Thigh high water surged around my legs, lapping at my gym shorts as Vince and I stared grimly at the deepening stretch of ocean in front of us.
“We’d better go back and stash your camera somewhere.” Vince suggested, “Don’t want another Victoria Falls.”
I sighed. I didn’t want to turn back and stash my camera somewhere. I wanted to bring it along on our hike and take pictures. But I couldn’t deny that he was right. The rising tide was gaining strength by the minute. Even if we made it across the bay to the little island without drowning the camera, there’d be no getting it back safely. I begrudgingly agreed to turn back, and we slowly retraced our steps back to the cliff-lined shore as I made sure to snap some photos of the crossing while I still had the chance. Inwardly I bemoaned our own forgetfulness. We had failed to set an alarm for that morning, and thus missed getting to the beach at low tide. Now with the water rising, our trek was quickly becoming more treacherous than I had signed on for.
We made it back to shore and quickly scrambled up a chossy cliff to stow our bags in the cover of a scraggly bush. Vince stood above me and passed down the GoPro before we descended. He asked me to spot him on his down climb, but before I could be any help at all, I lost my purchase on the sheer face, my wet sandal twisting beneath my feet. It wasn’t a massive fall, but I did manage to cut my toe and scrape the underside of my left arm from wrist to armpit.
I sighed again and tried to assess the severity of the wounds. Vince pulled up beside me to see if I was alright. I groaned in frustration, shaken and bleeding, but conceded that there was no serious damage. I was, however feeling less and less committed to battling tides and jagged rocks to climb a glorified hill.
The island loomed across the bay. Separating us from our goal were 50 yards of roiling waves and sharp rocks. With dark clouds hanging overhead, the scene looked ominous at best. Despite my waning enthusiasm, Vince and I charged back into the water. Vince was eager to climb the hill and I was eager to be done with the whole affair, so we made quick time in crossing the bay. Towards shore, the water was shallow, and the waves that crashed towards us from the open sea were buffered by a wall of rocks, but as we neared the island the water became deeper and the current stronger.
Finally we stumbled onto a sandy beach, where I could have hugged the ground. A dramatic image of myself as a haggard castaway materialized in my imagination. If I were stranded, this desolate drop of land would do little to provide food or shelter, but I wasn’t stranded and the beach was actually very picturesque.
Climbing the hill didn’t take long at all and we didn’t spend much time at the top, just snapped a few pictures and then hurried back to the beach.
The water was waste deep by the time we had finished the hike, and the current was strong enough that I had to hang onto Vince to steady myself. A few steps into the crossing I managed to cut another toe open on a sharp rock, which only served to add to my mounting anxiety. I began to plunge forward, trying to move as quickly as possible as the waves threatened to bowl me over. I couldn’t have been more relieved to finally make it back to the shallows, and then the shore.
I feel a bit fond and nostalgic when I think back on this experience, and I struggle to pinpoint a reason for that. Was the island itself much to write home about? Not really. Was it worth incurring multiple cuts and abrasions? Doubtful. Was I in a good mood at all during the ordeal? Decidedly not. Despite all of this, as I stood on dry ground, once again looking across the bay at the island, I was glad I had done it.
Now that we had climbed the island, we didn’t have any strict plans for the rest of the day so we took our time walking back to the scooter. The hike to the crossing spot had taken us over interesting volcanic rocks with endless opportunities to look for beautiful shells and to watch crabs darting in and out of sight. Now we could slow down and take it all in.
When we did finally get back to the scooter, we set off in the direction of Koeta. Our next destination was Batu Payung which, from what we could tell, was just a really big rock. After some time on the main roads, we turned off onto a bumpy dirt road (what a surprise). Along this road was a long line of beach restaurants and snack bars. Signs advertised surfing lessons, and guided tours of Batu Payung. This should have been a major tourist hub, but the beach was nearly empty.
We didn’t really see any need to hire a guide to take us to Batu Payung, although we admittedly didn’t know exactly where we were going. Our GPS had us continuing down the dirt road for another half mile, so we trusted it and kept driving. Eventually the road ceased to exist and we were riding on sandy trails instead of gravel, and then we were at the coast. There was a spot to park scooters so we stopped and took our helmets off to look around. There was no sign of a big rock, or where we might go to find one. Just as we were about to look at the map, we noticed an elderly woman slowly hobbling towards us.
She approached and asked, “Batu Payung?” as she pointed to a hill along the shore. We nodded and asked if we could walk there. She smiled in affirmation and made a walking motion with her fingers, this time saying,”Batu Payung,” as a statement instead of a question. We paid her 10,000 IDR for the parking spot and started walking.
Keeping with the theme of the day, this hike turned out to be more treacherous than we were anticipating. The tide was still high so we climbed up and over the hill the woman had pointed out, only to quickly realize that what we were on was probably not meant to be a trail. The dry hill was made of loose dirt that eroded under our feet with every step. One wrong move could send us tumbling down the sheer side of the hill onto the rocky shore below us. We moved slowly and carefully until we found a spot where we were able to clamber back down to the water. Wading through the surf seemed like a better plan than continuing on the slippery hill. This ended up being a good plan, and we were able to hike much faster.
As we walked, I noticed a strange greenish hue to the rocks along the shore.
From there it was easier to once again crest the dusty hill, and when we reached the top we could see Batu Payung.
We were lucky enough to have the quirky spot all to ourselves, and we enjoyed a peaceful hour of exploring the area. We wandered around the narrow strip of beach as waves crashed over our feet. There were interesting bits of coral and stone washed ashore in green and blue tones, and I naturally enjoyed poking around and examining them.
Hunger was what eventually drove us away from Batu Payung. It was well past lunch, so we decided to head back in the direction of Pantai Aan, the beach we had seen earlier, and find somewhere to grab a snack.
We pulled up to a food stand and ordered drinks and some garlic bread to share, then grabbed a couple of lounge chairs under an umbrella. We relaxed and enjoyed our food, watching kite surfers maneuver their boards across rolling waves. After we were done eating, we walked the beach, exploring tide pools and rocky outcroppings.
With no other plans for the day, we went into Koeta for an early dinner and chose to eat at El Bazar, a restaurant Tony (the host at our Airbnb) had recommended. I don’t typically gush over food, but El Bazar deserves to be mentioned. It is a Greek restaurant with lovely atmosphere and even better food. Upon scouring the menu, I couldn’t decide between three different vegetarian dishes, so Vince and I made the logical choice of just ordering all three and splitting them. When the meals arrived they looked like a lot, but we were up to the challenge.
The food was fairly light since it was all vegetarian, so we ended up managing to eat all of it. I could go on about how delicious it was, but honestly just thinking about it is making my stomach growl so I think I need to wrap this up and move on.
After dinner we made the drive back to Are Goling for the last time. We passed by the chili farm at the base of the hill, and then climbed up the steep incline to the bungalows. It was sad to think about leaving the next day. Our stay at Are Goling had been wonderful, and Lombok had been a relaxing break from my usual frantic schedule.
That evening we stayed up talking to Tony and Doug (one of the surfers who was staying at Are Goling). We talked about the places we were from and the places we’ve been. We listened to Tony and Doug regale us with tales of horrific surfing accidents. We told lighter hearted tales, and laughed late into the night. When we finally did retreat to the bungalow for the last time it was with mixed emotions. I was sad to leave Lombok, but the next day we would be in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the Komodo Islands. Even though this portion of the trip was ending, our Indonesian adventure was far from over.