Hello September and World!
I am back from Lombok, possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. It just made my list of best beach spots, alongside Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Southern France and Bali, and my list of most memorable travel experiences, alongside The Silk Road, Borobodur, Sri Lanka and Northern Thailand. That’s an accolade in my books!
(And emphatically scratching Phuket and its minion islands off any list of mine.)
Lombok is gorgeous in its relatively undiscovered state, despite just being a stone’s throw away from its more famous neighbor, Bali. No crowds, no excessive commercialism; in fact we even struggled to find a ‘luxury hotel’ and a Google search for ‘fine dining Lombok’ yielded almost nothing.
Not that we ate, or slept, badly. Our resort Jeeva Klui was beautiful in an understated Robinson Crusoe type of way – natural materials, environmentally conscious and with an unparalleled, king’s ransom ocean view for all its guests, no premiums required. It was all about bringing the sea back to everyone, and giving everyone the space, calm, comfort and luxury to take it all in. A really, really good call! Worthy of us thumping each other’s backs in mutual approval.
We spent a few days biking around the west coast of Lombok, encountering hill after hill, magnificent bays nestled in between each, fringed by untouched coconut groves and a whole bunch of cows and goats grazing in front of the ocean. These are really lucky animals! First world humans would pay a lot for that experience ;)
We also took a mini catamaran out to the famed Gili Islands which straddle the straits between Bali and Lombok. The price of partial development, influenced from its Easterly neighbor? A whole lot more boats, broken corals and more ‘cool’, ‘hippy’ restaurant shacks and bars than the whole of Lombok. It feels a lot like Hippyland Phi Phi before the mega Chinese boats invaded, but not as seductive as mainland Lombok, in my view. Eager to visit the smaller Gilis scattered in the East and South of Lombok, next trip perhaps!
The highlight of our trip: trekking Mount Rinjani. Seriously, this was the most difficult thing we ever did and that in itself makes it memorable. We were on record as the second group to ascent Rinjani on 1 September, and we arrived at the crater rim as the second last group (no records though). Total climbing time: 9 hours, vs. 6 hours for ‘normal’ tourists, 4 hours for porters on flip flops, and 2.5 hours for ultra marathoners. Yes, we are slightly embarrassed but very proud we even managed to reach.
I am not a trekking expert, but climbing Mount Rinjani was really tricky, part jungle hopping, part sand shuffling, part rock climbing. But the view of the crater lake when we finally arrived was so incredibly worth it, made even more valuable by the fact that there is absolutely no way you can see this except by trekking. Unless Google Images satisfy you, or unless you are Suharto, who got flown by in a helicopter to release carps into the crater lake. Anecdotes, I love them.
And the stars! Scores of them once sun set, so tantalizingly close, and twinkling ever so brightly – it almost felt like we could reach out to grab them from the cosy confines of our camp. I wish I had snapped a picture of them to keep memories by.
We took 6 hours to descend, mostly because my legs kept giving way. I must have slipped and fallen on my rear at least a dozen times. At some points, it felt like manning up and rolling down the mountain might be an easier option. A Javanese massage and 2 days later, we are still somewhat sore. But, what, what, an incredible experience.
Special mention to my love, for suspending all doubt about our fitness condition (terrible in all honesty) and joining me on this crazy idea! Tired as he was, he was always there behind me as we ascended, in front as we descended, hauling me up/down branch after branch, rock after rock. <3
Post Rinjani, all we wanted to do was bask in the sun and get a tan so we didn’t make it to the South where the most beautiful beaches of Lombok are reputed to be in. So another trip to Lombok is definitely on the cards, after the rainy season that lasts October to April/May. And we are so going to check ourselves in that secluded Jeeva beach camp :)
Penned by a very satisfied traveller!