10 April 2016
I head off from Together Bungalows before 0800, aiming to have breakfast at the end of the street in the one place where good coffee can be had. But it’s closed, even though signs proudly promote its breakfasts available from 0700. I need a good breakfast. Cycling’s like that. I cruise the entire length of Jalan Mawun but can find no place. Nothing for it, I start towards Awang but swiftly realise pretty much every homestay will offer a breakfast of sorts to their hungry guests.
I pull into one smack on the beach on Jalan Pariwisata Pantai Kuta and enjoy a thick rich omelette and my favourite fresh fruit mix: watermelon and orange.
As with other routes no one can quite tell which is the best road. According to Google Maps it makes no difference if I turn right off Jalan Mawun, or left. Both options join up eventually. A fellow traveller in Together tells me they’ve seen the sign to Awung should I turn right and follow the beach (my preferred option), but that the road is gravel. Not always a good sign in Lombok. Eventually I gamble on right and the gravel. It is afterall only 17 km, what can go wrong really?
As usual there are a number of non-sign-posted junctions I have to navigate and choose. At each I ask “Awang di mana?” and see which way they point. I’ve learnt that if I indicate a direction I believe could be the way they shall merely confirm my belief not necessarily that it is the right way.
I’ve also learnt to take a consensus so I’ll ask several people and take the one the majority think is right.
I find the sign and indeed the road is gravel. There are scooters and even a couple of vehicles bouncing along. It looks OK. Perhaps not even 500 m further up the gravel returns to asphalt and joins a nice fat road. My gamble paid off.
Although there are a couple of short intense inclines, one at 20% the road topography is positively benign in comparison to the west coast. However, I am struggling, with breath with energy. I figure it’s a lingering after-effect of my duck of the other night making a break for it during the night. Not 100% recovered.
Near the top of a rise in a village I come across some Artisanal Miners.
Whilst here there is but one outfit, it is right next to a house and the road. Between Selong Blanak and Kuta there was one village where there must have been hundreds squeezed into every space available through a village. As it was a 20% hill I didn’t have the fortitude to stop and take photos. But here I do.
To avoid the obvious land use function conflict through having a small army of artisanal miners completely fucking up village life with their noise, dust, occupation of space, traffic, introduction of a foreign and (largely) male workforce I figure there must be collusion between the village and the miners. Otherwise, I could not imagine the tolerance of the villagers to what’s happening. If not, them villagers are really tolerant, and them miners outrageously selfish in simply imposing themselves on a village.
The brazen nature of the works and the obvious safety and health issues, with possibly hundreds of twin-stamp batteries hammering away whilst kids play in stockpiles of rock and dust, must present no problem to the authorities either. Bret the Australian owner at Pangsing called them “illegal miners”. I contest this. They cannot be illegal if the village accepts and presumably profits from their presence (rent or % of profit?) and the authorities don’t stop them (licenced +/- % profit?). Besides, although artisanal miners could do with vast improvements in health and safety (use of mercury, basic Personal Protective Gear, securing their sites, etc) the distribution of wealth into the local economy per gram of gold liberated will be greater than a shareholder owned mining company’s.
It’s a fascinating and intractable problem.
The harbour at Awang is full of small outrigger fishing boats lazily awaiting their moment. There’s nothing obviously telling me Here! I am a boat awaiting passengers for Ekas. The guy who I wake from his slumber on the back of a truck in the shade of the now defunct fuel station at Awang harbour dozily looks around completely befuddled by my enquiry as to a boat to Ekas. No joy here.
It’s long before midday. I could ride around the bay. Another 20 odd kilometres. Or more.
Instead I ride 200 m north until I find the one and only (obvious) tourist bungalows and enquire there.
The young woman I speak with is at first confused, then sceptical as to successfully finding ferry across the bay. “Ekas is so far!” she keeps repeating. Still I persist and she agrees to accompany me back into the village to find a ferryman.
Back in the village it takes all of 30 seconds for a skipper to agree to take me. And Dreamer. I negotiate a third off the price and realise I’m still charged too much since he agreed pretty darned fast. At less than 14€ I can’t complain.
He wants some money in advance: “Bensin” he explains. This could go either way, but I give him 100 000 rupiah with the balance to be paid on the other side.
I follow him to the harbour and watch him take some bensin in a plastic bag, wade out to a small outrigger, drag it to some steps into the water, fill the motor and load Dreamer and bags into the narrow space of the boat.
There’s garbage floating a-plenty, a near complete scum on the water of which my ferryman seems oblivious.
Half of Dreamer hangs out over the water, including the cockpit with both the Garmin Edge 520 and Montana 650T in peril of a watery grave should they somehow become loose from the mounts. I’m reassured by the fact that no matter how jarring the roads neither have ever even threatened to lose their mounts and that their respective cords are entwined around the handlebars offering a secondary securing means.
Once settled in the outrigger he manoeuvrers the tiny boat with an oar before firing up the ubiquitous – and loud – Honda outboard attached to a long pole with a tiny propeller at the end. The outrigger float is a necessity to balance the boat since the motor sits on the outside of the gunwale and would otherwise destabilise the thin hulled vessel.
The ride across is untroubled and a lot of fun, passing countless floating structures which are baby “lobster” (crayfish) hatcheries. I’m not sure if they are aquaculture per se or they are ‘traps’ for naturally-spawned baby crayfish.
The former suggests something sustainable, the latter wholescale plunder of yet another scarce natural resource. Rarely seen on local menus, the crayfish are earmarked for export for other hungry South East Asian markets such as Vietnam and China. At 600 000 rupiah per kilogram (40€/kg) it’s a very lucrative market.
I’ve no plan for when I disembark in Ekas. No idea what to expect. As we approach the village it is apparent it really is but a village. Scarcely more than a hundred or so huts and the like. Outrigger fishing boats bobbing in the midday sun.
Deposited on the beach I re-pack Dreamer and make my way to a small track and eventually to the village centre where a voice asks, in English, whether I want coffee or something. I need to plan something so agree on a coffee and settle in the ubiquitous brugak, look at the map and go online for inspiration.
Jamail, who speaks good English gives me the rundown of various ‘resorts’ dotted about the peninsular. Heaven on the Planet, an ‘eco-resort’ of some fame starts at 160$USD per night. I’d thought about staying there a night just to experience what an ‘eco-resort’ is all about, but didn’t fancy 160$USD for the privilege. Perhaps if Ram was with me but not on my own.
Some surfing resort further down is 100$USD cheaper but still excessive at 60$ per night. Hmmm.
Of course, here in Ekas, there are options with one sitting smack on the beach for no more than 200 000 rupiah, less than 20$USD (14€). It is midday. It is hot. Heading north I’ve no idea how long I’d have to ride until the next decent accommodation. There is some nearly 80 km away, but that’s a fair hike to start in the middle of the day, especially as I didn’t feel particularly great riding the 17 km to Awang.
I negotiate down a couple of Euros, make my way to the room, turn on the airconditioner and promptly fall asleep until awakened by the stifling condition in the room. The airconditioner is not on.
Rather than deal with the airconditioner now, I wander down the beach for a swim. Near the village the quality of the water is pretty low.
The rapidly waning tide has exposed weedbeds with muddy rather than sandy bottom. Stirred by the small waves the water appears murky.
As I move towards a large headland the water improves considerably but cannot be described as ‘crystal clear’. I enjoy the swim nonetheless and watch people wading out fully clothed to set small nets in a bid to snare the tiny fish which flit through the shallows.
On the one hand the constant fishing must seriously denude near-shore fish resources. On the other, the efficiency of how these people are fishing, including the countless little outrigger boats, would be obliterated by a single industrial fishing boat. Hard to know which would have more serious consequences: consistent low level fishing by lots of small boats, or far fewer industrial fishing boats. I suspect the latter but I also suspect both are used in Indonesian waters creating a double-whammy: depletion of both near and outer-coastal waters.
Back at my room it becomes clear I’ve been sold a dummy on the ‘airconditioned’ room. The circuit breaker trips constantly unable to handle the power demand.
The lock on my door doesn’t work either. E V E R Y T H I N G of value is in a room I cannot lock. “Don’t worry” explains Jamail, “these boys will look after it” indicating a bunch of teenagers, including the Keplar Desar’s (Village Head) son. He can’t quite understand that they may be an equal if not greater threat than some random thief.
It’s impossible to be in the room without airconditioning since the mid-afternoon sun hits it directly. There are no trees or anything to shade it. It’s worrying to not be in or near the room because there’s no lock.
Late afternoon a French couple turn up and try a room. At first it appears that their circuit breaker can handle load. But that only lasts 30 minutes.
We start room-hopping. They end up in the room next to mine, I end up in the room next to theirs. It matters little, the airconditioners do not work, the doors do not lock, in some water comes out of the shower, in others it does not.
Poor Jamail, the nephew of the Keplar Desar who owns the bungalows, is beside himself trying to find an amicable solution to the promise of airconditioned comfort with a spectacular view, and therefore price to match, versus failed energy supply, intermittent water supply, doors that barely function, sandwiched between his uncle and the responsibility he feels for getting us guests into this situation in the first place.
We just go, “Yeah, welcome to Indonesia. Part of the experience”. What else can we say?
The door on my new room doesn’t even close fully, the latch defunct. Left to its own devices the door stands ajar. I have to lock it closed to keep mosquitos out, since there are no mosquitos nets in the room. Given there’s no airconditioning I’m going to have to sleep with a fan directed at me, to blow away mosquitos as well as to cool me. Mind you I’ll need to keep the windows open although with the curtains drawn, otherwise the heat will be too stifling.
I return to my room and try to open the door. Even though the key is in the lock, the actual lock in the door is not fixed. As I try to turn the key I end up pushing the entire lock mechanism into and nearly through the door! When I try to retrieve the lock the key comes out of the mechanism. Not only can I not open the door unless the lock is correctly situated in the door, I have to think how to manoeuver the mechanism back into place without the benefit of the key being in the lock.
I stop to think what to do. I’m at risk of pushing the entire lock completely through the door which would mean I’d be locked out. As I’m studying the situation the Keplar Desar’s son comes up, not realising what’s going on, tries to force the door, since as far as he’s concerned it doesn’t actually close therefore it cannot be closed and not realising it’s actually locked. He pushes the lock clear through the door. All my stuff is now inside a room with locked door, a lock lying on the floor inside the room and windows with bars on them. Oh Boy!
Everyone has a go trying to force the door. I’m not sure they quite realise it is locked and can’t be forced. At least not without consequences.
Ultimately they take a large wooden shafted machete and force the door, tearing off the housing on the door frame.
The entire door lock is removed. A bolt is secured on the inside of the door to enable an occupant, me, to close the door but only when on the inside.
By now Jamail is near apoplectic in his apologies and shame. “If it were my house” he keeps repeating “I’d make a special deal”. But it’s not. It’s his uncles and the village headman’s to boot, who, along with his wife, seem relatively unperturbed by the litany of failures regarding the bungalows.
We all have to go for dinner now. But, err, there’s no way to secure my belongings. A boy is procured and plonked outside my room. “He’ll look out for it” says Jamail.
Dinner, prepared by Jamail’s wife since there’s no warung (restaurant) in the village, is a tasty mix of a single whole squid, rice and tempe (tempura) accompanied by vegetable soup. It goes straight through me. Desperately I make a bit for my room and the sanctuary of the toilet. There’s no sign of my guard. I don’t quite make it and need to comprehensively wash my shorts.
I’ve no idea what’s in the food which causes my stomach and bowels to react so. For lunch, for example, also prepared by Jamail’s wife, I had half a dozen of the same squid in a kind of soup/sauce a lot more sambal and rice. No problem. Dinner was the same squid the same rice no sambal tempura and a vegetable soup.
Aside of my Little Moment of Truth my stomach gave me no further problems. Weird.
Tomorrow I aim for an 80 km trek up the east coast. Google Maps, satellite version, suggests few if any hills. Guess I’ll find out. I intend to leave early, foregoing breakfast which habitually starts at 0700.
Ekas, 10 April 2016