Several people recommended that we give Sumbawa a miss completely. It is the island East of Lombok, and doesn’t have any major tourist attractions except surfing. Norman was even considering not going, but the surfing just sounded too promising, so we missioned on over from Lombok.
I say missioned because it really was a mission. As usual we wanted to find the cheapest way, but Norman has become increasingly wary of local transport (and for good reason) because it can be painfully slow, difficult and it usually involves getting ripped off somewhere along the line. We did some asking around in Kuta, Lombok and eventually mapped out a route taking local bemos. This process would have been the cheapest but in the end we decided there was too much risk involved. We can’t speak Indonesian and we would have had to make at least 5 stops and change to a new bemo each time, so things could have gotten too complicated. In the end we figured splitting a Blue Bird Taxi between the 2 of us only amounted to 60 000 IDR more each, and we went with that option.
Once our taxi had driven us to the East coast of Lombok and dropped us at the harbour, we paid a mere 14 000 IDR to board the ferry that we were perfectly in time for. The ferry ride was pleasant enough, and took about 2 hours. Arriving at Sumbawa, the difference to Bali and Lombok was stark. It has a much more arid look to it, without the lush forests of the other 2 islands.
We asked around for a bemo and eventually found one that was honestly so crowded I don’t know how we fitted in. I spent the whole ride hunched over with my backpack on my lap and my knees almost up to my chest. Painful. And then to make matters worse we were dropped at the wrong bus stop. Merely on principle I refused to pay one of the many people making offers to take us to the correct bus stop (for a fee obviously) and I insisted we start walking. I was so mad, because the driver lied and told us that is was the correct place, knowing we would have to pay some other local to get to the actual correct place. By pure luck we met a kind guy who drove us there in his pick up for free! So my persistence (or stubbornness perhaps) paid off, for once.
So once we were at the correct bus stop, which actually did not resemble any bus stop I have ever seen because there was literally no sign or designated area, we waited. It was a normal street lined with shops and things, but apparently a bus stops on a small piece of gravel on the one side. A bus did come by and we hopped aboard. We checked with 3 locals and they all said the cost was 12 000 IDR. Happy at snatching this bargain, we sat back and tried to enjoy the hour and a half drive. The bus was so old and broken, I can honestly not believe it made it some up of the hills it did. Anyway, we arrived in one piece, and that was when the fiasco started. I handed the driver 24 000 IDR to pay for Norman and I, and a great fight ensued. In summary: he wanted 100 000 IDR from each of us because we were ‘big’ compared to the others who paid 12 000 IDR so obviously we contested that because we could have hired a private (and safe) car for that price. The manager of the hotel where we were dropped came out and tried to reason with the driver but he wouldn’t budge. I offered to meet him halfway (almost) and pay 50 000 IDR for both of us but he wanted 50 000 IDR each then. It was a horrible experience, and one that put us off local transport even more.
Anyway, after a long day of travelling we had arrived at Yoyo’s Hotel, and we were pleased to have a nice room with aircon for only 100 000 IDR! And I set that aircon right up and went for a nap.