5th- 8th April 2015
Our first few minutes on Lombok didn’t quite go to plan. No sooner had we stepped onto the soft sandy shoreline we had lost money to a simple but effective ploy. The local horse drawn carriage taxis mass in the car park all too aware that at regular intervals throughout the day naïve foreigners are looking to pass swiftly through the village and onto popular destinations on the island. Information regarding where tourists find the minibus station is vague at best and they use this to their advantage. We were corralled onto one of these carriages and told the station was a long walk away so we needed a taxi. A transaction of cash was naturally expected and after a little haggling we got the cost down to a couple of quid. The “long” journey to the station turned out to be an 800m trot around the corner at a pace that would make a snail caught in treacle seem fast. So if you do make the small ferry crossing from the Gili’s to Lombok and you have the physique to complete a short walk don’t make our mistake and walk to the station yourself.
|Kuta Hotel is a real Oasis amongst the hustle and bustle|
Two hours was all it took to reach the southern village of Kuta. It’s fair to say that the place is a little rough around the edges. The boutique hotels and basic family run guest homes are nestled amongst scrappy looking warungs and pothole ridden streets strewn with loose rubbish. It may leave you thinking what the hell the fuss is all about. After a quick sweep of the range of accommodation on offer we splashed out and checked into the aptly named Kuta Hotel. The place is owned by a couple of Spanish guys and offers large, clean, comfy rooms, an awesome swimming pool and a great buffet breakfast. If you’re on a budget you will want to give this place a miss as it is a the higher end of the price spectrum in town but you don’t need to look far as there are plenty of cheap and cheerful guesthouses dotted along the same street.
|The south coast of Lombok is dotted with rugged but sheltered bays|
Kuta isn’t the real reason why backpackers flock to the south coast of the island. It’s the areas reputations for stunning coastal scenery, beaches and surf that keeps people coming back and the best way to find your inner beach bum is to hire a scooter and explore and your own pace. Almost every guesthouse has scooters to hire in town if you haven’t already brought a bike over from neighbouring Bali. Rentals are extremely cheap at an average of 50,000 IRP (£2.50 a day). Make sure you check the brakes and give the bike a ride around before committing and ensure they also provide you with a decent helmet. The locals don’t seem to care but there are plenty of potholes around and accidents do happen. Sure you look a bit stupid but you wouldn’t want the last memory of your travels to be sat in the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
|Many locals make a living harvesting the fruits of the sea at Gerupuk|
|Great spot for crabbing, Tanjung A'an|
The roads continue to deteriorate as you reach the fishing village of Gerupuk. If surfings your thing look no further as the shallow bay offers four surf spots ranging from suitable to beginners to advanced. Most of the locals offer lessons although you do require a ferry to get out to the breakers at a cost of 150,000 IRP (£12) for two hours. If you’re looking to stay close to the surf gerupuk has a few cheap guesthouses run by the restaurants and cafes. Jono and I gave it a miss with the surfing this time as it was low tide when we arrived but it was clear from the steady stream of backpackers that this is the best place to learn to surf in the region.
|View from a headland at the secret surf spot just a few kilometres east of Kuta|
On our second day with the scooter we turned our attention west of Kuta towards the bay of Mawun. The road this side of town is a little more interesting as the warn tarmac ascends the rocky headland scarred by small quarries and scattered with tiny colonies of shacks. It’s the best place to get a great view of the low lying patchwork of rice fields and crystal waters below. You have to pay a small toll to access the track to Mawun beach which apparently goes towards maintaining the road but evidence of this is limited but the guys at the barrier seem to have a steady supply of alcohol. Mawun is another great swimming spot and I think you may be able to find a little surf if you can wrangle a local guy with a boat to get you out of the sheltered bay. It was certainly good enough to distract us away from heading further west.
|Easy to see why we wasted a day at Mawun Beach|
Back in Kuta we once again crossed paths with our pal Alberto (Yogyakarta & Ubud). Being an experienced surfer Alberto had been drawn towards Gerupuk and Mawi after exploring the Bali surf havens around Uluwatu. We were in no way good enough to join him on the kind of surf he was searching for but regardless of that it always nice to bump into a familiar face and catch up on travelling tales over a few beers.
|Locals here rely on the fertile volcanic soil for their staple food rice|
Our stay on Lombok was brief but we stayed long enough to grab a glimpse of an island quickly embracing tourism and reaping the benefits of development but still manages to retain a back and beyond feel (for a few years longer at least).