I’m back in Bali after about 10 days on the island of Lombok, Bali’s lesser known neighbor. I’ve officially eaten a banana pancake for breakfast, 17 days straight. I alluded earlier to being sick in the Gili Islands which was a big bummer for my first 3 days. There wasn’t enough lodging so tourists without fat wallets were sleeping on the beach, sharing rooms and even sleeping in staff quarters. I will never go back during the high season (July 15-Sep 15), but I would highly consider going back any other time. Beautiful white sand, fantastic snorkeling, no motorized vehicles (only horse drawn carriages), fantastic food and a decent night life. I’ll admit I have a bitter taste as I was just then alone for the first time in a month AND sick, but trying to be objective it really was a magical place. I was only on Gili Trawangan, the most developed of the three islands, with Gili Meno and Gili Air yet to be explored (the guide book described Meno as the perfect place to fulfill your Robinson Cu fantasies).
Seeking a place to recover I found Senggigi, a small beach town on the west coast of Lombok. I stayed in a rudimentary bungalow at a place called Siti Hawa, run by an Australian expat and his Indonesian wife. His Muslim name was Hussein and he was known all over town as the garbage man, tirelessly working for the past 20 years to clean up the area and provide adequate trash receptacles for the locals. I enjoyed hearing his insights about living in a mostly forgotten part of Indonesia for so many years. My favorite thing about Siti Hawa was that it was on a deserted beach with amazing sunsets, beautiful swimming and friendly locals. I would go out each morning to meditate on the beach before swimming and for my final two days a local man came and joined me. It was nice having a mini-Sangha for a couple of days. We chatted a bit about Buddhism and Islam and his family and mine. It was nice as he was one of the first people who didn’t try to sell me anything, and it reminded me to that its important to keep my wall down in order to have such local interactions. I have a separate blog entry started where I discuss the ‘tout’ versus the friendly local. Its a complicated comparison that has given me a lot to think about!
I rented a moped to get to and from town and researched my planned trip to the Rinjani volcano at my favorite cafe with Internet access, Cafe Wira. I was very disappointed to find out that due to a recent eruption, trekkers were not allowed to go down to the volcanic lake or to the summit on the classic 4 day trek, but only an up and down 2 day trek to the rim. Better that than nothing so I had Hussein set it up for me and off I went. You are required to hire a porter and a guide so I ended up with a group of about 10 all headed up the next morning. The hike was brutal – no switch backs and a lot volcanic sand that made for two steps forward and one back. My GPS says we ascended 7000 feet in 6 miles. Hence the reason today I am typing away at my computer as my calf muscles literally feel like they are about to burst and I can barely walk up and down stairs. In the end it was worth it. During the walk up we were mostly in the clouds but when we finally made it to the camp at the rim, the sky started to clear and we were provided an amazing sunset, views of the active volcano down in the lake, truly something out of Lord of the Rings only in Indonesia. I befriended a group of French and we had a great time together. Francois actually saved my life with an extra sweater as I was woefully unprepared for the 40 degrees at the top in the evening. my blood apparently thinned by too much time near the equator. All night we enjoyed the sight and sound of the erupting lava. The next morning we woke up to spectacular clear skies, seeing into the crater, down to the ocean, and even the to the volcanoes on Bali in the distance. We found out that our tireless guides worked for $10 a day and the porters worked for $8. Some of them were carrying nearly 100 lbs of gear in baskets slung over their shoulders and connected with a piece of bamboo slung over their shoulder. None of them used any padding and they would hike either barefoot or in flip flops. They cooked us fantastic meals on open fires and managed to always be in a good mood, despite doing the same thing 1000 times tirelessly. After breakfast we trudged back down the same path, and I took a nice long nap after a cold beer. Rather than rush back to Senggigi, I spent an extra day in Senaru, visiting nearby waterfalls and recovering the next day. I debated between returning to Bali or visiting one more town in Southern Lombok called Kuta, ultimately deciding I wanted the comfort and beauty of Bali. After a layover at Siti Hawa in Senggigi where I slept with a mosquito net on the beach because they were out of rooms, I took the boat to Bali and I’m now back in Ubud, pampering myself with good food and massages. The plan is to spend a couple of days here and then head into the central mountains on a moped for some adventure.
I just finished Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude after a voracious amount of reading in about 4 days. I read it once in the past but once again it remains in my top 5 – his magical realism is just so enthralling it was nearly impossible to put down. My appetite for reading is high right now and I’m hoping to trade this one in for something else at the local book store today. The life of the Buendia family is an incredible story – their relationships, decision making and fate. It spawned a thought for me about choices and freedom in our life. Many of the characters simply make decisions or have something outside of their control affect them that changes their life forever. They simply go forward from there. I often find in our western world of endless choices, paths and information we are actually paralyzed by indecision. Rather than accept the fates that a more simple life provides we pride ourselves in being able to move anywhere, do anything, say anything in any moment. But is this true freedom or just another form of chains? That is for you to decide, dear reader.