From the minute we landed in Bali, Indonesia, we were slightly disappointed with what the country had to offer. Every traveler we had talked to before coming here raved about the place, boasting about its beauty and diversity, and pinpointing it as their most memorable destination since taking off from home. There were times when we agreed with this (like the moment we reached the top of Mount Bromo in a sweat-covered haze and saw the sun peaking over an adjacent volcano), but overall we were sick of the scams and the cleanliness matched that of a high school boy’s bedroom. That is, until we arrived on Lombok.
Going to Kuta, Lombok took a but of convincing. The guys who we were travelling with weren’t set on going there, and we were in the process of booking our epic boat trip that usually goes from the Gili Islands (where we were staying at the time), all the way to Flores. On top of that we were trying to organize a surprise meet up between our friend Robin and Ewa, a bubbly Polish girl we had all travelled with on separate occasions. Meanwhile Robin had convinced himself that Indonesia was a devil child and if one more person tried to convince him that paying $35 for a ferry was a good deal he would book the next flight out to Bangkok. We finally threw romance under the bus and told him that it was in his best interest to book the boat trip, come to Lombok for a couple of days and make a quick stop at the airport to meet a special someone. Considering Robin is not an idiot he pieced everything together and the surprise was swiftly ruined. However, this and the fact that the tourist agent arranged free pickup from our hostel in Lombok for the boat tour solidified our plans, and we headed to the small surfing town of Kuta on the south end of the island the next day.
The minute the ferry landed on Lombok and we began driving through the winding roads surrounded by lush green forest, mountainous terrain and CLEAN running rivers, we were hooked. Lombok was everything Indonesia had not been thus far: rugged, untamed and far less touristy than both Bali and the Gili Islands. We arrived in Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta in Bali, these are two completely separate locations), and had our driver take us from hostel to hostel to find the best deal. Finally we settled on a place that actually had good Internet (a rarity in Indonesia), but could have easily been confused with a hookers hangout after a night of drunken debauchery. The toilets stank, the sink consisted of a tap that stuck out of the wall and spewed onto the bathroom floor, and I would not be surprised if a few cockroaches made this their local Friday night watering hole. But, after travelling in Southeast Asia for over five months, I was just happy that the bed didn’t have any noticeable stains.
Kuta is first and foremost a surfing town, with many tourists coming here to hit the waves and relax. It was the perfect mix between being touristy enough that restaurants and guesthouses existed, without an overwhelming amount of people yelling “you buy! you buy!” every two seconds. Granted, there was one kid who pestered me for about an hour trying to sell a bracelet, but if you take a firm stance and ignore from the very beginning, they will go away. I sound like a terrible person for saying that about a 10-year-old child trying to earn a buck, but after being in Southeast Asia you realize the money goes directly to the parents, with the kids not seeing a dime. You’d be far better off donating to a charity where you know the money will go to a good cause. One method that also worked was to distract them with photos. They loved seeing themselves on camera, and it helped take their mind off things, if only for a moment.
We were only in Kuta for one full day, so we made the most of it by renting scooters and exploring the coastline of the island. Mount Batur is up there for my most memorable moments in Indonesia, but flying around the winding roads on a little moped on Lombok comes in a close second. Because the country is still in the rainy season in February, everything is a rich green colour, which is amplified by the endless rolling hills and dense forested areas in certain spots. We also stumbled across an almost deserted beach, where the locals cut up juicy pineapple for under a dollar and Indonesian kids were seen swimming naked in the ocean. Again, it was touristy enough that the locals offered their services, but not so much so that all culture was lost and daily activity geared only towards earning a buck from western travellers. At the end of the day we gave our scooters back, grabbed some Bakso soup (Kyle’s favourite dish), and partied with a few Aussies back at our guesthouse.
In the morning we partook in The Last Shower, with the water running out right before Kyle had a chance to jump in. Luckily the tank filled back up right before we had to leave for an unforgettable four-day boat journey with the only fresh liquid on board contained in our water bottles. Looking back I would have loved to have spent more time on Lombok, as Kuta and the southern coastline was the only area we really explored. In the dry season adventurous hikers can climb Mount Rinjani in a trek that takes up to three days and ends at the top of an active volcano (one of the many in Indonesia). At the time, however, I was just happy to have finally found the real Indonesia, and couldn’t wait to press onwards to the even more remote, eastern part of the country.