One image in particular is the first to my mind when I’m thinking of Lombok; sweeping round a certain bend about halfway along to road to Selong Belanak beach, on the back of JM’s bike. His driving was always slightly faster than my comfort zone allowed for before delivering an (albeit small) dose of adrenaline. The road is flat for a long while, crumbling off on either side into palm lined fields and an occasional house or shop in various levels of Indonesian rural decay. A long corner begins the ascent to my favourite view on the island, probably my favourite in Indonesia. The snap shot is before the summit though. Leaving the palm shaded stretch the road enters the undulations of the coastal hills, coated in the vibrant greens of nourished grass, short as if cropped each day by livestock. Without the arboreal barrier the scene stretches away from the road with a peaceful but lonely joy that I feared the noise of the bikes would disturb. It has the desolation of an English moor but thejuxtaposition of the burning sun and palms with their resplendent tropical foliage prevented the oppression that bears down on the moors of Yorkshire or Dartmoor, the hills still rolling in the same defiant curves.
Sunsets and Surfing – Kuta, Lombok
Driving on and out of this freeze frame and the road becomes steeper until you reach the crest of that particular hill. Breaching the peak and the land drops away before you, revealing a secret hill lined plain covered in rice paddies, palm plantations and miniature farms; the land ridiculously flat against its boundaries. From this vantage point several beaches are visible to you, but not to each other, screened by promontories of land protruding skyward and seaward between them. None of these beaches are Selong Belanak however, and none has as easy waves for us to practice on, and sowe drive on.
The beach is cluttered with wooden shacks containing surf set ups and rough and ready restaurants. Rough and ready to the extreme; when sitting down on one of the ill made benches, my friend Izzy flung the owners toddler off the other end as the plank seesawed! We haggled with the instructors and got a two hour lesson and the board for the day for just 200,000 Rps, I imagine most of the shacks could have offered the same with hard bargainingbut the lessons were very basic compared to those offered in Bali. With an instructor each we waded out into the easy beach breaking waves and jumped aboard our huge foam boards, awaiting the instructors cue. We both seemed to be catching about 70% of our waves, I couldn’t understand why the two boys were having so much trouble in comparison; they’d both already had some lessons. Then our two hours were up and the four of us headed out alone. This time it clicked; the instructors push as the wave reaches you is a lot more important than I had given credit. Without the push and with my utter lack of arm strength I couldn’t catch anything! As infuriating as this was, especially with my arms burning, unused to exercise after 5 months of travelling, I persisted until I caught one wave, I fell off pretty quickly, but to my pad thai primed body this was a victory worth celebrating with the handing in of my board and collapsing on the beach. When I reached Canggu I wished I’d made more of this cheap set up and the far from terrifying waves, but it’s definitely a place I’ll return to.
I hate driving scooters out here but adore being driven around on them. I don’t have the nerve to get up enough speed fora smooth ride and exciting corners and my wandering attention span means I’m unable to keep my eyes on the road for long. When learning to drive I’d infuriate my Mum by drifting towards whatever roadside spectacle had caught my attention; invariably a horse. JM had offered to take me for a ride one evening to explore some of the other beaches so I was quick to accept. We sped through the ramshackle town of Kuta, a misfit collection of properly built buildings, shanty style huts and dusty open fronted shops; reminiscent of India. The town sprawls around a weathered crossroad at which we turned right from our hostel – Pipes – towards Kuta Beach. It’s a coral beach and the whole stretch is crowded with vendors selling sarongs and other tat. The shards of coral constantly wedging themselves between my feet and flipflops were incredibly painful so I was relieved when we quickly turned back to the bikes, not enamoured by the centrepiece of the beach – a protrusion ofrock covered with people.
The second beach (Seger, I think), down a long potholed track, was infinity better. From a row of ill built bamboo shelters children tried to sell us Bintangs or cokes but they lost interest as we headed towards the shore line. The waves were huge, barrelling and coming from all directions; the surfers we saw out there must have been pretty good. Brave as well as the sun was beginning to sink and some of the breaks were nervously close to the sharp rocks of the cliff. We succumbed to the temptation of a Bintang and scrambled precariously balancing the bottle up a grassy cliff that looked out onto the ocean. The opposing headland provided a fantastic setting for the sun to sink behindso we passed the time watching the last of the surfers and idly sipping our beers until the sky grew dark. It wasn’t the most spectacularly colourful sunset I’ve seen in this part of the world but with the sea breeze nudging around us, the surfers to admire and the lulled peace of the vantage point with the waves quietly breaking below it was certainly a very memorable one.