All right hard sellers, let's sell hard!

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , Nusa Tenggara Barat,
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Ohhh that's better - finally had an internet fix. Was getting pretty desperate there...

After catching up with the world I've managed to upload half a dozen entries from the past 3 weeks of isolation, so by the time you are sent this you may have ditched the other ones and be ready to start afresh. Will try to make it good for you.

We ended up doing a two night sail to here from Banta over the weekend. Plan A was to stop at a resort and marine park island called Moyo, but the wind was 25 knots in an exposed and very deep bay - not conducive at all for 'dropping the hook' (great sail speak that). We ended up hightailing it out of there and continuing on. Apart from good wind aiding some fun sailing, and a drunken Indonesian sailor singing over the two way radio at all hours, the trip was uneventful except for passing a large circular volcanic island called Sangeang.

Good potential evil lair

Apologies for yet another photo of jutting peaks surrounded by fluffy cumulus clouds, but this one was very impressive as we passed by. I'm developing some sort of volcanomania related to the fact that I still haven't managed to climb one and peer inside. Fortunately there will be a number of short trek opportunities on Bali and Java to get that out of my system.

Back to the task at hand - Lombok. We anchored at Senggigi which is a cute little place on the west coast of the island, about 6kms north of the island's capital, Mataram (pop 1 mil). Looking out over the sea you can see the east coast of Bali, so it's a stone's throw from that mecca of Australian tourism. Would be a nice alternative to the Bali golfing trip sometime in the future and there are some top resorts around that are recommended for an inexpensive romantic getaway.

Traditional boats on the shore Outrigger style Little guys coming in

The first thing that strikes you in Senggigi is the multitude of brilliantly coloured outrigger style sailing canoes that stream into shore every day, carrying fishermen and traders that live inland from these main commercial centres. They sail off overnight and return in the early morning to deliver the goods that keep the island going. At first light they travel in their hundreds halfway across the strait to Bali and then jibe back at the right time to make their particular port - it's an amazing sight that's not done full justice by these photos.

The Office Overlooking the Sheraton pool/bar

The next is the hawkers - they're everywhere (but more on them later). To avoid them when not on board we were firmly ensconced in the new Sheraton poolside bar, and an expat establishment called The Office, an open air pub which has been open one year and took three years to build. Must have been a labour of love, but in this environment it's understandable. So much potential.

We escaped the clutches of the hard-sellers on our last day by exploring the southern section of the island. First stops were to check out some pottery which Lombok is known for, then some weaving where I was dressed up like a psychedelic smurf and promptly proposed to. One of the better offers I've had this year but at least Michele got her bargains.

Pretty funky pottery Psychedelic smurf + wife

Joe and I said a firm 'Tidak!' (No) to more shopping so next stop was the Hindu temples. First on the program (Indonesian for agenda) was Pura Suranadi which is located in the jungle on the lower slopes of the mighty Gunung Rinjani. Not quite what I expected and in various states of repair, this series of stone concoctions can be best described as a bizarre mix of sacrificial altar and totem pole. The big cheese priests lounge up top, closer to heaven, and the masses cringe at the bottom, content with the holy water that bubbles out of natural springs around the site. We were just happy with the quiet and cool, shady surrounds.

Pura Suranadi

Next was Pura Lingsar, build in 1714 and the most holy of Hindu temples on the island. Pretty decrepit unfortunately but at least the cat was conversing with the gods. The wear in the doorways was no doubt evidence a long and dedicated history of worship.

Stairway to pussy heaven Cute doorway

Onto the Mayura Water Palace, an apparently floating platform in the middle of a vast man made lake. Built by the Balinese occupiers in a similar era to the temples, the palace is quite nice despite losing some of it's ancient charm and serenity to the encroaching suburban sprawl. This was our first encounter with the rooster guys, suppliers of the best fighting cocks that satisfy one of the more bloodthirsty religious pastimes on the island. Apparently at the pagoda temple below, they have a full day dedicated to the ritual sometime in October. Every peaceful culture has a dark side I suppose.

Floating palace Cockfighting roosters

Pura Meru is a cool little temple complex now also surrounded by the 'burbs of Mataram. Certainly in a different style to the others and very reminiscent of the pagodas of Japan, so wasn't really expecting to see something like it this far south. The three towers are said to represent the three Hindu gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - and also the three great mountains - Rinjani, Agung and Bromo. After photos we melted in the shade of the courtyard's only tree as a gummy old guy explained the cockfighting situation with some relish.

Hindu temple pagoda style Not quite the supermarket

Our last stop was a large market hall, selling a variety of food and clothing. The sights and smells were pungent and varied, and I noted with some concern that the stall selling hunks of meat (in the foreground of the accompanying picture) was probably the source of the local steak I'd eaten the night before, and had probably never conceived of the need for refrigeration or protection from flies. Oh well, I didn't end up with another nasty travel affliction to tell you about, so my constitution must be hardening.

The one major problem with Lombok is the hawkers. Unlike Bali, Lombok has not bounced back from the bombings of two years ago so there's a lot of effort made to extract tourist dollars using some very questionable tactics that reflect poorly on the island and the people. These guys sell everything from personalised bookmarks to tours and everything in between, they give new meaning to the term persistence. Most of it is crap. They are quite happy to follow you for blocks, using every pressure selling technique in the book until you fold, break or scream in total frustration. You agree to one price, they double the amount of said item on offer and nearly double the price. You tell them to get lost and they follow you like a forlorn dog for miles. To escape you have to duck into a shop, get into a taxi or swim to your boat.

Most of it is managable but if you come here, be very careful when purchasing services like tours or laundry, as the price often inflates by a factor of ten between the initial agreement and payment on delivery. A scene ensues and you have pay three to four times your agreed price to settle the 'misunderstanding'. Not a big deal because you're usually talking a few dollars, but use a pocket calculator to confirm pricing and terms to avoid the annoyance.

Anyway, onwards and westwards.

Next entry -> Bali Hai

Things I now eat

Everyone has a few things they just don't dig eating. For most people that includes things like brains, turnips and vegemite. As a part of my mission I'm determined to let my palate mature, or degenerate in some cases, to expand the range of foods I eat.

Here's some things I'm beginning to appreciate, or at least tolerate.

- raw tomato
- tuna (fresh and canned)
- chilli stuff
- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- powdered milk
- green bananas (recommended in Indo - they are ripe!)
- lobster (garlic butter and lemon sauce only please)
- jack fruit (pretty tasty)
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