Monday, April 10, 2017

Lombok, in the mountains

There were two reasons I was so excited to come to Rinjani: the gorgeousness of the place we were staying, and the fact that it's in Rinjani National Park, home of Indonesia's second highest volcano, and an active one at that. It exploded three times in 2010, and it became active again in late 2015. I can easily feel the little child's open-mouthed excitement about volcanoes, what wondrous things, portals to the living breathing fire of our planet. Just, wow.

Marc enjoying his welcome drink at one of the two pools

the other pool, just off the restaurant dining area -- volcano there on the right. I never ever got tired of looking at it.

The room was FABULOUS
With a spectacular open-air bathroom -- this on the right.....

this on the left. BUT. I took this shot standing in the doorway.
See how there's a step down? It's STEEP. Much steeper than you expect, and
a good bit steeper than the average rise.
Poor Marc--on the first night he got up to use the bathroom and didn't remember there was a step, so he stepped out into air and flew forward, smashing his chest against the tub and then falling hard to the left, scraping the very SHARP corner of the tub and falling into the shower space. He doesn't remember any of it -- he might not even have really been awake. I heard him shouting, screaming, and I ran into the bathroom to find him lying curled on his side, afraid to move. We were so so lucky. If he'd hit his head, and if it had knocked him out, I might never have even known, he could have just lay there all night long in real trouble. As it was, he was nauseated from the huge spike of adrenalin, his chest hurt so bad we weren't sure what might be wrong there, and there was a good bit of blood.

This was his arm a few days later. The bruise went down and around his elbow. He also had similar scratches
on his right calf (can't exactly piece together how he got them there), and a big scrape and deep bruising along his
ribs, mid-chest. Poor guy. It was so terrifying. We both just kept realizing how lucky we were, how lucky he was,
given this terribly unlucky experience.
To get a feel for the little town, we went out for a walk (easy walk down, harder walk back up) and as I stood there taking a picture of the gorgeous green valley, I saw the rainbow -- which I hadn't seen otherwise.

They lush valley is just so gorgeous.....

I had to assemble these two shots like this because otherwise the valley was too dark if the sky
was as light as it really was. Gorgeous, right?!
The place is frequented by trekkers who hike to the rim of Mount Rinjani, so there are hostels and places set up to guide people to the top. We had lower-level aims: we wanted to hike where we could (where hike means relatively flat surfaces, or gentle slopes), and we wanted to see the waterfalls that are well-known in the area. Lucky for us, the entrance to the waterfall hike was just a couple of minutes from our hotel entrance, so after breakfast we headed out.

There are actually three sets of falls in this area -- this sign tells about two of them.

"C'mon honey, let's go!"

For the most part, the walk was easy, and paved. Sometimes the road had crumbled away, and on occasion the handrail had fallen down the mountainside, but you know, the area is alive and tectonically moving and all. It never felt dangerous, at all.

a bit of fern growth, and

greens of all shape and form and shade, on plants and trees, fallen and otherwise

so much to see

in places it reminded us of Borneo

It was very humid
We heard the falls before we saw them, of course, and we'd seen little places where the water was forcing its way through open spaces in the rock. When we finally wound our way to the bottom, there it was.

Marc taking a picture of the waterfall

There we are! There were people -- very clearly extremely poor -- setting up
small tables to sell bananas and other food. Some seemed to live down there, and
there was a LOT of trash. We entered the park as soon as it opened so
we didn't see a lot of other tourists, though by the time we were leaving
others were arriving. I don't know if tourists leave the trash, or if the people
who live and work down there leave it.

the POWER of the waterfall!

I thought he was just taking a photo of me, so there I
sit with a goofy smile, holding it holding it holding it....
But you can see how high the falls are!

From there, we hiked on toward the next falls. The path disappeared in places, and we found some surprises.

Sometimes it was a neat path, sometimes it was breaking down, and sometimes it was hard to find.

And then we came to this! A system of controlling the water flow. We thought that was pretty neat until....

This woman passed us, carrying something big on her head, up to.....

This even fancier system -- these two, and a couple on the sides.

The water ran in this concrete-sided channel.

We climbed up to cross the river on this elevated bridge. This very sweet young guy
was hiking all alone, we liked him very much even though he didn't chat with us.
But we wondered what it would be like to be him -- just young, rambling around
such a faraway place all by yourself.

But it wasn't just a bridge, is the thing! It carried water! Glancing through
the gratings, you could see water rushing past. They'd built the bridge
to move water from one side of the river to the other -- see the river down below?
We kept hiking, and finally hit a river crossing. We looked all around and didn't see where the path might continue, but we were happy just to stop there and not keep looking for the other waterfall. Partly that was because we realized we were going to have to hike back, and it was going to be largely uphill, and partly because the place we found ourselves was just so beautiful we were glad to sit there a very long time.

Oh gosh it was beautiful.

to the left, to the right, straight ahead, all around. Just so beautiful.

Sometimes such great joy overwhelms me, I feel this awe at where I find myself,
and I feel like a very young girl. Marc was looking at a map to see if he could
find the path -- what a funny world, you can be in such a far-flung place,
so wild, and look at a map on a computer you carry in your hand.

So we just sat on this big rock, in the middle of this river, and listened. We listened to the occasional bird,
we listened to the water all around, we watched a variety of butterflies, and we sat quietly. My butt went to sleep
on that rock, but I didn't ever want to leave.

It was really beautiful.
Wish I were there right now

Finally another tourist came through, with a guide, and we realized that you had to cross the river and pick your way on an invisible path on the other side. Since we didn't have a guide, and I wasn't too interested in crossing the river, and we still had the uphill finding-our-way-back hike, when we had finally enjoyed the river enough we headed back.

So we'd been seeing signs about monkeys, but we never saw any...until we were nearing the entrance to the park.
There were monkeys everywhere -- sitting on the railings, on ledges, chasing each other in the trees,
running through the underbrush. This one was just taking a break.

I was hot and melty and sticky by the time we finished, ready to hop in the pool.
We always swam in the pool by our room, which was very very nice.

the pool by the restaurant was very nice too

ours had a better view, even if sometimes the volcano was shrouded in clouds
We ate our meals at the restaurant, partly because the food was very very good. One day we headed out to eat at a little local place, but (a) we got caught in a downpour just as we found it, and (b) it looked dicey. So even then, back to the hotel. In this place, some of the women at the desk wore headscarves (no one at the beach location did). Lombok is predominantly Muslim, and when we were driving to Rinjani we saw lots of women in headscarves in the small towns along the way. The staff at the hotel were very gentle, and soft-spoken and kind. They would ask us, after we'd started eating, if the food was OK, and when we expressed our pleasure they would just beam. It was very dear.

The grounds of the hotel were just stunning.

As a Texan, I know from bougainvillea -- and I wouldn't have expected thwm at this
elevation, but oh how beautiful they were

and the beauty and fragrance of frangipani!

This sign by our pool made me wonder if there's just ONE monkey that haunts the hotel grounds?

I was really happy there.

Marc too -- here is is in one of the lower levels of the garden, enjoying the beautiful view

and plants that were just showing off, you know?

Gorgeous, everywhere you looked.

And such exquisite colors
One night we were on our terrace, enjoying the quiet,
and a gecko starting doing its thing. THEY ARE SO LOUD.

But for my money, as wonderful as the varied flowers were, it was the volcano that always captured my gaze.

That far-left peak always seemed to catch the clouds. Katie told me this looked like the
volcano had a combover. :)

One afternoon the clouds were caught in these long layers, among the peaks

I could look at that forever. Forever.
At the end of our stay, we took a very long walk through town, in the downhill direction. The tiny little hamlets and villages along the way looked wonderful -- it was easy to imagine the lives being lived there. When we got to a turning-around spot, Marc though we might find a couple of guys on motorcycles to take us back up the mountain. And so that's what he did! Two young guys who worked for a trekking company were happy to pause what they were doing to take us up the mountain. Marc's idea had been to go past our hotel, and then we'd walk down the hill to it. That sounded great, and I figured my guy and I would follow behind, and Marc would tell his guy where to go/stop. But suddenly my guy sped around them and we were off to the races! We flew up the mountain, and I didn't know where to hold onto him so I kept my hands very lightly touching the sides of his waist. His English wasn't great, and he kept asking me the same questions again and again, but I was just so anxious because Marc and his guy were nowhere to be seen.

We stopped just past our hotel to wait for them, and finally they appeared. Turns out they'd broken down, the bike stalled out and wouldn't start, but then someone else gave them a motorcycle and they got right back on the road. They took us a couple of kilometers up the mountain past our hotel and let us off. I burned my right leg on the exhaust of the bike (owie, didn't want to complain though), and then we walked back to the hotel. It was really wonderful. So quiet, so peaceful, a beautiful day, and just Marc and me walking in the quiet, hand in hand.

When it was time to go, a driver took us back to the Lombok airport. Our plan was to fly to Surabaya (on Java) and then to Kupang (pronounced Koo-PONG, on West Timor), spend the night, and then take the ferry the next morning to Rote Island. Those airlines that go between the islands are pretty bad -- Lion Air, Wings, Batik; in fact, Lion Air is always getting scolded by Indonesia for not meeting the simplest safety requirements, a bit of finger-wagging and threatening. And then we were also there at the end of the rainy season, so between flights that aren't always on time, and weather, it's not quite as predictable a schedule as we'd have liked. We finally got to Kupang more than an hour late, around midnight, but the driver was still waiting for us. The hotel, La Hasienda (and really, it's an all Mexican vibe there) gets stellar ratings on TripAdvisor, and they did take very good care of us even though the room was about what you'd expect for $20-something.

At the end of our time on Lombok, I wouldn't say I had a clear "Lombok" idea in my mind, but that's mostly because we were in two very different kinds of places, with very different kinds of people. We've now been to Bali (twice), Java, Lombok, West Timor, and Rote Island, and each one has such a distinctive feeling -- often as a function of the religion of the place.

Anyway. On to Rote Island.

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