Lombok Part 2
5-6th July Senggigi
We say goodbye to the tranquil Gili islands, speeding past all three on the way back to Lombok and make the short drive to Sengiggi. We go to Windy Cottages, but arrive to find they are full, so head into town instead. Later we take a walk to the beach just in time for sunset watching the sky turn red, with Bali’s Gunung Agung providing a spectacular backdrop. We take a table on the sands, hundreds of bright lanterns from the local fishing boats shining out to sea.
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The next evening we get some tasty stuffed roasted chicken, with roast potatoes and gravy, from the local beach restaurant which we’ve not had for months. It is filled with ex-pats, eyes permanently fixed on a rugby game on TV.
The beach is quiet, just a couple of other tourists eating dinner and strangely, a man trying to sell us a spinning top!
7th July Kuta
We leave after breakfast and head for Mataram to renew our visas. Asking for ‘imigrasi’ the locals point us in the right direction down the main road. The uniformed lady behind the counter looks at our sponsorship papers from Bali, shakes her head and informs us we need a sponsor from Lombok!
Although she does have a friend who can process the visa for a fee of 1millionRp for same day receipt, and sure enough he arrives half an hour later papers in hand. Usually the fee is 400,000Rp for a same day visa (250,000 next day) so luckily we don’t have to pay too much extra.
We decide whilst we are waiting to head to Mataram mall, the biggest complex in Lombok. It turns out be quite disappointing, filled with just a couple of clothes shops, an empty supermarket, some phone stores, a McDonalds and a KFC! They have interesting variations like rice with chicken in a spicy sauce, which is sometimes even better than a burger!
We drive back to ‘imigrasi’, have a few photos and electronic fingerprints taken, and we leave with two visa extensions allowing us to stay in the country until mid September, three more months!
Deciding to head to Kuta on the south coast, we arrive to find lots of overpriced accommodation all on the road adjacent to the beach, and settle on one for the night. There are just a few surfers lazing around; it seems Kuta has not fallen for the mass tourism takeover quite yet.
Driving around the main hub, we see huge headlands enclosing bays of deserted white sand beaches, and can imagine huge resorts in a few years time buying the land for their own private slice of paradise.
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Later we take a walk to a nearby restaurant playing some chilled out reggae music in between bouts of James Blunt and have some traditional good cheap food accompanied with a couple of vodkas.
Other travellers had mentioned to us that the beaches to the west of Kuta were meant to be nice so we pack up and go exploring, pulling into bay after bay of secluded beaches through green rolling hills and deserted back roads, winding up mountain roads, and passing young children waving and shouting hello, their houses in the middle of nowhere, as we bump along the pot-holed dusty roads.
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We end up driving all the way to the western tip of Lombok, to Desert Point, again along a slow rocky road. Fishing boats are just setting off, tens of brightly coloured sails on the horizon colouring the ocean.
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Looking at a few barely passable accommodation, we follow a sign down to the beach and take the last room of a few spread along a grassy area overlooking the beach, a thatched hut with the bathroom downstairs and some rickety steps leading up to it. Inside we are relieved to find that it looks virtually new, is clean and modern and the best bit is we have our own balcony looking over the grounds.
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We have dinner with the owner, a German guy, who drove a large 15 ton truck from Germany to Nepal about 15 years back before moving to Indonesia.
9th July Sumbawa
Martin drives across the island to Labuhan Lombok, the ferry to Sumbawa taking two hours and costing 348,000 Rp. Once we arrive, the change in pace from Lombok is stark, clear roads with a bit of traffic halfway down. We decide to stop at Maluk as the LP has more suggestions for places to stay but when we arrive, everywhere is full apart from Maluk resort which want us to pay full price for ‘their last’ air-con room even though it is not working. We wearily carry on, it is now 9pm.
Martin finds accommodation on the GPS which simply states the name as ‘Villa’. Running out of options we follow it, taking us down a steep, pitch black and rutted dirt track. Deciding this may not have been such a good idea, we decide to turn around. But once at the top we read the sign (which is covered in graffiti) more carefully and just make out ‘Supersucks Hotel’ Lonely Planet’s ‘our pick’. So we turn around, take two!
We make it down in one piece to find a deserted cafe bar with a couple of old surfer dudes. The deluxe rooms are all full so we are shown up to the rooms with shared bathrooms. The rooms are small and basic and there is a ginormous spider on the wall. ‘You scared of spiders?’ ‘Er, yes!’ ‘OK, no problem’. He grabs it by the legs as it scurries away and throws it onto the balcony. ‘Ok, thanks’.
The shared bathrooms aren’t anywhere near clean and the shower looks like it has seen better days so we make our excuses and head back into town. No option now but to go back to Maluk resort, the air-con is now working, even though this time, it is a completely different room!
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We decide to head back north to Jelenga and see if Sunset View have a room, but we arrive only to be told it is under re-construction. It’s a shame as it looks nice from the outside and the beach set within a huge horseshoe bay looks good for swimming.
We head back down the coast all the way to Pantai Rantung where we are quoted a price for some beach cottages of 780,000Rp equivalent to £56 for their ‘last room’. Wondering how they can charge so much, we decide to drive on. This time we come across a tropical beach resort (Nomads Surf) they want $190 per night….. can anyone actually afford that ! We decide to head to Sumbawa Besar given that none of the accommodation is within our budget or meets basic hygiene stands, which is 100 miles away.
Three hours later we arrive to find the accommodation choice even more dire than we had found previously. The first hotel looks promising, a huge sign and big entrance gates, but when we drive in, all we find is a deserted car park and a burnt-out building. It is listed in the latest Lonely Planet, yet it seems this hotel burnt down over five years ago! I guess they don’t actually re-check accommodation they have already listed. The next seems to be a dive hotel in the middle of nowhere and overpriced as well. We find a room in town, stay for a night and leave as quickly as possible!
We head towards Pantai Lakey, Sumbawa’s “main tourist hub”, a 150 mile drive. It just gets worse and worse; all the good accommodation is full or really overpriced. We walk into most places to find a couple of surfers hanging around looking very bored, and watching surf videos, as there is no actual surf today! So we have no choice but to carry on to Bima where we find a decent hotel (at a price) and settle in for the night.
In the morning, I go to the port to find out about ferries to Sulawesi. On arriving there is no office, and no one seems to know anything about them. Driving off a guy races after me on his bike pulling alongside saying ‘Sulawesi Sulawesi’. I pull over and he tells me that for 5million rupiah, he can arrange a cargo ship to take us and the car over. This seems too much, he quickly drops his price to 3million, but it seems too dodgy so decide to give it a miss.
We spend the rest of the day relaxing in the hotel.
If we had known about the lack of reasonably priced and clean accommodation, we would have driven straight through Sumbawa to Flores. The main issue is that most of the accommodation is either cheap or unclean, mainly used by surf bums, or really expensive, the island is definitely not geared up for non surfers!
We leave at 6am to catch the ferry to Flores from the port at Sape. The drive from Bima takes about an hour winding through the mountains, passing hundreds of local school children all dressed in white from head scarf to shoes, strolling dangerously close to the side of the road, no parents or any other adult for that matter in sight!
As we arrive at the port we are told that the boat is already full, and to board we would have to buy someone else’s ticket. Thinking this is just a scam, we ignore the offer, until an hour later… Everyone has now told us it’s full so we give in and opt to pay a lot more to get the ferry today rather than returning to Bima for another night.
The journey on the ferry is long, hot and tiresome, for nine hours we drift in and out of sleep in the car, watch a movie and drift back off to sleep to awake in Flores.
First thing on arrival, we check for boats leaving to Sulawesi. We’re lucky there is one going tomorrow, which means just one night here, and a 24-29 hour ferry journey tomorrow. We hope that for such a long journey it should be reasonably comfortable, but boy are we mistaken!
Martin wakes at 5am to head to the port to buy the ferry ticket (not wanting a repeat of yesterday’s fiasco). At 7:30 the ticket office opens, however they are only selling tickets to Sape, and we would have to come back later. At 9 am after breakfast we return, and buy our ticket, we are told to come back at 11am for boarding.
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We arrive back, and are amazed that it is just us and one other car on the ferry. Three hours later there are still no other vehicles, and the ferry is ready to leave.
As we leave dark clouds gather, it looks like rain. 45 minutes in, as we head east, we break through the clouds to sunshine.
As we leave Flores we pass hundreds of small islands, some completely uninhabited with fantastic looking beaches.
On board, we are both starving, yet the cafe does not seem to be open. We spot a power socket and decide to grab the kettle to boil some water for a luxurious dinner of instant noodles.
The thought of having 24 hours lying around doing nothing, watching films etc sounded great, however the reality is much different, being stuck on an old rust bucket, with ripped and torn seats, packed in with buffalo and chickens, no aircon, loud karaoke and only three hours on the laptop all lead to a very boring and tedious journey.
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On route the ferry makes two stops, at Jampea Island and Selayar Island, where we are able to purchase some nasi, to keep us going throughout the journey.
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27 ½ hours later of rocking and swaying back and forth, the loading bay comes down. We are absolutely ecstatic to finally be let off onto solid ground, as we drive onto the shores of Sulawesi.
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Martin & Nicole