The gorgeous island of Lombok in Indonesia’s archipelago draws intrepid travellers to climb the still active volcano -Mount Rinjani – but the journey is long when you are two islands away in Java…
Following an amazing stay and hike up to surreal Mount Bromo, decide on a fleeting stop-over through Bali before another island-hop to Lombok to climb Mount Rinjani. With a reputation as a tourist hot-spot even in 1998, decide to only spend a few brief days in Bali.
Apologies for the poor-quality 35mm film photos – my negatives and prints are in a sad condition from decades of poor storage.
Getting to Lombok
The long journey starts from gorgeous Mount Bromo and across East Java until island-hopping to Bali by ferry, then another ferry to the island of Lombok. Travelling in Indonesia in 1998 is challenging at the best of times and can be frustrating.
Cemoro Lawang to Probolinggo
A spectacular journey on the express bus down the infamous volcanic Mount Bromo is the start. Would love to stay longer and explore more of this beautiful region, but the visa is running out so need to keep moving.
The journey to Probolinggo takes around 2.5 hours.
Probolinggo to Banyuwangi
Paying for a Bisnis class train ticket, decide at the last minute to upgrade to Executif. Hoping for a comfortable journey through central Java and to the east.
This part of the trip takes around 5 hours across lovely scenery.
The ticket price also includes the short ferry trip across to Bali – we think. But, as with most things in Indonesia, this is open to interpretation, regardless of cost.
Banyuwangi to Negara
Arriving at Banyuwangi, we discover although the train ticket is stamped ‘ferry trip paid’ and includes the ferry crossing, the bus driver taking us from the train station to the ferry terminal makes us buy extra tickets for the ferry crossing.
On checking with the train hostess, she advises we paid twice! Of course, the bus driver will not refund our tickets. I am sure this money goes straight into his pocket so, be careful of this little scam. More salt to the wounds is that the bus driver does not charge locals for the crossing, so he openly rips off tourists.
From Banyuwangi, it is a quick bus trip to Ketapang, then catching the 45-minute ferry to Gilimanuk in Bali, and another bus to Negara. What could possibly go wrong?
It is such a shame we are moving through these gorgeous lush Indonesian islands so swiftly as there is a lot to explore.
Today feels as though this journey is perpetual – never-ending. You would think that travelling through these small islands is easy and fast as not much ground is covered – not so.
The bus from Negara to Denpasar is only a 3-hour journey. Of course today, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Only an hour into the trip, the bus gets two flat tyres but is only carrying one spare tyre. After waiting 2 hours for the second spare to arrive, the bus is fixed and we are on our way again.
Through sheer frustration and exhaustion from today’s mammoth journey, and the saga of the bus, decide on a stop-over for the night in Negara – a quick change of plans.
Spending another hour looking for a hotel, a kind local goes out of her way to escort us to the Wira Prada hotel, and after a bite to eat, relax for the evening.
Negara to Denpasar
This morning, we spend a while searching for an express bus for the 3-hour trip to Denpasar. Without any joy, decide to try our luck hitching on the main road. A school bus with young children passes slowly by. Children yell out ‘ello Mista and I love you. One child audaciously rubs his thumb and forefinger together wanting money from us – starting at a young age.
Finally, a Bemo (type of minibus) stops and although a little pricey, take the ride.
A painfully slow trip, stopping every few minutes to pick up and drop off passengers, four express buses whizz by our Bemo stopped on the roadside.
Finally, we arrive in not so crowded Denpasar but to a lot of foreign tourists. Decide to indulge in a fantastic seafood meal at the Hong Kong restaurant, feasting on sumptuous crab, squid, chicken, spring rolls, rice, and fresh juice for around AU$10 – cheap even in 1998.
Denpasar to Ubud
Need to keep moving, so take the quick 45-minute bus from Denpasar to Ubud, for some peace and quiet.
Three different Bemos later and finally arrive in touristy Ubud.
Seems to be more tourists here than locals and mostly Australians. Ubud – like all of Bali, is a popular destination with Australians. So, we plan only to stay for a couple of nights, then move on…
The Ubud experience
Although travellers still frequent this town, Ubud in 1998 was a different destination and not quite as touristy as these days I hear.
The disparity of Bali compared to Sumatra and Java is striking and it feels as though you are in a different country. Bali really is a contrast to Indonesia so far.
With too many restaurants and accommodation options in Ubud, it is difficult to seek out and absorb any of the traditional culture on the island – everything is a stage and show for tourists.
Still, it is the stunning surrounding rice paddies and scenic vistas that travellers are drawn to this area of Bali. This is definitely the island of beauty, culture, and lush green picturesque undulating hills. The scenery is breathtaking.
Enjoy an evening show of the spectacular and mesmerising Balinese Legong dancing. Fantastic opulent costumes grace petite Balinese dancers with beautiful eyes and exotic facial expressions. Although the dancing is not particularly graceful, the music is haunting and the whole show is exquisite, even if is is mainly for tourists.
Halfway through the outdoor show, a deluge of rain plunges over us. The organisers move tourists and chairs under shelter, so we are no longer sodden. Regardless of the rain, the dancers continue until the dance is finished.
If you have a little spare time, Ubud’s market is where you find all types of unusual trinkets. Although, bargain hard as seasoned stall owners are used to charging tourists exorbitant prices and love to barter.
Ubud to Padangbai
A relaxing couple of days soaking up Ubud before it is time to hit the bustle of the road once more, or is that ferry. Another island-hop today with Lombok as the next destination – I hope. Travel methods are hit and miss in Indonesia, and things don’t always go as planned.
A quick hour bus ride from Ubud through more striking scenery and we arrive in the lovely fishing village of Padangbai, ready for the next ferry crossing.
Indulging in another delicious freshly-caught seafood meal while watching the brightly-coloured canoes, head for the 3-hour ferry across to Lombok.
Bali is a much cleaner island than Sumatra and Java. Loads of ornaments and sculptures with ornate stonework adorn the roadside, making the short trip even more appealing. The vistas along this journey is enough to grasp a traveller’s interest.
Padangbai to Lembar (Lombok)
Loud tourists are aplenty on this crammed ferry from Padangbai to Lembar. Most are stopping at Gili Air – a good enough reason to avoid this island off northern Lombok.
Three hours later making the uneventful crossing during calm seas, finally, we arrive at the island of Lombok.
The next leg of this long journey is taking local island transport to Mataram, as heading to Mount Rinjani for some serious volcano trekking…