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Bali to Lombok


Bemo drivers ever ambitious in their demands were a hurdle to negotiate that morning but walking away seemingly unconcerned was always the trump card in securing what was finally an undoutedly still somewhat inflated price. 7Ks later in Padang Bai, Lin and I were predictably jumped on by ticket happy touts but I revelled in a new perverse pleasure in showing Lin how it was done. Rebuff them in Bahasa, walk purposefully away even if you don't know where you're going, then just blank them if they pestered you any further, it was the only way to avoid protracted grief. In finally tracing the official ticket office the higher than expected fare to Lembar on Lombok was still peanuts compared to the touristy Perama boat headed to more northerly Senggigi, and it was a pity that in the 2 minutes it took to pay our money and stock up on essential water, the attendant ferry began to raise its ramp. We killed an hour over inflated price cold drinks then, dissuaging a conveyor belt of sunglasses peddlers and beggars before boarding the humbly sized RORO ferry. Pulling out of Padang Bai we were now able to appreciate how it would have served as a better layover than Candi Dasa, with a fine sandy beach littered with outrigger canoes, people fishing chest deep with rods and paddy field hats, and the vague impression of something approaching a real town. On motoring out into the Lombok Strait we promptly crossed paths with the multi-sailed Perama boat, aiming south first towards table top Nusa Penida Island before turning East. There was a constant stream of heavy shipping in this channel and I could only guess that our circuitous course had been in defernce to the necessity of crossing a TSS (a maritime motorway) at the prescribed 90 degrees. A little disorientated then, a southern peninsula of Lombok was discernible after maybe an hour, and another revelation was the ensuing haul of what appeared to be Bluefin Tuna which the deckhands and other hopefuls had managed to tag with lines trailed in our wake. It was astounding to note just how fast these fish had to be capable of swimming in order to catch the bait. The summit of Gunung Agung, Bali's highest peak at 3142 metres briefly managed to puncture the clouds, though in what was now becoming perceptible as a daily wet season pattern, the gleaming scorchy morning sadly deteriorated into greyer skies and the odd shower. On board, the boat also betrayed another change in scene in the odd headscarf and prayer prostation, I was heading back into Islam again and could have well done without it. More uniquely, another frontier I was crossing in the process was the Wallace Line, the delineation which had been established in the 19th century as a crossover from Asian to Australasian floral and faunal influence. If I was lucky, then I guessed in Lombok I might be able to spy brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets, the same bird species which had flitted about my back garden in Brisbane. With Islam reaffirming its grip and Australia still feeling as far away as ever, it was unexpected to realise that geologically at least, I was already there. Sailing into a sheltered sound which explained the selection of Lembar's isolated position, Lombok became discernible as a remarkably stark, dry and undulating island, with outrigger canoes hauled onto beaches outside rustic rickety palm leaf shacks. In true Indonesian style our arrival was somewhat delayed as we sidled up to a sister ferry just outside the port, the 2 boats proceeding to dance around each other until the briefest of contacts was made. It might have been for operational reasons but with no-one and nothing being discernibly transferred, it may have just been that the captain wanted a chat with his mate!

Landing at a boat launching ramp, there was little action until it was decided to power across to a more amenable pier, whereupon we resisted the rush to alight in deference to the choke of diesel below. Therefore by the time we landed on Lombok's terra ferma the majority of intinerants had already whisked themselves away, and so we faced the preying transport touts alone. I showed Lin the importance of retaining a resolute unhurried stance in establishing the local price and lack of alternatives, but it was still a convoluted patience sapping business in variously negotiating and walking away in dismay before reassuming an inevitable return to the Bemo drivers. Expecting to at least share the ride with locals, our enforced charter was something of a fight to secure for a still predictably heavy levy, but at least we had been able to bargain a direct route to Ampenan, negating the need for an urban transfer across Lombok's central 4 city Sweta/Cakra/Mataram/Ampenan conurbation. On top of our partisan chauffeur subsequently hijacking our charter to cheekily uplift locals along the way up to Senggigi, perhaps our final destination was predictable but it had been a fault on my part to readily admit to it, and so ensued constant pricepushing which I steadfastly rebuked in now very accomplished Bahasa. More outrageous was for him to then adopt another tack, even stopping the van on occasion so that he might more singularly concentrate on his bully boy tactics. With no rebuke good enough and even an exasperated brief adoption of unambiguous Scots, I still had to push for realisation of our desired destination contrary to his desire. It was no surprise to eventually reach Ampenan's Bemo terminal dark and deserted, and though that prevented us with another problem there was no way this prize chancer was going to get one more red cent out of us. His departing comment of "Crazy tourists" provoked the frosty rebuff "I'm not a tourist, I live here", it was as close to a kick in the nuts I could get. "Welcome to Indonesia" I proferred Lin, because assuredly as my Canadian old-timer friend had emparted, Bali wasn't Indonesia. It was a hell of an introduction for her. Tracing the nearby road out to Senggigi, Lombok's largest beach resort, we had no option but to settle for an Ojek transfer, appeased by the fact that their demands were acceptable and certainly less than what white van man had demanded. Careful not to reveal my hand this time, our drop off at the Perama bus office after a twisty 7Ks of undulating coastal road was a ruse in landing us right opposite my den of choice, lest they aim for a hotel commission. I had had better days on the road it had to be said.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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