Having climbed up & down Rinjani in 2 days, my legs, at least, were ready for a few days of doing nothing. Relaxing on a beach seemed like a good idea.
My first thought was the famous Gili Islands, but I’d heard they had become a bit spoilt by heavy tourism and decided to try the supposedly quieter, beautiful beaches on the southern coast of Lombok instead.
Leaving Senaru in the north after a good breakfast with Marc, we said our farewells (he was heading back to Bali and the end of his autumn vacation), I decided to ride around the island clockwise, down the east coast, in order to avoid the mayhem of Mataram I experienced a couple of days ago. The choice was a good one, and I flew down a beautifully clear coastal road all the way to Tajung Luar, the largest fishing village on the island. From there the road headed inland, and without a decent map to follow, I followed my nose, which always appeared to be in front of me, except when I turned to look behind me (whereupon I stopped following it).
The road inland took me through some busy but mainly small villages, with the usual ‘suicide’ wheel barrows and a variety of animals wondering aimlessly across the road at random intervals. I really didn’t fancy adding a cow to my wildlife count, not least because that would hurt.
Eventually the road joined the new highway linking the airport to the south coast, which was bit of a relief, as winding your way through parades of crazy domestic animals becomes a little tedious after a while.
Winding on the throttle, it was an easy and enjoyable blast to Kuta, and as I rounded the brow of a hill I caught the most magnificent view of what lay ahead of me – paradise!
Cruising into Kuta I did my usual thing – slow down to a crawl and take a good look around the place. It looked small, and that’s because Kuta village is small. But I liked it. It felt like a small, hippy enclave, wonderfully relaxed and not too busy. There was really only one main street that ran along parallel with the beach, lined with a few stalls selling home-made nick-nacks and refreshments. Further down at the eastern end of town there was a line of bars and restaurants along the beach. As it would have been very rude not to drop anchor and sample a few of the local delicacies (which turned out to be, not surprisingly, nasi goring and bintang lager), I installed myself in a beachside bar and put my feet up.
An interesting group of Malaysians wondered up to admire my bike. They were on a package holiday and being ferried around in a coach. They were all really friendly and spoke English very well; I think I’m going to like Malaysia when I eventually get there.
By now it was late afternoon and so I thought I’d better find somewhere to sleep for a couple of days. Riding back west down the ‘high street’ it wasn’t long before the village disappeared and I was on my way to nowhere I wanted to be. Turning round, I went back and rode into the first hotel I came to, which happened to be quite a large hotel with a posh swimming pool surrounded by posh cabins. It looked too expensive for my world traveller budget, but I thought I’d ask anyway.
The savvy guy at the desk asked me how many nights I wanted and then cut me a deal for $20 a night after I told him it was too expensive. I hesitated, and then thought ‘sod it’. I really couldn’t be bothered to trawl up and down the road looking for something a few dollars cheaper, and this place was really nice. It had a decent restaurant, pool , nice cabins and good wifi, and I needed a place to relax for a few days and catch up on my blog (which I was and still am miles behind in).
And there I remained for the next few days, exploring up and down the scenic coast, taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding hills and visiting the almost deserted beaches hiding between the frequent headlands.
Maybe I have permanent ants in my pants, but after a couple of days I was rested enough and itching to ride on to Bali. Kuta was nice, but there are just some things a man on a Tiger has to do (when I find out what, I’ll let you know).
Riding up to Port Lembar, 20km south of Mataram, was a piece of cake on the new road, and soon I was being waved through onto the hourly ferry to Padang Bai in Bali. These ferry crossings have got so quick and easy since my Timor-Flores-Sumbawa days, it is almost like being in transport heaven.
I parked my bike on the lower ferry deck at 10:00 and 10 minutes later we were on our way. The 4 hour passage was nice and relaxing on calm waters with great views of the towering volcanoes of Rinjani on Lombok, and Aguna on Bali. I bought some noodles (for a change) and sat outside on the upper deck, lovely cool wind in my hair (both of them), away from the crowds who always tend to conglomerate inside, for some reason. Weird.