Having said goodbye to Mom and Dad; Gina and I rode back to Sengiggi with Evol, our driver, and discussed our plans for the remaining 2.5 weeks in Indonesia, indeed the remaining 2.5 weeks in SE Asia, period.
We decided to kill a few days before the weekend trip to the Gili Islands by taking a little piece out of Ché Guevara's book: Motorcycle Diaries and hitting the open roads of Lombok on two-wheels. Our only decision was which direction to go: north; to mountains, waterfalls and coastline? Or south: to sun, sand and surf. In the end we decided to head north; it sounded a bit more chill.
Evol arranged a motorbike for the next morning and dropped us at our (very) modest accom for the night. With Mom & Dad gone, it was back to the harsh reality of budget travel: good bye to the world of infinity pools, private bungalows and air conditioning. Hello jail-cell sized, fan-cooled room with no windows and no hot water. Bwah, bwah, bwah....
In the morning we packed 1 day-pack full of clothes and necessities and stored our 2 big bags at our trusty Sendok Hotel, hopped on our little 100cc Honda motor scooter, pointed the thing north and off we went.
The ride north is entirely along the coast making it incredibly scenic and, aside from the odd pothole, a pretty good road, particularly by Indonesian standards. There are no major towns, only small villages and so traffic is manageable...plus there is only 1 road, so navigation is about as easy as it comes. All these were reasons we chose this route and I'm sure glad we did.
Our destination for day # 1 was the mountain village of Senaru which is the town that people hike out of to climb Gunung Rinjani, the major volcano on the island. It's still wet season here and the mountain is closed to summit hikes so we weren't planning a major hike or anything. Mainly we just wanted to check out the waterfalls in town and we knew that due to the hiking industry there would be tourist services; i.e. a place to get a bite to eat and to lay our weary heads.
We drove about 90 kilometers of coast that day through one village after another and past deserted beach after deserted beach, and quite literally there was not a single hotel, guesthouse, homestay, or sit down restaurant that we could have stopped at. We were well and truly off the proverbial "beaten track".
The ride went great; plenty of scenery to keep it interesting, lots of twists and turns to keep it fun, and even a few empty straight-aways where we could really let 'er rip. In Europe we blogged about car rental in Croatia and Italy and I remember thinking it was swell at the time, but I've got to say: cruising a tropical island on 2 wheels has got it beat.
One interesting thing about being so far in the country is that we noticed the age of fellow motorbike drivers getting lower and lower the deeper into the country we got. Seriously we saw kids as young as 7 or 8 (younger?!) speeding around the windy roads on their way home from school. It's a good thing I'm comfortable with my masculinity because getting passed on a motorbike by a 10-year-old school girl wearing a bright pink backpack with a bow on it isn't exactly good for the ol' ego.
It took us about 4 hours of steady cruising with only one pit stop and one small detour (where there was momentarily more then one road) to get to Senaru. There really isn't a whole lot happening in this town, especially as it's the off season. We settled on the second accommodation option we looked at; it was cheap as can be; 70,000 Rupiah (US$8) for both of us including breakfast...but the room was, how shall I put it eloquently? ... a s***box. But, what do you expect? This is fricking Senaru, Lombok, Indonesia...we ain't in Kansas no mo'.
We had some lunch and arranged the requisite guide for a hike the following morning to the "2nd waterfall", then set out on our own for the short trek to the "1st waterfall". The hike was beautiful...it's along an irrigation canal that directs water from the river into town and to all the villages and farms further down the hill. The views are panoramic: palm fringed rice paddies with jungle backdrop to the east and south and the ocean to the north, 12 kilometers and 1000 meters of elevation away.
Just as we got to the final stairway that led down to the waterfall, the grey sky opened and a typical wet season afternoon tropical rainstorm began to hammer down. As luck would have it, just as it began to get really nasty, a small open air shelter appeared before us. We sought refuge and lounged on our backs listening to the rain drum on the corrugated tin roof and the thunder clap in the distance. It was actually a really cool 3/4 of an hour or so; we both found ourselves in a zen state half way between sleep and awake when the rain finally let up.
The "1st waterfall" (Sindang Gila) is impressive. It's a two-tiered affair falling from an emerald green volcanic cliff into a pool and then pausing before plummeting the final distance into the river...a drop of 40 meters or so, all up. We stood just out of reach of the wet zone and snapped a few photos before heading back up the stairs and then back along the canal to town.
Once back in town, we realized that that was it...as we were saving the "second waterfall" till the morning we'd just done everything there was to do in town, and it was only 3:30. The prospect of lounging in our dumpy room for the remainder of the afternoon and night was hellish, so we hopped on the motorbike and went for a cruise up the road till it dead ended and then cruised back down the hill for a bit before finding a little shop and stopping to load up on Bintangs. Our go-to late afternoon activity when there is nothing else to do: beers and cards.
Dinner that night was pretty funny. We rolled up to the dining area of our hotel and they handed us the (very extensive) menu for perusal, but immediately told us our options were: Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng (Indonesian fried rice or fried noodles). OK, well that narrows it down. We ordered Mie Gorengs and only after they offered did we order a large bottle of water and a large Bintang to share. They ran off to get started and there was some loud Indonesian exchanges, before one of the guys ran out and jumped on his scooter and sped into the night. We know this game! Sure enough; 5 minutes later the dude comes back from the store with a plastic bag containing 1 large bottle of water and 1 large Bintang. He ran inside then quickly came back out with the beer and water on a tray with glasses.
Meanwhile another couple had sat down to eat...predictably they ordered Mie Gorengs, a bottle of water, and a large bottle of Bintang. Same thing, dude speeds off again on his motorbike and returns with their stuff.
By this time we were done with our beer and about half way done with our food. The waiter came and cleared our empty bottle and offered another beer. We sort of looked at each other, before nodding..."sure(?)". I figured they'd gotten smart and seeing as they had two couples now drinking beers they'd gotten a few extra, you know... just in case. People rarely have 1 beer, after all. And, he offered...check that he suggested; he SOLD us that second beer.
Nope; that poor kid came running out again and sped off on his scooter to fetch us that second beer...we felt kinda bad, but... not THAT bad...
In the morning we had the strangest banana pancakes I've ever seen. They were super dense and sticky, almost chewy, and the bananas were rock hard. There was no syrup and they were a temperature that made me think they'd been sitting around waiting for us for a while. Bland would be too much credit, flavor wise, because it would insinuate that there was flavor, just that the flavor was weak. Nope, these things were a gastronomic anomaly of tastelessness.
After our coffee and playing with our pancakes for a bit we found our guide and headed out to the "2nd waterfall". The hike is the same as to the "1st waterfall", but then you hike past and upstream. You follow the canal further up, climbing a sketchy set of stairs and crossing an equally sketchy bridge. Finally you walk in the river for the last 150 meters until you can start to hear a rumble in the distance. At last you round the corner and you see a huge waterfall pounding off the clif and into the pool. From 50 meters out you start to get soaked from the splash. What makes the "2nd waterfall" special compared to the 1st is that you can swim in this one. And as we'd come all this way, even though it wasn't exactly an inviting scene, we gave it a go...
The guide stayed well back as we worked our way closer to the raging torrent. As we got closer the noise grew and grew and the amount of water in the air became incredible. We've swam in some waterfalls on this trip, but this one was next level. The sheer force, volume, and violence of the water coming down was alarming. In the end, we got in the water, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it "swimming". When we got up close the water flew at us so hard it felt like tiny rocks pelting us. Im convinced you could do some serious damage if you were to swim out directly into the carnage. It only took a few minutes for us to decide that we'd had enough.
We dried off and followed our guide back down the river, across the sketchy bridge, down the sketchy stairs, up more stairs and finally back down the road to our hotel where he made a quick and unceremonious exit. He hadn't been the chattiest fellow on earth, that is certain.
Now we'd really done all there was to do in Senaru. So we did the only thing left to do: put that little town in our rear view mirror and point our trusty Honda westward to the next stop on our Lombok Island roadie...
And, so we did...