Sumbawa, Lombok & Bali

Indonesia | Sape (Sumbawa) - Bima - Dompu - Sumbawa Besar - Labuan Lombok (Lombok) - Senggigi - Padang Bai (Bali) - Denpasar | 26th April ’15 to 9th May ’15 | 7600km

The local (read slow) ferry from Flores to Sumbawa was very local. As per usual, the advertised crossing time was at least doubled and we passed the time watching passengers use the ocean as a giant waste bin. A particularly wet storm closed in just as the captain finally initiated disembarkation and we were quickly drenched. It did however stave off the swarm of quayside taxi drivers, tat sellers and getinthewayers and we quickly piled into the only hotel in town.

Many tourists bypass Sumbawa and we sort of see why as it was fairly unspectacular, although maybe that’s just compared to Flores. It’s supposedly a poorer island, with fewer benefits from tourism, though as we squelched our way up and over to Bima we saw our first car dealerships, electronics shops and the odd cafe. We even copped a warmish shower and decided to check out one of the odd cafes, hoping for a cold, fresh fruity something. Papaya smoothy was the specialty and was looking good until a tin of condensed milk was emptied into each on at the last second. Sugared up, we wandered around until we came across road side deepfryery with plenty of locals, usually a good sign and prices written on the wall (again handy as it means you can’t be charged the gullible foreigner price). It was tofu, rice, chilli sauce and an ice tea, the tofu was even deep fried in front of you rather than having sat for ages. Feeling better we decided to give the rest of Sumbawa a chance. Before leaving, a cat marked a large amount of his territory on Luke’s leg and a wet fishy man lunged at Flora. Yep, still in Indonesia.

We fairly cracked on after that. Still enjoying the food but finding the locals slightly strange. More kids asking for money, horse drawn carts everywhere, unmuffled scooters beeping and passengers screaming for our attention. Rice and corn being harvested, dried or processed on the side of the road. Super hot and stickily as we stayed mostly at sea level, average 20km an hour for first time in ages. Still no cycle tourist since Australia, though we did pass a couple going the other way on scooters with surf boards attached to the side (some good remote beaches on Sumbawa apparently). After some contemplation, surfing remains cooler then cycling, just. Lots of the towns and villages were pretty filthy, especially the markets or anything by the sea. The most unfortunate place was the one charged with drying all of Sumbawa’s small fish. It hummed. The local women regularly wore had some sort of yellow face mask on...

As we left Sumbawa Besar at sunrise, the island capital, we spotted and soon caught a guy in full Radioshack kit who was fitting in a ride between prayers. Much keener to jump on their scooters, we’d seen next to no recreational cyclists in Indonesia but he said he was part of a club and decided to accompany us to a place he knew sold the best corn on the cobs around. After sharing a few he sent us on our way with a bag of 10 more! As we approached the Sumbawan threshold, Mount Rinjani on Lombok reared into view and we felt relieved. Jumped onto the ferry which was apparently leaving 'very soon' and so bypassed the supermarket even though we’d been dreaming of cold chocolate milk for hours. A balchy ferry person tried to park Flo's bike but couldn’t even lift it, which Flora enjoyed. Although arriving in the harbour on time, the usual late running faff ensued, and the captain just span the boat around for 90minutes, whilst the passengers did karaoke.

As we sat watching the world spin by, we hoped we’d like Lombok. We did. We opted for the northern route and it was lovely and quiet, hugging the coast with Rinjani to our left and black sand beaches to our right. Having ridden hard for 5 days we took a day off in a lovely quiet bungalow with an impressively clean bathroom and cold Bintangs availible. Luke slept for 12 hours. In the village we met two Dutch guys who raised money back in Holland to build a school and a clinic in the village. We saw the locals queuing to receive a free eye test and glasses (all donated by varying degrees of stylish people in Holland) and watch them clearing space for a new football pitch, Luke did join in on a 20-a-side game on the current one, the palm trees and cow poo did however hinder his usual total football playing style.

In Sengigi, met up with our jewellery dealer friend, Dato, from the Kupang - Ende ferry. The Hawking here was pretty unbearable so it was good to walk around with a local, even if he was also try to sell huge rings to anyone that was interested. His go to ring had a stone in it that looked like Jesus which equalled big money, and another he said was fossilised elephant semen. That was cheaper. Very kindly he invited us to tea and the next night we found ourselves in the backstreets looking for his place. We sat on the floor being entertained by his kids whilst his wife and oldest daughter duly put on a very tasty veggie friendly spread of Indonesian goodies. It was sweltering, and there were many mice, but they were so welcoming and we felt very lucky. With Visa time running out we opted for the ‘fast boat’ to Bali and paid our first bribe to the invisible port ‘police’ to allow our bicycles on. They were eventually thrown on top to ensure a full covering in a thick layer of salt. Excellent.

Lombok has been slightly more westernised, but Bali was suddenly bonkers. Conveniences everywhere, mad traffic from all directions, incense smells and Buddhist offerings, Maccy D’s, 7Eleven’s, banks and we even found a proper bike shop. We took the opportunity and cleaned the salt off the bikes, boxing them up at the same time. Suddenly that was it, no more riding in Indonesia. About to commit to a cheap hotel near the airport we opened an email from Ali and Jordi, who’d had inexplicably kindly booked us into a dreamy place for our final two nights, as an early birthday present for Luke. Giddy with excitement we took the bike shops van through the heaving centre of Denpasar and were dumped outside the swanky hotel lobby. Sweaty and smelly we checked in and confirmed, twice, that breakfast was  indeed a) the same price we’d paid for rooms on Sumbawa on it’s own b) included in our stay and c) buffet style, aka all you can eat. Not sure they’d ever loaded panniers on to the porter trolly but our stuff was enthusiastically wobbled to our room and there we were. Complimentary flip flops, mini bar and two days to explore the beach, back streets and lie by the pool. Blending in with the other tourists, mainly Aussies, was actually nice for a change as we were barely noticed by anyone.