Would you believe me if I told you that ten years ago, I was a chain smoker. I drank my fair share and took the least interest in what I was ingesting, so long as it had a good quantity of butter, sugar and caffeine. Which is all a bit strange because I lived my teenagehood as a dreadlock-sporting, health-conscious, non-smoking vegetarian treehugger. I guess my early and mid-twenties were just a big careless party where I lost sight of myself a little. Don’t get me wrong, it was freaking awesome and I regret nothing.
One thing anyone who is even mildly technology dependant should do before travelling anywhere for an extended period of time is to have their smart phone unlocked. Having 3G in South East Asia (in fact in any foreign country!) opens up so many possibilities. All of a sudden you are not dependant on tuktuk drivers telling you that your hotel is miles away, you can look up this nice hotel you just stumbled upon on Tripadvisor to see what other people thought of it and you can pretty much just hop on a scooter and go get lost anywhere, knowing that your trusty GPS will always bring you back home at the end of the day. 3G in South East Asia is extremely cheap and surprisingly very fast and reliable in most places.
We went to sea as sailors, but only maybe for my dirty mouth, swearing through my teeth that Gili Air was probably going to suck. Given we seemed to have developed a way to enjoy places others don’t and hate places others love as of late, this was the only logical conclusion. I thought of the Gilis as a place people bookend their 2 week holiday on Bali, just to tick the tropical island checkbox off of their list when wondering what to see in Indonesia. They go to Trawangan to drink themselves silly, Air as newlyweds, and Meno, well, I still don’t know. All we knew was, you can’t really go wrong with a $1 boat ticket and we don’t really drink – so Gili Air it was. Off we went to check out this bunch of clueless red skin honeymooners and see what all the flap was about, hoping to prove my cynical little mind wrong.
Upon leaving the disappointment of Kuta Lombok behind, we set out in search of something a little more authentic. We’d heard of Tetebatu, a small village located at the southern base of Mount Rinjani, but found scant information online and in our travel guide about it. Still we took the chance, hired a driver, left our dysfunctional family behind and blindly booked a room at Kembang Kuning Cottages, crossing our fingers and hoping our hurried decision would once again turn in our favour.
The island crossing adventure starts at the bus station. If you’re lucky, it might be an actual station, with classes and prices clearly posted. But it’s just as likely to be a dusty field with a complete free-for-all – in which case, I hope you’re ready to bargain because there’s nothing the locals love more than fleecing backpackers for a ride in a packed, smoke-filled bus. Because yes – smoking is openly permitted on Indonesian buses.