By : Dr. Dietrich Lerche
Lombok, an island about 80km in diameter lands it self to such a circle tour, a circle is also one of my favorite because you never go back, the same road, a 360 degree perspective, always a long the coast and beaches, always new places and faces, the best way to explore the island. To do the odd 300 km in 3 days was also to be a fitness challenge. Walking or hiking across Lombok is not really feasible, no infrastructure.
On the bike at least you can somewhat beat the heat, picking up some wind at 20km. And of course you see and hear (all in all 1000 calls hallo, Mr. Mr., orang touris, mau kemana etc, etc) than going by car.
The first hills along the coastal route (which I choose because of the scenery compared to the mountain / monkey road which is somewhat shorter) turned to be tricky enough: even if you rush on, the bike almost comes to standstill at 30 degrees, front wheel about to lift. That’s why the call it push bike here. On and on, up and down, Malimbu, Nipah and all the other beautiful bays, now stretching in front of me in the morning sun. the 3 Gilis emerge to my left and in the background the majestic Gunung Agung on Bali. Then I leave the scenic coast for a while padding through plat plain, lush rice field in all shades of green, on to Pamenang and Tajung. My breakfast consists of coconuts and mangga, delicious right from the tree, I gulp the kelapa muda down to replenish the lost liquidity balance; the heat and humidly is taking its toll, the air appears to stand still but the sweat runs down in steams, even topless. It is still Ramadan but the road stalls don’t mind serving an infidel, anyone can see that I am on travel, the hard way.
It would be impossible to move on without drinking, my water intake and sweat output is about 51/ day. I have no time to visit any of the posted waterfalls further inland (saw them last time), tempting as the cool steams may be. I did take my first swim on the black beach near Montongpol. At 11.30 it is getting unbearable hot. By chance I spot a Balinese Pura/temple (there are still many Bali enclaves in this region) just off the road. Nobody home. In the shady Pondok I stretch my legs and doze of for a while; peaceful, unbelievable quiet as usually it does not take long and you have company. (Mau kemana, darimana the routine small talk, I know it is all meant to be friendly but s.t. it can also get on your nerves).
At least on a bike you can disappear fast out of earshot. The sea is only 200m away and after another swim, crossing the black sand is walk, walking in free-I feel refreshed to continue, continuing the hilly beautiful coastline, heading now east. After anyer there is quite a long 1 hr climb, up and up, the only consoling thought is what goes up must come down. The road also always comes back to the seafront. Soft downhill runs are exhilarating as the breeze gives the body some coolness, it so desperately longs for. It must be at least 330,90% humidity, not the faintest wind, like in a sauna, only there is no exit door. What a relief to take a dip in the wonderful rock pool, at one of the few rivers near Lokok hayan, which still carries sufficient water. Everything else is very dry; the countryside perched by the glaring sun.
What a change compared to my last visit in may where everything was green. Haze and clouds, however, indicate the rainy season is near. I had hoped to make it still to sambilan where on the map an indicated a hotel but while my watch said 1600 (wrong) dawn was quickly as I just had passed Obel-obel, very close to the coast. My bike doesn’t have lights and I would not have wanted to travel at night, So I was looking for a night on the beach. Better still I found another pondok where fisherman were just ready to leave to buka puas, their outrigger canoes ready on the black sand. For 20.000 Rp the pondok was mine, almost, as it dit not take long and they returned, sleeping , snoring, small talking until ready to go out to sea at 220. after I had another swim, even a shower/well was there, and my meager supper ( cracker +cheese), I felt pretty happy to be dry and safe as now heavy showers began pouring down. I rolled out my isomat, even the blanket I had taken along , now proved to be of some use.
After 115 km up and down, 9 hours in that (ungel) saddle my body ached all over. despite the hassle around me I must have dozed and slept quite well, luckily no mosquito’s, waking up as the fishermen returned from their night out, unfortunately almost empty handed. By sunrise I was up and on the road again, but instead of an easy ride, it was climbing again – why did that lava form Rinjani had to flow all that way to the coast, creating ravines and hills which I now had to muster. Fortunately the rod, with few exceptions, was always good asphalt and very little traffic.
Now the 2 larger islands, gili Lawang, Sulut , off the eastern coast came in sight. At 900 I stopped at one of the beach” resort” of which there are a few long that stretch. Now unfortunately almost completely deserted and also rather run down dirty. The black sand and shallow beache4s at least to me not very attractive, if you can have your pick at a much more scenic Kuta place. On downhill through sambilan I did not see that indicated Hotel, in hindsight staying at the beach was a good choice. For breakfast Nasi Goreng, my first real meal; despite the many calories (6000 p/d) burnt or sweat, I never felt really hungry. Then on to Lombok port, gateway to Sumbawa.
Traffic was becoming heavier; while on the first half of the circle one did not have to consult a map, after Pringabaya there was a criss cross of smaller rods, down the coast south. Promptly, I ended in a diad end, only compensated by a coconut and mangga service. The map was not always accurate either. After a midday cap at a Pondok off the road, I finally reached Tanjung Luar the most southern, tuning point of my journey. From there on it would not have been too far Kute but there really is no direct route, roads or paths are of unknown quality and one would also have to cross another mountain range. As I had been to Kute many times, I opted to head straight west, along the main road to Praya. This was maybe the worst part of the trip.
First Rinjani again had its flanks out there, implying a 2 hrs climb, gently; but surly up, the road also led though rather densely populated areas which meant more then the usual hassle from the crowds, not always cheerful as I had experienced up north. Near Keruak one youngster even tried (unsuccessfully) to snatch my purse from my back pocket while cycling. (sorry to you east Lomboker, also my cap disappeared at one of your beaches). By that time of course I had become used it all kind of greetings, shouting, questions wherever I passed. I must have been the first white, bare breasted cyclist they have seen for some time but in generally people were friendly and interested. As no Losmen showed up on the road for a lost, tired cycle man, I had no choice but to continue to Praya, provincial capital of east Lombok. some thundering over me, but I made it safe and dry to Hotel Dien Hunai (best in town but has seen better days).
In town and along the countryside one could see, lebaran was approaching, streets full of shoppers and all kind of decorations getting prepared in the villages. The mouzein was constantly blaring; they woke me up (by mistake) at Saur. Any way I got enough sleep for the last ditch, a mere 60 km, piece of cake after 135 km on day 2. I could have made it to Mataram still that day but wanted to avoid the main road, by passing suburbs and hit the west coast again. So at Puyung I left the main road, passing the weaving village Sukarara. Once again I got lost but then traveled through beautiful countryside, rice fields, a picturesque rural setting.
Farmers toiling the soil, women doing their daily chores in the villages, passing local circlers who take a showers pace as this crazy Orang Bule, speeding by. Suddenly I found myself at the municipal dumpsite near Pongsong. Not an attractive crossing but then down a small path, coming out at the other and of the Buddhist temple hill. From then on, it is a small road, parallel to the coast until I reach the bustling town of Ampenan. I arrive back at my place shortly after 9.00. the shower feels good and after there are now also showers from the sky, I thank Allah that everything went so well, no accident, not even a flat tree beautiful scenery all the 310 km, friendly people.
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