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Lombok, the Better Bali

The deserted road wound its way north along the western coast of Lombok. It crested and fell through long lines of palm trees whose roots etched themselves under the cracked dark pavement. Occasionally, the road would twist upwards, skirting the imposing cliffs as the deep blue of the Bali sea opened up before us. Suddenly there would be a magnificent panoramic view, the sea reaching endlessly towards the horizon flanked by empty white sand beach and crumbling cliffs. The sight could be considered a hazard as its captivating and enticing nature could very easily distract those fortunate enough to see it first hand.

On the back of a motorbike I let my arms fall back, palms open, fingers twisting with wind. I close my eyes, lean back and breathe in the salty sweet air of the sea. This, is one of those rare, prefect moments. It is what we as travelers seek; a sense of complete abandon. Nothing else in the world could possibly matter. In years to come when the world will occasionally feel like its too much to handle, it is moments like these that we will crave. When there was nothing in the world but you and an empty road, the slow steady hum of an engine and the perfect warmth of the tropical air. This, this is freedom.
We are riding up from the one tourist center of Lombok, Senggigi towards Rinjani beach. We found an Eco lodge in a small town, marked by a simple sign 500 meters off the main road on a dirt track through rice paddies and farms. Worlds away from the circus that is southern Bali and Ubud. We’ve heard that Lombok is what Bali used to be thirty years ago, before pavement turned paradise into a commercial commodity. It has all the beauty of Bali, minus the development.
We spend a day lazily wandering around the low lying thatched roof bamboo huts that make up our sleepy resort. We read, swim, and watch another stunning blood orange sunset turn yet another day into night. Those who are staying here, and there are very few indeed all gather around the beach, playing cards, reading, or dining. There is such an air of calm here it is nearly impossible not to relax.
We all need a change of scenery every now and then, to escape, renew and challenge ourselves. But what happens when changing scenery becomes the norm? When every few days is a new city, or country. Then, our change must be to stop. To breathe, to slow down. Lombok was our perfect change.
On our second day in Rinjani we took our bike further north with the omnipresent sound track of the call to prayer in the background. The morning market a few kilometers away was bustling with activity, but by noon became deserted, along with the rest of town. Continuing north we followed signs for a waterfall recommended by the owner of our lodge. All the signs had been handwritten, with only suggestive distance indicators. As we continued inland the paved road abruptly gave way to a dirt track. There were few people on the road, none of which were foreign tourists giving the entire experience the air of first discovery.
After the first, easily accessible fall we followed a dirt track through rice paddies that eventually dead ended into a stream. Another friendly hiker told us we would need to wade through the water, climb a few boulders and ascend a make shift bamboo ladder to reach the cave, and waterfall within. Evidentially, if you happened to be there at two pm you would see a rainbow pass over the hole in which the waterfall cascaded through. However we were there in the morning, but no matter, it was a fantastic hike, perfectly free of all signs of mass tourism.
Lombok may have been a short four day stopover in the middle of our time in Bali, but it ended up being a highlight of the trip. From beautiful scenery to witnessing local life independent from tourism to the friendly people, Lombok did not disappoint. The only downside is our time here is short. I would have loved to continue on the island, heading further east to Flores and the other islands of Indonesia. Next time, certainly. Next up: diving in Tulamben!

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