Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lombok, Day 3

Today we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and packed our belongings for a trip southwest to an island called Gili Nanggu and then to Kuta Lombok, where we planned to spend the next two nights. Our driver and guide picked us up at nine and we headed inland a bit through the lush countryside before connecting once more with the coast – a dusty, meandering road through poorer villages than we'd seen before, where the impression we got was of a slower, more isolated part of Lombok, and where people made their living from the ocean, which was crystal clear and, in the morning's heat, very inviting. (I read later that the road has had recent problems with robberies, but I never felt the slightest bit unsafe here.) It was a longish ride from Senggigi, but the eye-catching scenery made the hours pass quickly.

Our initial destination was a small fishing village called Taun (Sekotong Barat), whose seascape is worthy of being called paradisiacal. We were dropped off at a harbor where the importance of fishing was clearly seen. Women in front of one structure were selling whole fish rubbed with spices and chilies, while others were drying a catch of smaller fish on mats in the sunshine.

We hired a boat, as well as snorkeling gear, for our trip to Gili Nanngu. The boat held five of us altogether, though it could easily have held more.

The beach at Sekotong Barat from which we set out.

One of several uninhabited islands we passed on the way to Gili Nanngu. Apparently, many of these have been bought by Chinese investors who plan to turn the islands into resorts.

After about 15 minutes we found ourselves approaching Gili Nanngu, which is actually quite small. One can walk around the entire island in probably 30 or 40 minutes.

As soon as we arrived we went to a changing area to dress in our swimsuits and slather on suncream. However, I realized immediately that I'd forgotten a bag in Sekotong Barat that contained my suncream, swimsuit, and a few other belongings. So for a few extra dollars we paid the boatman to return and bring them back. In the meantime we sat in a shaded beach pavilion and enjoyed the scenery.

When the boatman returned we quickly made our way into the water, which was incredibly warm and transparent. Our driver had filled several plastic bottles with some kind of green bread, which he said fish all over Lombok waters love. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he demonstrated by removing the bottle tops, diving into the water, and floating there with a bottle by his side. Immediately we saw dozens of fish swim up to him so that it looked like he was floating on a roiling cloud. With the seawater soaking into the bread and softening it, he squeezed the bottle so that small bread particles floated out, and the fish raced around gobbling them up.  

Crystal clear waters, full of all kinds of amazingly colorful and curious (and hungry)  fish.

Maybe 90 minutes later it was time for lunch. The island, though small, has some basic but decent-looking accommodation and also an open-air restaurant with surprisingly reasonably prices. It's nothing fancy, as the photo below attests, but it offers enough to keep you going as you snorkel and lie about.

The island is also home to a sea turtle sanctuary. Turtles are hatched here and released at different times of the year. It's open to the public, too, so one can wander inside and see what goes on.

This was one of four tanks holding sea turtles of different ages.

After lunch and wandering about some, we went back to snorkel some more, and I took a short hike around half of the island, where I came across not a soul.

After maybe three or four hours it was time to leave Gili Nanngu, so we took showers and changed back into our pre-snorkeling clothes, and not much later we found ourselves back at Sekotong Barat, where we returned our gear and, after watching a hen and her tiny chicks for a few moments, set off toward Kuta Lombok.

A blurry shot from the back of a moving car, but you can see the whole spice-and-chilie-rubbed fish standing vertically in the purple basket.

These next two shots are of poor quality, but I'm including them because I couldn't believe how people were transported in local trucks. In the above shot, I counted 16 people, mostly children, packed in the back of the pickup.

Men sitting on top of rice sacks piled on the back of a truck. This is far from a rare sight. Many times we saw trucks with rice sacks piled much higher, and with more people riding atop them, sometimes literally holding on to the ropes that tied the sacks down. 

On the way to Kuta Lombok we stopped in a Sasak village called Sade. It was late in the day and most of what could be visited was already closed. A guide did show up to lead us around, but there wasn't much to see. We came across a woman roasting coffee from beans they grew in the village, and we came across some cows, doves the villagers tamed and around whose necks they placed bells that made beautiful music when they flew overhead.

In the end, however, it felt a bit like a tourist trap. The guide brought us back to the village's main store, pushing hard for us to buy something, and insisting that we dress up twice in local clothing. We didn't want anything, so we declined, and this seemed to make him mad. We tipped him for showing us his village, but he wasn't very pleased.

We made it to Kuta Lombok at around seven or eight at night, and since it was dark by then we didn't get a sense of what Kuta looked like as we drove through it. We ended up staying at a Novotel there, which on paper looked great, but turned out to be a huge disappointment. But more on that in my next post...

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