The gorgeous island of Lombok in Indonesia’s archipelago is relatively untouched, compared to the maddening tourist haunt of neighbouring Bali.
Apologies for the poor quality photos. My 35mm negatives and prints are not in the best condition resulting from decades of poor storage.
A snippett on Lombok
The island of Lombok is reputed to be the next Bali.
Offering pristine long deserted beaches exceeding Bali’s overpopulated beaches, easily accessible neighbouring secluded islands, and it is not hard to foresee Lombok’s future entwining with popular tourism.
The less touristy Lombok – the name means chilli pepper – accommodates two cultures: Balinese Hindu and the Sasak Muslim. In 1998, most travellers visited Lombok to either climb Mount Rinjani or relax on the exotic picturesque Gili Islands.
The long journey to Lombok started five days ago from Cemoro Lawang in Java, island-hopping once more but this time through Bali and on to Lombok.
Finally landing in Lombok’s Lembar on day five of travelling, this is not yet over as the destination is Senaru.
Why? To climb the still-active volcano Mount Rinjani and rumoured as an arduous climb.
Lembar to Mataram
Landing in Lembar after the three-hour ferry from Padangbai in Bali, need to sort out transport to Mataram. Without any plans for this Indonesian sojourn, we organise accommodation, transport, and sightseeing on the fly.
Waiting at the small port of Lembar is a tiny Bemo and a comfortable minibus. Both are going to Mataram. With our bags loaded and comfortably seated on the minibus, we are ready to leave until another four tourists arrive.
The tourists travelling together will not split up and start arguing with both drivers. Even though we are in the minibus, reluctantly and embarrassed for their behaviour, we offload and take the squashed Bemo for the next 2-hour drive.
Mataram to Bangsal and onto Senaru
More dramas at Mataram with the Bemo driver not wanting to go any further. The paid fare is to Bangsal, which is another 50-minutes north on the island.
All hell breaks loose as the other tourists want to stop at Bangsal for the ferry to the Gili Air Islands. Arguing for 20-minutes, demanding and threatening to call the police, the driver finally buckles and takes everyone to Bangsal. Another good reason not to go to Gili Air.
Finally continuing on this tumultuous journey, we traverse through dry patchy landscapes not too dissimilar to parts of Australia. The trip unfolds across lush, hilly rainforest with hundreds of vivacious monkeys scrambling crazily along the roadside.
Hitching a lift on another bus that takes us 2-hours northeast, before heading south again to Senaru – the base for starting treks to Mount Rinjani. This feels like a never-ending journey trying to reach Mount Rinjani. Since leaving Cemoro Lawang in Java 5 days ago, island-hopping across to Bali and now Lombok, 3 solid days on the road, we finally arrive in Senaru drained but happy to stop for the night.
Most travellers arrive in the village of Senaru to organise or start the arduous trek to Mount Rinjani. At 3,726-metres-high, this is Indonesia’s highest mountain (excluding Irian Jaya).
In 1998, the trek is not organised very well. Not a lot of information on how or when to book treks exist and without the internet, we are flying by the seat of our pants, as the saying goes. Discovery is by word of mouth and this method is not always ideal as you tend to miss sights or learn about great activities after leaving a place – not always easy to return.
Senaru’s surrounding area is where Animism’s ancient beliefs and practices combined with Islam started and is known as Wektu Telu. Although Animism is said to be unique to Lombok, the fascinating Mentawai people on the island of Siberut are still practising Animists – see Exploring Siberut Island, Sumatra for more on the Mentawai.
What to see
Senaru is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and is home to four lovely and impressive waterfalls, with the Air Terjun Sindang Gila waterfall the most spectacular.
Air Terjun Sindang Gila
Only a 20-minute stroll along an intriguing hillside trail through an enchanting lush forest and down very steep steps, descending into the jungle. The crashing sound of the waterfall becoming louder the nearer you walk when finally, after a sweltering hike, the dense vegetation opens to the beautiful and exceptional waterfall.
The pounding waterfall cascades 40-metres onto the lustrous black volcanic stone until dissipating into a gentle-flowing stream.
Somehow, we miss the second Tiu Kelep waterfall and the soaring heat of the day forces us to head back for a refreshing drink.
The island of Lombok is graced with seven impressive waterfalls, some of which are easier to find than others. Today, Sindang Gila is enough to explore.
With only a brief encounter at Senaru taking in the local sights and soaking in the relaxed pace mostly to organise the three-day, two-night trek to Mount Rinjani, tomorrow starts the trekking journey to the infamous still-active volcano.
Rinjani (also known as Burijani), reared its powerful might only four years ago. During this 1994 eruption, Rinjani forced 2.5-kilometre-high ash plumes and catapulted 600-metre-high rock material into the sky, while spewing lava down to the valley below. Let’s hope Rinjani stays dormant for our trek…