For years trekking through parts of south-east Asia and Indonesia has been in the back of my mind but I never acted on it until flights became ridiculously cheap, an insane windfall of mass sale fares… I, like many others, was suspicious of the Bali that filtered through media, friends and other traveller – a sort of Indonesian Ibiza, over run with sunburnt Australians and Bintang singlets. To my surprise, the place is actually filled with polite German tourists and friendly locals. Against what I’d heard, Bali has its own history, culture, endless natural beauty – and pork! Lombok, I knew even less about, other than it was predominantly Muslim unlike the Hindu Bali, and there was a huge volcano…
We hit the road trying to explore both islands mostly by scooter, which for $5 a day ain’t bad. The smell of petrol and burning trash mixed with delicious food and bugs that inevitability end up in your teeth, mouth and eyes is undeniably intoxicating. There is the occasional risk of being pulled over by the police for no helmet and no licence but is easily avoidable; apparently a quick $10-$15 bribe should get you free of any trouble.
The smell of petrol and burning trash mixed with delicious food and bugs that inevitability end up in your teeth, mouth and eyes is undeniably intoxicating.
Our first stop was Uluwatu a classic surf town with so many perfect beaches it gets a bit ridiculous. Other than getting barrelled at Bluepoint beach or floating around in rock pools with a Bintang beer resting on your gut, you can also eat the best barbecued seafood I have ever chowed down on. There are so many warung’s (restaurants) on the beach or down tiny laneways, you’ll never be far from deliciousness – especially at Binging beach.
We found ourselves accidentally following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (the American travel and eating show), eating succulent pork in Ubud and chugging down dirty martinis at Naughty Nuri’s. To our surprise Naughty Nuri’s has the most delicious American style barbecue too, don’t be surprised when you order multiple serves of the ribs. It sounds like we basically ate nothing but barbecue, but it’s really tough to refuse.
Sitting in the cabin you become slightly delirious from the diesel fumes flowing through, so venturing up to techno and $3 Bintangs is part and parcel of the ride.
As great as Bali had been, we headed off to the next island in the chain, Lombok, via a licensed ferry or ‘party boat’, that plays terrible action films below deck and pumping techno above. Sitting in the cabin you become slightly delirious from the diesel fumes flowing through, so venturing up to techno and $3 Bintangs is part and parcel of the ride. Off the coast of Lombok, there are three little islands called the Gili’s. Gili Meno has an off grid hippy kind of vibe, Gili Air is slightly more developed and Gilli Trawangan or ‘Gili T’ is where the club vibe is at. Gili Air, where we stayed, is summed up by sunsets and snorkelling with sea turtles and the only form of public transport is horse-drawn. Prepare to chill more than you have ever thought possible. Back on gastronomy, we discovered a Lombok traditional meal called a Matarbak, which is basically a shallow fried onion and meat pancake/omelette, and also pure paradise.
After a tough few hours and 2000 metre ascent, our guide Basri carved a mean pineapple into an edible sculpture with a giant Nepalese army knife, and we kicked back with both to admire the highly worthwhile view of early morning Lombok.
Deciding it was too dangerous to go on chillaxin’ on the Gili’s any longer we left to get a bit volcanic. We caught a ferry over to Lombok and after a couple hours scooterin’ made it to Senaru, a village at the base of a volcano. Most of Lombok is occupied by a 3000 metre high volcano called Mt Rinjani, which also acts as the perfect navigation tool. Haggling to find a guide to lead us up the 3000 metres in one day is kinda tricky, but negotiating a departure time of 2am was the best deal we could find, especially if you want to race the sun to the top. After a tough few hours and 2000 metre ascent, our guide Basri carved a mean pineapple into an edible sculpture with a giant Nepalese army knife, and we kicked back with both to admire the highly worthwhile view of early morning Lombok.
Outside of being asked if you want a ‘taxi’, ‘jig jig’ or a ‘massage plus plus’, Bali and Lombok are the definite place to relax or get amongst it.