A Scary Boat Ride and The Gili Islands

It’s a lovely morning in central Bali and we’re waiting on a busy street near a market for a lift. It’s only 7am and already it’s hot and humid. After a painstaking long wait and almost giving up hope of anything coming, suddenly we’re sat in a cramped van on our way to the east coast of Bali. The reason for the early start is to reach our next destination, the Gili Islands.

An hour later and once peeled from our sweaty seats we found ourselves in the chaotic port of Padang Bai. People and luggage were everywhere, and coming at us from all angles. Our passports were hurriedly checked and our rucksacks chucked onto a sorrowful looking trolley. We said to ourselves that no matter what we should follow those bags – the majority of our worldly possessions were in there after all.

We watched the bags be taken out onto a rickety old pier and tossed into the front of a boat. One of the guys apparently in charge signalled that we could jump on too and we were soon balanced on some suspect planks making our way on.

The next 2 hours we had a boat ride to remember. We had been told the route from Bali to the Gili Islands is well known to be rough and that was certainly correct. The ‘captain’ looked far too casual throughout, while monster waves battered the boat, rocking it uncontrollably at times. However the journey was worthwhile when we arrived into our home for the next week, Gili Air.

The island has a completely different feel to Bali itself. There are no motorised vehicles allowed, so pushbikes and horse are the main modes of transport, this simple fact really shapes the place. There are no roads, just sandy gravel tracks and it’s super quiet without the constant noise of scooter engines and horns. Pure bliss in our eyes. 

Our time on the island was completely loose, most days consisted of relaxing down the beach, taking a swim and then going for lunch. Drinking a coconut or searching for sea shells were regular activities. Catching a boat to the neighbouring island of Gili Meno was about as taxing as it got. 

Our accommodation was a small bamboo hut, which we fell in love with and found completely relaxing. It was like climbing into a treehouse each night. On top of this the locals were all so welcoming and we felt humbled to be in their presence. 

We really were lucky to experience the Gili Islands, a tropical paradise, not only in the way they look but also in the way they make you feel. Well worth the journey for sure.


The Beautifully Chaotic Canggu 

For both of us it is our first time visiting South East Asia. Many of our friends have been and you hear a lot of stories and opinions, but like anything else, the only way to truly know is to experience it yourself. 

We arrived into Denpasar, Bali and immediately felt the humid air hit us as we stepped out the plane. Before we knew what had happened we were through customs and spat out into the most crazy of places.

Luckily we had booked a driver in advance, although finding our names took some time, refer to photo above, this showing only about a quarter of the names being held up.  

The guy driving us didn’t hang around once we jumped in, wildly overtaking, cutting corners and generally thinking he was driving a scooter rather than a car. His regular method when a situation got too tricky was to flash the hazard lights and put his foot down.

After a tense and crazy ride eventually we arrived into our first stop – Canggu. 

Neither of us had any preconceptions about this place – which we have found is often the best way while travelling – you are then not worrying about reaching your expectations. While there we described Canggu in one phrase as ‘beautifully chaotic’. 

The road, was full of scooters, people and animals, all trying to find their place. The east meets west influence was so clear, with hipster coffee shops next to traditional rice fields and cows. 

At times it is very overwhelming and completely surreal. There was also a real chilled out surfer vibe in the air, which both of us appreciated. Although I managed to cut my foot several times while out surfing at one of the reefs, a lesson learnt to land flat in the water. 

Our favourite day here came when we took a scooter ride North of Canggu, out into the countryside. Soon the western influence dried up and we were amongst the locals. 

We got lost in one village and children stared at us in amazement, shouting ‘hello’ with huge smiles. We often stopped and watched around us, most the time with our jaws on the ground, we were blown away. 

The time in and around Canggu was amazing. Being in a completely different culture and county was not only refreshing but brought complete mindfulness of the situation, as everything was new to us. Bali had certainly welcomed us in a spectacular way and we were very much enjoying every single moment.

NZ Week 9 – 10: A family adventure and leaving NZ

Our final two weeks in New Zealand were spent with my family. It was quite surreal for us all to meet up after not seeing one another for six months, especially down under. 

The stories shared from each other’s adventures were amazing, and we spent many a late night talking. Some of the mishaps Mike and Beth had encountered were hilarious, particularly their experiences with massages in India. 

My Mum and Dad had also had a fantastic time exploring the South Island in NZ, it is certainly something they will never forget. 

I was super grateful to be with everyone for my birthday – it was the big 30 – one I will always remember, thank you to all of them.

We spent the two weeks in two locations – Hihi in Northland and Pukehina in the Bay of Plenty. 

For all of us it was the first time we had stopped and settled in the same location for a while. Days were spent walking, fishing and kayaking, as my dad said ‘it was magic’. 

This chapter of our travels also marked the end of New Zealand for us. The time here has been unforgettable. The landscape has offered the true impact, the vast scale of what has been before our eyes providing a real perspective on life. 

Much of our time was spent in amazement at the sometimes surreal and often breathtaking sights. We leave with a changed state of mind. 

NZ Week 8: The Coromandel 

Our final week together in Byron the van so we wanted to make it one to remember and headed to the Coromandel. 

It was a week filled with walking on white sandy beaches and collecting the most amazing seashells.

New Zealand felt so cold in comparison to Australia, so when I heard about Hot Water Beach with natural 65 degree springs it became a must do location. We headed down just before sunrise and at low tide in order to find the springs, you could see where they are because of the steam rising from the sand. 

We borrowed a spade from one of the locals and Edd dug away whilst I eagerly waited to get in and warm up. The water was so hot that we actually had to let the sea water in so that the pools were bearable. It was super amazing sat in the sand watching the sunrise through the steam, it was definitely worth getting up early for.

Cathedral Cove was another highlight, walking 45 minutes to a small beach and seeing the rugged archway that has formed in the cliff. Edd was in photography heaven, which was wonderful to see.

Staying in a campervan has been amazing, parking up in secluded spots by the beach and hearing the waves crash at night is something we will always remember. 

The van has been our home, shelter, bed, kitchen, security, transport, kitchen and most importantly dependable friend. I hope that this is the start of more campervan adventures to come.

Keeping it Cooly 

Last year while camping down in Cornwall we met an Aussie guy living near Lands End. He was really interested in our upcoming trip and was kind enough to recommend a few East Coast stops. One of these was Coolangatta, or Cooly as it’s better known. 

Similar to Coffs Harbour we were pretty much the only ones to get off at this stop. Had we made the right choice to follow the advice we were given? 

After spending 10 days in Byron it was quite a shock to be in such a different environment. Byron consists of low rise buildings and plenty of vegetation, so it feels very natural, particularly when you are down the beach. In Cooly it was a very different story, high rise buildings were in abundance. Instead of mountains in the distance we could now see the sky scrapers of Surfers Paradise on the horizon. 

It took a bit of time to adjust, but the next morning we felt more comfortable and really started to enjoy it. The amazing sunsets definitely helped too.

Coolangatta is situated right next to Snapper Rocks and Kirra – both of which are world famous surf spots. We spent one afternoon watching and the standard of surfing was ridiculously high. You could sense the competitive atmosphere in the water, certainly a contrast to the laid back vibes in Byron. 

After spending the day chilling round the corner from Snapper Rocks I decided to hire a board the next day and head in for a surf at Kirra. With the board under my arm and strolling down to the shore it was quite astonishing to see how clear and turquoise the water was.  

As I jumped in the water I immediately noticed the warmth. Wearing a wetsuit now seems a distance memory. It was a glorious surf, and amazing to think I was surfing at such a famous spot. 

We’re super pleased we stopped at Cooly, it’s amazing to experience the contrast in areas as we make our way up the coast. If only we could thank the Aussie guy now living in Cornwall… you never know he might see this one day. 

The greatest surf of my life

It is very hard to put into words an experience that you have dreamt about or given a lot of prior thought to. For me this was surfing at ‘The Pass’ in Byron Bay and I was lucky enough to fulfil my dream. 

We walked down the beach to the famous surf spot the previous morning, to see it in person was amazing. The surf was good but it was slightly too windy. I sat and watched how the wave broke for quite a while, this would help prepare me for when my opportunity arose. 

On our fourth day of being in Byron everything seemed to align and it was the moment to realise my dream. The conditions were better, with a light offshore wind and plenty of swell, my hopes were high that the wave would be working well. 
We hunted around town for the cheapest board hire. Eventually I found my chariot, a slightly battered longboard, and we eagerly headed to the beach.

When stepping onto the sand and looking to the right I could see small black figures riding long peeling waves on the horizon. The wave was working well and I could barely contain my excitement. I felt nervous, but once in the water and paddling out this feeling evaporated. 

There were 50 or more surfers on the main peak, all bobbing up and down as the swell passed beneath them. Perfect right hand 4-5ft waves peeled off the headland, it was an amazing sight. After the long paddle out I sat on my board for a while, partly to catch my breathe but mostly to watch as surfers danced down the face of the waves. 

After a few minutes I felt ready and I made my way over to the take off point. A wave rolled in and I paddled, the board cruising nicely as the swell took me. I checked left and no one else was on it, this was my moment. I popped to my feet as the wave built in size. As I looked down I could see the turquoise water bending up in front of me and Mount Warning in the distance. I turned the board at the top of the wave then headed for the bottom and turned back to the top, repeating this a few times. All the time the wave maintaining a perfect clean shape in front of me. 

I’d heard it was a long ride at this spot, and it felt like hours had passed as I snaked my way to shore. I tried to absorb the moment as fully as I could. The combination of the wave, the setting and the journey here made me realise this was the best wave of my life.

As the wave finally faded, I was stunned and filled with pure joy, I whooped with a huge grin on my face. I looked back at where I had come from and couldn’t believe the distance I had travelled, easily the longest ocean wave I had ever caught.  

I spent the next 2 and a half hours  catching waves, paddling back from the monster rides and chatting to others out there, all until arms felt like noddles. It was one of the best afternoons of my life.

At the end of the surf I was completely overwhelmed. The only way to celebrate in true Aussie style was with a skooner of my new favourite – Byron brewed Stone & Wood ale!