This morning, after breakfast (of course) we headed out on a “land cruise.” Basically the idea is it is a tour of a big chunk of the island. Given our limited time here, we felt this was the most efficient way to get a feel for Lombok.
Our driver picked us up at 8, and we headed off to the north. He told us stories of Indonesia and Lombok. He pointed out that while Bali has become overrun with tourists, this island is trying to avoid that fate. Bali has allowed resorts to build everywhere, whereas Lombok is limiting them to beach areas in an effort to keep the core of the island more agrarian. They grow black rice, brown rice, and white rice here, in addition to snake fruit, rambutan, papaya, pineapple, banana, starfruit, melons, and coconut. The brown rice and black rice are grown at higher elevations because they don’t need to be started in water. Every three crops, they rotate and use the paddies to grow something other than rice, because those things require manure, which then restores the soil.
Lombok itself is a massive volcano, and all of us are on its sides. It has three craters, and our plan for today is to circumnavigate the main crater. We wended our way north, where we passed black sand beaches, and could see the Gili Islands. If we had more time here we would go snorkeling out there. We turned toward the east, finally pausing at a village market.
So this wasn’t the cleanest place in the world. Which is to say there was mud everywhere. And I’m not certain what we were walking through when we walked over the puddle of maggots. It may have been sewage.
On the other hand the people, as everybody else here, were very friendly. The fruits and vegetables were stunning.
I mean, look at those peppers. Those are a special variety of Lombok pepper – supposedly very hot.
This woman is selling tofu.
Then there are these. I forget what they are. Sorry.
We politely declined the opportunity to watch a cock fight. And at one point during our visit, P stated, “If he tries to buy us something I’m not eating it.” I mostly agreed, but if it was a fruit that could be peeled, I would have considered as a matter of politeness (we had hand sanitizer with us).
Moving on from the market, we headed east and inland a bit, until we finally entered a national park and stopped. By this point we were well up into the hills, with long views across the Lombok countryside all the way to the sea.
Now we met Mowgli, our guide to the waterfalls. Yes – as in Mowgli from “The Jungle Book.” (He said it first, not me.) Mowgli was extremely nice, enthusiastic, and helpful. He had a happy smile and bare feet, with toes that move different from mine, reflecting a lifetime of navigating without shoes, I suspect. He was to guide us to the waterfalls. He even said he had a special surprise for us. Somehow the last left us immediately worried, seeming more a threat than a promise.
And quickly we were headed down into the rainforest. It was hot and humid, and the walk was hard on our muscles. The path was steep and fluctuated dramatically in quality, and the steps varied in height.
It wasn’t far to the first waterfall, where people stood underneath.
We took in the sight briefly, and then were on our way again. We first doubled back, ascending, and then going left. We passed a small man-made tunnel, through which coursed a branch of the river, and Mowgli enthused, “When we go back, we will go that way. It is a short cut. I call it the Dracula cave. I don’t take everybody that route, but we will go there.”
Just for the record, I don’t know that I ever want to go anyplace called “the Dracula Cave.”
We passed over a precarious concrete bridge, further into the jungle. We occasionally saw other travelers going the other direction. We passed by old waterworks built to control the flow of water, and still we kept walking.
Finally the path led us to water. They had instructed us to bring flip-flops, but I brought my water shoes. Here we changed into them, and continued forward across the river. We trudged through fresh flowing water, cold against our calves, and over rocks and fallen trees. Dipping into and out of the water we continued our fearless trek ever deeper into the jungle. The footing was insecure at times, but still we continued on, as I pondered the folly of trying to go this way in flip-flops.
First the sound around us changed. Then we saw the mists in the air. The river was wider here, with children spear fishing on its banks.
And finally we had reached it – the second waterfall. It was glorious, cascading down all around us into a grand pool where people swam. It was a place of mythic grandeur, impermanent, constant in its inconstancy. Gazing at it is like looking at a snowflake – always very similar to the moment before, yet always slightly different. The light played in the water here just as it did in the Sagrada Familia. And the moment felt just as holy, but this was a different type of chapel entirely.
We took in the site for a time, but Mowgli wanted us to get back to the Dracula Cave before it started raining, otherwise it would be impassable due to the water. At this point two of us were taking our time and walking nice and slow.
As it turned out, the rain never came. As we approached the Dracula Cave, so many questions went through my head. How deep was the water? Was it slippery? Would I have to crouch along the entire length of the tunnel? Are there spiders in there? And did I hear right?!?! Did he really call it the Dracula Cave?!?! There are probably bats in there.
I couldn’t believe P was going to let this happen. And, fortunately, he didn’t. He promptly offered up claustrophobia as an excuse, which he had to explain to poor Mowgli. All the time I thought, “really? I didn’t know about that.” Mowgli was disappointed, but allowed us to take the conventional path. And P, it turns out, isn’t claustrophobic – he is just less susceptible to peer pressure than I am.
And with that we avoided the Dracula Cave.
We climbed back out of the shade of the forest into the unforgiving glare of the noontime sun. There was a restaurant there, where I finally tried the local Lombok fried chicken, which is drenched in a hot pepper sauce. The sauce is incredibly hot, but with a good balance of sweetness. I loved it.
Lombok is very picturesque, and the rest of the trip around the island was quiet, notwithstanding a kerfuffle involving some local rival moped gangs.
The macaques didn’t try to bite me, which was strangely disappointing.
The entire drive took 9 hours, which got us back to the hotel for another Lombok sunset before the return flights home.