Sumbawa Sojourn

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On Friday, 30th of March, 2001, at about 11.30am, Helen and I boarded the plane at Denpasar airport. Both engines on the plane started together, a first for Merpati, in my experience. There was an old bloke down the back of the plane, with a colostemy bag, looking very, very unwell, and unlikely to survive the trip.


We had met Yuni White, a prominent Bali business person, who owns a hotel on Sumbawa, at the airport. She got off at Mataram, to drive to the other end of Lombok, and catch a ferry to Sumbawa - apparently transmigrasi people stop and rob cars in the west of Sumbawa.


We took off again, and landed in Sumbawa Besar. As is usual in Indonesia, we negotiated a fee for a bemo (Rp 5000, ~A$1), and the negotiater wasn't the driver. So, when we were dropped off at the Hotel Dewi, the driver wanted twice as much. He left wanting.


The VIP (pronounced "vip") rooms looked the go, and fronted the street. At 4pm, the mosque shattered the silence. It was four doors down on the other side of the street. How had we missed it?


We walked to the Hotel Tambora, at one end of town, to inquire about getting to Pulau Moyo the next day. (It is an island, on which is the Amanwarna resort, destination of the rich and famous.) We also bought a few things at the adjoining grocery store, which was better stocked than many in Sanur. We returned to the Dewi by becak, visiting the opposite end of town on the way. We encountered a build up of people at the "alun alun", or town square. A bloke in the street informed us that a celebration was about to begin for 700 people who had just returned from Mecca.


We had a bottle of Wine of the Gods, from Bali, on one of the balconies, and watched the locals go past, and the sun go down.


After dark, we walked back towards the Hotel Tambora for tea. Halfway there, the power went off in the entire town. In the gloom, I could see a dip in the footpath, and, as the words "Watch out. I think there's a hole here" left my lips, Helen disappeared into a trench neither of us had seen. Luckily I had hold of her, and she wasn't hurt.


Dinner started by candlelight at the Tambora, and the power came back on. Dinner was edible.


The next day began with the mosque at 4am, followed by a parade of police recruits, with sirens, at 6am.Breakfast consisted of ginger coffee, and two pieces of bread, with Dancow butter and pineapple jam.


We walked to the market to charter a bemo to get us to Air Bari, the ferry point to Moyo island. The road was deemed to be "rusak" and we chartered two "ojeks" at Rp 5000 each. The first part of the trip was on bitumen, which deteriorated badly, and became mud and slush by the end. It was certainly not passable by a four-wheeled vehicle. We had to get off the motor bikes and walk a couple of times. There were horses and water buffalo everywhere


Air Bari consists of a school, and about twenty shacks each side of a dirt track, set back from the water. The boat to Moyo Island cost Rp 50,000 (~A$10). The island was very nice. A small group of tourists was boarding a big tour boat, and there were two girls, who were also staying at the Hotel Dewi, snorkelling. The park ranger came and chatted, and then hit us for Rp 5000 each for landing there.


The water was clear, but increasing amounts of refuse floated past on the surface. We hung out for an hour or so, and then returned to Air Bari.


I was extremely apprehensive on the trip back, because my ojek rider, Samsol, seemed to be in a hurry to get back. In particular, the mud on a causeway, across some salt pans, had dried, and the back wheel kept sliding. I was very concerned about going off the one and a half metre drop. As it turned out, on of the girls from the Dewi Hotel did slip off on their way home. Luckily, the bike fell clear of her and the rider, and they landed in mud.


We saw a couple of beautiful eagles and a monkey on the trip back. We gave the ojek riders Rp 50,000 between them.


Back in Sumbawa Besar, we hired a becak for an hour, to tour the town, for Rp 15,000. On the way to The Hotel Tambora, to try to hire a car to get out of town the next day, we passed policemen clearing up after an accident. There was a thong, a rag, and a lot of blood on the road.


We visited the old Sultan's palace/museum, which was basic, but interesting. It started to rain, so we got dropped off at a rumah makan. There was a bloke there whom I had seen at our hotel. I spoke to him, and he was evasive, saying that he was (obviously) Australian, and had spent four years in Lombok. He kept looking at the eight or so twelve-year-old girls who were having a birthday party. He gave the birthday girl a "present" of money on his way out. We were nauseated by his demeanour.


Before dinner we had a bottle of red wine and watched the passing parade. We did a lap of the town, and ended up at the Putra Jogya restaurant for tea. My tamie goreng was excellent.

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