As seemingly-perfect as Gili Air was, we knew that there was still lots to see on our original Indonesian itinerary and we’d need to jump on a boat to see Lombok. Let me be perfectly clear about this: there were multiple discussions about just staying in one place, riding out the rest of our time in Gili Air, and not answering to anyone or anything for the time we had left. It was a serious consideration. If you read the last post on Gili Air, you’ll understand why. That place was so beautiful and completely devoid of any transport requiring a combustion engine. Why leave at all?
But Lombok was calling us. Our friends Danyell and Garett (who we met in New Zealand but hail from Canada) insisted that Lombok was the place to be, particularly Kuta Lombok on the southern edge. And almost every single local we spoke with on Gili Air would describe him or herself in two ways: “Sasak” (the indigenous people of the area) and, almost without fail, “come from Lombok.” Everybody was “come from Lombok” on the Gili Islands, it seemed.
Some of the best experiences I’ve had from travelling come about through the word-of-mouth recommendation of travellers and locals that we meet, so Lombok seemed like a worthwhile place to hang out for at least a few days.
Bronwyn managed to find a place to stay for $13 night in Kuta Lombok (not to be confused with Kuta Bali), so we shrugged off any other consideration and set sail (on a motorboat) from Gili Air. Jamal knew a guy who knew a guy that could drive us from the port in Bangsal on the Lombok side to our place in Kuta Lombok for the same price that the highly-advertised shuttle bus, so we booked in with him. Jamal even rode the boat across with us and made sure we found our driver.
The ride was about two hours and I managed to count somewhere in the range of seventeen million monkeys loitering on the roads. Those monkeys move quick so I couldn’t snap any photos in time, but I tried to take a slow-mo drive-by video of one particularly stoic-looking monkey on a guardrail. OK. Full disclosure: I didn’t count the monkeys. But there are monkeys on this island, people. And they don’t care about you, or anybody. Don’t mess with them.
When we arrived at Kuta Lodge Homestay, our host Ben showed us to our room. Was it the first place in Indonesia we’ve had without air conditioning? No. But the fan was really small and its oscillation arc seemed hell-bent on avoiding the sweltering area on our bed. We knew that we’d be spending the bulk of our time outside of the room, so we promptly rented a motorbike and hit the road.
With the daylight we had left we decided to check out some of the more famous beaches in the area, including the rather marvellous Pantai Selong Belanak to the west of Kuta Lombok.
All of the beaches in the Kuta Lombok area have a crew of dudes hanging out on the road that collect money for parking. It’s not that bad – about 10 cents on average – so you pass through their barricade and head down to the beach. We were keen to do some surfing while we were in Indonesia, but needed to scope out the different beaches to make it happen. We bought some drinks and sat down on a reclining chair to watch a dude with his drone film the whole beach area from the sky. I had major drone envy, but before I could stand up and tell him about it we were approached by a vendor who informed us that we’d need to pay the rental fee if we were going to continue enjoying the umbrella. It was 4:30pm at this point and we couldn’t justify the $5 daily rate at that point, but the guy seemed happy to settle for a half-price fee if we were willing to listen to his surf school pitch. In the end, we didn’t end up going back to Selong Belanak the next day as we suggested we would.
We returned to the Kuta Lombok area, saw some boats, saw some goats, and headed to the infamous Boom Burger for dinner. The place is a haunt for raucous surfers and beach bums; most of the food is less than $2 and you can purchase freshly squeezed juices for less than $1, but you’re going to be waiting a while for them to prepare your food because the street-food setup of the place is always packed. We would visit twice in our two days in Kuta Lombok.
The next day involved more moto-exploration: we found the pricey but beautiful Ashtari Restaurant and Yoga retreat on top of the hill overlooking the whole of Kuta and relaxed in the company of high-elevation breezes, yoga hipsters and arthropods.
It was a nice way to break away from the heat since our bungalow was a sauna, and the beach at Kuta is entirely without shade. We decided that to make the best of our scooter rental and headed east to the beautiful Pantai Tanjung Aan, easily one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
The swimming was nice, but the company was even better!
We didn’t end up buying any of their sarongs to alleviate the weight from their heads, but they agreed to take a picture with us after a modest bribe of humour and the change we had in our pockets. Totally worth it.
Our initial plan was to stay in Kuta Lombok for three or four days, but after living in a state of virtual suspended animation while in Gili Air, the Lombok area seemed like a frenetic city full of traffic noises and – ugh! – other people. While we had considered flying from Lombok’s airport back to Denpasar to save time, we opted for a ferry ride back to Kuta Bali instead.
It bears mentioning that we wouldn’t recommend this route to get between the two places. While we’ve had our share of airport-induced headaches over the course of the last few months, we really should have taken the flight. The lowest prices we saw for Lombok to Denpasar started around $28 per person and would have taken us about 30 minutes (if you don’t include the time spent clearing security and waiting for your luggage). Instead, we found ourselves on an all-day adventure of discomfort, from the cramped – albeit air-conditioned – shuttle van to the ferry to the cramped and incredibly long ferry ride, right up to and including the extremely cramped and sticky-hot van between the port and Kuta Bali on the Bali side of the trip.
It was all part of the adventure, but since our time here in Indonesia was quickly starting to run out, hindsight strongly suggests that we would have been better off flying. Why didn’t we? The mobile version of the airline’s website seemed to refuse our credit card and we couldn’t get the tickets booked in time.
After a couple of hours in that van, our driver told us that the road was closed along the route he wanted to take, so we’d have to get out and walk the rest of the way to our hotel. Given that we had been in transit for nearly twelve hours, we hopped in the first (air conditioned) cab we could find and for a cool $1.50 we were safely in the lobby of the rather quaint Pavilion Hotel, right next door to a lovely little hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant and clean sheets. It was good to be back in Bali.
Next: a couple of days in Kuta Bali are enough, though the wet n’ wild Waterbom water park was a must-do for us before we made our way to the final stop in Indonesia before flying out: Canggu.
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Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com