Dogs circled the horse, snarling with a ferocity that meant bloodlust.
The rider stayed calm, but panic flickered on his face. The same couldn’t be said about the horse. Paralysed by fear, its whinny pierced the evening calm. The horse’s eyes nearly bulged from its skull as the dogs nipped at its heels.
The alpha-dog lunged in and grabbed the horse’s tail. The horse lashed out but missed. Its tormentor was agile enough to dodge the fountain of sand that sprayed from the horse’s hoof.
Meanwhile, the tourists watched on, enjoying the show in the perverse human tradition that stretched back to Roman times. Yet the Indonesian locals didn’t care. Their disinterest suggested that they’d seen this all before.
For me, it felt like I was on the edge of a frontier. Kuta Lombok was that and more.
Lombok is Bali’s lesser-known neighbour. It lies east of Bali, separated by a strait of water that represents the “Wallace Line”. This line designates two major ecological zones: to the west lives the animals of Asia, while Australian fauna lives to the east. Despite being only 35 kilometres wide, the different species stick to their side of the strait. Even birds refuse to cross the water. It’s a remarkable phenomenon.
It’s no coincidence then that Lombok’s scenery is strikingly different from Bali’s. Lombok is an arid island that’s alien in appearance. Strange plants cover cone-shaped hills. The water comes in unknown shades of blue. A prehistoric feeling dominates the land — you half expect to see fish come crawling from the sea.
This feeling is strongest in Kuta, a beach town on Lombok’s south coast. It shares a name with Bali’s Kuta, but similarities end there. Blissfully undeveloped, Kuta Lombok feels lonely. Devoid of package tourists, there’s no McDonald’s or pumping nightclubs. And the scenery is completely raw.
Sweeping bays adorn the coastline, made from a giant’s scoop. Rocky hills are scattered irregularly and provide a place to watch Kuta Lombok’s famous surf breaks. Waves hit the reefs with the force of dynamite, ejecting water upwards and blanketing Kuta’s bays in a salty mist.
It’s worth coming just to see this bizarre landscape. Rugged and untamed, Kuta Lombok is bloody beautiful.
On the road
I rented a motorbike so I could explore Kuta Lombok’s neighbouring beaches. The smooth asphalt faded and I was soon riding down a dirt road. I suppose it was Kuta Lombok’s main highway. Eight lanes could’ve fitted on it. Instead, sand and gravel spun beneath my wheels. Trucks and motorbikes blitzed past me in an attempt to prove who was the stupidest.
I left the highway and landed on the world’s most pot-holed road. A war could’ve been fought on it without anyone noticing a difference. I winced as the bike crunched through the holes, dreading a puncture here. Kuta Lombok’s loneliness could be a curse and a blessing.
With some relief I turned onto a narrow lane. The grassy-floor changed to a fine white sand. I resisted grabbing the brakes as the bike slid in the corners.
The lane ended and I parked in the shade. I descended a small dune and found myself on a perfect beach. A kilometre of gold sand stretched along the crystalline shallows. The water shifted from turquoise to azure then to bubbling foam where the waves devoured the outer reef.
I thought the view couldn’t get better, but I was wrong. I climbed the headland and was rewarded with a spectacular panorama. From up here I could see even more bays stretching down the coast. They were never-ending.
Most incredible though was that there was not a single person on the beach. It was infinitely more beautiful than crowded Bali. Just a short ride from town, I’d found a paradise that was truly untouched.
Have you been to Lombok? What’s been the most unique landscape you’ve visited? Leave a comment below