The ABC of Indonesia
With the Indonesian government handing out 30-day visas on arrival, we still had some time left to explore after seeing the orangutans in Kalimantan and the Komodo Dragons near Flores. We had arrived in Lombok at the end of the 4-day boat trip, but decided to leave straight away. We weren’t starting with the A, but instead went for B – Beach first.
After gaining some sea legs on our 3 consecutive boat trips, we felt we needed some time on land, but to get to our Beach destination we had to take yet another boat trip! Luckily this time it was only a very short one, a little local ferry taking us from Lombok to Gili Meno. It took about 15 minutes and then we were finally on Indonesian soil for a few days.
The Gili Islands are located to the northwest of Lombok. There are three – Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan (Gili T). The first one is known as the family island, Gili Meno is the smallest and Gili T is the party island. To us they were a little paradise. Sand, no cars just bicycles and horse-drawn carts, snorkeling, walks and runs on the island, a relaxed vibe and a great variety of bars and restaurants to choose from. After a few days on Meno we went across to Gili Air too, catching up with some more new friends and hanging out with the many turtles on our snorkel trips.
After the B for Beach is was time for A – Activity. We can’t just relax for too long, so we hopped onto another little ferry back to Lombok. The next day we started our hike up Mt Rinjani, one of Indonesia’s many volcanoes. As usual we had to hire a guide, and he came with two porters. They would carry a tent and sleeping gear for us, as well as cook delicious meals.
We were quite shocked at the start as pretty much every Indonesian takes a selfie at the start of the hike, then hops on the back of a motorbike and gets driven up to Pos 2. It wasn’t quite the serenity we had hoped to find on a hike in a national park. After our lunch stop at Pos 2 the noise disappeared and the walk was more pleasant. Until we reached the ridge line. It was a major disaster zone. Rubbish and toilet paper everywhere, including human poos and even dirty nappies(?!). Porters dig a hole and set up a toilet tent for the clients to use, but the guides and porters themselves still find a quiet place behind a bush (we’ll spare you the visuals).
We decided not to get up at 2am in the morning for sunrise on the summit. Instead we got up at 5 and started our hike without any others around us. Soon we were already catching up with groups that had started much earlier. There are a few bottlenecks on the way up (a few ladders and narrow sections between rocks), but starting much later than everyone else meant we could cruise on at our own pace. We reached the summit just after 7 and enjoyed the stunning views. Our way down was much more fun as we were practically running down the steep loose scree. We also found our guide again on the way down and together we went back to the tent for second breakfast.
It was a big day as we still had to hike down all the way to the hot springs and the lake, before climbing up to another ridge line for our second night. We loved the hot springs (not the rubbish around it) and had a refreshing swim in the lake afterwards followed by lunch. The hike up was quite long, but it was nicer as there was a lot less rubbish here and we were mostly in the shade from the trees all around us. We popped out onto the ridge line to find our porters had pitched our tent in a perfect spot with an excellent view of sunset over the Gili Islands and the volcano on Bali in the distance. A beautiful way to end about 12 hours of hiking for just 15km, ascending a total of 1946m and descending 1930m.
The last day was a relatively short hike, mostly down (1830m descent), and we finished just after lunch. We had a quick shower at our lodge, picked up our laundry they had done for us and hopped into a waiting car that would take us to the airport area. We had an early morning flight to Java to catch for our C – Cultural part of the ABC.
We were heading to Yogyakarta where we would stay a few days. We rented a scooter and rode ourselves to Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. It’s not that far from Yogya (like in Australia the locals shorten the name of their city). As the ancient temple from the 9th century was being loved to death by its thousands of visitors each day, they decided to offer the option of buying an additional ticket that allows access to the inside and top of the temple. Without it you can only admire the temple from the outside. We bought the ticket, but to our dismay found that we now had to join a tour with very limited free time to just wander around ourselves inside the temple.
Luckily our guide was flexible and allowed us to leave a little earlier so we could explore on our own. It was amazing. It is a stunning temple and they have done a remarkable job restoring it. Especially the highest level – where you reach nirvana – was very special.
We also visited the Prambanan temples that day and drove back on our scooter in the dark which was exciting. In Yogyakarta we enjoyed our first bowl of muesli with yoghurt and fruit in a long time, it was so good. And every night we walked the two minutes from our guesthouse to the best ice-cream shop we have ever seen anywhere in the world. They had more than 50 flavours to choose from, fantastic.
On our last evening at the ice-cream parlour we felt the floor shake. It didn’t take us long to realise we were feeling an earthquake! We quickly got up and out. Staff also walked out, but strangely none of the other ice-cream eaters (the place was packed). As we checked online we discovered it was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake and its epicentre was only about 10km from us. A pretty surreal experience.
It was time for us to say goodbye to Indonesia for now. An amazing country with so much to see and so many options. We will definitely be back to explore some more islands one day.