Lombok, I Love You

In light of the devastating earthquakes that hit Lombok at the start of the month, we are beginning this post by appealing to our readers’ generosity. For anyone that is unaware of the situation, the island is still in a state of emergency, with many thousands of residents displaced and emergency services working tirelessly to gain access to some of the northern villages. Heartbreakingly, over 430 lives have already been claimed, with figures expected to rise further. Given the property damage and loss of tourism-based income, it will be a long road to recovery for the traumatised residents of Lombok.

We are working with Talim, our Lombokian homestay host (you can read more about him below), to help provide supplies for the victims. We welcome you to donate any amount at this Just Giving page, and assure you that it will make a huge difference to those that have been effected by the earthquakes.


We kicked off our time in Lombok with a week on the southern coast near Kuta Lombok which is almost the antithesis of it’s Balinese namesake. There is still a tourist strip, but aside from two roads packed with shops and restaurants, it’s a super relaxed beach town, with relatively few visitors. Our time here was spent living the beach life, including catching some waves!

Likewise, our accommodation was quite the opposite of the fancy hotel we had in Bali. We opted for a rural homestay, tucked away from the main road, named T&T Homestay. This place was quite idyllic for us and still holds in our memories as one of our favourite places. Nestled between two hills, the garden funnelled a refreshing breeze in the hot afternoons, and the surrounding farmland opened an intriguing window into the daily routines of the local villagers. Watching the children running around playing indecipherable games brought back fond memories of my childhood in Sri Lanka, plotting hair-brained schemes with my cousins. The rooms were relatively basic but provided everything you’d need, including a private bathroom, for just £8 a night!

One of the best things about staying at a homestay is the opportunity to befriend local people. Talim and his wife (who’s name I regrettably couldn’t catch) were exceptionally forthcoming, helping us with tips for the best beaches and inviting us to join them and their two shy but inquisitive daughters, Tania and Talia, as they broke their Ramadan fasts in the evenings. Their meals consisted mainly of grilled fish or chicken with an assortment of rice and vegetable dishes. Us vegetarians were given our first authentic, very delicious gado-gado, a dish of potatoes, beansprouts and tofu in a delicately sweet peanut sauce. Despite fasting during daylight hours, Talim’s wife would also serve us scrumptious banana pancakes or omelettes every morning – she was quite the cook!

We learnt a lot about the customs, culture and even the politics of the island from our dinner-time conversations. We also learned that Talim has grand ideas for improving the lives in his village. After seeing that many of the local children were not attending school, he obtained crowd funding from his guests to build one in the neighbourhood. It’s still a work in progress, but what started as one room, expanded to four classrooms serving 50-60 primary school children. In 2017 it was certified as an official school by the local authorities. We found this story very uplifting. It’s a great reminder that anyone can have a positive impact on the world.

As I mentioned earlier, South Lombok is all about the beaches. Itching to try our hand at surfing, we arranged a private surf lesson with Talim’s nephew, Johnny. Hopping on our moped, we followed Johnny on a 40 minute ride through hilltop villages flanked by stunning vistas to reach Selong Belanak Beach. This calm, gentle beach-break is the perfect spot for beginners to get their surf legs. There are several surf schools that offer different tiers of lessons or board hire for anyone who wants to give it a go – just get chatting to one of the long-haired boys.  Johnny was a remarkably good teacher and had us catching waves, with a little push-off from him, within an hour. Corneliu, who doesn’t have a mortal fear of the ocean and also happens to be a bit stronger, was catching his own waves by the end of our 3 hour session. I, on the other hand, would inexplicably panic and jump off the board every time I realised I was actually standing…

Anyone who’s ever tried surfing will understand that it completely destroys your body. We spent the next day at Tanjung Aan Beach slumped on sun loungers to give our muscles a chance to recover. Of all the beaches in the area, this one definitely gets our recommendation for anyone who wants a lazy day of bumming out. Turtle Warung even lets you camp out indefinitely on a deck chair if you spend over 50,000IDR on drinks or food. We also checked out Mawun Beach but found this less favourable, especially as the water was filled with plastic waste. Unfortunately, this is a real environmental issue in Indonesia, which is the second biggest plastic polluter in the world behind China. We have however seen a lot of local-led initiatives to tackle this problem, so there’s promise that in a few years it’ll be a thing of the past.

The rest of our days were spent trying to improve our surfing, with varying degrees of success, and sampling all the food available in the area. Anyone looking for a cheap but delicious meal should check out the “Java Food” stall, on the corner of Jalan Raya and Jalan Pariwisata Pantai where you can get an amazing nasi campur (rice mix) for just 20,000IDR (~£1). We also discovered the joys of deep-fried tempe burgers at a cheap warung down Raya road opposite the Alfamart. After six super relaxing days of eating and beaching, it was time to bid farewell to South Lombok. We shall never forget the hospitality we received from the local people and fully intend to return one day.


Tips for Travellers

1. Renting a moped

This is the easiest way to access beaches and can usually be done through your accommodation. Costs can vary but it’s usually around 50,000IDR per day (~ £2.5). Petrol can be found along the roadside, usually sold in bottles of absolute vodka, by the litre. It’s about 10,000IDR per litre for the amber coloured (lower grade) fuel, which should be enough for a day of riding around, obviously depending on how far you go.

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Make sure to rent a helmet with your bike. It gets hot in there but it’s not worth the risk. If you’ve never ridden one before, the roads around Kuta are newly tarred and with low traffic. Corneliu found it a good place to learn. Just take your time, go easy on the throttle, check your mirrors and breaks before heading off.

 

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