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Sumbawa Besar to Bima

sunny

On the street for 8 in order to squeeze in a brekkie before checking out the local museum, I spotted it as being already open and so took the chance to avail myself of it immediately. The Dalam Loka Museum was actually a specialised collection relating the history of the local Sumbawanese Sultanate, which had ruled the western half of Sumbawa for centuries until 1958. Presumably under renovation, the original palace on site had been reduced to a giant wooden skeleton and so I found the artifacts crammed into a makeshift rattan walled warehouse with the collection arrayed in a jumble with only just enough room to squeeze around amongst it. Underwhelming in the main, it was still interesting for its mystical value in relating a distant and exotic unknown kingdom. Its artifacts were on the whole predictable, with costumary, weapons, agricultural and household implements, also a small litter used as a sedan chair. There were more historical banknotes,most notably a very large 2 and a half Roepiah note issued under the Dutch by the Javansche Bank. The real insights however were photos of the last Sultan Kaharuddin III and his entourage, also a lone photo of the local practice of bull running whereby braces of oxen were raced through flooded paddy fields. Happy to have squared the museum away even other few scant sights after a Nasi Campur. First a really grungy produce market camped in the dirt was compounded by the noise and pollution thrown out by Bemos and Ojeks, and the adjacent food stalls which backed onto dark foreboding holes were the last place in the world I would have wanted to have breakfast. It was here that I also first witnessed the processing of coconuts, whereby the outer shells were chipped away to reveal piles of dappled white orbs ready to be dessicated by machine and then left in the sun to dry. The "Hello Misters" reached an unparalleled crescendo here so that from the very first face of the day and down every road since, the constant cries now built to something resembling a chorus, a litany so intense that I saved most of my attention for the odd shy passer by who remarkably remained silent, they were a rare breed! After a brief circuit to check out the very large city mosque with freestanding twin minarets, the new Sultanate palace proved to be a fine whitewashed wooden chalet of giant proportions, sheltered in a garden of palm groves and populated with deer to keep the grass down. Sumbawa had a population of Becak bicycle rickshaws to dodge, with the riders here seemingly always wearing paddy field hats, and the Ojek, Cidomo and Bemo boys maintained their inentions all the way to a nearby bus terminal which allegedly would suit my needs. The few rickety buses camped there in the dirt were idle and empty however and so I opted for a Bemo transfer back out to the main terminal, searching for and failing to spot the local tourist office along the way. In true Indonesian fashion they were habitually miles away from anywhere a tourist might want to go, guising as any other faceless government office under a variety of indiscernible names and never Upon arrival at the surprisingly large, quiet and orderly terminal there was first of all a monument to appreciate, 2 men in chainmail or similar fighting with the oval shields and bamboo sticks I had seen at the museum. Underneath were a couple of inscriptions, one of which perversely extolled the merits of health and safety! With very little activity I thought I was in for a long wait for the minibus to fill up, in the end I waited maybe half an hour until we set off still largely empty. That was compounded however by the pursuit of a country back road which kept us down to a crawl, upon which a lengthy stop after just 6Ks seemed to have no greater motive than a fag break. Upon realising a junction and the main cross-island road the surface proved here to be surprisingly little better, and it became clear why the 20K trip should be deemed to take 7 hours. With frequent stops to pick up and drop off such wares as sacks of rice, vegetables and plastic jerry cans it was Dark O'clock by the time I reached Bima, a trip which had thankfully not been the crush I had anticipated. Yes, the rough road surface and stifling heat when stopped meant you couldnt win either way, and I soon became caked in dust positioned as I was for "air-con" at the rear door. The drive across the heartland of Sumbawa had been an exhilirating experience however, with the island exposing a dual personality of flat straight roads and an almost desertified brown hue in the west, abruptly giving over to a more circuitous route as we ploughed up and around the neck of the large peninsula from which Gunung Tambora thrusted, where impenetrable forest tumbled down to the water. Mangrove trees and tall swaying palms had littered the littoral and any settlements were small humble affairs of slapdash bare brick construction or gaily painted rickety timbers. Most were shoe box sized and raised on stilts, and a couple of small villages which lined secluded bays where the road periodically touched the north coast held a fantastic allure. Water buffalo roamed the beach as lone fishermen manned their haul offshore, tiny nameless places where I wished I could have loitered. More common still was an undefined practice which I first took to be salt harvesting, but the absence of white sediment and the depth of the water pans made me reconsider them to perhaps be fish farms. Certainly great swathes of the north coast had been harnessed into football pitch sized ponds where water paddles on occasion turned to kick up a spray, I could only presume to oxygenate it. Brilliant blue Stork Billed Kingfishers darting about wereperhaps the clincher. A little disorientated in the dark I saw that it had taken me closer to 8 and a half hours to rattle the route from Sumbawa Besar to Bima, redeemed at least by a simple street plan and the paltry 11p demand from an assault of transport touts betraying my very central position. "Hello Mister" mode was quickly re-established by the locals en route to my prescribed hotel, and it was down to an inaccuracy of the guidebook that I inadvertantly ended plumping for the best hotel in town right at the edge of my budget bracket. After the dive in Sumbawa Besar at less than 2 quid a night I reckoned that the demand for 6 would be well worth it for the hike in standards. Certainly there was an immediate redemption in seeing that the reception was just about the only spot in town to secure a somewhat overpriced beer, and the unintended bonus of a TV would later prove to be a benefit out of all proportion to the portable's size. In searching out the one decent restaurant in town, central Bima proved to be excellently compact and so became discernible as a typically unremarkable spot, receiving short shrift from the guidebook as a spot to vacate fast. Though the barely completed hotchpotch of buildings were never 2 alike, and as dark corners hid squalid pavement eateries, all that was nothing new to me and I chose to appreciate small qualifying redemptions instead in a good supermarket, ATMs and passable street lighting. The pavements were still such an assault course that I often opted for the street, but they were cleaner than most and did not smell as they might have. My one major frustration was that in similar fashion to Sumbawa Besar, Bima's alleged internet cafe had not endured to live up to the guidebook's promise, betraying the fact that assuredly that meant that the whole island of Sumbawa was still incredibly without public internet access. That was a pertinent problem in as much as today was a date I had long awaited, the day of the final match in Scotland's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign where they had the challenge of defeating the Italians to attain the improbable dream of clinching a spot. Long accepting that short of flying back to Bali especially, there would be no chance of catching it on TV just like all the previous games, I would not now be able to gain online updates and might wait a week or more for confirmation of the result. Though I had managed to catch a couple of films on Gili Air with first The Bourne Ultimatum and then a very contrasting Australian Aboriginal classic called Ten Canoes, it was a rare indulgence to now access a couple of dedicated movie channels with an endlessprocession of flics to switch off to. No mention of any football though.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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