Slice of Life Tuesday-The Challenge Facing The People of Gili Trawangan

I have just spent a few days on a small island off Lombok called, Gili Trawangan. It was great to have a few days to unwind after some hectic work in recent months. As the fog in my head receded, the words began to flow and spill across my notebook pages. I embraced this experience. It was like a curtain being drawn back and revealing something exciting to the eye, the ear,  and the heart of the writer within. The pace of this small coral atoll requires the visitor to adapt to a slower pace. I had no cause to resist.

There are no cars allowed on Gili Trawangan. No motorbikes, No Trucks. In fact, the road that encompasses the entire island is little more than a dusty track (8 kilometres in total) in most parts and requires attentive navigation.  Bicycles are a favoured form of transport here. Many of the available tourist residences on the island offer- FREE BICYCLES as an incentive.  

Vicki and I clambered onto bicycles and joined the throng of riders. It’s hot dry work here. The heat of the day is intense.  You soon encounter loose, shifting sand that proves impenetrable on a bicycle. We are forced to dismount and walk. It’s a bit galling actually. We pass numerous other ‘walkers,’ and begin to understand where the term ‘push bikes’ may have originated. Great exercise though. Great sight seeing, -and pollution free transport at the same time.

Our island bike ride becomes a pattern of short riding stints interspersed by sand traps. We regularly dismount for fear of losing balance and toppling awkwardly into grey, gritty sand. Along the way we encounter a man selling fresh coconut drinks. He is conveniently situated at one of the many sand traps. Good business decision on his part, I thought.

The mass transit system on Gili is provided by pony carts that taxi people to all parts of the island. These ponies deserve the highest praise. These amazing little animals keep this island moving. They multi task in astonishing ways. Whether moving people and their luggage, or bricks and mortar, furniture, food and related goods, -it is the ponies that do the heavy haulage here. They are up for the challenge, resolutely pulling their varied loads throughout the day and into the night.

Adorned in harness and bridle bedecked with decorative bells attached to their chest-plates, they jauntily jingle along the dusty island tracks. You often hear them approaching a little before they trot fully into view –jingle, tinkle, tinkle, here comes the pony man.

In the last few years though, the tourists have been coming to this quaint little place in ever increasing numbers. They are attracted to the isolation, the quietness, not to mention the clear azure ocean and the chance to snorkel the surrounding coral reefs- and here’s the rub! With the tourists, development and the relentless push for progress accelerates rapidly. Simplicity is under threat, without doubt. I wonder how much longer the ponies can hold out against the odds here?

These thoughts and observations first appeared in my notebook while relaxing on Gili Trawangan. They have emerged here.
The Pony carts of Gili Trawangan Island

Push bike action on the dusty tracks of Gili Trawangan Island


  1. Praise to the ponies! Enjoy your must be very relaxing to enjoy the serenity the island has to offer!

    Your words, "As the fog in my head receded... I embraced this experience. It was like a curtain being drawn back and revealing something exciting to the eye, the ear, and the heart of the writer within." describe where I want to be on summer break! Thanks for sharing this moment in time...

  2. We all need time to adapt to a slower space and just be...I am glad that you and Vicki had this wonderful slowing.

  3. As always Alan I enjoy how you share your writer's life. What a lovely setting to be in when your mind cleared and these descriptive words appeared. I appreciate the journey to this island and hope success will not change it's essence.

  4. I had my students research the history of remote islands a few years ago, and it was clearly a Catch 22. They needed economy boosts, but when more tourists came, more of everything was needed. I feel for the ponies. It's a gift to you that you are experiencing it now, and capturing some of the magic before it is lost. Thanks for sharing with us, too!

  5. That island sounds like a delightful place! I had to Google to see where it was -- I know you said it was near Lombok, but I didn't know where that was!

    Reading your writing feels like slowly breathing in a big gulp of fresh air. Your description captures so many small details that really help us to feel your experience with all our senses. I'm glad it made its way out of your notebook so we could all read it! :-)


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