Doing the travelling thing at last!

Trip Start May 11, 2004
Trip End May 10, 2005

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, May 28, 2004

23rd May

We were now ready to do the travelling thing, to leave the comforts of 4 star hotels and start hitting the road. We had done a considerable amount of research on the internet and various Lonely Planet guides so were quite prepared. Although we referred to the LP we found out that quite often the recommendations were sometimes a bit basic and for a few pounds more we found places more to our liking. Maybe we were not ready to rough it just yet!!

Andy and I have now mastered the art of finding accommodation. One of us will sit in a nearby cafe looking after the rucksacks while the other views the prospective bungalows. It's a bit like doing the show houses on a Sunday afternoon. Not that I know.

We arrived on Nusa Lembongan, the next island to Bali in the blistering mid-day heat. Tourism is still relatively new here and there are only around 7 bungalow operators and a couple of the more up market resorts. The islanders make their income from seaweed farming (a guy let us borrow a book on the process of seaweed farming but won't bore you with the details - unless......), there are no ATM's, internet access or thankfully McDonald's on the island. Electricity was only available from 7pm-7am. A welcome relief from the mass tourism of mainland Bali.

Arriving at Nusa Lembongan

We found a bungalow, the Nusa Indah for only 6 pounds a night. The food was crap but we got addicted to their coffee made with condensed milk. In the evening we would walk along the beach, get a table and order the fresh fish caught that morning. 1 pound!! Cheap as.

The next morning we woke to a cacophony of crowing roosters which started around 5am and finished when the last one got bored, around 9am. No need for alarm clocks here. We decided to hire a couple of mountain bikes as motorbikes are around 40,000rp per hour (3 pounds), very expensive as you can hire one for 24hrs in Bali for the same price. Half an hour into our "leisurely" ride, my top of the range bike with off road suspension gave up on me. Some gear mechanism broke (not an expert on bikes here) and was well and truly bust. Help was at hand as numerous locals tried in vain to fix it, to no avail. The ride back was only made possible by Andy pedaling for the two of us as I clung onto him taking in the sights. Cheers Andy!!

Wonder why they call it Dream Beach

After an exchange of bikes we set off once again. Our destination was "Dream Beach" a secluded bay with a stretch of fine golden sand. After much cycling, mostly uphill with gradients averaging 90 degrees we arrived exhausted, dehydrated and probably a stone lighter! Our efforts were rewarded with a great restaurant location and beach although the sea was very rough. Had the best Pepes Ikan (fish done in banana leaves) and great spicy vegetables. A bit more expensive than other places but the view makes up for it. Cafe Pandan at Dream Beach...a must. The cycle back was more pleasurable as it was all down hill. Got ripped off by a granny at a roadside stall for a bottle of water. She wanted double the normal price and who were we to argue as there were no other stalls nearby. Victory to the OAP.

Once again we awoke to the gentle cries of the local roosters. What shall we do today? The only things to do here are surf and scuba dive. Since neither of us can surf the decision wasn't hard. We checked out the "World Diving" resort a few doors down which is run by Shirley and her husband from London. It's a very professional PADI certified outfit and chatting to them gave us the confidence we needed as our last dive was over 2 years ago.

Our 1st dive that day was down to 5m to do a quick refresher and then to 12m. As I started to submerge into the water, a sudden sense of panic came over me. "This is not normal. I can't do this. It's not natural" After 5 minutes of my own private mental torture, I finally made the descent and managed the exercises without cutting of my air supply and swallowing a gallon of salt water.

A hard days diving

Our next dive would take us down to 17.5m, this time there was no hesitation as we rolled back into the warm water. The abundant marine life around us was spectacular. Fantastically coloured fish, beautifully formed coral, it really was an out of this world experience. We had dived at Kho Tao in Thailand before but this was outstanding, visibility was exceptional and we even found Nemo! We are now ready to take on the advanced course which covers amongst others, 30m deep diving, first aid, navigation and night diving. I have now decided to become a Marine Biologist!

The following day we checked out of our bungalow and decided to catch a local fishing boat over to Kusamba (making us feel less like tourists!) at a bargain price of 1 pound. We set of for the hour long journey with the captain, his mate, the stench of freshly caught fish and no life jackets. As I held on to my St Christopher that my dear cousin Annaliese gave me as a departing present, I had faith that we would arrive safely. Andy mentioned that I looked like some model from Duran Duran's Rio Video. I think it might of been Yasmin.

Boat ride to Kusamba

Our next destination was Padangbai, a fifteen minute taxi ride from Kusamba. Padangbai is a quiet fishing village that traveller's use to catch the ferry to their next port of call. We found a decent bungalow with pool, and had a great lunch with the biggest king prawns ever. Booked tickets for various journeys and chilled out taking in Indonesian life.

Ferries have a nasty habit of sinking in Indonesia so we decided to use the Perama company for the 4 hour journey over to Senggigi on the island of Lombok. The boat could hold 40 but thankfully there were just 9 of us plus 7 crew. This was already a comfortable number as there were only 2 benches to sit at. The journey over was relaxed with food and drink supplied. They even managed to recreate a beach scene complete with sand on one of the decks so Andy and I chilled there soaking up the sun listening to some tunes. I couldn't quite find my mood so it varied from Bucks Fizz (thanks nice Jonny!) to The Velvet Underground to Shirley Bassey to Hazel O' Connor. I think I found it at "Rio".

We arrived at Senggigi later that day and checked into Mascot Hotel which had been recommended in LP, the individual bungalows were set amongst spacious well tended gardens sweeping down to the beach and at 10 pounds a night you can't complain (but we did)! Senggigi is the main tourist resort of Lombok that time forgot - it was basically a ghost town. It had seen rapid development in the early 90's but was hit hard by the 97 Asia crash. It is now a long street of half built hotels, empty shop fronts and numerous touts going after the few tourists. Imagine Clint Eastwood riding into a deserted town in one of those old westerns and you get the picture. We did however manage to find a new bar recently opened called Sugar which was very similar to Kudos in London in more ways that one! Somewhere to get a bit pissed and meet the Senggigi fashion crowd.

Senggigi High Street

We returned to our room for an early night only to be woken an hour later by an army of red ants crawling all over Andy, literally thousands of them. I think Andy was in the middle of some battalion war exercise which they were carrying out. So straight to reception to complain and change rooms. The second bungalow seemed to be Ok with no Ants in sight, just one cockroach which we exterminated with good old super strength Baygon (an essential traveling companion!) It was one in the morning by now and we started to drift back to sleep only for Andy to wake again in what I thought was a nightmare, he told me that he dreamt about 100's of rats (not ants) running all over him - "shut up and sleep" I said and then I heard them! The room had a suspended ceiling and there must have been about 20 rats living just above our heads and they were in training for the London marathon - running everywhere. All we could imagine was them coming through the ceiling on top of us. So straight to reception to complain and change rooms - a bit more hysterical this time! Needless to say a sleepless night.

Senggigi - Well what can I say. One night was maybe too long!
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