I was sure from the outset that one week in Indoneisia was never going to be enough time, but am surprised to find myself now believing that we did manage to get a pretty decent taste of Bali (where we spent 4 days) and the Gilli Islands (where we spent 2 days). If anything, given another chance, I’d maybe add just one more day to Bali so that I could see the national reserve at the far West of the island. But I am surprisingly satisfied. Despite the fact that generally I’m the type of traveler who always wants ‘one more day’.
In Lombok however our time was definitely, definitely not enough. Although, then again.. perhaps it was the lack of time we had (only really one full day and 2 nights) that preserved and embelished everything in such a magical haze. Lombok was amazing.
We arrived in the late afternoon having caught a very local longboat from Gilli Air to Lombok (it seriously felt like we were the only Western, non-muslim people on the boat) and then a private taxi to our AirBnB accomodation in the rural countryside of Nusa Tenggara Barat. We had very little trouble finding our accomodation thanks to the help of one of Gilli Airs lovely locals – who prearranged our boat and taxi and was on the phone during our travels to help our driver find his way. And when we did arrive it was to an amazing reception!
We disembarked our taxi, stepping out onto a gravel and dirt road lined on one side by continuous rice fields and on the other by a little local housing complex that would soon become our home. And really my use of the words ‘housing complex’ in this instance are only loosely fitting. What this really was, was a collection of simple houses or rooms that squatted together around a central, open sided eating hut (like a permanent marquee) that served, it seemed, as an all round meeting spot and place to gather for the people who resided here.
So we carried our few belongings down a short, steep driveway and dumped them in the small quarters that we had been delegated and sat for a while in our wee living room making small talk with our host. While outside our door, crowding the small, central hut were a bunch of curious onlookers. Here to see the strange Western giants.
And before long my curiosity got the best of me. Upon seeing some of the smaller members of our fan-group plucking chickens from their pecking about the grounds and holding and petting them in an impossibly domesticated manner, I ventured outside to find out whether or not the small hens would be so calm with me. And surely enough as soon as we showed some curiosity everyone was excited to participate. Before long the four of us stood swamped with chickens – with everyone picking them up and thrusting them towards us so that they could take pictures and laugh at how amused we were by the novelty of holding a hen.
It was gorgeous.
And soon we were directed to the back of a small ute for an evening tour that would take our breath away. In the open tray of the truck Martyna, Sam, Casey, Agung (our host) and I nestled in awed silence. We drove through rice fields and county roads, passed waving locals who would double take and stare at our pale skin in disbelief. We drove by small children on scooters making their way home for the night and a mosque of people in prayer – from which two cheeky ladies were momentarily distracted as we drove passed in our Western garb. And we paused beneath the silent mass of mountains that dominate the centre of this small Island as the sun set. We stood on the tray of our island ute with a heavy peace settling over our shoulders, while our host smoked and chatted quietly with a group of onlookers that we had collected along the way. And upon asking what was growing by the roadside we were inundated with handfuls on long string beans, that I happily munched as we continued on our way.
On our first night in Lombok – a night of absolute, deep, dark peace – we made a silent trail through the scrub. Listening and feeling and breathing and watching as the island passed around us. Opened itself to us. Rice fields lying in muted wisdom. Trees reaching out to brush our sides and determine our wills. Nature screaming, but stiffled. The chirps of night time. The whispers of dusk. A heavy beauty. A perfect night.
Our time in Lombok had just begun.