Friday, 13 December 2013

Kuta Lombok- The Motorcycle Diary

Before we get in to the beautiful surfers paradise that was Kuta Lombok we have to document our only really dreadful experience in Indonesia at the hands of a scumbag driver. We bought a ticket from one of the countless tourist offices in Ubud all the way to Kuta including the public boat ride over and then a shuttle bus to take us from the harbour to the beach. All was going swimmingly, until we got in our 'shuttle bus', basically a people carrier on Lombok, the driver who told us his name was Amed proceeded to warn us of the dreadful, thieving, scamming souls who reside in our destination of Kuta. (How can somewhere this beautiful be so evil ?!)
He then went on to quite forcefully try and sell us return tickets directly from him back to Bali. We were not planning on this at all and told him quite clearly no yet he continued to get visibly worked up lowering prices, telling us how expensive the plane was, how you can't book boats back in Kuta. As we continued to refuse his offers, he stopped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere next to an ATM, telling us we had to get money out as there were no cash points in Kuta. Stress levels were at a high already after failing to book our flights to Borneo for the last leg of our travels and learning of the sparse and evil sounding Kuta (not somewhere to book flights) wasn't helping the situation. (Beautiful beach photo to break up the sad story)
Supposedly we were then waiting for another 3 people coming down the mountain to join his shuttle bus. These people were allegedly going to take over 3 hours to arrive, which would've been taking us in to the night, and if we wanted to get there we must get a 'private car' even though we'd paid a ticket to take us all the way to Kuta. Obviously when we then asked how we could get a private car after much argument with him over waiting, he offered us his own services for an extra 200,000rp almost the price of one ticket. We decided to cut our losses pay the price, stopping (for an extra 50,000) at the airport so we could buy our ticket back to Bali. Turns out he lied through his teeth about everything. Kuta was beautiful and friendly, the plane was by far the most time efficient and reasonable journey back to Bali, and in fact he was the scum bag to watch out for and much to the misery of our wallets and our pride, we'd been had. Luckily travelling as a pair meant not only could we share our anger and disgust but also the cost of this slip up, firmly committed to memory, here's to hoping its a one off. If you happen to be travelling a similar route to this, we really urge you to consider other options than taking the much advertised 'shuttle bus' routes, and don't go with 'Lombok Family Tour & Travel', you won't know the operator till you receive your pay slip but if that name is at the top, think twice. Whether there were other people or not, we will never know but we couldn't help but feel that our reluctance to part with our money for his boat trip influenced the tardiness of the illusive 'other 3 people'.
Thankfully our destination was well worth it. Kuta Lombok really is the sort of laid back surfers paradise many picture when they think of Bali. The beautiful cliffs and hills that run along the coast line are picture postcard pretty, and the relatively sturdy road surface made it a perfect location to rent another motorbike and explore the countless deserted beaches and surf breaks of South Lombok.

The great balcony from a tasty restaurant at the top of the hill overlooking Lombok. Great veggie food- go for the ciabattas not the suspect Indian salad though!

We spent 3 days doing very little other than driving, reading and surfing it was bliss, the perfect remedy to Amed the anus. A lot of the breaks around Kuta are big reef breaks yet we discovered a beautiful stretch of sand with a calm beach break further West of Kuta perfect for beginners, I think it was called Selong Blanak. To get there basically just keep heading west on the road past Mawan beach until you see the signs to Laut Biru Cafe and head for that beach (5,000rp parking charge). Look out for Bobby Texas' surf shack (he was building it whilst we were there) who will rent you a board at a great daily rate. It can be difficult to ascertain where the best beginner breaks or beach breaks are in Kuta Lombok as the majority of the tourists are generally the more serious surfing crowd, but calm breaks do exist, you just have to explore a little further!

The roads around South Lombok were all very quiet, often the only traffic you have to contend with is cattle and the main road that twists it's way up and down through the cliffs is beautiful and importantly Tarmac. Along the road we saw lots of illegal gold mines churning away at the rock and also several well attended youth football matches, complete with full kit, referees linesmen and seemingly a whole village as the crowd!

We stayed at a great little homestay, Mandalika, which was delightfully cheap, clean, had wifi in the rooms good enough for us to stream 'Its always sunny in Philadelphia' and included a tasty breakfast for just 100,000rp a night, just £ 6 for both of us. Top value!

4 days of sun, surf and peace and it was time to head back to Bali for more of the same, minus the peace.

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