Lombok, Indonesia - Sticks, Beaches & Volcanoes. / by Mark Boyd

T&T Homestay was to be my accommodation for a few nights. It was a rural family run venture a 20 minute walk from Lombok's Kuta beach. Lombok another beautiful Indonesian island is often by passed by travellers on their way to a series of little islands known as The Gillis. These spots of idyllic white sand and palm trees are where the chill out crowd, party crowd and snorkel/diving crowd who want to experience the previous two crowds go. These islands didn't need my attention. Here on Lombok I was in search of waves to ride and a volcano to climb. That was it really. It was fast approaching Christmas and I was intending to stay until around New Years.

 The Homestay Area.... Peaceful...

The Homestay Area.... Peaceful...

 Resting between guest arrivals....

Resting between guest arrivals....

My host rented me a scooter for 50,000 a day, that's just below £3.00. I chatted with English Ben next door to my place. He shared some interesting experiences whilst travelling and studying for his thesis in Indonesian, on Sumatra especially. I liked Ben, he was a good guy. Down from Ben was a young Finnish couple and an older Swedish couple..... and that was it. Peace and quiet.

I was keen to explore the surf, but onshore winds were scuppering many of the breaks. Grupuk had the only sheltered waves, and even then they weren't as big as expected. I rented my bodyboard, fins and a taxi boat to take me to the breaks. First of all he took me to a small break where there were folks learning to surf on foamy long boards. I shook my head and pointed to the next break. He indicated it was big over there.... He thought bodyboard=small waves..... Not for me it doesn't. He tied the boat up and I leapt in and paddled across to the break. The swell was less than average, and the strong onshore breeze was also reaching this break. I played around for 90 minutes, whilst the other 7 or so surfers looked as disappointed as I was with the lack lustre waves. There was a break in the distance on the other side of the bay knows as 'The Outside'. It looked really big from where we were. I paddled back to the boat, and pointed to the break. My non-English speaking taxi man's eyes opened wide. I pointed at my eyes, indicating that I just wanted to get close and take a look. The swell at times was tricky for his boat and small engine, but we eventually reached the outside. Why was there no one in? The wave was definitely fast, steep and rideable. Was it the current? The shallowness? The unpredictability of the sets? The taxi driver was concerned at the current and his little engine was struggling to hold us in place..... Which was probably for the best. Had I got in maybe I'd have got in to a bit of trouble. There was obviously a good reason why no one was riding 'The Outside' today. We pootled back. This little two hour trip cost £10.00. I didn't want to be spend £20 per day for a couple of sessions, but with the other breaks being blown out there was no choice really. I decided to wait to get to Bali for my next set of waves.

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Christmas Day I took the scooter out and explored the beaches.... I couldn't find any real peace... Everywhere I went locals wanted photographs with me... Even when I walked to the end of a beach I was discovered.  Must be horrible to be famous.

It was Boxing Day night. I decided to head out to catch some live music and a beer or two. I bumped in to my Finnish friends. The local kids, ranging between 9 and 13 years old, were selling bracelets and other bits and bobs around the open air bar. They obviously liked the look of us as they decided to leave all their wares on our table whilst they played. A young girl tried to sell me some bracelets, she was cute and very cheeky. In the end she said if she could sell my home made jungle stompers then I'd have to buy some bracelets. She tried too!

 Check out her feet... Looks like a tough customer!

Check out her feet... Looks like a tough customer!

Unsurprisingly no one wanted my hand-cut, black, rubber footwear. But ten out ten for effort. This girl could turn out to be quite the saleswomen! The Fins headed off home, I met a group of Czech ladies and stayed on a little longer. Boxing Day night was a fun night!

The following morning I packed up my main bag, sorted out my daypack and headed 3.5 hours to the North of the island. The roads were surprisingly good and fun to ride. The hot sun baked me the entire way as I headed through beautiful paddy fields and beaches....

I stopped at a local roadside Warung. I opted for the 'Super Vegetable Mie Goreng'. Which translates to vegetables with fried noodles. It was nice to find something with no chicken in it. As the hearty plate of food was put in front of me I realised what made the 'Super Vegetable Mie Goreng' super....... Chicken. Chicken made it super. I smiled to myself and tucked in.

On arrival in Senaru I found myself accommodation for 130,000 rph, about £8.00. It was the cheapest in town again. I dropped my bag on my bed, checked out the lovely view of Rinjani then headed back out to find the trail head so I knew where I was going at 2am. My intention was to climb to the Crater Rim to see the sun rising over the lake and head back down again the same day. No guide necessary. In fact there rarely is. I had considered starting at Sembalum and doing a one night camp, but with the inclement weather (shed loads of rain on and off) and the logistics of getting back to Sembalum from Senaru I thought it easier to just go up and down from Senaru. I like to trek alone. The groups were paying between £100 and £150 per person to go up to the crater lake over the first day, camp one night, and head back down the following morning. Excessive! That's not including the entry fee to Rinjani.

 View from my terrace....

View from my terrace....

That evening I ate a hearty meal then bought two Snickers, some bananas and a couple of spring rolls to provide energy for eating during the trek. The spring rolls were devoured by 6pm, so I was down to Snickers bars and bananas. I hit the hay at 6.30pm.

I awoke at 1.30am half an hour before my alarm. I opened the door to clear star filled sky. Perfect I thought to myself, deciding to grab my bag, jump on my scooter and head up to the trail head for a 2am start. There was no one to pay on arrival, so I just popped my headlamp on and followed the trail. Every now and again dogs would alert their households that I was passing, then twenty minutes later I was clambering up a rougher trail. I wondered could I really manage to reach the crater in a little over four hours, when the guided treks take between six and seven. Distance wise it was definitely achievable. An hour in the star filled sky seemed to disappear.... A deep rumble of thunder trembled through the air to the West. It looked like the weather was turning against me again.

 I found this beautiful butterfly just resting in the darkness....

I found this beautiful butterfly just resting in the darkness....

By 5.45am the light from the soon to rise sun was illuminating a moody looking sky. Once again there was to be no spectacular sunrise this morning.  The final approach to the crater rim is steep, bouldered filled and challenging.

The next half hour would need a real push. My bananas had already been consumed and I was on Snickers bar down. There was no longer a race to meet the sun over the lake, I just hoped to be able to see the lake.

Once the boulder clambering section was completed I arrived in a guided group camp zone. I asked one of the trekkers which way I needed to head to the rim. He was a lovely English chap in his early sixties. I walked on. I was reminded of my visit to Kelimutu to see the coloured lakes. There was nothing. Just cloud and mist. I was feeling pretty chilly, and the last half kilometre had raised a sweat on my skin dampening my underlayer. I stripped off allowing the wind to dry my body and then delved in to my pack to grab a dry underlayer. It was still a chilly 12 degrees. I chatted with a Swiss girl and French guy and my English gent also joined me. The cloud cleared for all of 30 seconds allowing me to grab a couple of images.

My original intention was to hang around for a few hours to see if the cloud would clear, but it was obvious that only more cloud was on it's way and the chilly air was already biting at me. I was also hungry. David invited me back down to the camp area to shelter from the wind, while the lovely Swiss girl asked the guides if they would be willing to make an extra pancake for me and a hot cup of tea. Sure enough as I sat in the shelter of David's tent porch an extra pancake and hot cuppa arrived, and I really needed it. I'd burnt off all my energy and I was chilly. A little over four hours to reach the crater rim was probably a little too much for my current level of fitness, but hey-ho, it's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it. I was enjoying David and Swiss's company, so I decided to walk with them for the return journey. Once the steep boulder section was completed Swiss's boyfriend, a marathon runner, decided to leave her behind and run back down the volcano.... Lovely fella! Ha ha! A french couple in totally inappropriate footwear slipped their way down the muddy sections.  I decided to don my home made jungle stompers for the decent (with socks because it was bloody cold!  Sorry fashion police) and I was the only person to not slip and fall!  These rubber studded home made trekkers were out performing my Salomon trail trainers!

David was struggling with bad knees and as ever mine was giving me a little jip, but I maintained a steady pace. David needed to slow down, so I decided I'd slow down with him to keep and eye on him. The surface was fairly tricky. A mixture of rocks, mud and wet slippery tree roots. Ankle twisting territory if ever there was one. David didn't want to hold anyone up, so I'd walk on then wait to make sure he was okay. It was a challenging decent which required focus at all times. The group stopped for lunch and Swiss suggested that I stay with them and eat seeing as her boyfriend had ran on and obviously decided to skip lunch. She asked the guides and they were more than happy for me to have his portion.... Then the rain began. We only had an hour or so to walk, but dear lord it was a wet one!

Every now and again Swiss needed assistance and I was more than happy to help out. She was a really kind hearted lovely girl. One of the guides held back for David, who was needed to rest a little more now. His legs were giving up on him. We waited at the bottom and twenty minutes later he appeared, jubilant and overjoyed at his accomplishment. And so he should be! We said our goodbyes, I jumped on my motorcycle and headed back to my hostel for a well earned rest.

It was a little after midday. I'd been up and down to Rinjani's crater rim in 10 hours, and that included a sit down breakfast and lunch! I think I was quite pleased with my accomplishment, even though my planned vista had been gobbled up by low cloud and mist.

I woke early the following morning, just before sunrise. I stepped out on to the wooden decking and looked towards Rinjani. I'd definitely chosen the wrong day. There was the sleeping giant etched sharply against the pastel orange sky.

 Every morning has had me filtering tap water using my Sawyer straw.

Every morning has had me filtering tap water using my Sawyer straw.

 Guzzling my morning rehydration

Guzzling my morning rehydration

Thems the breaks I thought to myself. I packed my little bag and hit the road South back to Kuta. I couldn't help but look over my shoulder from time to time. Even at 11am Rinjani was in clear view. I was a tiny bit gutted.... The ride back was lovely though. Lots of gorgeous scenery from beaches to rice paddies.

By midday I was back in Kuta and decided to move slightly closer to the town with a room that offered AC. Honeybee Homestay turned out to be cheaper than T&T Homestay with a little more luxury thrown in. The owner of T&T allowed me to continue renting the scooter, he was a top fella. I made friends with Stephanie over the next couple of days and also arranged to meet Ben, the Finnish couple and the Swedish couple for a meal one evening. I did another day of exploring the beautiful beaches.... and they really are beautiful.

Then someone asked had I been to watch the stick-fighting on Kuta beach.... I hadn't! I got there early to secure my place behind the plastic tape.

Children and adults began to fill up the area behind me. Then a few rather rude chaps decided to just bypass the tape and sit right in front of everyone. I tapped one on the shoulder and asked him to move aside. Then a local lady tapped me on the shoulder nodding for me to move forward in between them. She knew I'd been there early with my camera at the ready. I took her advice. Another local guy behind decided I made a good leaning post. It was like being back in India rather than Indonesia.

One of the organisers (who was also a referee) had an interesting technique for getting the kids to move back.... He basically used his burning cigarette as an incentive.... Move back or be burned. Not sure he'd get away with that back West, but it did seem to work.

The two chiefs organised their teams along with matching components. When the first two kids started leathering the hell out of one another.

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I was surprised. Swollen, red welts lined their torsos and arms form the vicious impact of the wooden sticks.

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Each time a round was won the victor would parade and dance showing off to the roaring crowd.

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The end of each battle was filled with hugs, smiles (potentially bitter smiles at times), which was very impressive, especially when you consider the ages of these kids.

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Then the men got down to it. Powerful and painful stuff!

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 The crowd watch with concern....

The crowd watch with concern....

 Wouldn't want to fight this guy!!!

Wouldn't want to fight this guy!!!

 Faces in the background....

Faces in the background....

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I just couldn't pull myself away.... Plus I couldn't have left if I wanted to.  The crowd was 5 deep behind me.

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 Snotty head?

Snotty head?

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The final bout ensued.... Two experienced wolves of men battled it out.... There were welts....

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 He looks worried right?

He looks worried right?

 They look worried for him... right?

They look worried for him... right?

 Time to hang up the stick???  Maybe???

Time to hang up the stick???  Maybe???

 His skin was half tiger... His heart was half lion... His brain was.... half....  Give up fella!

His skin was half tiger... His heart was half lion... His brain was.... half....  Give up fella!

It was fast approaching New Year's Eve and my English friends from Flores had messaged me inviting me to join them at their very nice Air BnB rental in Bali. I quickly (maybe hastily) booked a flight and a couple of days later at 6pm on New Year's Eve I was lining up for check in.

I passed over my phone and the lady looked at it for quite sometime. Is there a problem I asked? There was. I'd booked 31st January 2017. Damn. They put me on standby to no avail. I ended up paying an extra £50.00 to reach Denpasar in Bali. From there I needed to take a moto-taxi to Canguu 40 minutes away in NYE's traffic.... I dropped my bags, then it was another 25 minutes to reach Seminyak to meet Matt & Ben. I arrived at 10.45pm. It had already been an expensive evening by Indonesian standards and now the small bottles of beer in La Favella were topping a similar price to back home. NYE price hikes! We had a fun night. Beer and boogie!

The following morning the guys were flying out to various destinations, and I was headed south to Ulluwatu in search of waves.