Day 69 — Mar 10 — Lomboc, Indonesia
We arrive at 6 AM and this is an interesting harbor. We are docked so getting on and off is much easier than tendering. We experience a “Temperature Taking” again today, however, it occurs as we walk through the terminal. We pass and walk out to find the Vendor Vultures waiting for us. It doesn’t take long to find a Vendor that has an agreeable price and we hire him for the day.
Our driver, Bodie, first takes us to an ATM where we attempt to withdraw two million in local currency. Yes, that’s right, TWO Million IDR (Indonesian Rupiahs). But before you fall down, I’ll tell you that amounts to approximately $150 USD. The ATM machine tells us NO, we’re not in their system. What to do, what to do? So we ask him to take us to an actual bank, but instead we spot an ATM with the same company as we used in Bali. There are several network companies, it turns out. This next one works and we are again in possession of millions of Rupiahs!
The monetary exchange rate aside, Bodie takes us around the south of the bay we are docked in and we take in the sights. This place is about 75% Muslim and there is a Mosque approximately every kilometer. Lomboc is nicknamed, “The Isle of 1000 Mosques”. I’m not exaggerating. He even shows us a “Lomboc Ferrari” which brings us a chuckle.
He brings us to a beach where several native boats are moored. The boats are canoe like with two outriggers each and an outboard motor on the back. Our boat is about 20 feet long and we head out into the bay in search of a good snorkeling area. We never get the names of our boat guides and Bodie told us he will be there upon our return. We hope so because we left some of our valuables in his car.
We are brought to “Gili Nanggu” island and we strip off our street clothes to reveal our swim outfits underneath. They provide us with snorkels, masks & fins and we get out and first take photos of the line up of native watercraft on the shore. Our cameras and money stowed in open sight on the boat like any good tourist would do and we are off in the water to see what we can see. We do, after all, have to trust the locals to treat us well and help protect us. It is their reputation, after all. In this place, there are no underwater cameras to rent so you will have to trust me on my descriptions of what we see in the water.
The sights underwater entertain us and there are hundreds of colorful fish and coral to check out and our valuables are temporarily forgotten. Blue starfish catch our eyes and other unique sights abound. One of our boat guys leads us around and even dives down to pick up different living things to hand to us to hold. After checking them out, he carefully puts them back exactly where he found them. Have you ever held a blue starfish in your hand?
We go back onshore and use the very crude restrooms which amount to ceramic holes in the floor. Our boat guides take us to a “Turtle Rescue” where we see tanks of Sea Turtles that are being helped to survive to replenish the species. Then we find a restaurant building and buy a couple bottles of water. We question if there is fish food to acquire for snorkeling and are directed to another building where, for 2000 Rupiahs (about 15 cents), we buy empty water bottles filled with bread strips. The caps have holes drilled in them. We get back in our private boat (which cost us $40 USD or 560,000 Rupiahs) which is ours for the day as long as we want. What would YOU expect for a half million?
They take us to a second island and we gear up for snorkeling again and they show us how to fill the bread bottles with sea water and demonstrate how to squeeze the bottle and small pieces of bread will shoot out the hole in the cap and fish will swarm you to get them. In my diving days, we would bring bags of frozen peas and let them pop out of the bag for the same purpose. This island is quite small and we swim all the way around it, checking out coral and feeding the fish all the way around.
I get back to our boat and I am finished with my time in the water. I sit in the shallows and take my fins and snorkel gear off while watching Elee complete her adventure. There is a lot of debris in the water, both natural and trash, which saddens us. At one point in my snorkel, a plastic bag wraps around my head and I freak out for a moment until I untangle it. Elee tires of the debris also and comes to shore. We grab our cameras and take random photos of the island and even some of us on a swing that has been built and both us and our cameras are happy.
Next, the boat guys take us to “Warung Gili Sudak” island for lunch and it turns out there is a rustic BBQ restaurant run by poor locals and being the adventurous travelers we are, we order “Ikan Bakar” (Grilled Fish which is suggested, is Mahi Mahi but we see the raw fish and it is Jet Black) and Cah Kangkung (Fried Water Spinach which is quite spicy). Both are quite delicious and we are quite satisfied with our choices.
On our travels across the bay, we see many bamboo structures that are used for fishing although we never find out quite what the details are. There are nets beneath the structures but we never see any fishermen or others on them and the language barrier we have with our boat guides doesn’t help at all. We arrive back on shore and sure enough, our taksi driver is there. Upon donning our street clothes which have been on our boat, we also are pleased to see all our money and possessions are still intact. We highly commend the integrity of the people here.
An interesting note, every 3 or 4 buildings or houses, there is a rack out front with 2 liter bottles of an amber liquid. We inquire and Bodie tells us it is gasoline and the vast amount of motorcycles on the island can stop and purchase a tank of gas anywhere. Bodie then drives us back to the Ship, stopping occasionally for photos at random highlight points such as views of our ship and a fun walkway and we arrive back at the ship without incident. We pay Bodie the originally agreed upon rate and give him a tip of about 70,000 (LOL, that would be about $5 USD) and he is happy.
Once back on board, we clean up and shower after our wet day and I go back into the terminal in search of a WiFi signal, but alas, there are so many people doing the same thing that I can’t log on. I go back onboard and get a glass of wine in the bar where I meet up with several shipboard friends and chat. A couple hours later when there is only an hour or two to get back on the ship, I try again in the terminal and it seems that the WiFi crowd has dissipated and I get online. So I get Darwin posted and catch up on emails and other random business.
Back on board, we go to dinner and I take a nightcap back to my room and write for you. I break for a moment and go get a glass of wine and see a bit of a “Beatles Night” where a couple Crew Singers entertain the masses with Beatles Songs. This is interesting because we have received an announcement that we will be spending the night here and leaving tomorrow night. It seems that we will NOT be going to the Indonesian Port of Surabaya in two days but will be going to Semarang next.
Day 70 — Mar 11 — Lomboc Day Two
Okay, so we’re here another day. We wore ourselves out yesterday on our snorkel adventure and figured we could sleep in this morning. Not only that but we messed up and acquired sunburns because we were more interested in snorkeling than we were in re-applying sunscreen. Ooops! So we do sleep in, at least I do, until 9 AM and get up and have a leisurely breakfast and get off the ship around 10:30.
We negotiate with the “Vultures” and first find one that wants $90 USD for a 2 hour tour. Outrageous! So we move on and find one that, for $80 USD, will give us a four hour tour. Upon negotiating heavier and attempting to walk away, they come down to $60 USD for up to 8 hours. We only want to be out for about 5 hours so we take this offer. We are introduced to “Danny”, our driver and assured he speaks good English. I chat with him for a moment and decide he speaks well enough and we get in the car.
We have agreed that Danny will take us to Temples and Mosques that we can photograph, among other places and he seems to understand our desire for photographic locations. We head towards and into the capitol city of “Mataram” and it appears very similar to Bali. Decrepit buildings (except for the Temples and Mosques which are everywhere). Roadside stands selling everything from gasoline for motorcycles to fruit and vegetables in the most rustic way adorn the sides of the streets.
Danny is quite the poor driver and we have concerns. He is a “Speed Racer” when it suits him and then slows down to the point where he is an obstacle to drivers behind him. I would venture to call him a “Bi-Polar Driver”. His “Road Rage” comes out later when he start having verbal outbursts at other drivers at the most unusual times and places. We just have to put our lives in his hands as I have seen no dents or scrapes on his car and that says volumes about his abilities. The other vehicles on the roads here would give even adventurous drivers the “Willies”.
Okay, our fears for our lives aside, we pass Rice Paddies and different kinds of transportation as we travel along. Danny takes us to “Taman Mayura”, an old temple where we pay 100,000 to enter. That is about $7 USD. Again with the currency difference here. Danny ‘lends’ us the money, because even though we told him we need to go to an ATM, Danny also appears to be a bit ADHD and his ability to prioritize the needs of his customers is a bit lacking.
We get tickets in the form of Orange Belts to walk around with and we even bump into shipboard friends that have also contracted privately with a driver and we chat briefly. They warn us of a con artist squeezing money out of tourists and we take heed. Fortunately for us we don’t encounter the man. Then we entertain our cameras and take photos of this very old temple.
After we leave, Danny takes us to have “Chicken Taliwang” or “Taliwang Satu” which we had heard about yesterday and he found us a restaurant, “Rumah Makan” that served it. We purchased the meal which came as a whole chicken including the head and it appeared to be deep fried. Now you are probably are thinking that is a huge meal but the chicken wasn’t even as big as a Cornish game hen. Think Game Hen and now think emaciated. It was very delicious though and it was served with rice and a spicy sauce that satisfied. The fun of the meal was we were given no flatware. So the meal was “Finger Food”, even the rice and sauce. There were no napkins to speak of unless you consider facial tissue as napkins. But they did have a wash sink with soap when we were done. Towels to dry my hands? Well, it’s warm here and it doesn’t take long!
I have barely enough IDR Rupiahs to pay for the meal and I express to Danny our need of money, and it seems to inform Danny of our need for an ATM and he takes us to one. Again I withdraw Two Million and feel immensely wealthy knowing I will spend most of it today! In reality, Two Million IDR local currency is only about $150 USD. So much for being Indonesian Millionaires!
Armed with cash for the day, Danny takes us to the Islamic Center Mosque, a beautiful building that overshadows other local buildings. Now scorn me for being skeptical of many religions, but when I travel, I see towns and cities, I see houses and commercial buildings. And then I see churches, Temples, Mosques and other religious structures. The most beautiful, for the most part, are the religious structures. Why is that, I ask. I apologize in advance for my rant but why does it seem that religious buildings seem to garner the most expenditure of money?
But I am a hypocrite for when I visit and photograph a religious structure, what is it that I want to do next? Easy answer, I want to photograph the next one! Because for the most part they are the most beautiful structures in the world. There are exceptions but not many.
In order to visit this magnificent Mosque, we have to don robes which are hot and we detect an odor because it is clear they are not often laundered but we did not come with our bodies covered in cloth. It is very hot and humid here and I can’t imagine visitors to this place covering all skin. And you don’t have to. Unless you want to enter a Mosque. There is the rub. So we don their proferred robes and enter the Mosque with a guide who proceeds to explain the operations of the Mosque and my camera drags me several feet or yards or meters from the guide and I try to tell it to be respectful of the guide but my camera is boss and rebels from the rules and gets its way.
The guide looks at me and sees my professional rig and he seems to understand and he is tolerant of my movements. My camera captures all kinds of images of the marvelous architecture and no one is upset. We tour the Mosque and then exit and there is a tower. Whoa, wait, a tower? Something to climb? How much is that? What? It’s closed? Can’t be!
I take the guide aside and ask him how much “Donation” would be required to climb the tower but he holds firm and tells me it’s closed. Bollocks! There is no more discussion and it’s off the table so we reluctantly walk back to our taksi after donning out shoes and shedding our wonderful borrowed robes!
Danny then takes us to a “Weaving Factory” where women spend months weaving fabrics on looms and their results are fabulous. We end up purchasing some gifts for helpful friends back home that are pitching in with home chores to help us do this trip!
We are tired and sunburned from yesterday and ask Danny to take us back to our ship. Danny insists on taking us to more places and we have to be firm and insist he take us back to our ship. We clearly win the discussion as we are the paying customers and he takes us back.
It turns out the Danny is obviously trying to capitalize on the trip and is dropping hints to get his tip and we are becoming concerned again. I don’t have much hope that Danny will keep his job with the company as he stops short of the ship terminal and wants to be paid. His boss spots this and jogs over and bangs on the window and it is clear he is busted. We never fear our safety and we pay him for the day. I tip him minimally and I’m sure his company is aware.
Back on board and a cold beer later, I chat with friends about our day and I wait for the last hour of the day to grab WiFi in the terminal to transact internet business and I am successful and take care of home contacts.
See you tomorrow!