Lombok – waterfalls, mountain monkeys, coffee and tempeh! 

We rose early to our first full day on Lombok. Naturally excited after the magic of our arrival night about what the day would bring. We ate fresh, homegrown bananas and drank fresh, homegrown, home roasted black coffee (absolutely delicious) followed by a hot meal of rice, tomatoes and fish and then we set off for the day with our host and his posse to hunt waterfalls.

Having already seen Git Git waterfall in Bali I think our expectations were set at a reasonable level. We thought maybe we’d find something beautiful, probably another lone giant perpetually falling amidst a tropical landscape. But as is so often the case in Asia – our expectations fell so very short of reality.
Pulling up in a nearly empty parking lot just before mid day we disembarked our hosts small car and were lead to an office where tickets were sold to us at a very reasonable price to enter the falls area – and although the whole process was very informal it was not at all complex. Everyone wants to make some money from tourists in South East Asia and evidently Lombok, despite its lack of touristic infrastructure, was no exception. So with the help of our host, who was able to explain to us what was actually going on when we were hustled away from the entrance to the park and ushered into the plain, make-shift office in the first place, we were able to discern which tickets we wanted and that scooter hire was in fact not by any means necessary. Then we paid the small fee (maybe $5AUD each), pocketed our flimsy tickets, dodged the guides waiting around the entrance gate and began our trek – a short and tiresome trek of muddy hills and troughs. And a mere 30 minutes or so later we arrived at one of the most eden-like sites I have ever seen. Benang Kelambu waterfall. Our troubles were immediately worth it.

This wasn’t just one colum of plunging water as we had found in Bali. It was a whole wall of glimmering water that fell from a long, lush stretch of rock. A living breathing wall of water. A perfect contrast of still green and falling silver. And at the base was no muddy pool full of tourists, but a crystal clear, gently rippling pond through which a universe of coloured pebbles were clearly visible below the surface. And this perfect pond fed into another small fall, which fed into another small fall… it was a terrace! An eden-like terrace of gentle giants. So pure and natural and untouched and empty.

We gladly bathed beneath the two lower terraces with great leisure and hobbled and skipped across the pebbles between the ponds as we pleased, bathing not only in the cold mountain water but also in the serenity of this far away and foreign place. And only after an hour or so of this peaceful exploration did we allow our host to lead us off the basic paths that led alongside the terraces to find yet more hidden falls amongst the trees. We showered then with thin, sparkling falls that disappeared over rock faces several stories above us. And finally, urged away only by the knowledge that there was more of this island to see, we eventually returned to our muddy mountain path and re-ascended and re-descended back towards the car. We stopped in at 2 more falls along the way – standing testament to the continued beauty of this place.

And we even found an idyllic, hidden jumping-off point where we stopped for a few minutes to watch some braver tourists and one of our hosts friends jump over a rocky ledge into a natural pool several meters below. And after some time and convincing Sam decided it was ‘now or never’ and too flung himself to the depths. So we were both exhilarated and happily satisfied as we exited the area, piled back into the car and made our way slowly up the side of one of Lombok’s many mountains.

Soon we arrived at a concrete platform set hundreds of meters above sea level, at the top of of a mountain, overlooking all of the wild beauty of Lombok below. Although I am disappointed to be unable to provide the specific name of this mountain, access was very easy by a sealed road which was lined with little fluffy monkeys lazing and grazing all along the way. And as we stepped out onto the viewing platform these timid monkeys were there to greet us, watching quizzically from a safe distance, happy to have their photos taken as they nursed their young and picked dirt and debries from one another’s coats. They were gorgeous.

But the view was even better. Thick green rainforest stretched beneath us as far as the eye could see. Over mountainscape and deep into valleys. And right there, right in the middle of it all, a small town was set into the greenery. No smoke, no smog, no noticeable traffic, no high rise apartment buildings, no sign of life as we city-dwellers know it. Only the presence of the little town in itself – comprised of a handful of small white buildings – gave any indication that people might be there.

And after an hour or so of gazing out and taking photos we joined our host and his friends in a local coffee. We sat down under a small concrete awning on woven mats on the mountainside and sipped more home grown, home roasted coffee from a cheeky young vendor who seemed to lure in all the boys with her beauty and banter. And we even took some time to climb a near by tree and get properly in touch with our wild monkey roots.
And then, after stopping to collect some freshly picked strawberries at the base of the mountain (unfortunately we arrived out of season and couldn’t partake in an ‘all you can eat’ deal) it was already time to start heading home. The days are never long enough.

We settled back into our comfy Lombok dwelling for one final night. We showered, like the locals – with a bucket at a well. We ate, like the locals – a meal if rice, tempeh (holy damn I LOVE tempeh!) and spicy tomato. We lazed, like the locals – quietly watching the evening descend. And we slept, like the locals – surrounded by the night time sounds of clicking insects, cooing chickens and rustling branches.


Arriving to the magical countryside of Lombok

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.