduk. We weren’t disappointed. Rico came to pick us up at the homestay and introduced us to his 5 year old daughter who was really shy and cute! He drove us to his house and explained that the 2005 Bali bombings had affected the tourist numbers massively and lead him to teach himself French, as the numbers of French tourists hadn’t really dwindled. Once at his house, we met his wife Ely, his 2 year old son and his dog. As we were the only 2 people who had booked the class the experience was a lot more personal. Ely taught us how to make offering baskets out of bamboo leaves, which the Balinese people make everyday. The baskets are filled with flowers and placed on the shrine which was a nice and unexpected start to the class. We then made 5 traditional dishes and one dessert which were all amazing, and although we tried we couldn’t finish all the food!!

Chez Rico cooking class

Beautiful Bali – Ubud

  
After a 2 hour flight from Jakarta, we arrived in Bali and took a 2 hour taxi to our first destination, Ubud, as the local buses had stopped for the evening. 

Arriving at Bali Denpasar Airport
 

When we arrived in Ubud we both realised it was way way busier, noisier and more commercialised than we had expected. However, we had some dinner at mama’s warung and made a plan to go walking up into the hills the next day.

We set off the next morning for a walk to the villages above Ubud, and even 20 minutes in to the walk the noise and frenetic atmosphere had disappeared. We were surrounded by greenery and only a handful of people wandering by – bliss. This was the Ubud I had imagined after watching Eat Pray Love!
   
  
After a much longer walk than we anticipated, we headed to one of the many local spa’s for a Balinese massage, which was equally relaxing and painful in parts! We went for some nasi goreng, some drinks at a couple of the bars (in which I learned to remember that the alcohol measures are a lot stronger abroad!), and made plans to hire a scooter the next day.

After planning a rough route on the map back at the hotel, we hired a scooter (£2.50/day) and after a 10 second lesson we set off onto the crazy Ubud roads. After some initial trepidation, it quickly became a highlight of the trip, especially when the traffic thinned out and we were driving through the rice paddies.

 

The driver for the day
 
We visited two ancient temple sites – Goa Gajah and Gunung Kawi which were both amazing. They featured cliff face stone carvings dating back to the 11th Century, alongside numerous temples. At both temples Dan was given a sarong to wear around his waist, and as I was wearing long trousers I was given a red sash to wear around my waist instead.

 

Elephant Cave, Goa Gajah
  
7m cliff face stone carvings, Gunung Kawi
 
We then drove back to Ubud through scenic Tegallalang and had a drink with an amazing view of the rice paddies below. After we set off on the scooter again, the afternoon monsoon made its appearance and we had to stop and take cover until we could drive again.
 
Tegallalang
 

One thing we really noticed in Ubud was how artistic and creative everyone was – everyone was either a painter, wood carver, furniture joiner etc. And their wares were always displayed at the front of their shop house where you could see them carving or painting more inside.

We bought some of the local red wine and made plans at the hotel to set off for Munduk the next day.

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