Thursday, August 28, 2008

August 25, 2008 - Gili Air, Lombok, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

We haven't had any rain for two months now - not since the downpours of our last few days in Vanuatu. The salt spray from our 16 day run to Darwin acted as an attractant, to which the soot from Australia's controlled burns and the dust from Eastern Indonesia's arid climate stuck like glue. Our white decks, lines, and canvas were all brown. Our lines were so stiff with salt that they would bend, rather than wrap around the winches. So it was time to clean house.

We've spent the past five days in a frenzy of boat cleaning. We polished stainless until we couldn't find a fingerprint between the two of us. We scrubbed decks and canvas until we couldn't stand up straight. Just when it would get to be too much, and we'd start to wonder why we gave up our desk jobs to become a scullery maid and a janitor, we'd head ashore for some cheap and tasty food and drink.

"Gili" is Indonesian for small island. "Air" means water, which is kind of a funny name for a place devoid of fresh water during the dry season. Due to the lack of local water, all the restaurants here make ice and cook with bottled water. So, we've been indulging in salads, veggie curries, and gado gado, a local dish of blanched veg, covered with peanut sauce and served with a soft boiled egg, and fried tofu or tempeh (which is like tofu, but the soybeans are less processed. We could easily become vegetarians here - which is saying something for two dyed in the wool carnivores like us - the vegetarian dishes are just that tasty. To wash down all these virtuous veggies, we've been slurping down blended fruit juice drinks. We keep thinking that they'd be really good with a splash of rum, but that might cut down on our after lunch productivity.

The bars and restaurants on Gili Air line the east coast of the island. Mixed among the tables are platforms covered with pillows, where patrons can lay back and relax, sipping a smoothie while they wait for lunch. Since most kitchens here only have one cook, it is best to make oneself comfortable. Our first lunch ashore took 3 hours. We quickly found a place that could get us in and out in under an hour - Tami's, right next to the harbor. Today it was full of sunburned day-trippers from Gili T (one of the other two Gilis off the northwest coast of Lombok), so we went hunting for a local joint. We were thrilled to find a spot that could dish us up two plates of chicken fried rice (nasi goreng) for a grand total of $2.40, a quarter of our typical lunch tab.

The bars serve all the western spirits to tourists, but the locals drink palm wine and rice wine. We went to Tami's, our lunch spot, for dinner last night. The joint was empty, other than us. So the guys (all these places are staffed with young, cool cat guys with funky sunglasses and a penchant for strumming the guitar) poured us some of their local brew. We both preferred the rice wine. The palm wine tasted too much like proofing yeast for our palates. The rice wine tasted similar enough to sake to knock back a few glasses. The more powerful local spirit is arak, which a stronger version of rice wine. It is a bit rough around the edges, but makes a servicable version of a capahrinia - the Arakpahrinia.

In the past five days, we've just scraped the surface of the local food and drink options. We've spent all our time cleaning, so we haven't begun to explore the island or the reefs around it. We're looking forward to putting the cleaning supplies away and devoting ourselves to exploring the Gilis and their restaurant menus once Sten's mom arrives tomorrow.

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