Saturday, 11 October 2008

Asia Update #3 - Lombok

Haven't had much time on the internet lately, since we've been on Lombok where it's patchy and slow.

After the last email, we left the beach hotel in Soka abruptly because some Swiss guys we met were leaving the next morning and we got a lift with them halfway back to Denpasar. From there we shot clear across Bali then a ferry to Lombok. The ferry took about 5 hours but then we were waiting in the harbour at Lombok for another 3 hours because there were no piers available.

We stayed in the quiet beach resort town of Senggigi for one night, and booked to do our dive training straight away. So the next day we got a boat to Gili Trawangan, one of three tiny islands just of the coast of Lombok. The gilis (which means "small island") are very relaxed, there are no cars, motorbikes, only pushbikes and little horse carts. We met a few cool people - Amin, a local who lived at our homestay, Sergey, a Russian kitesurfer who was also staying there, and Jay, a Brit who we had a night out with.

Since we'd booked with one of the smaller dive schools, it was just Ben and I on the course, so we got through it fairly quickly and got straight into open water dives. They have some amazing spots around the gilis, loads of fish, turtles, and a sunken barge to explore. The snorkeling just off the beach was great too.

After finishing the course and arriving back in Senggigi, we booked a 3 day hike up Mt Rinjani, a massive volcano which dominates Lombok (2nd biggest in all of Indo). There is a crater lake inside the volcano 6km wide, which has a smaller ash cone in the middle of it. The hike itself was incredibly hard, it didn't help that I was ill and ate next to nothing for the three days. At the first camp (elev ~3km) I suffered mild hypothermia because we'd stopped on an exposed ridge and my shirt was wet. The final ascent was at 3am to see the sunrise, but I couldn't make it more than an hour up. Ben got there in time to see the sun rise, and got some great photos.

On the last day coming down (which hurt a whole different set of leg muscles), we were trailing behind helping a couple of injured English girls, and ended up trekking through the jungle at night by ourselves for a few hours. Eventually we made it back to civilisation after 9pm, exhausted.

After Rinjani we spent a few days of well-deserved rest, then made our way south through the capital Mataram, where we met a local who showed us his village and a cock-fight. The next day we got to Kuta (Lombok) which is the polar opposite of Kuta Bali. It's a quiet, empty town, and the only thing in common is the good surfing. We hired a scooter and went into the countryside to find a local who we'd met on the ferry, and he took us to one of the best beaches I've ever seen. Mountains on both sides, perfect white sand, the clearest aqua water and nothing in it but waves.

Departing Kuta, we took the ferry back to Bali, and stayed in the port town of Padangbai. It's a horrible place if you're only there for the ferry, but nice once you get away from the port. Plus they have the coolest place to eat we've seen yet, Ozone Cafe.

The next day we took a few bemo (local bus) to Tulamben on the north-east coast of Bali, to dive the wreck of a US ship that was damaged in the war but sunk by a volcano:

We then headed back to Ubud to the Italian couchsurfer's place where we'd spent our first few nights. Yesterday we went for a massive scooter trip out around central Bali to the Mother Temple and a few of the volcano lakes up there.

Well that's about it, hard to believe it's been a month so far. Trying not to look at the shares or the exchange rates, doesn't sound like things are going too well in the real world.

Some new photos here, but I've been letting Ben take most of them so you might want to see his too.

(Photo and map links are on the right)