After the recent Bali trip and meeting the locals at Gili Air – whom actually live on Lombok – I couldn’t wait to go test this island out.
What an excellent decision.
Admittedly I went to the touristy spot to start with, Senggigi. It’s a far cry from the mega Aussie locations on Bali. It’s quiet, clean, peaceful and has the best view over to Mt Agung.
I hired a scooter and did some exploratory work. There’s something about cruising a tropical place on a bike with the warm wind through the helmet. Not being bound by any timelines or dictated to by a travel buddy.
After a couple of days in Senggigi the lovely Sahrul (from Colour Cottages – Gili Air) came to collect me and take me on a real local Lombok experience.
Travel with Sahrul
There’s no better way of discovering that your nostril hairs are too long than being on the back of a scooter blasting through villages and tropical jungle.
Wednesday morning we jump on Sahrul’s scooter and head to his village, Taman Narmada, to meet the family. As someone who normally tries to learn some local lingo before travelling anywhere, I’m disappointed in my lack of learning Bahasa. Meeting Sahrul’s family made it evident that I’ve been lazy. A few awkward silences and a few charades, we got by. The hordes of kids and I had a ball playing games, even though we didn’t speak the same language there were loads of laughs.
Left my backpack with my new family and set off to gawk at some of the famous beaches around the island. Selong Belanak, Kuta, Mawun beaches were clearly normally surfing destinations, but today it was wild! Huge swell successfully stole 3 fishing boats and we witnessed one large fishing boat snap in two just from the shore breakers whilst the locals were trying to save it from being taken out to sea.
After the beaches we headed back towards Narmada and landed in Sahrul’s village just at the right time to see everyone celebrating a wedding. What a beautiful way the Muslim Indonesians celebrate too. The streets are lined with everybody from the village wanting to have a look at, and perhaps have a photo taken with, the bride and groom.
As you can imagine, I kinda stood out… dressed inappropriately for a wedding in my shorts, thongs and singlet… oh, plus the blonde hair and only mildly tanned skin was a bit of a give away that I wasn’t from around these parts. I received LOADS of attention, all of it extremely positive. As I was trying to take footage and photos of the ceremony so many people were running up to me to say hello instead of focussing on the wedding party.
The happy couple come out of one house and walk together, a hell of a long way, to the bride’s house – all the while being followed by a massive entourage of villagers, photographers, a full rock band – complete with many drums, electric guitars, singers, keyboardist (yup) and dancers. There is a very large trailer that holds speakers even The Rolling Stones would be envious of, a generator to power all the instruments and everything one would need for a mobile rock band. It was AWESOME!
Sahrul and I walked most of the way with them, mainly so I could take photos and play with the locals. I think we got caught up in the spectacle for about 2.5 hours (and the Bride and Groom still hadn’t reached their destination by the time we left).
Finally leaving the ceremony, I was taken back to the family homes to share a magnificent beef noodle soup with most members of Sahrul’s large family. I know these kind people don’t have much in the way of money, but geez, they looked after me like I was royalty.
I was even given my own house to sleep in – whilst Sahrul and his brother slept outside like my body guards. Gawd that was awkward. I felt terrible, but they insisted that I get a good night’s sleep. Which I truly did!
The toys on the newly laid sheets was a gorgeous touch… my heart melted.
A few new friendship bands added by Sahrul and his loving family.
Up early on Thursday morning – because it’s about 20 steps to a mosque and we know they’re up at stupid o’clock (4:30am) each day to chant through their crackly loud speakers.
Sahrul and I walked back to Taman Narmada Water Park (which is where the Indonesian bottled water of the same name derives from) from the house – the same waterpark we had visited briefly the day before. This place is serene. A large, green, naturally filtered Olympic sized swimming pool – complete with lane lines – a big pond, a hindu temple, a bathing house that holds a fountain of youth, rectangle pools full of lotus lillies.
Back to the house for breakfast – an omelette cooked by Sahrul followed by a cooking lesson for his sister, Linda, of banana pancake (with condensed milk) plus fresh, organic, sweet, locally grown watermelon & pineapple.
Sesaot Forest Water Park not too far from Narmada for a bathe / swim in the chilly waters. What a way to start the day! Lunch provided by more of Sahrul’s family whilst we were at the water park consisted of traditional sate’, nice ‘n’ spicy, with sticky rice cooked in banana leaf.
A bit of jungle riding and bush bashing to get to Air Terjun Lantan – a tall waterfall completely vacant of other humans. A great meditation location.
Dropped in on a kind lady (a wife of one of many of Sahrul’s friends) whom had the coconut trees that Sahrul raided for our thirst. A new treat for me was to have the juice mixed with fresh lime, also picked at the time, and natural palm sugar… then scoop chunks of young coconut flesh and place them into the juice. Hello nirvana!
How on earth do I explain the next few hours… Peresean is an Indonesian traditional stick and shield fight in a gravelly boxing ring – which, by day, looks like it poses as a carpark.
There are a couple of entertaining men in the ring (doing some practice moves – of the fighting and dancing kind – sounds like a country bloke’s night out in town) that try to convince kids to give this fighting activity a whirl. To start the afternoon’s activities there are young teens that have to pretend to be macho in front of their mates by duelling unknown contenders from the opposing side of the ring. These opening bouts were short due to bruising welts and tears, (scarcely) being held back from the boys trying to be men. The real fighting begins by asking the fit (and sometimes not that fit looking) men to step into the ring against an unknown opponent.
It was a battle of South Lombok vs West Lombok.
It was a battle of two minds.
It was a dance mixed in with violence.
It was mesmerising.
It was captivating.
It was brutal.
I think a wet tea-towel flicking contest would be like a gentle massage compared to this altercation.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Thanks Sony A7Rii for making me look like a pro. photographer
These sportsmen are given rupees when the occasional individual from the hordes of onlookers enter the ring and drop money at their feet. Somehow, Sahrul convinced the organisers to allow me in the ring to do this… I was the very first and had no clue whatsoever on what I was supposed to do with the notes I was clinging to as a security blanket in the middle of the ring – all whilst being cheered at by the crowd. A kind man saw my dilemma and came out to show me how it’s done – proof that not every super hero wears a cape.
We head back to the family home for some dinner and photos before saying sad goodbyes and heading back to Senggigi.
I’m sure by now most of you are well aware that I was in Lombok when the first earthquakes hit this peaceful oasis. Possibly the most terrifying experience I’ve had. The initial “what is going on?” lasted a split second, before that “faaaaaaark” realisation and running out of the hotel (naked – no time to consider my options at this stage), then running back inside my room to put clothes on. All whilst the 2nd floor wobbled like a leaf in gale force winds – then include the sound of an army of trucks blasting through the hotel – frightening stuff. Bolting downstairs to an open area away from buildings and watching the buildings and pool distort, creating decent waves, all made for some serious adrenaline action. I’m always impressed at how people react in certain life situations..
There was another lady staying at Cafe Wayan, Lucie, she also came flying out of her ground floor room in just a tshirt and undies. The initial response when in life threatening situations is to “save yourself” and “who cares what you look like” and “leave everything you thought you REALLY needed in the room”! I can’t help but wonder if Mum would put her best black frock on, pearl necklace and hair manicured into a beehive bun in similar circumstances? 🤔 (insert mental image of Audrey Hepburn gracefully flitting about, delicately dodging falling buildings)
Lucie, one Cafe Wayan staff member and myself had a nervous chuckle about it by the warped, wavy pool… until the next tremor.
They say a bond made through terror will last a lifetime.. Lucie and I are still in touch.
Then the large aftershocks hit. I believe there was a total of 100 of them. By the third major tremor I started researching my escape route out of Indonesia.
Check the heart rate and the size of the aftershocks – no wonder I was a nervous wreck!
To explain what these aftershocks were like; to any sufferer of motion sickness, it’s like that. The feeling of the earth moving even after you have completed that bumpy mode of transport – but an army of trucks are still heading for you… yup, that’s it. I felt ill – do I need to reiterate my inability to snorkel without my ginger drug of choice – travelcalm?
For those that don’t understand motion sickness… imagine surfing what you thought was perfectly stable ground, without a surfboard.
Would you believe I decided last minute NOT to hike Mt Rinjani that first fateful weekend… and for no real reason either. You all know how much I love a good hike in nature so it was an odd choice not to go – even at the time of invitation I questioned why I kept saying no – hindsight proves that it was the correct decision.
My poor Mum, Aunty Rena and Aunty Carol had to read my messages, as I was going through this and lived every tremor with me. They kept me calm plus constantly checked on me and I thank these three pillars of our family for being there for me (as they always are for any of us, without hesitation, any time)… and convincing me to get the hell outta there.
My nerves were completely shot for a couple of weeks. And even now, away from Lombok, any sudden loud noise makes my heart jump. I had downloaded an earthquake app after the first quake – which gave me up to the minute info on the quakes.. I had to turn the notifications off because I was in tears and covered in goosebumps each time one came through on Lombok, this was due to knowing my friends and their families couldn’t escape the trauma… and there were a terrifying amount of tremors for them to deal with.
Having given you my take on the events, nothing will ever compare to the absolute devastation the next two major quakes caused these remarkable people. I know my buddies are safe but are sleeping in tents in rice fields with their children and older family members due to the fear of more tremors (even still as I edit this they are sleeping in tents). It’s distressing to know these giving souls are out of work, money and food right now whilst I had the ability to fly away. So terribly heart wrenching.
Perhaps we can pool some money together and send a care package to the kind people of Lombok? Who’s in? OR Maybe we can help set Sahrul up with his own tourism company to show the ‘real’ Lombok? What are your thoughts?
Tell me about your earthquake experiences. Just that constant living in fear and not knowing what will hit next is terrifying and taxing on the nerves.
….. just like that, I’m back to positive Ali and truly appreciating how freaking lucky I am. Note to anybody considering travelling with me… check Ma Nature’s movements before booking any flights… or just avoid the places I go!