There was no fuel available at Yogyakarta, and this next leg would be a domestic flight. All paperwork and fees were being taken care of by the handling agent. All we had to do was turn up, stroll through security, and get going. It slightly made up for the enormous costs of flying in Indonesia (around $1,500 in fees for a 3 night stop) – but only slightly. Now much lighter in fuel load, we shot off the runway and climbed hard to reach a safe altitude for our flight along Java.
The area directly between Yogyakarta and our destination of Lombok is largely restricted airspace so our route took us northwest initially, close to the other side of the island. From here we turned east across the city of Surabaya and out across the bay between Java and Madura Island. The haze was not bad, and the air was smooth, about as good as we could ask for!
A couple of hours in we reached the eastern end of Java. Monitoring the emergency frequency, I started to pick up an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), a kind of beacon designed to automatically go off in the event of an aircraft crash. My first thought was that maybe mine had gone off somehow in error, given that the frequency of air traffic that would carry such a beacon around here was probably low. The signal came and went as we flew, however, so that seemed unlikely. I reported it to air traffic control, and although it took a while for them to understand what I was trying to tell them, our report was eventually acknowledged.
ATC offered me a shortcut but I elected to stay on the flight planned route and turn right across Bali; we wanted to see something of the island! We climbed a couple of thousand feet higher to ensure proper terrain clearance, and made our way across Bali. The top of the hills were smothered by cloud, which continued up a little above our altitude, so we delayed our turn back to the east until we were clear of this; even though we could fly in the cloud quite legally, it’s nicer to have a view!
We were number 2 out of 3 on the arrival to Lombok, and were sent directly to the final approach fix with instructions to make “best possible speed”. For a C182 this meant about 150kts ground speed down approach, with a slightly tetchy airline pilot in the hold above us regularly inquiring about where the Cessna was now. I pulled the power on short final and fed in flaps, dropping from 150 down to 70, and we turned off at the first taxiway and headed for the ramp. We were directed in to park next to a Cessna 172 that, as we shut down, started up and taxied out. This left a gap between us and the King Air at the end of the row that clearly displeased the self-important man directing operations, so we had to get the tow bar out and move Planey over a space. Well pleased, the self-important man departed.
Following my “fuel on arrival” rule, the ground handlers brought out 2 barrels of avgas on a trailer for us. That was all that was provided; 2 barrels, no pump, hoses or tools. We rummaged around in the back of the airplane for the hand-pump and fuel hoses, last used in Egypt, and then managed to open the drums up through use of a large spanner. With the help of the excellent ground crew, we slowly pumped the fuel through my filter and into the various tanks, only having to stop once to wash avgas out of my eyes after a particularly over-enthusiastic pump.
We put the cover on and two of the ground handlers escorted us across the ramp and through immigration; I called a “Grab” to take us to the Sheraton Senggigi that Juvy had organised for the next few nights. This stop was intended as a lazy, relaxing break near the end of the trip with no real plans other than hanging around the resort and taking a boat trip or two! It was an hour’s drive to the resort, and we checked in to our rooms before wandering down to the restaurant for dinner and Pina Coladas.
The energetic Jia, who me’d met in Lombok, had wanted to fly with us; with only 2 seats in the plane, that hadn’t been an option. Not to be deterred, however, she’d booked a cheap airline flight from Yogyakarta – I received a message after dinner telling me she was in the lobby! I wandered down to say hello. She had checked in to the hotel next door and would join us for the next two days! We planned a time to meet the following morning, and said our goodnights.
The next day was a remarkably lazy one. I made it downstairs about 5 minutes before breakfast closed at 11am, and dined on a rather disappointing crepe with Nutella; who knew it was possible to get that wrong? I headed out to the beach to join the girls, who had laid claim to a kind of gazebo on the beach, and relaxed in the shade reading and working on the website as Juvy floated around in her lifejacket, and Jia ran screaming from a kind of small lobster that a local gentleman had just caught for his lunch.
The lazy afternoon drew on, and Jia and I elected to see what was on offer in the way of watersports. Sadly no small sailing dinghies were available, so we ended up renting a double kayak for an hour and paddling off around the bay, exploring around the small lighthouse and taking it in turns to jump into the water and use our one mask and snorkel. As the end of our hour drew near, Jia had the bright idea of swimming in to our gazebo (at one end of the beach) to grab the money needed for the bill, before swimming back out and paddling to the other end to return the kayak. She had failed to reckon with what was, at low tide, now a very shallow reef between us and the shore, and swam straight over it scratching up her stomach and foot.
She vanished up the beach wailing loudly and did not reappear, so I returned the kayak solo and went in search of her. I found her in one of the hotel restaurants near the beachfront with the hotel nurse attending her injuries. She was still in good form, despite occasional dramatics, and had been thoughtful enough to collar a waiter and have him deliver the payment to the kayak rental! Her swift recovery was heralded by her concern switching over to whether or not we had missed 2-for-1 cocktail happy hour; happily, we had not, and we enjoyed drinks and dinner by the hotel pool.
On our final day in Lombok, we had arranged a boat to take us to the Gili islands for the day. These three islands form a small archipelago off the coast of Lombok and are known for their idyllic beaches and snorkeling, as well as the party lifestyle at nights on one or two of the islands. Given that ours was a day trip, we wouldn’t be partaking of the latter. Under the skillful care of our Captain, the journey to the islands from the hotel’s beach took around 40 minutes.
Our first destination was the island of Gili Trawangan, the largest and most developed of the trio. Our Captain dropped us on the beach and we set out to explore the main street, which was lined with tourist shops, restaurants, and dive centers. No cars are allowed on the islands, and horse-drawn carts were everywhere. Juvy stopped in at a store to buy a small dry-bag for her camera and other gear; Jia insisted on taking on the position of lead negotiator, and drove a hard bargain. We decided that things were a bit too busy and bustling here, so returned to the boat and set off for the middle island, Gili Meno.
Our destination soon became obvious, as a swarm of boats hung loosely around a mass of swimmers in the water. We jumped in, masks at the ready, and went over to take a look. What we saw was the underwater sculpture “Nest”, consisting of 48 human figures placed here to create an artificial reef. Sadly my lack of waterproof camera meant that I couldn’t capture the view; I had left it in the aircraft! Foolish. Jia made friends with some Scandinavian tourists who took photos for us and promised to send them on, but alas, we never heard from them.
We returned to the boat, and were taken up to the head of the island before getting back in the water. Here, deep waters butted up to a shallow reef (not quite shallow enough to repeat the previous days injuries, happily), and in the deeper sections several sea turtles were lazily gliding around. They seemed un-bothered by the swimmers, and could clearly outrun them if they felt like it! People kept a respectful distance, and it was fantastic to watch them in their natural habitat after seeing them many times at turtle rescue and rehabilitation centers.
Our captain plucked us from the waters one last time, and we made for the final island, Gili Air. The water became choppy, and by the time we reached the beach and a lunch restaurant, the girls were both feeling rather the worse for wear. A small amount of vomiting later, we sat around a table on the beach and enjoyed a meal of satay and coconuts before boarding our vessel and cruising back to the hotel. On the way we came across another boat, clearly having engine trouble. After a discussion between captains, in the local language, we departed for the hotel; I assume that help must have been already on the way, or perhaps they didn’t like each other!
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the pool (with a slight bias towards the in-pool bar!) before an early dinner, and early bed. Our time in Lombok was at an end, and I’d be up early the next day to continue alone.
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