Saturday. I’ve decided to try and see Mangsit beach which is near to Senggigi and should be easy to get to in a taxi. While I browse online another name pops up: Sentagi beach. It’s a bit closer to Senggigi than Mansit. Both of these are said to be nice.
I’ve got to take the bike back though. I was able to rent it for 24 hours and I won’t need it today. I ride it up the street and drop it off. I browse the tours on offer and I discuss prices with the man in the office, who is not the same man as yesterday. These are not the type of tours where you pay a fee and get a minivan with other people. These are private drivers and the price is for the whole car. Of course, if you’re travelling in a group of three or four you split the cost per person. But since I am travelling alone I have to stump up for the whole thing myself. He says in that case he will drop the price for me from 700,000 to 500,000, which is abut 50,000 won or £30.
I will think about it. I head back to the hotel and get my things together for going to the beach. I put my swimming shorts on under my other shorts and grab a spare T-shirt and my camera and sunscreen.
The front desk told me yesterday that getting to Sentagi will cost about 25,000 IDR in a taxi. The Blue Bird taxi company is reliable and always uses the meter. There is one right outside the hotel when I step out. I flag him down and he agrees to take me to Sentagi.
We go along the road I cycled along yesterday. I recognise the places I passed. When we go past the entrance to Warung Paradiso we go down the long road I didn’t continue along, and then we get to a really big hill. I’m kind of glad I didn’t attempt it when I see how high it is.
In the car I think about the money I would have to spend to take a car to see parts of Lombok. I kind of overspent in Vietnam and also in Singapore. I know what I have left in the bank and I feel Lombok might be more expensive than I remembered from previous visits to Bali and what I expected. But ultimately I decide that, well, it’s about another $100 and I’ve got some proofreading invoices coming to me at the end of the month and I have some money in my UK bank and if needs be I can go overdrawn. I might not ever come to Lombok again and what else am I going to do here? I decide that when I get back to town I will talk to the tour office again.
We keep going along the road. I watch the metre. It ticks up to 30,000. Maybe the prices went up since the ladies on reception last took a taxi. We get to forty. We’re not stopping anywhere. When we get to 45,000 I pull out my phone and check the map. We’ve gone past Sentagi and are at Nipah beach, which was a place I had thought about going to. I tell him to stop and he pulls into a side road which goes through another palm grove. The metre stops at 49,750.
Well, this is a nice surprise. The beach is almost deserted. The water is blue and the sand is nice. More boats line the groves along the beach’s edge. I walk through the water to the far end of the beach. Sand crabs dart along the sand. I see nobody save a lone fisherman and a few people at the far end of the beach to the left. If it’s this quiet I might even take my top off and go for a swim.
At the other end of the beach to the right are a couple of villas and a couple of people sunbathing. I don’t intrude their privacy. I turn back and then sit in the shade under a tree nearby. There’s a bit of trash at the back of the beach and some villas are under construction, but there’s no one around. As I’m staring down the beach I spot something moving in the sand. It’s a small pink crab. I get my camera out and zoom in. It moves a little, then rests. A big wave crashes on the shore and the water engulfs it. It rolls down the beach and then scuttles back up to where it was.
I get up and walk behind it, zooming in to get some pictures. It sees me moving and moves away. Every time I take a step it scuttles on. I get some shots and go back to the tree. Beside the tree, under the large patch of shade it casts, is a small fishing boat. I sit between the trunk and the boat, watching the water and keeping one eye on the crab, waiting for the water to engulf it again and hoping to get a photo of it. Another large wave crashes and the water rushes up and it’s going to get me so I jump up and out of the way and just make it, but there is no time to retrieve my hat and my flip flops, which get soaked. I put them out in the sunlight to dry. I didn’t bring a towel with me from the hotel, and I have nothing to sit on. I think about maybe getting a sarong to lay out on the sand next time I’m on the beach.
As I am sitting down again – further back this time – I see through the branches a man making his way along the beach. He has a backpack on his back and some jewellery in his hands. Here we go, I think. I pick up my camera and engage in taking photos of the crab, hoping we will ignore me. Of course he doesn’t.
Where am I from? England. His name is Buddy, what’s mine? I’m absent mindedly answering his questions, pointing out the crab and taking more photos as it moves across the sand in front of me. He tells me he’s selling jewellery but the beach is quiet and no one is around. People don’t come out until the afternoon. It’s just about 12 pm now. I tell him I saw people at the other end of the beach, hoping he will head over there. I make it clear I’m not buying, but he wants to show me what he has anyway. Maybe I want to buy something as a present? I decline. I make it clear I only brought the money for lunch and a taxi home and i don’t have any to spare.
A couple of tourists come to this part of the beach and settle in a shaded area maybe 50 metres away. I point them out, hoping he might head their way. He’s a nice guy in the end, but I just want to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the beach. He says he won’t go them yet – they just got here. Once they’ve settled in he’ll go over there. Great.
We sit a bit longer. Another seller comes along the beach from the other direction and talks to the tourists. They seem receptive; they’re not waving him away and they’re chatting with him. Buddy sits and stares. Maybe it’s turf wars. He looks kind of upset that he might lose out on a sale.
The man comes over to us. “I go black,” he says, referring to his sun-darkened skin. “I walk in the sun all day long.” He and Buddy nod at each other in recognition and speak in Indonesian. I get the impression Buddy tells him I’m not an easy sell. He chats with us anyway. He used to live on the Gili islands. He makes bamboo statues, of which he has a couple in his hand. He doesn’t try to sell them. He tells me the villas behind me were started seven years ago but have never been finished. Eventually he moves off.
Buddy goes over to the couple. They talk for a few minutes. He comes back over to me. He’s going to fetch them a coconut. Do I want one? Maybe later, I say. He heads off. The couple frolic in the water. I get up and take some photos of the beach. I sit near the shoes and hat drying in the sun, which is on the other side of the boat. Buddy comes back with the coconuts, passes me and goes to the couple. I see them posing with them and taking photos of them. He asks if I want one. Okay, I think. Twenty-five thousand, he says. Well they’re usually about ten, but I guess giving him a dollar won’t hurt, since he isn’t making any more money out of me.
He comes back with the coconut and heads away again. The sun is shifting and I can feel it on my left arm and knee. I’m just thinking about scooting to the other side of the boat and further under the tree for more shade when a couple walks past. She says hello. I say hi back. They plonk themselves down right where I was just about to go. I look up at the tree and realise that the sun will only come further over me and I will lose the shade. I hotch over the side and sit between the rail that acts as a stabiliser and the hull to get further into the shade.
He gets off and goes for a run. She’s got a towel wrapped around her head and heads off for a swim, still with the towel on her head. They have been speaking German. I think about the Germans always stealing the sunbeds. I really wanted that shade as well.
He comes back and joins her in the sea. They talk to the other couple. I get up and wander along the water and take some snaps. I see two men coming along the beach. Not more sellers, I hope. They duck under the tree and point at the boat. It’s their boat and they’re off fishing. Nice one – now I can move further into the shade. I take pictures as they drag the boat into the water and set off to fish.
It’s nearly 1.30 pm. I haven’t had lunch. The only thing I’ve had is the coconut. I feel a little hungry but the warungs were empty when I got here and I don’t know if they are open now. The Germans are back under the tree. I scan the beach and see at the far end another tree casting shade. I think about taking a walk over there.
At 2 pm construction workers appear at the villas. Work begins and it’s a little noisy but not massively so. I decide that I am done here. I get my things and walk along the beach to see what’s at the other end.
Halfway down there is a warung selling sarongs. I take a look. He wants 100,000 for one and I walk away. He says 80,000 but I say no. He grabs my arm. How much? I say 40,000. He says 50,000. Eventually we settle on 45,000, which is still probably overpriced.
Towards the end I see a warung that sells water. I head there. The woman is negotiating a deal over some fish she has in an ice box with a group of Indonesians. I wait patiently for her to ask what I want and buy the water. She never even looks at me. I peer into the box of fish. Negotiations continue. A deal is struck and she is straight over to her kitchen to cut the fish and begin cooking. I wander back to the beach without a bottle of water.
There are fisherman here standing out in the low waters with their rods. Above me is a viewing point and there are warungs lining the cliff edge. Steps lead up to them. There is a goat on a rope. He comes out and nibbles on a coconut. I get to the tree I saw and there is a fisherman there doing something. There is no shade other than that from a spindly branch sticking out of the sand. I sit and wrap the sarong over my legs. There’s no one here save for the fishermen out in the water. It’s rocky too, so you can’t really swim there. It’s very peaceful and windy, however, and I don’t really feel the heat of the sun. I’m thinking about whether to stay here until sunset. I’m enjoying the peace.
I do something I haven’t done for over twenty years: I take my top off on the beach. I figure that there’s no one around and that I’ll only be seen from a distance. I’ve always been self-conscious about my belly, but this year I have shed nearly four stone and while I have a long way to go I feel tiny bit better about myself.
I lay back on the sand. It’s so warm and it feels weird. I never understood why people would want to fry in the sun but now I being to understand. It feels really good to have the heat on your body. I stay like this for a couple minutes and then decide I don’t want to burn and clothe myself again.
I wonder whether to stay until sunset. I can’t find my lighter. I tip out my bag, check every pocket. Nowhere. It’s about 3:45 now. Sunset begins at around 5:30 pm and the sun goes down about 6:15 pm. I decide that I’m done. I have no idea if I will even get a taxi back from the main road as it is not exactly a heaving metropolis up there.
I climb the steps and come out to the road. It is lined with warungs. They sell drinks, coffee, snacks, noodles and some sell cigarettes. Each one has a barbecue going which seems to consist of burning coconut husks in a metal tin. They will sell barbecued corn later. I ask at a couple of places if they have lighters. No bueno.
At a third place a young guy picks up a piece of husk with tongs and offers me a light. I ask if I will get a taxi here. Maybe – the do pass by occasionally. At that precise moment the only one we will see comes along, and he tries to attract it but it already has a fare. I get a coffee from them and sit down. He keeps talking to me. No taxis come. It’s okay. I knew it would take a while. I say I could maybe get an ojek – a motorcycle taxi. Oh yeah, he says – he can call his friend to come. I say if nothing shows up, that is.
Nothing shows up. I mention the ojek again. Did he call his friend? No, but he has a scooter, and since there are no police checks in this part of the island he can do it. I agree. It’s not looking like a taxi will come. He says 50,000 to Senggigi but I say that’s what I paid in a taxi and I read it should be 30,000 for an ojek. He says 40,000. I decide to agree.
He fires up his moped and comes to pick me up. I did this along the Hai Van Pass, I can do it again. The scooter is smaller than the bike. I feel a bit nervous. I’m probably more than twice the weight of him and he’s got to lug me up those hills.
We set off and take a curve and go up the hill. We don’t have helmets. I put my hat on my head to guard against getting burned by the beating sun. Less than a minute into the ride the wind blows it off and it lands in the middle of the road. He goes back for it. As I stand at the side of the road I see a monkey in the branches above me. I kind of smile and think about how funny these things turn out.
We talk about scooters as we ride. I say I have never ridden one myself and have no license, but I think for my next holiday maybe I should learn to ride one. We get to the top of the steepest hill and I get scared as we descend – it feels like he’s going really fast and the curves are sharp and other scooters and cars are zipping by us. I feel every twitch and wobble of the bike – it was never like this on the fully-fledged motorbike in Vietnam. I’m thinking we started where I was yesterday and it will only be a ten minute ride like from to my hotel, but then remember that we came far past that point and we’ve still got a long way to go. What the fuck have I done?
At least he’s not speeding too much. I begin to relax, but I’m tense as we come down more hills. I think about how the hills going up the Hai Van Pass were not as steep as this, nor as close to the ocean, and I think this is a more scenic ride. By the time we get into the start of the Senggigi main strip I’m feeling just fine and kind of enjoyed it in the end. I give him 50,000 as I get off. He went back for my hat and rode carefully with me so he deserves the extra in my book.
I haven’t yet seen a sunset in Senggigi. I didn’t think there would be much of one, but as we face west this is one of the best parts of the island to see one. The sun is streaming through the hotel windows now so I head down to the beach. I’m actually quite impressed as I get there. The sky is golden and the trees up the side of the mountain are silhouetted. There are lots of locals sitting on the sand and swimming in the sea. I plonk myself down take photos and enjoy the sunset.
I walk back past the beachside restaurants and out through the art market. I find the tour office and arrange a car for tomorrow. I choose the waterfall tour and although the man isn’t the same one I talked to last night he honours the price I was given this morning and we arrange a pick up time.
I start to feel that things in Lombok are starting to pick up at last.