After seeing the Sasak fishermen earlier that morning, we continued our journey from Kuta to the east of the island. Compared to the previous day, the weather was clear and the sun blisteringly hot. Temperatures here rise quickly and make it impossible to work. The eastern part of island is laid-back and calm and people were dozing on bamboo benches as we rode past.
Our first stop was Sekaroh on the eastern peninsula of the East Lombok Regency. Sekaroh is known for its deserted, Mediterranean-like, rocky white cliffs and its pink coral beach. This place is not calm; strong winds blow constantly and the sea rages making the place seem like a bubbling cauldron. Stormy winds and fierce waves helped form the area’s smooth chalk cliffs.
Afew kilometres up the coast, along ruined bumpy roads, we arrived at another checkpoint to access Pink Beach. Almost all beaches in Lombok require payment for access, unless very unpopular or off the main roads. You can opt to pay the set price and get a paper receipt or pay less (a bribe) and get no receipt. The high cost for entry here would only have been worth it if we stayed on the beach all day, as we were just passing by we managed to bargain and enter for free. My companion spoke Indonesian, however some miscommunication still occurred. This brought us to the realisation that the people who manned the gates were Sasak. Bahasa Sasak is the native language of the indigenous people of Lombok and sometimes they have difficulty with Bahasa Indonesian.
Leaving the gatekeepers behind we finally reached the pink sandy beach. A lot goes into making this beach so pink. It gets its hue from thousands of broken coral shells and calcium carbonate materials left behind by red foraminifera; tiny water creatures with red and pink shells that live in the coral reefs surrounding the beach. So when you arrive at the beach and it shines red you can be sure that the reefs are healthy, and if isn’t red it might be due to the off season or some environmental problem.
Unknown beach in Sekaroh.
Describing beaches isn’t my thing, but I understand why there is so much excitement amongst holiday makers and property developers. This land brings foreign investment to build and, in turn, sells the carefree, laid-back lifestyle that Lombok offers. The island has so many beaches that they couldn’t all be visited in a week, for that two or three weeks would be required.
We left what’s considered paradise and arrived at what’s considered not to be. As we moved away from the south the weather slowly changed.
Selong is a small town in the eastern side of the island. We stopped here to get some tuna and to wander around. The town is a bustling place despite its size; people sit in small shelters and sell everything from fresh fish to clothing.
Like the volcanoes in Bali, the volcano here is located on the northern part of the island, which essentially contributes to cloud formation and then rain. This is the reason Northern Lombok is primarily wet and moody. The southern part of the island is mostly dry and sunny, which might sound awesome for visitors but is a big problem for locals. Southern Lombok is currently facing major drinking water issues. A water crisis has started to threaten villages in a number of regencies and over the past few years some regions have remained in a permanent dry season. While the issue remains unsolved most villagers are forced to buy drinking water in plastic drums, which is imported from elsewhere. It’s worth noting that more than 25% of people in the eastern and southern areas of Lombok officially live below the poverty line. It’s an interesting contrast between beer-soaked tourists and water-thirsty locals.
The main water supply comes from the volcano springs which flow to the rivers. The rivers in villages here are muddy because of the soil, in the cities the water is polluted with waste. In general polluted river water is a major issue in Indonesia. With large population growth and the impact of industry, the city authorities are failing to provide waste processing systems to account for both commercial and domestic waste.
People here depend highly on rivers, they serve as the main source of water for people with no central water supply. River water is used by communities to bathe, do laundry, wash dishes and also to boil as drinking water.
Just outside the town there is a large production factory, which is quite unusual to see surrounded by palm trees and rice paddies.