We arrive on the speed boat from Bali – thankfully I hadn’t looked too deeply into transport between Bali and Lombok – because I would have discovered that these speedboats sink all the time and most people suck it up and pay to fly. But we waited to book and there were no flights available on the day we wanted to fly so Chris booked a fast boat with the hotel. Then in a moment before falling asleep he decided to look into the company and lo and behold – every review says “Whatever you do DO NOT TAKE THIS BOAT” so he madly tried to find us an other way – no flights, other boats but he spends time reading all the reviews and finally manages to book something at 2 am. Turns out to be a very well run and efficient fast boat service and we have perfect weather so it’s not too wavy. We stop and load and unload at two other islands before arriving at Lombok.
Bright light reflecting off the clear waters. The boat launch is a super casual affair just some crumbling steps that you squeeze over to on the edge of the boat – Sabine was just placed directly on the pier. Or rather jetty as they say here. We immediately see the damage from the earthquake that happened in August 2018. The top of a mosque lies by the side of the road waiting for the bottom to be rebuilt. There are piles of rubble, sheets of corrugated metal lie twisted, plywood boards hastily nailed up. Five hundred people died. Anderson asks if there is a place to volunteer to help rebuild. He says that he can just lift rocks or hammer nails.
Lombok is predominately Muslim, and I have to say it seems so unfair in an incredibly hot place to have such a covered up way of dressing. We stop for lunch and walking into the restaurant I feel my bare shoulders. I am excited to see all new foods, sauces like taliwan. There are fruit stands lining the streets and the call to prayer rings out. It feels different and new and Chris and I have big grins on our faces. Lombok is also known as the island of a thousand mosques and the domes do glitter and sparkle in the sunshine poking up out of everywhere near and far. Rice paddies and mosques. At this point in our travels the dusty bumpy roads are now comfortable and I breath in deeply and relax – as we wind our way past the blue bays, white sand opposite the little villages with piles of rocks. It feels so nice to be away from the shops and chocked roads of Sanur on Bali.
It’s a two hour ride where the roads get progressively smaller and if possible bumpier, rubble lines the roads beside villages and our driver Ahmed explains that the worst of the quake was in the north where entire villages were flattened. There has been a lot of rebuilding but many roads are still damaged the government is only giving building supplies to people whose houses were destroyed. We can see many bamboo mats quickly nailed up to create shelter with new builds happening beside.
Then the road widens and suddenly it’s brand new with round abouts and then we turn off the new road onto what is just a series of potholes. We lurch about and down some steep hills and come to a stop in a cloud of dust in front of a sign market The Drop In Surf Camp. We emerge from the car to a choir of dogs. Scott, one of the managers, greats us and gives us a brief tour – chill out zone, class area, pool, chillax mattresses and bean bags, free flow coffee, tea and water, sofas and beers are help yourself and mark down what you owe – honour system. There will be a buffet dinner and introduction that night for the new “campers”. There is a white board with various information about tides, surf times, lessons and photo review.
That night over a simple dinner of Indonesia favourites – Tempe, chicken sate, peanut sauce, veggies and rice we meet our fellow campers – Felix from Germany, Manu and Julien twins also from Germany, Simone and Matis also from Germany not a couple just friends and then Maya and Roman a couple from Germany and then a couple of single dudes – Jonas and Tom also from – you guessed it – Germany. Not really a surprise since the owner is a German woman. Part of the introduction involved a little run down of dos and don’ts in a Muslim majority Island – I thought that was very thoughtful. Then Scott talked about surfing, why he loves it and what it means to him and we all got to do the same. No one got into it quite as much Scott.
The next day camp really began with morning lessons and then two sessions in the water. Maya and Roman lasted one session because it’s pretty scary surfing at a reef especially if it’s your first time. Anderson has had a few scares in the white wash – he is light so he can ride easily and pops right up but that works against him when he is trying to get out after a fall – he just gets tossed around. So began a week of big wins and little losses – sometimes he was excited to go out but early morning in the dark was never his favourite and took a lot of patient guiding from Chris. Sabine and I went for a couple of rides in the surf boat, we swam in the pool, played with dolls and made a few pilgrimages to the fancy Novotel hotel to use their kids zone and meet other kids. We lucked out meeting a great little gal named Roxi from Bali and Sadie from South Africa. The Drop In Surf Camp grew on me as we spent more time together as a group.
Arrival at the surf boat
Twins Manu and Julian
Mosques mosques everywhere
Father’s day fell in there and we decided to do a snorkelling trip to the Western Gilis. It was a bit of a long drive to the boat but then only a short fifteen minute ride to amazing snorkelling. So many fish, big and small, huge balls of fish schools that Anderson swam through, bright blue starfish and tiny little sliver blue babies. It is a little bit of a challenge snorkelling with Sabine on your back but we tried to take turns. We had a second boat ride to an other island for what was the best lunch of this entire trip!!! We sat on the beach and ate grilled fish, gado gado, corn cakes and rice while sipping fresh coconut water. Amazing. Then we spent sunset on an other tiny little island where we saw more starfish, wrote a Father’s Day note to Chris in the sand and saw the moon rise and the sunset simultaneously! Pretty magical.
Swing on the local beach post snorkelling
Boat views on the ride to sunset island
Barbie on the beach
Making our mark
The twins from Germany were great and everyone treated Anderson and Sabine like family – talking and including them. I was worried at the outset because we were the only family and it was more of a young persons camp but it was needless worry. It seems that most of my worries turn out to be needless ……and yet she persisted. Felix was particularly struck with our journey – he is a straight edge living guy – no coffee, no alcohol, lots of working out and yoga. He designs his own clothes, Djs, and basically lives to better himself. Like many people without kids have said to us, he wants to do this to when he has children. And he definitely has the determination but it would greatly affect his constant me time. As the week was drawing to a close and people started moving on it was genuinely sad saying goodbye. Soni, the German woman who owns, designed and runs the camp has really created a very special place – inclusive and supportive. We knew everyone on staff and they knew us by name. We cheered and celebrated all the successes on the waves and actually spent time in the communal “chill out” areas talking and getting to know one an other. We ate together at a communal table and despite our age, marital and country differences we became a little group invested in each other. The following Sunday a new group arrived this time almost all women with more diverse backgrounds. An army officer from Australia named Katie , two traveling friends Sonia from Germany and Morgan from New Zealand, a couple Lorelei and Micheal from the UK. The vibe changed again well maybe more the music vibe changed. Quieter and more serene with less beer drinking and no rap music. We stayed on for three more days before it was time to move up to the north east part of the island. Anderson was particularly sad to leave – he bought the hat and talked about coming back. He had an epic surf the last session which was a great way to cap it all off.
We hopped into our “taxi” which was just a mini van/suv with most of our luggage strapped to the roof and headed out on the “road” which is really just a series of potholes. Then up we wound through a fishing village, past tobacco farms and up the coast then inland through more little villages and a narrowing road – more potholes appearing, more rubble aside the road. Then the road became gravel and narrowed to be able to only fit one car. We whizzed along like this for a bit admiring the fading light in the sky. And as it turns out – you can get two cars along the road – one car just needs to slip into the field on the side for a little moment. We finally arrive at Ekas Surf “Resort”. The resort has five rooms. We had the balcony suite overlooking the main town road in the town. Dusty, rocky and mostly empty save for the occasional wheelbarrow, scooter or chicken. From the vantage point of our balcony we can see the bay where the surf and beach time happen but it’s almost dark so we hit the restaurant. I am very sceptical and missing The Drop In. I miss the beautiful landscaping and our spacious grass topped bungalow with the outdoor bathroom and the pale green Moroccan style tiles. This new place is remote and tiny! Our room is antiseptic. Clean and humourless. We have a middling wifi connection and it seems like there is nothing but tiny village and beach around. I know that Sabine and I are going to be hanging beside a tiny walled in pool or walking/I will be carrying – down to an empty beach. Our room in tiny – we have to lean the kids mattress on the wall so we can get out of the door. The owners are South African and very hospitable. We talk about possible outings and low and behold I can learn weaving across the street and I can head over to the next village to see a real local market. Bedtime finds me falling asleep while putting Sabine down on the floor mattress and I wake up around midnight because I am sleeping on what feels like a sand pile. Sigh. Needless to say I wake up early and decided to make my way through town and to the beach for a little time alone. It is perfect. The dusty road past the houses, absolutely everyone I see smiles and waves hello or greats me with “Jek em kembi” – “how are you?” There are chickens everywhere and piles and piles of rubble and new tiles and rebar. Many houses were levelled in the earthquake and the government has finally given those people with no homes building materials. I walk past a small pen holding goats and also see a goat standing on the kitchen table of an other house. I walk past the Mosque that is being rebuilt and hear the call to prayer. Then it’s down an even dustier road or rather sand covered road to the beach. I am alone on the beach with the most breathtaking views. The water is calm and flat. It’s one of the first times I have been alone in months and I feel weird. I feel like I should be doing something or watching someone. Luckily I get over that very quickly by reminding myself that I am finally alone. I have a perfect walk on the beach with a little swim and then a slow walk up the dusty hill to home. Maybe this place isn’t going to be as bad as I thought. Hmm more needless worrying.
The main road
Literally all this chicken does is cross the road
The following day Sabine and I get our butts out of bed and join Chris and Anderson for the morning surf sesh. I’m that cool I can call it a sesh.
So pretty much where we are is heaven. There is an actual resort that looks onto the beach called Heaven on the Planet. This place is magic. Crystal waters, cool but not cold just refreshing – high cliffs jumping out of the surf, powdery silky sand. Sky that ends in peach pink around the mountains in the distance. The villagers are incredibly sweet and open, smiling and calling out hello as we pass. Monkeys leap from the trees and follow Chris and Anderson down the path to the beach for the six am surf. It’s beyond peaceful save for the 5:30 am call to prayer and the don’t give a damn roosters.
I take the kids to weave with Anni who lives across the street from our “resort”. She is delightful, funny and engaging. She teaches us how to weave baskets – traditionally they were woven with bamboo but now are done with rattan and plastic strips used to secure boxes. I guess it’s like recycling. The other bonus are the fun colours from the recycled plastic.
We are here so Anderson can surf more and there is kiting as well so Chris’s plan was to surf in the morning and kite all afternoon. Sabine and I were welcomed to all events along with the knapsack of toys. Of course – it’s not perfect- Anderson gets scared at the reef and holds back a few sessions and the same happens at the kite beach. But for the most part he is enjoying and learning.
One morning I take Sabine to the market a few villages over. We have a driver and a guide. Our driver Nan is married to Anni who taught us to weave and our guide is Addi. After the predictably bumpy and dusty ride we arrive at the market. It’s mazelike with tarps hung for sun protection. The tarps are hung at a height suitable for Indonesians and I am not a height suitable for Indonesia. It’s a little awkward and stoopy and our forward motion is made even slower by the celebrity like commotion that surrounds Sabine. Everyone reaches for her, calling baby and Barbie. Hands pat her hair, pull on her nose and rub her cheeks. It’s very overwhelming and Addi says it’s best to keep moving. We try. Inching along, I have Sabine on my hip and I’m bent over trying to not drag my head along the tarp. But I want to see what the women are selling – yes it’s all women merchants. But every time we stop people surround us and along with touching they are trying to give us things like jackfruit and bananas and rice crackers and candy. Then a few want pictures. It’s all done with genuine curiosity and doesn’t feel dangerous or even rude. I encourage her to look at people and to say hello. Addi is also good at talking to people and with a smile moving us along. The market has fruit, vegetables, dried beans, fish and chicken. There are clothes – here I can see it really is a local market because all the dresses are heavy and long, there are rows and rows of headscarves and a few stalls of batik sarongs. Surprisingly they also have tons of plastic kids toys and backpacks with all the Disney, Sponge Bob and superheroes….. it’s inescapable even in the middle of a tiny market, in the middle of an Indonesian Island. We survive unscathed and on the car ride home Sabine says, “That was a busy market!”.
The days unfold with morning surfs and afternoon kites. Chris does a lot of gentle prodding and encouraging to get Anderson on the kite or into the surf sometimes to great success and other times to tension and anger. We vacillate between wanting to just say – fine – do what you want and shrug our shoulders and carry on or wanting to scream “what in the world is wrong with you?! You have your entire life to watch YouTube or FaceTime your friends get your butt to the beach. Why can’t you appreciate this?”.
I love this part of Lombok. I love the people in the village. I love the beach and I love the solitude. I try stand up paddle boarding – I know I know I should have tried it so much sooner but we were just not in the right places. Unfortunately the board they have is for surfing so it’s crazy tippy and I end up kneeling and paddling which isn’t very efficient especially with Sabine on the board. We are lucky enough to see a wedding procession – all the local villages march behind the bride and groom wearing their traditional dress from their villages, there are hives speaks and drums and singing. The brides face is painted white and she has flowers in her hair and a black dress with gold details. We see a celebration for a boys circumcision. This happens when the boy turns three! Our days whip by and before I am ready it’s time to go over to Gili Trawangan and get Anderson certified to dive.