The other Kuta (Lombok)

Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
Trip End Jan 13, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , West Nusa Tenggara,
Sunday, April 6, 2008

Before we arrived in Indonesia we had really not planned on leaving Bali. We also had only heard of Lombok once, through our friend David Markwell. But as soon as we got to Bali we started hearing about a new Bali. And quite fortuitously our guidebook ws for both Bali and Lombok allowing us to do easy research on this not very well known island just to the East of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago. And as much as we loved Bali, it was just a bit too busy to qualify for island paradise. Lastly, Jeff really wanted to get some uncrowded surf which Lombok was rumored to have.

So we bought our $30 tickets and off we went (of course encountering the usal third world episode of almost missing our flight as they changed gates on us without bothering to announce it or change the "board") to Lombok. Our destination was Kuta, which is on the South of Lombok and has very little in common with Kura Bali besides the name. First off, Lombok is a mostly muslim island (therefore more in line with the rest of Indonesia). Secondly, besides one fancy hotel, there is nothing there except backpacker infrastructure meaning a bunch of cheap hotels and even cheaper restaurants and no traffic at all. We could tell right when we got there that we were going to like this laid back place.

This impression was quickly supported by our first activity which was a short walk to lunch down the streat where we met an intrepid Ozzy family: jim, allison, and sam who invited us to lunch with them. And then became our benefactors for the day by inviting us to come hang out at their fancy hotel. They even drove us to the surf shop and then to the surfbreak to drop Jeff off. So while Jeff finally had his first great Indo surf with crystal clear warm water, nice wavers, a few folks in the water, and a great sunset while Jen and the others walked back to the very plush hotel where they played volleyball, bowled with coconuts, and drank in the toney bar.

Dinner back at the corner place again with our new friends who regaled us with stories of darwin and the aussie SAS (Jim was quite a character and had heaps of stories from his days in the Ozzy equivalent of the green berets only some of which were declassified enough for him to tell us). We were quite grateful to be taken in and offered such generous hospitatlity by strangers. This was the first of what became many excellent social encounters - one of the things we really loved about this place.

Jeff got up early for a surf at Garupo. Boatrides here cost three dollars as opposed to thirty in fiji. The outer break was working with big bombers on the ouside and short rides on the inside.

Meanwhile Jen had gotten the lowdown on the town which paid off big time as we found the best restaurant in the world - Ashtari. It was during our first excellent lunch here where we met up with two really nice australian couples that Jen had met the night before. We all decided to all ride our bikes back out to Garupo where they bought tshirts and jen/jeff decided to heat out for another surf.

This time we had the boat take us to Insides where Jeff fought off the insane crowds and Jen did some spectating and caught some waves on the boogie board. Dinner at family café where we discovered a our new favorite local dish - ayan tarrawanga which is spicy grilled chicken in a tangy tomato based sauce.

Next morning Jeff got up at dawn to meet up with Craig from the day before to take a boatride to another less crowded break named AG. The swell was a bit small but the lack of crowds was amazing after the previous day's session and Jeff was psyched to score the best rides since Fiji.

After that it was of course, off to Ashtari again where we met Molly and Frankie who we hung out with for a while and introduced us to the lovely aussie woman owner. It was late so skipped the surf and hung out in the pool, tried unsuccessfully to find an internet that either worked or operated at something above the slowest dialup speeds in the world, and then off to dinner to meet up with Frankie and a bunch of folks staying at the Matahari. The dinner was great but the real treat was to meet the Matahari crew which consisted of Molly and Frankie (a young nice intersting couple from Cornwall); Josh a fellow surfer from SC; Dylan, a very mature and precocious fourteen year old server dude from Oz who had just had his first beer and motorbike crash; his mother Brigid who had sold her house and was travelin round the world with no cares or worries except for the difficult task of homeschooling Dylan; the wild haired and wild in general Chris who had managed to rig his life to spend over half of it traveling and surfing around the world instead of fixing refrigerators; and last but not least the crazy and charasmatic Josh who told us about how he got busted for a kilo of marijuana, two king cobras, and some asian geckos.

The evening was capped off with the Shore Bar's weekly rock band performance, which would best be described as energetic as I don't think they coiuld make it past the first round of an only Lombok version of Idol. The highlight was Pink Floyd's the wall with a bunch of thrashing local teens with their butcracks sticking out from their gangster stlye denim shorts trying to sing the lyrics to the Wall and whose musical taste seemed to have been focused on songs from before their birth year.

The next morning Jeff went back to his new favorite spot even though his buddies were still sleeping at five thirty when they were supposed to be meeting him. Instead he went with the infamous Alan from Noosa who goes every day pre-dawn. Finding the place was a challenge as Alan knew the road better and perhaps didn't want company. Anyways Jeff lost him in the dark and spent a while going back and forth on the "road" trying to find the "track" before finally committing to a crummy dirt road riddled with ditches and holes and small ponds and a lot of mud hoping that it was going to the right place. Faith came through and finally the beach emerged. Now he had to figure out which of the ten huts the parking was at. Luckily after puttering through a few more puddles Alan's bike became visible and a local sasak woman motioned him in and indicated with three fingers that she wanted three thousand rupiah (thirty cents) for secure parking. The light was still not a full strength but Alan's reflection was barely visible on the still orangey waters way (about 300m) out.

The surf was worth the paddle and the wake up call. With just two surfers even though the sets were far apart there were plenty of nice glassy head high waves and it was one of the best sessions of the trip. It came closest to Jeff's vision of warm, nice, uncrowded waves one after the other until he could barely make the long paddle in. To top it off the rented board finally felt familiar and for the first time on the trip Jeff was feeling like he could actually surf pretty well.

To add to the fun the end of mearly morning surf sessions seemed to always coincide with the end of the school day. One has to wonder if getting out of school at ten might have something to do with Indonesia's reputation for being undereducated. However it made the ride back quite amusing as every uniformed little kid within miles would seem to run out of their yards, from behind trees, or even along side "roads" where they would essentially bum rush Jeff on his bike yelling "paghi paghi" (morning morning) and a lot of other unidentifiable Indonesian words while holding out their hands. At first it was easy to mistake them for wanting to reach out and touch you or even asking for you to give them something. But after a short while it became apparent that they all wanted you to high five them as you rode by. It's not actuallly that easy to high five twenty children in a group mobbing your motorbike as one kind of needs your hands to actually steer, break, and throttle. But with some practice Jeff figured one day he gave thirty high fives in one ride back which seemed to thrill the kids as much as it did Jeff. The last day at AG Jeff would stupidly lose the camera out of his boardies on the bouncing trail and then spend an hour with up to fourty of these kids all combing the road looking for the small camera (to no avail ;) but interacting with these kids was a lot of fun.
After the haul back and some breakfast it was time to tackle the local market which consisted of every local farmer and fisherman bringing whatever they could and sitting on mats trying to work the locals and the tourists. With all the shoppers, the motorbikes, the hawkers, the horse drawn carriges,the dogs, and the toddlers running around it was quite a spectacle. We forwent buying any of the spider fruit, the smelly dried fishes, the almost still living snappers and such, the hundreds of sarongs, the local tobacco (of which we did not partake), and all of the strange looking seeds and herbs. But we did buy some of what amounted to extra large donut holes that were delicious and well worth the fifity cents.

Then it was off to.... You guessed it... Ashtari! Note: it was on this day we believe where we discovered our favorite salad ever consisting of roasted sesame, crispy tofu, cabbage, green beans, sprouts and a soy ginger dressing. A dish that would become a daily indulgence at a whopping two dollars.

Well as we decided we liked this schedule and this town enough to extend our stay to almost a week of the same, we won't bore you with the details. It basically went like this: After a nice satisfying surf it was back to Ashtari and thus started the beginning of our routine at Kuta: Jeff getting up at dawn to ride the motorbike out to the surf at AG while Jen caught lots of z's, coming back in time for breakfast at our homey Surfer's Inn, lazing around the hotel probably swimming or talking with our favorite staffmember lee, then heading to Ashtari for a few hours of dining and lazing and hanging with friends; then not sure what in the afternoon; until it was time to try one of the dinner spots usually with the Matahair crew.

One notable exception was our cultural outing one afternoon. Our buddy Lee was our informal guide and we drove out first to check out a "real" Sasak village. The Sasak are the original people of this area and the culture and it's emblems are still very popular as evidenced by the "Sasak Style" emblems on t-shirts and towels everywhere. The village did in fact appear to be the real deal as the thatched roof huts with their stepped interiors made of clay and cow dung were populated by current residents still cooking on open fires and such. It was pretty amazing to see this as it was right off the side of the major highway and these folks were obviously choosing to live in the traditional manner as opposed to all the regular new architecture that surrounded them. The one real anomoly in the situation were the TV arials attached to bamboo poles sticking out of many of the huts! After that it was off to a pretty fascinating tour of a batik workshop where we were educated on the time consuming process of creating these pieces of art and we even got to watch the artists in action. Then it was off to see the oldest mosque on Lombok which completed our tour.

After six days of this, Jeff's arms were about to fall out of his sockets, Jen had more than caught up on her sleep and reading, and our crew was all heading north to the Gilis so we grabbed a van with them and off we went on a long an pretty drive through the mountains of Lombok on our way to the next big thing - the Gilis. We were sad to say goodbye to this place that seemed to capture our vision of Indonesia better than anywhere else. Compounding this sadness is the unfortunate fact that a huge developer (one of the key developers of Dubai) has bought up like twenty miles of coastline here and is planning on creating a massive mess of resort coastline that will most surely ruin the Kuta we know in a few years unless they (hopefully) go bankrupt of the international airport (hopefully) never materializes... Bye bye Kuta Lombok
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