Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok. The Bali Sea Deserves such a Sonda

lacustrine sowing
Peasants plant rice on the outskirts of the capital Mataram.
the sacred protector
The Gunung Rinjani volcano, Indonesia's second highest, shrouded in clouds.
romantic twilight
Boyfriends share an orange sunset south of Senggigi.
the last jump
Falling water drenches the jungle at the foot of Mount Rinjani.
Whim of the Gods
Sun hat arranged against one of the shrines of the Hindu Batu Bolong temple.
Pair & Plow
Farmer tills land a few kms inland from Bangsal, on the north coast of Lombok.
Indian turquoise
Volcanic sand beach north of Senggigi.
Fascicularis monkey
Female crab monkey in a tropical forest.
Fisherman sails a small traditional perahu boat.
tropical shapes
Curvilinear tree base in a forest near Senaru.
Balinese Hinduism
Silhouette of the Batu Bolong temple against the Gunung Agung volcano, already part of Bali.
A Matter of Balance
Woman transports her son and some additional cargo on the way to Senaru.
dense jungle
Tropical forest to the west of Senaru, on a low slope of Mount Rinjani.
In line
A group of peasant women plant rice in a flooded field near Mataram.
water that springs from the jungle
Distant glimpse of one of the waterfalls next to Senaru.
dry dock
Colorful fishing boats in dry dock in a fishing village of Lombok.
rice pose
Indonesian woman interrupts rice planting to mess with visitors.
verdant terraces
Senaru's leafy agricultural fields.
Peasant woman separates rice leaves.
river in fall
Waterfall near Senaru, a small village north of Lombok.
Long overshadowed by the neighboring island's fame, Lombok's exotic settings remain unrevealed, under the sacred protection of guardian Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second-largest volcano.

The road north of Senggigi goes up and down, bends and bends again.

Unveil, at each of your whims, new unexpected tropical scenarios.

We do the half-slope route. Below, there are coves of gray sand, painted by the colors of traditional fishing boats.

Or extra-darkened by the shade of the coconut forest that fills the valley, until it almost touches the blue of the Bali Sea.

A few more "sssss", a long ramp and, from the homonymous island, the almost perfect triangle of Gunung Agung, a volcano of 3142 meters of altitude that was once devastating and can come back into activity at any time, appears on the horizon. moment, despite the angelic image foisted by his permanent halo of clouds.

Rinjani, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

The Gunung Rinjani volcano, Indonesia's second highest, shrouded in clouds.

The atmosphere is rustic and rural but it touches the top of the exotic scale. In the green fields at the edge of the asphalt, peasants in conical hats walk, leading goats and cows to the pastures.

At sea level, fishermen paddle out to sea.ordo of small perahus (craft boats) about to disembark in their villages planted on the sand.

Perahu, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Fisherman sails a small traditional perahu boat.

Wonderful beaches abound in Lombok. On the northwest coast, from Senggigi to Pemenang, Malimbu and Mangsit stand out. Further north is Sira and, to the side, Medana.

Whoever contemplates them, deserted and wild, is left standing back. What's wrong with these irresistible bays? These days, nothing at all.

Indian Turquoise, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Volcanic sand beach north of Senggigi.

What happens is that Lombok was in the shadow of its famous neighbor for decades and its promising tourist development was hampered by religious clashes in 2000 and by the attacks in Kuta, Bali, in 2002.

For these reasons and a few more, such as the fact that it has a population that is mostly traditionalist Muslims, which inhibits some behavior considered commonplace in the West.

Lombok is today the Bali of twenty years ago. Now that tranquility seems to have returned for good, it shouldn't stay that way for long. Its exotic looks justify it.

They are just the most obvious reason.

The Reason for Lombok's Landscape and Biological Wealth

The Wallace Line, a biogeographic divide between the flora and fauna of the Indomala and Australasian ecological zone, runs right over the Strait of Lombok. Despite the scarce 75 km from east to west, almost the same from north to south, Lombok contributes decisively to the rupture of the landscape, Wallacea.

It is one of the Little Sonda Islands with the greatest contrasts.

Due to the rugged morphology that culminates in the 3726 meters of the Gunung Rinjani volcano – the second highest in Indonesia, only behind Puncak Jaya (5050 m) of West Papua – certain areas of its territory are as wet and lush as Bali.

Roots, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Curvilinear tree base in a forest near Senaru.

Others, mainly to the south and east, remain dry like the Australian outback, years on end, regardless of the flow of the Southeast Asian monsoons that are anticipated or delayed but always end up arriving.

They are announced around October, the month when the accumulation of clouds intensifies. They tend to hold out until May when the changing weather pattern turns the winds to the north and the rain moves to the upper latitudes of southern China, Philippines, from the Malay Peninsula, Myanmar, Thailand and neighbors of former Indochina.

From May onwards, despite the predominance of sunny days, determined clouds approach Lombok, often as dark as pitch, which discharge at one point and disappear at another.

Bali's Arrival in a Heavy Monsoon Atmosphere

It was in a meteorological scenario of this type that we landed, coming from Denpasar – Bali, in a short but majestic overflight of the Fire ring from the Pacific: the sky overcast and the sun peeking out fearfully, reflecting off the sea.

For a few hours, a dense, purplish atmosphere reigned with magical light and a strong smell of soggy Asian earth. The next morning the high pressures set in. Everything returned to normal.

Lombok's 2.4 million inhabitants have adapted to the island's morphology and climate. They live and have their rice fields north of the Rinjani, in the fertile plains of the centre, irrigated by the water that flows from the southern slope of the volcano and in the coastal areas facing west, which are also favorable to life.

Lavra, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Farmer tills land a few kms inland from Bangsal, on the north coast of Lombok.

The People of Bali: Muslim Sasaks and Balinese Hinduists

They are mostly Sasaks, an ethnic Muslim that retains old animist beliefs. In physiological terms, they resemble the Javanese and the Balinese but were, for a long time, a mountain people, something that shaped their traditional Adat culture and law, the principle why they continue to govern birth, circumcision, betrothals, marriages and, in so many situations, everyday life.

Oppressed by the Balinese who had occupied the entire island since 1750, in 1891 the Sasaks invited the Dutch who occupied Bali to take over Lombok.

The answer was delayed but came in force: three years later, the governor of the Dutch East Indies, Van der Wijck, signed a treaty with the rebels. He ended up defeating the Balinese, and I managed to manipulate the aristocracies of both peoples in conflict in order to preserve peace and power.

It was an unlikely balance that remained for long years, even after the grant of independence to the Dutch to Indonesia in 1958 and the integration of Lombok into the island province of Nusa Tenggara Barat.

Online, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

A group of peasant women plant rice in a flooded field near Mataram.

Currently, the Balinese are around 10% and the Sasaks almost 90%. Due to the colorful refinement of their religion, the former stand out from the crowd.

Like the other smaller towns and villages on the island, Senggigi – the most touristy – awakens to the call of the early riser “Allah hu Akbar” sung by muezzins.

It is governed by the following four.

The Resilience of Hinduism on an Indonesian Muslim Island

This does not prevent, at the same time, in the Pura (temple) Batu Bolong, the Mindra family, dressed in the precept of sash (handkerchief) and sarong colorful carry out the elegant rituals of Balinese Hinduism

Balinese Hinduism is as or more distant from Indian than Lombok da India. Like the Hindus of the sub-continent, the Balinese believe in the Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu trinity.

Balinese Hinduism, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Silhouette of the Batu Bolong temple against the Gunung Agung volcano, already part of Bali.

They also believe in a supreme god, Sanghyang Widi, who is only worshiped from time to time, when a new village is founded, for example.

Unlike what happens in India, where almost free and gaudy images of these gods proliferate, in Lombok, as in Bali, the trinity is never seen.

The genesis of Balinese culture and religion lies in the Majapahit era, a kingdom of Indian influence that, from 1293 to 1500, dominated several Indonesian islands and the Malay Peninsula and ended up taking refuge, in Bali, from the invasion of the Sultanates of Malacca and Demak.

One of the pre-Majapahit beliefs that the Balinese preserved was the kaja, kelod or kangin, the orientation of temples facing mountains, the sea or the sunrise, in deference to their animistic spirits.

It is out of respect for this belief that the Mindra family ritual it takes place under the distant and sacred supervision of Gunung Agung, the biggest volcano in Bali.

A Motorbike Tour Across the Verdant North of Lombok

The island is not exactly big, but we took care of discovering Lombok, little by little, with the help of a rented motorbike, which continues without any problems.

The west coast has already been left behind, and with it a series of sasak hamlets nestled between sea and mountain, almost always on the side of the road that, here and there, disappears under the sand washed away by the torrents of water falling from the slope.

Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Distant glimpse of one of the waterfalls next to Senaru.

Crossing these villages requires extra care in driving. Dogs, cows and chickens cross in front of us and, as traffic is reduced, the road also serves as a soccer field, a patio for all the children's games and adult socializing.

Yes, in the north, spaces increase. Vast rice paddies and fields of other crops sprout up dotted with crude scarecrows and busy peasants.

Seeding, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Peasants plant rice on the outskirts of the capital Mataram.

A Short Stopover on Gili's Nameless Isles

We passed, without stopping, through Bangsal and its little harbor. Famous among the world's backpacker community is the local mafia of would-be guides, agents and swindlers who invent everything to get a few extra rupees.

Especially during the transfer to the Gili Islands – whose clumsy translation from Bahasa and English is Ilhas Ilhas – and which we also ended up visiting.

We only stayed two nights at Gili. The desire to return to Lombok, which had surprised us and which continued to fascinate us, won out. As such, we re-settled in Senggigi.

We continued with the exploration, still and always in biker mode.

From Mataram Into Gunung Rinjani National Park

We decided to leave the coast. We took a path that would start in Mataram, the capital, and head north through the eastern edge of Gunung Rinjani National Park, an elevated area of ​​dense forest.

Jungle Senaru, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Tropical forest to the west of Senaru, on a low slope of Mount Rinjani.

Chaotic Mataram has about 320.000 inhabitants. Despite being considered a city, it is actually a conglomeration of four independent cities: Ampenam (the port); Mataram (the administrative center); Cakranegara (the business center) and Bertais, the marginal area that received the new bus terminal.

After checking out one or the other pura and the Mayura Water Palace, in the list of its must-see attractions, we conclude that time is better spent on “our” mighty Honda Supra, discovering the natural and rural scenery of the island.

The inland road between Mataram and Pemenang has a drawing on the map practically the same as the one that connects the two villages along the coast. The views, these, are different.

Rice Pose, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Indonesian woman interrupts rice planting to socialize with visitors

We start by crossing an area of mini-land rice fields arranged in terraces overlapping to the edge of the bamboo that announces the beginning of the jungle.

Seeding II, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Peasants sow rice in a field in Lombok.

Ahead and up the route, the road cuts through vegetation. It becomes bleak.

It reaches its highest point, right in the Monkey Forest, where hundreds of demonic and thieves reign, of a bearded subspecies, the crab monkeys (monkey fascicularis).

Macaca Fascicularis, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Female crab monkey in a tropical forest.

There, the jungle opens up. It gives rise to a spontaneous viewpoint that reveals one of Lombok's most impressive perspectives: the dense, mist-covered rainforest stretching down the slope to meet the sea, several kilometers away.

Senaru and the Generous Waterfalls at the Foot of the Rinjani Volcano

The steep slopes of the Rinjani are home to numerous scenarios similar to this itinerary. They all hide their particular charms.

Verdant terraces, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Senaru's leafy agricultural fields.

Impressive waterfalls proliferate with accesses that depart from hamlets sown in idyllic rural fields and continue to drenched jungle trails.

These are the cases of Tetebatu and Lendang Nangka, on the southern slope, but especially of Senaru, on the north, with access to its Sindang Gila and Tiu Kelep waterfalls.

The last jump, Lombok, Bali sea, Sonda island, Indonesia

Tiu Kelep waterfall soaks the jungle at the foot of Mount Rinjani.

Although there are other hypotheses, over the years, Senaru has become the chosen base for ascents to the Danau Segara Anak (Daughter of the Sea) – the huge turquoise lake crater of the Gunung Rinjani volcano.

It hosted the Rinjani Trek Centre, where guides and porters can be hired and the rest of the logistics can be dealt with.

Gunung Rinjani has remained inactive since 1901, unlike Baru, by comparison, a miniature volcano housed in its crater.

The last eruption of Baru occurred in 1994. It changed the shape of the Rinjani summit and spread ash over much of Lombok.

Nothing dramatic.

Maternal balance, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Woman transports her son and some additional cargo on the way to Senaru.

Both the Sasaks and the Balinese hold the Rinjani sacred. Some sasaks make several pilgrimages a year, as a rule, during the full moon when they pay homage to him and take the opportunity to cure health problems with judicious baths in the hot waters that flow from it.

As for the Balinese, Rinjani has the same religious importance as Gunung Agung. The Balinese see it as a throne of the gods.

Accordingly, they organize an annual pilgrimage in which they carry out Pekelan, a ceremony in which they throw jewels into the lake and make other offerings to the spirit of the mountain.

Screening, Lombok, Bali Sea, Sonda Island, Indonesia

Peasant separates rice leaves

Such reverence seems to guarantee the volcano's mercy and protection. The years pass.

Gunung Rinjani continues to save and protect Lombok, a well-kept secret of Nusa Tenggar.

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