A month ago, I was still on the island of Sumbawa, where one dreamy beach and one romantic sunset followed the next. Now sitting at the window of my Viennese quarantine apartment, I soak up every ray of sunshine that finds its way onto my skin – wondering if I would have appreciated the last days in Indonesia even more if I had known that my trip would end, and at the same time still stunned by and grateful for the wonderful experiences Sumbawa has given me.
From the island Gili Air I took the ferry to Lombok, which according to my travel guide books resembles Bali, but is less crowded and more authentic, while still offering a good tourist infrastructure. Since I am too scared to drive a scooter myself, I had chosen the surfer village Kuta as starting point, where a tourist can probably find everything he or she needs, and which was about 2 minibus hours away from the port where I arrived from Gili Air.
At the port I got on a minibus and sat down in the back row. After I had listened for a while to the conversation in the bus, which was mostly about the fact that Lombok is very touristy, which is why all passengers used the island only for passing through, I started to talk to the man sitting in front of me. To my surprise Vit was also from Vienna. He had already travelled Indonesia several times and was now on his way to the neighbouring island of Sumbawa, which he wanted to travel from west to east by moped. He didn’t have a concrete itinerary, but his plan sounded so adventurous and exciting that my hip surfer hotel in Kuta suddenly seemed pretty boring. We were just talking for a few minutes when people in the bus started to get ready, as the stop where they had to change to another bus was almost reached. At that moment I thought how much I would like to have such an adventure ahead of me, but I was aware that to just change my plans and travel with someone I had just met would be kinda crazy. Anyway – after a short silent discussion with myself, I plucked up my courage and asked Vit: “That might be a crazy question, but would you mind if I travel to Sumbawa with you?” He questioned whether it would work to travel with the scooter together, but just a few seconds later he agreed. Shortly afterwards I got out of the car with him and a German couple at a bus station in Lombok’s capital Mataram without really knowing where it would all lead me, but still with a pretty good feeling.
Julia and Florian from Germany were also on their way to Sumbawa, but had a slightly different plan and therefore took a different bus than us. During the next week, however, our paths were to cross again a couple of times. On the way to Sumbawa, Vit and me got on another minibus which went on a car ferry and brought us in another 2 hours to the beach town Maluk. Actually all that time, I had no idea where we were going, but luckily back then I hadn’t read that Sumbawa is considered to not be very safe on websites like Wikitravel and that most tourists circumnavigate Sumbawa on their way to the island Flores or the Komodo National Park – because otherwise I might have chosen to stay in Lombok. In fact however, I felt safer on Sumbawa than almost anywhere else on my trip, which is mainly due to the incredibly kind people I met.
Maluk – dreamy beaches, huge rice fields and a beautiful waterfall
In Maluk we stayed in a small and simple guesthouse. In the surfer cafe across the street we met the extremly nice owner Ozzy, who after a few minutes agree to lent us his new moped for the next two weeks.
The first day on Sumbawa we explored the surroundings of the city – we passed monkey families, small villages and huge rice fields on our way to a waterfall, which unfortunately didn’t have that much water but in which‘s basin we could swim completely alone. The white sandy beaches around Maluk and the turquoise blue water we shared only with a few surfers, who come to the island because of the world famous waves and are probably the only tourist group on Sumbawa. This day ended with a fantastic sunset and I could hardly believe how lucky I was to have landed on this beautiful island.
Sumbawa Besar: a long scooter ride, many nice encounters and a very cool rock bar
The next day we had a 170 km long scooter ride ahead of us. The capital of the western part of Sumbawa is called Sumbawa Besar, and as there were no accommodations on the way, we made the whole distance in one day. The ride was exhausting for our backs and bottoms, but we enjoyed the views, authentic food and nice encounters. On Sumbawa, many people asked if they could take pictures with us, which often gave us the chance to meet very nice and interesting personalities.
Sumbawa Besar is a rather unexciting city for tourist purposes. But the people we met could not have been more welcoming and interesting. We spent our evenings in the Dogtown Rockbar, which is run by a very nice team and where we could listen to breathtakingly great live music. The owner of the bar is about my age, has a band himself, but also works in real estate, and has a mobile phone accessories business and a start-up in the food sector – such an impressive person. On the day of our departure from Sumbawa Besar we were invited for coffee and Pisang Goreng (fried bananas) by the family that runs the Dogtown Rockbar. The father of the family, who is called Papa Gorilla by everyone, probably runs the only tour company in Sumbawa Besar and has remarkable ring and machete collections. Again, I was stunned by all the impressions I got of the life on Sumbawa and the hospitality of the people.
Pulau Moyo: the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen
A very simple boat took us from Sumbawa Besar to the island of Pulau Moyo. During the 2 hour boat trip with strong swell the local passengers offered us the best seats as well as delicious sesame balls, and we were even accompanied by dolphins for a while.
Arriving on Moyo, Davi, the owner of our homestay, as well as our German friends Julia and Florian were awaiting us. The homestay was very simple, electricity was only available at night, three times a day Davi’s daughters cooked very delicious meals for us. We had brought our moped with us to the island, so we rode over hill and dale through the jungle to what was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen. Beautiful pools invited for a swim, the green jungle scenery was simply breathtaking and again we were all alone at this magical place.
The next day we drove through the jungle again, partly we had to get down from the scooter and push it through the mud. The herd of buffalos we met was kind of frightening, but I soon realized that the animals were more afraid of us than we were of them. The adventurous drive was rewarded with a dreamy beach and crystal clear water perfect for snorkelling. For the first time I dared to snorkel not only just underneath the surface, but also to dive down deeper under water – and was thrilled by the fish and colours I discovered. Although all of this was already too great to be true, it got even better when our time on Pulau Moyo ended with an extremely beautiful human encounter. Vit and me wanted to explore the surroundings of our village in the evening, but were surprised by a heavy rain shower and so parked the scooter under a big tree. A family who was sitting on their terrace became aware of us and waved us over. So we sat down on their terrace with them, drank some coffee, took a lot of pictures and chatted in our bits of Indonesian until the rain had stopped. Did I mention how incredibly welcoming the people on Sumbawa are?
Dompu, Lakey and Bima – interesting cities in the east and the last time on the beach
Back on the island of Sumbawa we drove further east. We rode along the beautiful coast for a while. On clear days it is possible to see volcanoes in the surrounding area – unfortunately it was not so clear that day. Nevertheless, I was amazed by the green vegetation on the island – this did not fit at all with what I had read about Sumbawa by then, saying that it is stark and dry – it might be more like that though outside of rainy season.
We spent two nights in Dompu and made a day trip to Lakey, the second famous surfing spot with very nice beaches. As the current was too strong to go swimming, we enjoyed the view from the deserted sandy beach. At that time I didn’t realize that this was the last beach I would see in a long time – maybe I would have appreciated it even more if I had known.
The next day we went on to Bima, the capital of the east side of the island. When we arrived, everything was closed – it was Friday evening on the Muslim island. As we flew back to Bali the next day, Ozzy from Maluk came with a friend to pick up his moped – our faithful companion during the past days. Ozzy and his friend had driven two whole days from Maluk to Bima. We asked if they would like to stay overnight in Bima, but since they wanted to use the money we paid them for their families, they immediately set off again on their long journey home. When we said goodbye, we promised that we would return to Maluk one day – and I meant it, because I was simply amazed by the island of Sumbawa, with its surprisingly beautiful nature but above all by the warmth of its people.