Neighbouring the iconic Bali, Lombok has been underrated even though the island has a lot to offer: white-sand beaches and a daring mountain range that houses an active volcano - Mount Rinjani. Among those arriving in Lombok, many quickly leave for the Gili islands off the northern coast, to look for a so-called paradise. We chose to stay for a little while in Lombok despite a disturbing experience at Lembar Port.
The very first thing we did after settling into our homestay was to rent a bike. It was kind of a must because we stayed at the edge the village where the nearest restaurant was some 15-minute walk and in the evening, you could see hardly anything but hear nonstop threatening barks. The bike turned out to be a saviour in many occasions other than fetching food.
Most roads on Lombok are of decent quality and a lot quieter than the ones we traveled along in Java and Bali. When we were deep inland, we often had the paved paths for ourselves, so we could drive along leisurely and enjoy the view which alternated between rice terrace extending toward the horizon and dense woodland dotted with houses, traditional and modern alike.
Along the coast, the roads could be either sandy or battered supposedly due to frequent traffic and lack of maintenance. It was a bit of a pain riding along those roads but the beautiful beaches were rewarding.
We spent our first day locating the top recommended beaches on the southern tip of the island. From our homestay, we followed the road up and up again, until a vantage point that offers this view:
Then it was a long descent during which the wind whispered all the secrets in our ears.
That part of Lombok was quite underpopulated. Now and then we drove past a house but they often looked abandon. We stopped at a “petrol station” which was a wooden shelf by the road. Standing on the shelf were plastic bottles containing petrol. We shouted "hello" in Indonesia, and waited for a few minutes before a woman and a child came out. We pointed at the bike, then the bottles. As Ian opened the lid of the petrol tank, the woman took out a sieve through which she poured the content of a bottle into our tank. She asked for 8,000IDR. Later we found a shop that charged us 6000IDR, though some others asked for 10,000IDR. Always remember to haggle inIndonesia, my friends!
Soon after the stop, we saw a dirt path which led us to a gate manned by two men. They asked us for a small fee to enter the beach or to park the bike. We did not know what we paid for really, but it must be something significant because they need two people to do it (sarcasm alert).
Passing the gate was the beach front. The sand was white and warm even if it’s not so fine. I took a deck chair while my husband went into the ocean for a dip.
The area was more like a cove, with big rocks on both sides catching the fierce waves. A couple of surfers were lying flat on their boards, patiently waiting for a big one. I was curious to see them surfing, but a woman came talking to me. She wanted to sell me a "sarong" but followed the sales technique of befriending me first. As I’ve been cornered many times by aggressive sellers in my previous two weeks in Indonesia, I thought the chat was rather pleasant. I could not buy any sarong regardless because I determined to travel as light as possible.
Soon after she left, Ian came back. It was a very short swim because the water was full of plastic. It’s heartbreaking as the sea looked so blue and inviting. People sometimes blame tourists for trashing pristine beaches and mountains, it could not be the whole story in Indonesia. We’ve seen a malodorous river obstructed by giant piles of plastic, totally out of any tourist route in Java. We’ve read so many traveler accounts on how tour guides and porters just left rubbish behind during their multi-day trekking in Mount Rinjani. Right on that beach, we saw a seller unwrapping a package and leaving the plastic bag on the sand as if it belonged there. Littering is common among the local and it’s so upsetting because they have such a beautiful country.
The next day, we moved eastwards to another homestay: us two and our backpacks on the rental bike. The second homestay was similar to the first one in a sense that they were not really a homestay like what we would expect in the West. They both have a pool and several detached houses which spread around a spacious area. They were run like a hotel with trained staff instead of a family.
In the second place, we had a massive house - the traditional wooden cottage with a thatched pointed roof. Inside the house, we had the two big beds and a big kitchen, but not the bathroom. It seemed common in Lombok to have the bathroom semi-outdoor. There would be a roof that might or might not cover the whole bathroom area. There would be a low wall covering you and your private business though there might be see-through holes. I do not get any of it.
To give you an idea, here are two traditional houses. The first one we found during our bike ride, the second one is another place we stayed in.
From the second homestay, we could take off on the bike along the east coast and up north where the woodland becomes denser and denser till you reach Mount Rinjani and its surrounding forests. We did half way up north, riding more through villages where we could see children running around and old people sitting under shadowy roofs.
We were on the bike for hours, until my bum was raw and sore, yet my husband didn’t want to come back or even to return the bike at all. He couldn’t get enough of the scenery and the sense of freedom.
Exploring Indonesia? Check out our other posts while travelling the many-island country: