Sara and I have now met up with 6 -- that's right, 6 -- of our friends from Boulder. Now we're traveling around Indonesia as a group of 8. It's like a party on wheels; a group of friends, all from Boulder, all who have known each other for years and years.
We reunited on Gili Air, a small island off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia. Gili Air is a storybook-perfect location: it has no roads, no pavement, no streets of any kind. It's small enough that you could (and often do) walk in a circle around the perimeter of the island in 1 hour. The water is crystal-clear. If you're standing in the water you can see your toes below. The water is filled with coral life, with makes it a great snorkeling location (perfect for spotting sea turtles, barracudas, angel fish, parrot fish, or just swimming through the seaweed).
As a group of 8, (I've started calling us The G8 Summit), we rented out an entire small hotel (actually, there was one French guy staying there alone, and he quickly became our new friend and an Honorary Coloradoan.) Each of us were staying in wooden bungalows with large front porches that opened out directly onto the sandy beach. We'd gather each morning in a gazebo for complimentary breakfast, where we'd sneak bites of our eggs to the hungry stray kittens who always knew when we were eating, but who cuddled with us and played with us even when we were food-free. Then we'd spend the rest of the day swimming, snorkeling, reading, and going on walks. The restaurant next door served the world's best vegetables-with-peanut-sauce for $1.50, and mixed fruit smoothies for $1.
We befriended several local Indonesian guys living on the island, who told us stories about the year or two that they lived in Saudi Arabia as restaurant servers (many of them have worked in the Gulf temporarily, because the pay is better, but most returned because they missed their families). They were sad when our Group of 8 left, but even paradise gets boring after a few days. It was time to move on to bluer waters.
After 2 solid days of interminable bus-ferry-bus-ferry transit, we've now arrived on the island of Flores, which in my opinion is far superior to Bali. Bali is the place you go if you're either 1) an avid surfer, 2) interested in seeing temples, temples and more temples, or 3) a 16-year-old Australian on Spring Break. Bali is so over-developed that it's turned into a maze of concrete and big-box retailers, and its narrow roads are congested, even at midnight. Flores is the island to visit if you're interested in getting back to nature; it's the island of coral reef life, lush forests and mountainous terrain.