After leaving the laid-back island of Nusa Penida, we hopped on a plane bound for Lombok, largely unsure of what we would find there. We had scheduled a three day trek to the summit of the famous Mount Rinjani about a month before the island was hit by a series of massive earthquakes. The quakes caused extensive damage to the north side of Lombok, and landslides and trail damage meant that trekking on Rinjani was a no-go. Upon hearing the news, we were left unsure of the best thing to do in the face of such a tragic situation. Should we travel to Lombok anyway and hope for the best? Or was it more respectful to cancel our flight and stay in Bali instead?
This decision was made easier when the hosts of an Airbnb we had booked for our final night on Lombok reached out to me. They said that although the north side of the island wasn’t ready for tourism yet, the south was largely unharmed and everything was operating normally, save for a shortage of tourists. They encouraged us to still visit and said they would let us know if the situation took a turn for the worse. Vince and I agreed that the best thing to do would be to keep our plans and spend a few days on Lombok, particularly if their economy was suffering from the sudden drop in tourism. Our Airbnb hosts were able to extend our stay, and that’s how we eventually found ourselves in the back of a taxi riding up a nearly vertical slope in the middle of the night.
The Are Goling Beach Bungalows are a hidden gem nestled high on a hill overlooking a spectacular bay. The name “Are Goling” is actually the name of the bay where the bungalows are located, and it roughly translates to “Rolling Water.” We would find out how fitting that name was as we met more and more surfers, drawn there by the rolling waves. In contrast to the crashing surf of the beaches below, the Are Goling bungalows are secluded and quiet, and not the easiest place in the world to find, but your effort is rewarded ten fold with a gorgeous view, fun and friendly hosts, good food, and top notch service.
Upon our arrival we met Tony and Emily, the owners of the bungalows. We also met a few of the other guests who were all hanging around the restaurant. Introductions were made, and it turned out that all of the other guests were surfers from Perth. One of them, Doug, told us about the beach he had visited that day, leading us over to a large map of the island that was pinned to the wall. He showed us the location of Mekaki beach on the map and said it was a pristine, deserted paradise and one of the best beaches he’d ever seen. That gave us a great plan for what to do with one of our days on Lombok, so we tucked it away in our minds as we chatted with Doug a bit more before retreating to our bungalow.
We got up early the next morning to watch sunrise from the restaurant, and were soon joined by Poppy, one of Are Goling’s two dogs.
It was a peaceful sunrise, and we sat and watched the colors of the sky changing until the sun peaked over the distant hills. By then Emily was up so we ordered breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed eating it outdoors with the brilliant view.
Tony was nice enough to arrange a scooter for us and loan us a couple of helmets. He also gave us the advice to spend our first day on Lombok visiting Benang Stokel. This famous waterfall was about a two hour drive by scooter from Are Goling, and was as far north as Tony recommended going because of earthquake damage.
The first half of the drive mostly took us through bustling cities. Morning markets were crowded with people buying and selling food, farmers drove little wagons pulled by even smaller horses, at one point I saw two men riding on a scooter with a goat between them, and children in uniform flocked to the fences of their school yards to wave as we drove past them. The sights and sounds of the cities were interesting to watch, but what was more surprising was the fact that we seemed to be quite the sight ourselves. Everywhere we went we drew attention, perhaps because we were the only tourists in sight.
Eventually city gave way to farmland as we began to crawl up into the mountains. We passed small towns and the higher we climbed, the more rice terraces we saw. Eventually the road we were on dead ended at the entrance to the national park, where we went into the office and hired a guide to take us to the five waterfalls in the area. Funnily enough, our guide’s name was also Tony.
A short walk led us to Benang Stokel, which was actually two waterfalls cascading over the same cliff (in the wet season there are three waterfalls here).
From there we hiked up a steep hill and came to an area with rows of empty market stalls. We asked Tony if there would normally be vendors there, and he explained that the area normally has about 100 tour groups a day, but since the earthquakes those numbers had whittled down to about four groups. The vendors weren’t making any money, so there was no point in them being there. As he finished his explanation, we crested the hill and Tony said it was time to veer off the path and take the adventure route to the next two waterfalls.
We followed Tony back downhill on a narrow path that eventually deposited us in the river right below the second waterfall.
Shedding our shoes, we stepping into the refreshing river water and began hiking downstream. Tony led us through the river for a ways, occasionally weaving back onto the muddy path, and climbing over various obstacles until we found waterfall three, to which I took a particular liking.
This fall was surrounded by a thigh-deep, spacious pool of water, which Vince and I waded through. It was a secluded oasis, which felt totally off the beaten path. We hadn’t seen any other tourists since Benang Stokel, but for some reason this spot felt especially secluded.
After a decently long stop at waterfall three, we got back on the “trail” where we had to balance on a thick water pipe until we made it to another bend in the river. Now we were facing a towering canyon wall completely covered in ferns and lush greenery.
Further upstream we caught our first glimpse of the most beautiful (I feel comfortable saying that objectively, it so outclassed the others) waterfall, Benang Kelambu. A quick scurry up a muddy embankment led us to the base of the falls.
I have never seen a waterfall like this before. For starters, it was large enough that I couldn’t capture the entire thing in the frame of my camera, but I was mostly in awe of it’s unique facade. The cliff that Kelambu cascades from is coated in plant life, so much so that one could be convinced that there is no cliff beneath the vegetation at all. It seems almost as if the plants are the thing producing the steady flow of water, since it seems to emerge from within them.
The waterfall doesn’t just end at the main viewing station either. As we hiked uphill again, we could see water seeping over the flora all along the extensive cliff face.
After Kelambu we had one more fall to visit, the jumping spot. I am up for a lot when it comes to adventure, but if there is one thing I just don’t care for, it’s jumping. I don’t like any part of it. Standing on the edge of a cliff contemplating the jump, actually working up the nerve to step off the ground, falling through thin air dreading the landing, and of course the actual painful impact with the water…it’s just not for me, so I left this adventure to Vince, giving him a quick GroPro lesson and watching his jump from the other side of the falls.
He had a blast, and I enjoyed watching from a safe distance. With the fifth waterfall done, the tour was coming to an end, but the excitement was far from over. On our way back to the park entrance we encountered a band of macaques along the trail. We stopped to watch them, and noticed a few much rarer Javan Lutung, or ebony leaf monkey. These beautiful little monkeys are listed as vulnerable and have a range that is limited to Java, Bali, and Lombok. Unfortunately they were farther away from us and moving quickly behind a tangle of branches, so I didn’t manage to get any photos of them, but that didn’t stop the less timid macaques from putting on a bit of a show.
Me being me meant that we hung out with the monkeys for a somewhat abnormal amount of time, which seemed to amuse Tony, who sees Macaques all the time. When we finally did make it back to the park entrance, we had worked up a healthy appetite, and we ate Indonesian food at a nearby food stand.
With no plans for the remainder of the day, we decided to head back in the direction of Are Goling and ended up coming across what I can only describe as a school parade as we neared Koeta.
We followed the parade until we were on the main street of Koeta, the tourist hub of the south side of Lombok. Here, we parked the scooter and spent what little daylight we had left walking around town and shopping. Then we returned to Are Goling to have dinner, catch up with the surfers, and make a plan for the next day.