After having a quick overnight in Sengiggi on the west coast of Lombok, we headed straight for Kuta. No, no, not Kuta Bali (that place is a hole and overrun with ‘shrooming college kids–man we’re old!), but rather Kuta Lombok; its very antithesis. Kuta Lombok cannot be described in words, but I’m going to try anyway so bear with me: Oh. My. God. We drove from Sengiggi to Kuta along the southern coast road that rolls up and down and around bends like a Disney ride. On our right were clear views over tricolored waters lapping onto pearl white sand. Hundreds of rows of palm trees gradually made their way up sloping hills where their green tops merged seamlessly with the naturally lush vegetation on the hills to our left.
Kuta Lombok is a world-class surf spot so that’s really why most people go there. However, since most of the breaks are way off shore, which requires a boat to get to, the beaches remain blissfully deserted outside a few fisherman and small groups of local kids splashing in the shallows and collecting crabs. So we carefully crafted our mission: find the most beautiful beach in Kuta. Simple we thought, so we rented a bike from our homestay hosts and headed off.
Kuta proper has it’s own beach, which we hung out at for a bit when we first arrived. It was a gorgeous scene with perfect colored sand and water that was encased in tall green hills. In our guidebook, though, they said that this beach was NOT that nice and don’t spend too much time there. The “nice” beaches were scattered across the coast. We thought it must be a mistake or they cleaned up the area recently or something because what we were looking at was stunning! But this was only our first day, so we planned to do some more in-depth exploration of the area in the days to come.
The next morning we were awaken by the morning call to prayers from the mosque down the road from our homestay. We have to say that is a much nicer way to wake up than to the cacophony of roosters and goats we usually have as an alarm clock, so that was a lovely treat. The motorbike ride out of Kuta proper and into the surrounding villages was jaw-dropping to say the very least. The palms we saw on our way in, we found, were just the highest level of vegetation in the area. Banana and other fruit trees and huge clusters of bamboo swayed under the palms giving the whole scene a canopied effect that we have only seen in rainforests. The bottom most layer were seemingly endless emerald rice paddies stretching to the horizon in one direction, the hills in the other. Outside of the Central Highlands of Vietnam we have yet to see so much green in one place.
We hit Seger and Gerupak Beaches east of Kuta on our second day in town. Oh. My. God. Half moon shaped beaches with soft powdery sand leading into bays that make you just stare for minutes on end they’re so beautiful. You have to remind yourself you’re not dreaming, you are not dead and in heaven, but planted firmly on planet earth. And what a spectacular job planet earth did creating these little hidden coves of paradise. Again, we had all these beaches completely to ourselves except the occasional kid selling coconuts or locally made jewelry…they are relentless little salespeople, though. Unfortunately, we only got to spend about an hour on the beach because the storm clouds began to roll in and we didn’t want to even attempt to drive a motorbike on the roads in the rain.
We spent our third day on a local fishing boat with our homestay host, Made. Also on board with us in this tiny wooden boat was an Indonesian guy from Mataram, which is about an hour north from Kuta. He’s never been on a boat before (shocking by Indonesian standards!) and his inexperience with the rough seas showed immediately as he vomited continuously over the side for the majority of the day. Well, with Pukey McVomit passed out clutching his belly on the floor of the boat, Alan and I were pushed to the bow to do our fishing. We trolled for a couple of hours for the “big fish,” but to no avail (we weren’t that upset–we would rather just fish the bottom with our reels, which is much more fun than driving in circles!). Once we finally got around to the fun bit of actually fishing, we caught all sorts of fish in a matter of minutes. This was good because our hosts were planning a fish grill with our day’s catch upon our return, so with about 10 people including other guests and some of the staff to feed we had to come through! Sadly, Pukey did not make it to the fish grill and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening recuperating from his day at sea. We never did catch his real name.
On our fourth and final day in Kuta Lombok (single tear), we hit the road again with a renewed fervor for our original mission. We swung by Mawan Beach about 6km west of Kuta. The roads here were the worst we have seen in Asia and trust us, that says a lot! It took us over 30min to go that 6km because the potholes we had to avoid were bigger than the motorbike we were on. But it was worth it. It blew the other beaches we have seen out of the running for our favorite spot in seconds. Now, if you’re not a “beach person,” and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you may not appreciate what we are about to describe as greatly as someone who is in fact a beachophile.
Reaching the top on the hill that led down to the beach was like a kid seeing snow out his window and knowing there’d be a snow day called. It was like waking up on Christmas morning to see that bicycle shaped present under the tree all wrapped up with your name on it. The soft cream-colored sand sloped down to perfectly white-tipped breaking waves. We looked to our right and saw 2 people (Westerners) sunbathing and about 10 naked local kids splashing in the waves. Then we looked to our left and saw nothing but more sand, ocean and green hills. We went left. Walking along the water’s edge, our feet perfectly sank into the sand just enough to give us some bounce with each step. We dropped our stuff and made for the water, which alternated from blue to green to sandy gray as the tide rushed in and out. It was deep–about chest high–right as you stepped past the waves creating a spa or pool like feel to the experience. We also walked the perfectly crescent-shaped beach that spanned the better part of a mile between high, densely forested hills. Perfection.
Still, we had heard from other travelers that Mawan was only the second nicest beach in the area! Mawi (pronounced like Hawaii’s Maui) was the star of them all, so of course, for the sake of the mission, we left Mawan beach and headed further west along the completely useless roads towards Mawi. And here is when it got interesting…
We keep mentioning that it’s monsoon season where we are, but that doesn’t really impede on our day-to-day plans. It usually only rains at night or only for a couple of hours in the afternoon, which isn’t that unlike Miami if you think about it. However, when the only road to a beach is through a rice paddy in the rainy season, it becomes difficult to drive a motorbike to your preferred destination. After skidding out in the mud a few times, we decided to park the bike and walk the last 100m or so. Two little kids no older than 6 ran up to us and demanded 5000 rupiah (about 50 cents). The problem was that we had no small bills with us and there’s no way these kids had change so we just continued walking while we apologized for not having any money. As we continued to walk barefoot through the mud–wearing our flip-flops was futile–we kept looking back at the kids now sitting on our bike. We both knew it was not a good idea to leave the bike, but we had to think about the mission, so we pressed on.
We reached Mawi beach and it definitely was the most stunning scenery for all the beaches we’d been to in Kuta Lombok, but right as we reached the winds picked up and the storm clouds started to roll in. We snapped some quick photos and then took off back for the bike. On the walk back, as if I wasn’t already covered in enough mud, the wind blew so hard I nearly fell into on the freshly planted rice paddies to the sheer pleasure of a laughing local woman.
When we reached the bike we knew our earlier suspicions were spot on. There was a small group of “enterprising” locals of varying ages surrounding the bike and pointing at the tires and saying something in Indonesian. We looked down and realized BOTH tires were flat. Not popped, not slashes, just with the air let out of each. Sigh. I guess we should carry more small bills. We rolled our eyes knowing full well the speaker of the group was probably the one who let the air out in the first place and asked how much for a pump. He quoted us 50,000 rupiah (about $5) so we rolled our eyes again and said ok. It’s a lot more money to them than it is to us and after all we did park on their road. Then he said he would be back in one hour. Wait, what?!?!
And now my and Alan’s theory as to why this man will never succeed in business: If you’re going to pull stunts like this, fine, whatever, we expected it as soon as we walked away from the bike in the first place. It’s actually not the first time this has been pulled on us. We don’t really care. We look at it as supporting local business, but own up dude and have a pump ready to fix the problem so you can collect your fee and go and piss off some other tourist. That’s just simple efficiency, quality of service and maximizing your client base principles of business.
Refusing to wait an hour–that’s again just poor customer service–we slowly and carefully drove our deflated bike about a kilometer to the nearest town where we had someone refill our tires for the bargain price of 20,000 rupiah. And that’s with the overhead costs of having his own shop! Clearly our other entrepreneur needs to learn a little something about price points as well.
To top off the day perfectly, we had to lay the bike down heading back into town because the wheels kept skidding in the loose rocks and potholes. Alan walked away unscathed but I now have a fist sized burn on my right calf where I landed on the exhaust pipe. Nothing out of the everyday here in SE Asia.
More Pics, including Alan’s big catch of the day and a great shot of Pukey McVomit…: