Senaru, gateway to Rinjani

Labuhan Pandan, 11 April 2016

Just after 0700 I venture forth, leaving the strange Ekas bungalow experience behind I wind my way through the village until presented with a T-junction at an asphalt road. No idea which way to turn. North to the left, which is the direction I need to travel. Or right to the south. I turn left, ask some dude who points the way I’m going. Only he’s conned me. The road leads me through the village eventually terminating in a collection of huts on a beach. There a bunch of people good naturedly laugh at me and point me back the way I’ve just come.

Another T-junction, this time left. The road small and poorly kept, the odd hill. Another T-junction. This time a big fat road. Back on the main drag, Rinjani dominating in the distance. By the end of today Rinjani will by an intimate neighbour.

On National Road, Rinjani forming the horizon
On National Road, Rinjani forming the horizon

I cross the little spit of land which joins the peninsular upon which Ekas lies with the mainland, follow the road to the right and decide to head right down a small road which, if my map is accurate (which is questionable) should lead me along the coast. I’m aiming for Tanjung Luar where east Lombok holds its daily fish market.

A minute later there’s a really familiar and distinct smell of tasty decay. I’m trying to get my tastebuds to recall the name which goes with the smell. Trassi!

Trassi, a favourite spice/flavouring of mine, if a bit smelly
Trassi, a favourite spice/flavouring of mine, if a bit smelly

A favourite of mine. In its pure form, shrimp (or prawn) meat and remains are wrapped in banana leaf and buried in the sand around the high tide mark on the beach. The salt-water logged sand decomposes and preserves the shrimp until it becomes a soft goo which is then dried in blocks. I presume there’s a more modern method to make it. It has the dubious distinction of being able to stink out an entire house when first thrown in a hot wok. Some suggest it is an acquired taste. It’s used as a flavouring in countless Asian dishes and when mixed chilli creates the awesome Sambal Trassi. A staple of my kitchen.

Here it’s drying in neat rectangular blocks in the sun and the entire street smells of it.

Drying in the sun, the whole street smelt of it
Drying in the sun, the whole street smelt of it
Back road coconut grove
Back road coconut grove

Shortly after the tiny asphalt road devolves into a bumpy gravel road along dusty fishing villages, rice paddies, coconut palms and mangroves. Some dudes ask where I’m going and confirm that Tanjung Luar indeed lies to the north. Encouraged I continue.

Back road bridge
Back road bridge

Where the gravel returns to asphalt I stop to buy more water and a village load of people surround me asking a million questions, often laughing their heads off just by asking the question regardless of my attempt to answer them. I am sent on my way amid laughter and smiles.

As I check my map at a junction some school kid pulls up and asks where I’m going. He points down the road I believe it should lie and accompanies me as I ride along. He wants to practice English and I ask him the standard questions.

I also ask him why he’s not in school, “Because I want to play, with my friends” he replies. Kids, it seems are the same the world over.

Repeatedly he tries to get me to stop to “practice my English” but I’m a cyclist on a mission and I keep riding. Eventually, where I re-join the main road he turns back.

I’ve no idea where the famous fish market is, or was. Missed it completely. Oh well, another trip.

Labuan Haji, what looks to be a large town on the map, turns up. Not quite as large as I expected. I ride through wondering when/if I should stop for something to eat. I’ve not had breakfast and I could do with some sustenance.

Just north of Labhuan Haji I take a right to follow off the National Road to a smaller road. Like those before it traverses small kampongs, rice paddies and coconut plantations. It also rapidly devolves to rutted gravel and I bounce merrily along. The road veers sharply to the left and a meeker version continues straight. I go straight and the track gets worse and worse. I’m wondering if eventually it’ll simply cease being a road when another track heads off left and the one which continues looks decidedly dubious. I turn left and meander my way back to the provincial road. Just shy of Pringgabaya I join the National Road. National it may be but it takes me a while to accept that the narrow road I am on is THE National Road.

Labuhan Lombok turns up, where the ferry to/from Sumbawa departs/arrives. Another trip.

Instead I turn left in the market and continue up the coast. By now I’m on the home stretch, Labuhan Pandan is (reputedly) but 16 km further.

The vegetation here is much more jungly and rainforesty, including a stand of impressive trees with buttress roots.

I think they are Kapok trees, not an Indonesian native. But I could be wrong. Impressive nontheless
I think they are Kapok trees, not an Indonesian native. But I could be wrong. Impressive nontheless
Kapok are famous for their buttress roots
Kapok are famous for their buttress roots

Then, suddenly, I’m in Labuhan Pandan. I’ve a choice of five places to stay. I check out four of them. One is full, the other not quite there in terms of aesthetics, and finally choose Tiara Homestay. An airconditioned room with an airconditioner that actually works, friendly staff. Nice place.

Labuhan Pandan
Labuhan Pandan

Eighty kilometres. Not a bad day.

Today, 12 April, I chill. Not a lot to Labuan Pandan.

It's amazing to think such a small tree can host so much fat jack-fruits
It’s amazing to think such a small tree can host so much fat jack-fruits
Jackfruit up close
Jackfruit up close

I find a novel rapidly decomposing in the humid weather and simply consume it.

The beach, if it can be called a beach, is a tiny strip of black sand between vegetation and small waves.

Vegetation meets sea. No real beach to speak of
Vegetation meets sea. No real beach to speak of

Three small ‘Gilis’ lie just offshore: Gili Lampu, Pasaran and Pentangan. It’s possible to be taken to these islands for snorkelling. Instead I choose to simply hang around, wandering down to the beach for a swim. The beach is not inspiring enough to stay long.

Spectacular volcanic black sand
Spectacular volcanic black sand

I return to my room and finish the novel.

Senaru 13 April 2016

Fifty three kilometres planned for today. The first thirty-odd more or less along the coast. The last twenty an inevitable climb of some 500 m into the foothills and Senura. I don’t look forward to the last twenty coz am sure there are going to be those nasty 20% inclines but it’s godda be done.

A lovely back road
A lovely back road

I follow the main road for a few kilometres before turning right onto a small side road which runs closer to the coast. Great little road, through timeless kampungs comprised of wooden thatched huts with chickens cows and crops.

A Shepard with water buffalo in rice paddies
A Shepard with water buffalo in rice paddies

Rice paddies in various stages of growth and development. Some young plants just planted. Others bent under the weight of rice soon to be harvested. Others with the harvest team in action. The locals do not like being exposed to the sun with one in particular fully covered including a full face balaclava with sun-glasses on.

Intricately constructed rice paddies
Intricately constructed rice paddies
Each one painstakingly planted by hand
Each one painstakingly planted by hand
Incredible green of the rice plants
Incredible green of the rice plants
Rinjani over rice paddies
Rinjani over rice paddies
Rich with rice
Rich with rice
Rice
Rice
Harvest time
Harvest time
Serious sun-protection strategy
Serious sun-protection strategy

The ride is easy, enjoyable. Hordes of school kids in full Islamic dress serve as a reminder as to where I am. Alcohol is not available here and hasn’t been since I left Kuta four days ago.

I rejoin the main road at Sugian and continue north west. Traffic is light.

Rinjani dominates the western horizon. Some of the topography is frankly vertical. Eventually, as I ride for Senaru I’ll have to deal with Rinjani’s foothills though hopefully not quite so challenging terrain.

Frightening topography and one way or another I have to ride up such terrain
Frightening topography and one way or another I have to ride up such terrain

The main road rejoins the coast at Pedamekan. I expect it to be nice and flat but instead it’s a series of short intense inclines followed by short intense declines. Beautiful and would be a dream for the Leather Clad Fraternity. For me though it’s a case of whizz down and grind up.

The beaches here are black volcanic sands. An impressive contrast to the bright white sands of southern Lombok. The black sands radiate the day’s heat but otherwise the grains feel great and the water warm, as usual.

The volcanic sands are rich in nutrients supporting plant growth where normally there would be non
The volcanic sands are rich in nutrients supporting plant growth where normally there would be non
Pumice
Pumice
The boys enjoying a dip
The boys enjoying a dip

The road curves to the north and it is here in Obel-Obel that my climb begins. First to Bayan, the main town smack in the north. And eventually Senaru, the main tourist centre, where intrepid hikers for the Rinjani Summit trek start/depart and congregate.

It’s the usual mild 5%, the odd 8% and E V E R Y N O W A N D T H E N a solid length at 20%. Early afternoon, full sun, 90% humidity. Energy sapping. Nothin’ to do though, godda be done.

I pass through Barunkbirak, the road definitely steepening up. A teenager on a scooter comes along side and want to ‘chat’. Chat!? I’m barely getting enough warm-soggy oxygen-depleted air into my lungs to keep me and Dreamer moving and someone wants to ‘chat’.

“I’m on a mission” I hope explains my reluctance. He persists riding ahead 10 meters “Stop, stop, chill out, take a rest”.

I give up and take the opportunity for a rest, standing astride Dreamer, both feet on the ground elbows on the handlebars dripping sweat and sucking breath. It’s that kind of road.

After the usual “Where are you froms?” and “Where are you goings?” he asks if he can help me get to Senaru. Whilst I like the ride and the sense of accomplishment of completing difficult stretches of road, there is definitely something to be said about getting a bit of help. His suggestion is we somehow carry Dreamer and myself on his scooter. Dreamer is a heavy bike even without panniers. I simply can’t work out how we’d manage to get both me and Dreamer on his scooter.

I suggest a push, like the last time. He’s sceptical, unsure how to do it.

He suggests I backtrack to Barungbirak where he and his family run a homestay. It’s cheaper he explains than Senaru. It may well be but it is behind me and I’ll not only still have to deal with the climb to Senaru, I’ll have to repeat what I’ve already done. I am committed to Senaru,.

Nothing for it then, I start to ride with him chugging slowly beside me. One hill, another. He pulls ahead and waits patiently.

Eventually I think “Let’s try this” and motion him to pull along side so I can grip his left shoulder in my right hand and he pull me along.

Takes us a couple of wobbly moments before we work out the timing and suddenly them hills are whizzing past. When it planes out or declines or a car comes towards us I break off but otherwise we successfully deal nasty 20%s with a certain aplomb. I can’t quite hold on and be pulled without also peddling, the mass and weight simply too much. But since the grip-shift gear-changer is also on the right side of the handlebars I have to prejudge the optimal gear for the grade of the climb before I grab on. Greater than 15% and it’s around gear seven. Higher and I huff and puff as if I’m not being towed. Lower and my legs whizz around driving up my heartbeat whilst my arm muscles struggle to hold on.

Around 8% and gear 12 is good. Hard when I first latch on but as he speeds up I have enough tension to reduce the load on my arms.

We arrive in Bayan, the main regional town. I’m starving. My guide directs us out of Bayan and down the hill (down the hill! That means I godda go up again!) to the junction with the road to Senaru where quite a market has become established. Here I enjoy an excellent nasi campur, purchase some mangosteens and bananas and rest for fifteen minutes or so.

I am really expecting the road to Senaru to long and steep for it basically heads straight up towards Rinjani. This is where I truly miss my Garmin Montana 650T having good topographic maps for Indonesia. I tried. Back in Bali I bought online Garmin’s City Navigator South East Asia NT, but no matter how many different computers I tried (3) to download it onto my Montana it failed to do so. Google Maps, available on my Huawei mobile gives me good road coverage but no topography. It is therefore hard to know what to expect. But by looking at where I godda go, that I need to ride from an elevation of around 120 m to some 500+m and that I’ve but three kilometres in which to do so, I expect a long hard incline.

As it turns out it’s mostly between 3 and 5% with some long sections around 8 to 10% and only one nasty bit getting to 15%. But it is all up.

At one point my grip fails. My guide is going too fast and I can’t peddle hard enough to ease the load and we come to a halt as I catch my breath before we start again. Then, suddenly, we’re pulling into a homestay’s carpark with an amazing view. Apparently I am ‘here’.

The homestay is appropriately called Room with a Superb View. For a large room with ensuite and fan and That View I pay a reasonable 150 000 rupiah (10€). I plan two nights.

It's quite a mountain
It’s quite a mountain
Rinjani from the terrace at Room with a Superb View Homestay, Senaru
Rinjani from the terrace at Room with a Superb View Homestay, Senaru

Rinjani towers over the village, covered in cloud most of the time. Sometimes cloud free. Senaru is the main centre from which guided groups depart to ascend and/or return from Rinjani. Towards the end of the day huge groups of tired, dirty and elated hikers return, shower, change and (mostly) head off towards the airport or the Gili Islands. Early in the morning huge groups arrive eager and excited and perform their final preparations before being piled in the back of a truck to be transported to where their hike begins. In between it is quiet. I am the only one not planning on climbing Rinjani, although plenty of touts reassure me that my compete lack of any equipment, including shoes and socks can be solved. I politely decline. I put all my exertion into getting around. When I stay somewhere I like to not do even more exertion.

More of that view
More of that view
Rice paddies in the valley 500 m below
Rice paddies in the valley 500 m below

14 April 2016, Senaru

I wake early. It’s because I go to bed early. What to do in Senaru? Climb Rinjani, obviously. But I’m not going to do that. Yesterday I walked up and down Jalan Pariwasata, Senaru’s only street. Mostly homestays liberally interspersed with companies proclaiming they are the best to get climbers up the mountain. And a few shops and warungs.

There are two famous waterfalls within an hour’s walk from my homestay. Since they are famous they are also popular, with both locals and tourists. One such tourist told me last night that the waterfalls are indeed impressive but crowded. She also told me I do not need a guide.

Fair enough, no guide, go early. Let’s go find these things.

A couple of hundred meters up the road on the left hand side a small sign points along an impressively engineered irrigation channel cut into and in-part through the hill. I follow it. It meanders around the edge of the hill with impressive glimpses deep into the ravine cut by the river the waterfalls feed.

Well engineered irrigation channel
Well engineered irrigation channel
Fish farm
Fish farm
Fish farm fish
Fish farm fish
The irrigation channel frequently runs through the hill-side
The irrigation channel frequently runs through the hill-side

Sure enough, after an easy twenty minutes, Sendang Gile turns up. I walk down the steps to a picnic area with shelters and market-stalls, all empty at this time of the morning except for one. A powerful waterfall hammers into a shallow river creating its own wind which sweeps a fine spray through the narrow valley coating the vegetation with water. It’s lush and cool. I can understand why it’s a popular picnic spot.

Sendang Gile waterfall
Sendang Gile waterfall
Seemingly pouring out of the basalt
Seemingly pouring out of the basalt
The powerful waterfall creates its own wind
The powerful waterfall creates its own wind but where’s the river?
Sendang Gile
Sendang Gile
A lush micro-climate deep in the ravine
A lush micro-climate deep in the ravine

After the obligatory photos I head back up the stairs and start the thirty minute walk toward Tiu Kelep, the next waterfall. A large group of Indonesian tourists wet from swimming at the waterfall come towards me. I was warned it was popular.

Heading towards Tiu Kelep the irrigation channel crosses the ravine via an aqueduct
Heading towards Tiu Kelep the irrigation channel crosses the ravine via an aqueduct
The aquaduct
The aquaduct

Eventually the irrigation channel ends and the tracks becomes just that, a track through the forest along the river.

The start of a well engineered irrigation channel
The start of a well engineered irrigation channel
The begging of the irrigation channel
They put a lot of work into this irrigation channel
The river wild
The river wild

It does take thirty minutes but eventually Tiu Kelep can be seen pouring from the wall of basalt which makes up the walls of the ravine.

First glimpse of Tiu Kelep. Very spectacular
First glimpse of Tiu Kelep. Very spectacular
Small pool
Small pool

There’s a single large stream of water launching itself into space before hammering into the pool. Behind this is a curtain of smaller streams pouring down the rock face.

It is beautiful
It is beautiful
Huge volumes of water pounding into a tiny pool the wind strong and very wet
Huge volumes of water pounding into a tiny pool the wind strong and very wet

The wind created by this spectacle is impressive and clouds of mist circle around the tight enclosed space. Everything is wet and it’s a challenge to keep my camera lens free from water droplets to take photos.

Apparently it’s possible to swim in the small pool. That huge stream of water hammering in is quite intimidating. Spray from its collision with the pool actually stings.

Hard to keep the camera lens free of water drops
Hard to keep the camera lens free of water drops. Apparently I can swim in this tiny pool with that thunder a-comin’ down
Getting real close now
Getting real close now

I am alone here and decide to take advantage of the moment.

It doesn’t matter where I put my bag and shirt, they are going to get wet anyway. I wade into the pool and fall on my stomach. It’s amazing. Looking up the water arches over me to crash just behind me. A million needles caress my back, a watery version of acupuncture. It’s very nice. I can’t face the stream of water, which must be over a meter wide, since the spray stings my eyes.

A single powerful jet of water supported by a number of smaller rivulets
A single powerful jet of water supported by a number of smaller rivulets

I flounder around for ten or so minutes and get out.

Beautiful
Beautiful

I return downstream until I’m out of the fine mist and find a large flat rock in the river bed where some sun dapples. It is at this point on the track where the intrepid visitor first glimpses the falls. Here I dry out, sort of, and eat some fruit. A group of western tourists with a guide turn up but don’t see me. They take turns being photographed with the falls as a backdrop.

Back down the river
Back down the river

My timing was perfect. And so is theirs for they too can enjoy the falls by themselves.

As I return towards civilisation more tourists come as the busy time of the day approaches. The picnic area at Sendag Gile is crowded, all the market-stalls bustling, selfies-galore being taken. Silently I wish them well and head up the steps to Jalan Pariwasata.

Tomorrow I head for the Gili Islands where I hope to do some scuba-diving, enquire about completing my Diving Instructors Course, and have some serious beach time.

 

Max

Senaru 14th April 2016

2 thoughts on “Senaru, gateway to Rinjani

    1. Well, it’s not all been fun. There was/is quite a bit of wind, rain and hail too 😉
      Truly hope you enjoy the read. It’s been quite a blast to write it.
      M

      Like

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