After enjoying 15 days in Bali and Lembongan, one of the smaller Balinese islands, we took a boat to Lombok island, said to be Bali’s prettier sister… We’d heard it is less touristic with amazing beaches and famous for climbing the Rinjiani volcano that dominates the island, which we were prepared to do if my foot recovered in time from the surgery I had in Bali…
We disembarked in the port of Bangsal where we were immediately surrounded by drivers trying to get us to hop into their private car for transportation. We weren’t in a rush to get to our destination, so we went for lunch before, observing if any real taxi would come around. Our waiter tried to convince us to take a transportation with him. He used all the possible selling arguments he had and was quite good at it! We almost snapped at his selling speech but decided to walk away from the port instead to find a taxi. Unhappy, he followed us down the street continuing the negotiation on a rather aggressive tone, especially when we asked other drivers about their price. Seeing that we were really going away, he suddenly dropped the price to 100rp each. It was tempting, but decided to go on… We eventually found a taxi with an actual taxi meter that took us too Senggigi, 40km away from the port. The driver explained to us that real taxis are not allowed to go to the port because there is a mafia of private transportation that forbid them to pick up clients there. We paid 75rp in total for the ride (37rp each vs. 250Rp they were asking at the port!) So I guess what I am trying to say is that, just like in many places there is a lot of taxi scam in Lombok especially when arriving by boat. Although there is no taxi at first sight, it is worth walking about 40 meters down the main road to find the blue bird taxis waiting there.
We stayed 2 days in Senggigi, the beach and resort area of Lombok with all 3 and 4 stars hotels. However we stayed in a nice homestay, very economic and with a friendly family. Agbar, the 20 years old son spoke really good English. As it was pouring down rain on our first day, we hung out with him chatting about many different things. And just like any other 20 year old, he likes to party, have fun with his friends, tell about his drunken nights, goes surfing when he is not in university… It was interesting to see that despite wanting the economy to grow he had some real concerns about Lombok developing tourism to fast…
Kuta was our next destination in Lombok, it is a more hippy and surfers town. Some people say it is like Bali 30 years ago, which I could imagine quite well. Don’t get me wrong, it is touristic too, but definitely more quiet and laid back than Bali. We spent most of our time in Kuta renting surf boards and trying out our surfing skills in the Selong Belanak beach.
At that point in our stay on Lombok, we didn’t get the chance so see Rinjiani because of the cloudy weather. In fact, the weather was every day almost the same: very dark clouds over the mountains in the morning but clear sky at the beach, and around 1pm every day the rain came down pretty heavily with big thunders until 7pm.
But we still were pretty confident about climbing the volcano and decided to head towards Senaru, the small town in the mountain from which most treks start.
They day we actually decided to head to the mountains, the sky was really clear and we saw Rinjiani for the first time! It was beautiful!
Senaru was much smaller than we expected… it is basically one long street with not much around except for trekking agencies. Also, renting a motorbike there was complicated and expensive because the town is quite remote… But we managed to find one for the next day, and decided to go for a smaller hike first to see if I could manage with my foot. The morning weather was rather clear, so we drove 1 hour to Bukit Pergasingan. We started our steep hike under a clear sky, but half way up the mountain the clouds and fog came in. It was only a 2 hours hike up and once at the top, it started raining and the magical view over the volcano and rice fields was completely hidden in the clouds. We stopped for a very short time as the rain started to get heavier and we could hear the thunder coming our way… I was afraid the rain would intensify because the first hour up the mountain was very steep and muddy. Well… what I was afraid of happened: in only a few minutes the rain was so heavy we were completely drenched. We could barely see 2 meters ahead of us, and quickly the path became very muddy. 30 minutes into our descent, the path had transformed into a mud river, slowing us down even more.
The situation was funny and scary at the same time as the thunder was really close. Our cloths and shoes were soaked. 2 hours later, we were eventually down with no accident, but unfortunately not at the same place we had started the hike! With the heavy fog, we must have taken a wrong turn and went down on the wrong side of the hill. But we managed to walk to the motorbike just fine, where a man was waiting for us: he wanted us to pay for going up the hill… After arguing for a while, we had to threaten him to go to the police to verify if what he said was true. At the word “police” he calmed down and let us go… It took another long hour and half ridding under the heavy rain before finally being back at our place. It rained really strong the entire afternoon until the night. If my foot was rather okay, it is at that moment that we decided not to climb Rinjiani!! In about 1 hour, we changed all our plans for our remaining time in Indonesia. Instead of climbing the Volcano and chill afterwards in the Gili Islands, we booked a flight to Jogyakarta the next day, and used our 10 last days to visit Java island.
It was probably all for the best: 2 days later, the volcano Agung in Bali finally erupted and the airport of Bali and Lombok closed down…
Lombok thoughts: Lombok was a nice experience, but if we had to do it again we would probably rent motorbikes for our entire stay and drive around the island instead of having to organise transportation. In remote villages, taxis are rare and you end up paying quite expensive to go from one place to another (Kuta to Senaru for example, Senaru to Bangsal…).
The island is very pretty and we found the beach much nicer than in Bali, but one of the downsides is that it’s very polluted and trash is everywhere (more than other Asian countries we’ve visited before).
If it is surprising at first, you eventually get used to the Muslim prayers waking you up at 5 or 6am, just like your get used to everyone calling you “Boss”!