After the brilliant time in 2008 on a Honda Tiger around Bali, we thought we give Lombok a try. I had originally wanted to ride to Lombok in 2008 but time was not on our side.
We managed another Honda Tiger (T-Grrr!) - from the same guy, and he handed over a pretty new bike - it had barely 5000km on the meter. I think I managed to win his trust, and he was more accomodating when I told him I would be going to Lombok.
We made it to the port town of Padangbai only to see the noon ferry pulling out. Luckily the next one came in another hour. We stood in a line of bikes, accosted by vendors selling sunglasses, snacks and all sorts of knicknacks. considering some of the horror stories I had heard about Indonesian ferries, the ferries that ply between Bali and Lombok seem sturdy and pretty punctual.
The journey took 5 hours, the ferry chugging along at a steady pace, and it was 6pm by the time we pulled into Lembar, Lombok. The ships doors clanged open and we were free, upon Lombok - a quick fillup on the outskirts of Lembar, and we were barreling towards Senggigi.
A pretty easy ride, we made it to Senggigi just after dark. We stowed away our gear, had dinner, and made plans for the Gili islands for the next day.
The three Gili islands: Air, Meno and Trawangan lie just off the coast in North Lombok. There are easy connections from the port of Bensal - boats leave only when they're filled. Unsure we took a cab to Bangsal, and spend the day on Trawangan.
Trawangan, being the largest island in the chain, also had the most accomodations - a veritable backpackers delight. The main strip is lined with hotels, bars, and restaurants. The beach was good if overcrowded, however the undertow is pretty strong. Coral is minimal on the main strip, though I heard there's good pretty good coral on the north of the island.
The following day we decided to have a go at Gili Air, and this time we rode the 30 odd kilometres from Senggigi to Bangsal. The strip of ashphalt that runs along the coast is amazing - it sweeps across blue bays and careens around craggy cliffs. It swoops over hills and falls over on the other side - and all of it, save for some sections, was in good repair - the R1 would be killer on these roads!
Gili Air was amazing - very quiet, hardly any hotels, and the coral off the beach was colorful and full of fishes - I even stumbled across a lobster and several turtles. It was quite a change from the hurlyburly of Trawangan of the day before.
I think these are what days are supposed to be like on Gili Air - lazy and very slow. We spent the day on the beach and under the shade of a nearby restaurant, snorkelling just off the beach. The coral was pretty healthy except closer to the jetty where it was all brown, but further up the multitudes of colors were amazing - and with the added bonus of the clear waters, I was surprised at how the photographs turned out.
Just a note on the camera - Im using a Canon Powershot D10 - a compact, shockproof and waterproof up till 10m. Its a pretty versatile camera. It did everything I expected, and really brought those underwater gardens to life.
From Senggigi we followed the coast north on pretty good roads. The wheather was impeccable, and the Tiger ate the miles up rather quickly. We turned inlands at Gunung Rinjani, and made it to Sapit and our guesthouse with plenty of time to spare.
The guesthouse was nothing to speak off but high on the ridge it had pretty good views across the valley, as well as Gunung Rinjani that loomed forebodingly over the valley. The valley was full of tobacco farms, and we took the opportunity to jump into the small village paths that crisscrossed the farms on the Tiger.
The next morning it was a dull ride to Kuta - on the south coast of Lombok. After coming out of the valley we joined a major artery, and it was just traffic pretty much all the way to Kuta.
Kuta itself a small town (if you can call it that) with a high share of tourists, mostly surfers. Unlike its namesake in Bali, Lombok's Kuta is very rustic - it does have its fair share of hotels and guesthouse, but the pace is more languid.
Since the distances are pretty short in Lombok, we got in around lunchtime, and we spend the afternoon visiting the nearby beaches and fending off touts. There is a curious habit of charging for beach entry in Kuta. It seems the beaches are owned by different tribal groups and all charge an entrance fee. The touts however have a free run, and spent their time running you ragged.
For the next section to southwest Lombok we could have taken the major roads to Lembar and then strike south, but we decided to take the scenic - or more popularly known as bumpy - road that followed the western coast.
High on discomfort the road was nonetheless quite amazing. It meanders aimlessly along coasts, villages, several hills, and along ridges. Around every corner corner was an amazing vista of a bite shaped bay complete with swaying coconut trees and a sleepy village.
Strangely we didnt see any four wheelers, and saw only a bunch of two wheelers. The road is deteriorating badly, and even though we did see some road repair crews it'll be years before all the villages along the coast are properly serviced with a passable road.
Just as we were thinking we were not going to make it without a sore back, the road spilled into the south-western highway, and it was billiard-table smooth tarmac from there on.
The coastal road runs all the way to Bangko Bangko (well known for its surfing) from Lembar. Its in good repair and smooth all the way. We spent a couple of days in a delightfully named Bola Bola Paradis hotel. It located right on the beach and we spent the next few days visiting the nearby islands, and riding around exploring the nearby villages.
We took a boat out to Gili Ringgit - a beautiful island, and pretty much deserted. A ramshackle and crumbling resort hulks near the shore - doomed by the remoteness of the island. Though that is likely to change with development creeping in - who knows there might be another resort on this island in years to come.
Meanwhile we had the place to ourselves and the coral off the beach was pretty good. Further out the current grabs you, but you could spend the whole afternoon just snorkelling off the beach.
Well, that pretty much concludes the ride. After a couple of days in Lembar we left for Bali, catching the morning ferry to Padangbai. And a good massage in Bali.
From the popularity of the Gili isles you'd think there wasn't anything else in Lombok, and you couldn't be further from the truth. It takes a bit of work, but Lombok is pristine (ok, maybe not entirely, but its close) at the moment, and development is catching up.