Wednesday 4 December – Luck was once again on our side when we pulled into Labuhan Port – only 6 minutes until the next ferry. Just enough time to buy some drinks and we were boarding. It was empty and lots of seats. All the sellers board at the beginning to sell rice, nuts, crisps etc but this time a band also boarded and starting playing once they’d finished their piece two little boys began, one singing the other with a tambourine. Then a man who seemed drunk, started to sing and in the middle of his set added some wiggling of the hips much to the delight of two elderly gents in-front. Not a clue what he was singing but he got the crowd laughing.
An hour later we had the first glimpse of Sumbawa. It immediately looked a lot different even before we got on shore. We could see no sign of life, no buildings, nothing. The coast was jaggy and green humps rose all over.
It really was barren when we touched dry land, it felt like a tumble weed would pass through the hot arid port. The only living thing around other than other passengers was a goat on its hind legs eating out of bin.
The contrast between Lombok and Sumbawa is stark and the people are a lot poorer as is evident by the housing – it’s mainly bamboo huts on stilts. There are very little concrete houses outside of the main towns and there are no certainly Indomarts. That’s our secure cold drink source gone for now.
Before leaving Lombok we had made no plan of where to go on Sumbawa. Even on the ferry over we still failed to agree on a plan. Paul wanted to head east but I was keen to see what the Lonley Planet described as ‘drop dead gorgeous’ in the south which was a diversion as the road only goes so far then you have to turn back to get back on the main road east. Paul for once gave into me and we headed for Sekongang. The area around Sekongang is mainly frequented by surfers and when we arrived quickly realised it’s only surfers because there is nothing going on other than huge breaking waves in the massive bay, locals picking cockles and a huge copper mine. There were some baby waves for us but no boards to hire so instead we splashed around in the crashing waves which had a massive undercurrent. The accommodation on offer wasn’t upto much but then it’s for surfer rats most of which are staying here for months on end. It’s been the cheapest yet at £4 and right on the beach so a bargain really.
All the guys staying at this place fitted the surfer stereotype so much and they all speak like “hows it ripping dude?” to which I reply “Oh fine thankyou” very non surfer English.
Its probably what Bali used to be a good 20 years ago, maybe just the start of a tourist town. A sign on the door asked guests to dress appropriately as they’d been approached by unhappy village elders who still very much rule the roost in Sumbawa. A complete contrast to somewhere like Bali where I very much doubt they would get a say, even if they did it wouldn’t be abided by. There are Australians whizzing everywhere in bikinis.
We left the next day to head east to a town billed as ‘The most happening Tourist Town in Sumbawa.’ The road conditions were surprisingly very good mainly thanks to Australian funding.
Lombok wasn’t exactly hectic on the roads but they are if you compare them to Sumbawa. All human and engine powered traffic has been replaced by animal traffic. It felt like every animal on the island ran out on us on the journey from the west to east cast. Goats, cows, buffalos, dogs, roosters, baby chicks, snakes – even the monkeys which usually just chill by the side of the road got in on the action. A huge buffalo learnt the hard way and lay dead blocking half the road. At first the landscape was beautiful nothing around for miles just mangroves to the left and a green hilly landscape to the right. The road snaked around the north coast which was equally beautiful, mile after mile of untouched coast just the odd fishing village. The weather on the journey west to east changed so dramatically all day, one minute brilliant sunshine then next a huge grey cloud had moved in and it was chucking it down.
When we made it to Dompu we briefly considered calling it a day as we’d been on the bike 7 hours already but the road to the beach and the ‘busiest tourist destination’ in Sumbawa was roughly an hour away so we kept going thinking the amenities will be half decent. The road on the way down was really scenic the craggy coast to the right and rice fields to the left.
On the way down to beach we met a police convoy with officers piled into the back of pick-ups. At first an officer waved Paul to take it slow behind them but then waved him through.
Not long after we passed the convoy, two men on separate scooters looked very angry at each other. One trying to get away looking like he didn’t have the foggiest why the man was chasing him, the other man kept catching him up threatening to push him off. Then came one of the police 4×4 sirens blazing, the officers stood gripping onto the back in full chase mode and the guy that was trying to escape didn’t stop but the 4×4 eventually blocked his path. The other man was very angry, flapping his arms and visibly aggressive towards the other man. That all happened in seconds but all the villagers had gathered by the time we passed – literally 10 seconds later.
I think we were expecting a little town or something, at least a shop but there was nothing. Pantai Lakey the Top tourist destination looked deserted. Initially we drove past all the accommodation – the three on offer – as we thought there must be more. The place we went to look at was down a dirt track through a field. A field that looked like a dumping ground with patches of waste everywhere. The entrance to the field was gated as there is an issue with stray dogs. It was another place just for surfers really. We arrived quite late so it was dark half an hour after we arrived.
Despite thinking we were not going to get any decent food, we were surprised by a little restaurant called Lakey Peak right on the beach run by a French man who really cared that you liked his food. Testament to the goodness was the fact Paul didn’t even mind they gave him someone elses order which had rice not chips. There was quite a crowd in there too. A mix of people from all over the world, but the one thing we keep hearing now is people planning to go home for Christmas. I wouldn’t change what were doing for one minute but nothing beats Christmas for me. It’s my favourite time of year, getting all cosy, watching films and seeing all the family. Especially this year when I think my nephew will be beside himself with excitement as he’s at the right age. Plus, I hear there’s an old school Christmas celebration going on for my side of the family – Christmas day and Boxing Day at the grandparents which hasn’t been done since I was about 8. We are trying to get the bike on the 21st shipment which means we’ll most likely be in Darwin for Christmas. If not, we will be in East Timor cleaning the bike ready for Australia. It has to be like new, like out of the factory new, not one speck of dust or dirt anywhere. Seen as we have been through a lot of dirt and smog, there’s going to be a lot of elbow grease needed.
Enough about Christmas for now, I think we’ll just pretend it’s not Christmas just this once. It will be easy enough as its going to be warm.
With nothing for us to do in Lakey Beach we left the next day. We did manage to catch a glimpse of some of the surfers from the adjoining bamboo stilt cafe which had a great view over the sea. The waves, apparently some of the biggest barrel waves in the world happen here. They broke really far out so people were chartering local fishing boats to take them out. That’s also the reason they look really small on the pictures but they were massive.
We were heading for the port to catch the ferry to the next island but armed with the knowledge there is very little in the port, and we take that as there is nothing if you compare it to busiest town in Sumbawa having a choice of three places to stay all of which were pretty dire, so we were aiming for the town of Bima. On-route we were confronted with road blockages outside of mosques, there must have been something going, like a special holly day as they were packed. We’ve been past a lot of mosques with the call to prayer blaring out, but a glimpse inside reveals they are empty or just a handful of people are actually praying. The first blockage we came to, there was quite a tailback so the locals were directing us down some back alley. A man with his wife and child on the back became our back alley guide. The third blockage we came to we got a little behind as Paul had to negotiate a tight spot with a horse and cart but our guide very sweetly waited for us to catch up. These everyday acts of kindness happen so frequent and for no reason.
At the end of one of the back alley diversions, we passed through a field where the kids came running and bouncing up and down, so excited to see a big bike. Then at the end of the alley two more little kids were waiting and one reached out to high five. Little things like that really make me smile, they are so cute.
There was not alot going on in Bima. It had a ‘Mall’ but it wasn’t really a mall more of a supermarket. The weirdest thing happened whilst I was browsing the cold drink section. A youngish man approached me, pulling a pregnant lady behind him. ‘Excuse me miss, please rub belly of my wife’ Lots of people in the shop were laughing and the pregnant lady was laughing too. I was really unsure about what to do, I was looking around for Paul and he just looked as bemused as me. They didn’t go away after I didn’t do it immediately, then he asked again ‘please miss rub’ I asked why, but there was no answer. I did it but I found it very very weird. They were pleased and off they went.
We watched a snippet of Indonesian Family Fortunes on TV in the hotel room which looked more like a kitchen as it was tiled floor to ceiling and went to bed early. The information on the ferry for tomorrow is sparse with no ‘official’ source. We’ve heard there is only one a day at 8am but the lady at the hotel reception said 9am. We’ll stick with 8am which means an early morning departure from Bima as its 50km away.
We left before sunrise which is a really nice time to drive, it’s the perfect temperature and the sun makes everywhere glow a nice pretty golden colour but difficult for Paul as the sun was in his eyes. We got to the port at 7am it was already bustling with lots of people, motorbikes and trucks loaded mainly with veg waiting to board.
A couple of French cyclists past us, and a German couple with backpacks were having a hard time as their bus driver had dropped them off but not given them any tickets, which they’d paid for. The police and the port workers were obviously not interested and there was little they could really do, so they had to buy new tickets.
The ticket man confirmed it was scheduled to depart at 9am so the hotel lady was correct. Even so we’re glad we arrived early as the ferry really gets crammed on the lower deck, so much so we couldn’t get down once the trucks were on. There were however plenty of seats so there was no cramming for what was to be a 7 hour crossing.
We actually waited until 10am to depart. Whilst we waited to leave a little boy kept milling around, he was shy compared to the usual brazen kids who have no qualms about asking for money. Must have been new to the business of begging. We actually didn’t know what he wanted as he kept pointing to a room which i think was maybe Air Conditioned. In the end he pointed at some money in his hand. We only gave him 500 rupiah equal to less than 5p he was happy with that and then we didn’t see him again.
An old lady selling Mangos sat her three bucket loads infront of us. The ship crew were providing a steady business for her. They’d approach, smell lots of them , confer with the other crew then buy about 10 a go. I don’t know why but we hadn’t eaten the mangoes in Indonesia before this day, they’re available everywhere. Except Indomarts actually so that’s probably the reason. Not a clue what to look for in a mango, Paul pretended he did know gave a few a sniff then brought any. They were so tasty we got some to takeaway too.
Not long after we left the port the TV came on blaring out some sort of Indonesian singing contest, it played out once and then put on repeat. There was 1 CD for the entire 7 hour journey. It was a bit painful. Paul escaped to the top deck for a bit and got talking to the German couple. They were living in Australia and they were in Indonesia because they’re Australian visas were about to run out. They like us were planning on doing some sort of boat trip to see the famous Komodo dragons and suggested they may charter a boat so Paul gave them our number.