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Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Sumbawa Sojourn: Surfing Lakey Peak

A couple of months ago, some friends & I decided to head East from Bali on a trip to Sumbawa, namely Lakey Peak.  I wanted to get out of Bali as it was 'Nyepi' - a Hindu ritual to rid all the bad spirits from the island, a sort of Hindu / Balinese new year.  However, this means that everyone has to stay indoors for the whole day and do absolutely nothing; no going out as there are people on the streets to tell you to go back in, no loud music, no loud TV, just stay indoors & be quiet.  For which, it seemed like as good a time to hot-foot it out of there as any! This is what I learnt from my short (but amazing) trip to Sumbawa.

A return from flight from Bali to Bima (Sumbawa) with Merpati costs around 1.1million Rupiah (about $100 US) and they only leave twice a week. You can also try Lion Air who go for around 1.2million Rupiah return.  You have to pay a little bit more for a board, I think an extra 15,000 Rupiah / kg so don't stuff your boardbag!  You can book flights to Sumbawa directly from Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali and it is better than getting them through an agent in Kuta.  It's a strange trip as it is the only time I have been on a flight where every other tourist was a surfer or a surfer's girlfriend! There were some locals but they were pretty heavily outnumbered by tourists it is a much cheaper option to drive there (but obviously, it takes forever to get there by car!)  On the other hand, the 45 minute flight is no hassle at all!

Arriving at Bima Airport, you
 will see something like this...
Once at Bima Airport, after you go through 'security' (which is a total joke), you will need to negotiate a deal on a driver.  At the moment, it's a set fee to get to Lakeys  - 600,000 Rupiah or $60 US. It takes three hours and you can get up to 4 or 5 people to share I believe. This one way and they have all agreed on the price so no bargaining here! If you are staying at the Aman Gati Hotel then you will have your transport waiting for you!

Once you have got your driver and leave the doors of the airport you will have people coming at you from all angles asking you to help with your bags (see photo below!) DON'T LET THEM! They DO NOT work for the driver you are with or the the hotel you are going to - they hang around in the car park and try to make money from surfers and will demand some stupid amount of cash from you for carrying your board about 20 yards and stuffing it on top of the car (which made me wonder if they had some ding repair racket going, too!)

DON'T let these guys carry your bags
to avoid their aggro hassling! 

Once in the car, it's plain sailing - you can sit back and relax and take it all in! The landscapes are stunning and  the people will not stop waving at you for the whole time you are in Sumbawa! The drivers can be a bit crazy so it's hard to take photos from the car but generally it's an amazing journey and it gives you an idea of what to expect on your time there! I would recommend stopping in Dompu (the last town before Lakey Beach) and get some supplies, namely water as it is about half the price of everything at the beach.  It is also home to the last ATM before Lakey Beach too and don't expect them to accept your credit card!

Once you get to Lakey Beach, you will see that it is just a short stretch of hotels along a stunning and unspoilt beach.  The Aman Gati Hotel is the most expensive and best but it was out of my budget so I opted for the Balumba Bungalows.  They were around $15 US / night for two single beds, AC and en-suite bathroom.  We also had views of the peak from the bedroom window! Nice!  There are other similar places available like Puma Bungalows, all offering mostly the same for a similar price.  They are all so close together that you can easily ask the driver to have a look around at what's on offer without too much hassle.

The view from my bedroom window :)

The waves are epic but as a result can get crowded, even here in deepest, darkest Sumbawa! The main
peak at Lakeys (see above) is the wave which is always most crowded but if you get out and have a look around, there are lots of other great waves in the area to keep you 'occupied', ;-) I think the only advice would be not to surf the heavier reef breaks on low tide.  Other than that, it's epic!

Lakey Beach Surf Breaks 

Don't forget to either take anti-malarials before coming or to pack some long-sleeved t-shirts and linen trousers as the mosquitoes are everywhere in the evenings and the threat of malaria here is very real - you will see sign posts about it in many of the smaller villages and it is not something to be taken lightly.  Sumbawa is not a place you want to become ill so pack your bags wisely!

 Other medication is only available in supermarkets in places like Dompu but don't expect much, it would be a better idea to come ready-prepared for this.  I should also note that Sumbawa (as with many places in Indonesia) is a seismic hot-spot and, even though we were only there for 5 days, there were a couple of mini-earthquakes.  They are frequent and so the locals know what to expect but, if you are like me, it can be terrifying the first time! It's not something to worry about, just to be aware of.

Warning about Malaria in a town near Lakey Beach
From there on, you cannot help but enjoy yourself and love the experience! The people are as fantastic as the surrounding scenery and you will be met with nothing other than warmth.

Here is how I would sum up a Sumbawa experience in short...........

Expect; epic waves, heat, goats, buffaloes, wild horses, fishing, amazing seafood, friendly people, malaria, beautiful unspoilt landscapes, chill out vibe, world-class honey, power-cuts, the odd earthquake or two.

Don't expect; uncrowded waves, Western commodities, great hotels (except for the pricier Aman Gati Hotel!), cheap prices, many activities other than surfing, fully functioning AC (because of the power-cuts!), or to pay anything by card.

Below are some of my favourite photos from my short stay in Sumbawa........(click on them for a closer look!)                     

The serene Lakey Beach
Meeting the locals
Lakey Beach sunset

A Monarch Butterfly perched
 on a leaf just outside our room

 The omnipresent Sumbawan goats

The following photos are courtesy of David Burden Photography, who is available in Bali for weddings, parties, modelling and other kinds of shoots.

Amazingly fun session somewhere nearby......
Giovanni 'Top Gun' Cossu
Dave's sunset boat shot

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