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Central Lombok
Pottery, fabrics and seaworms

Central-Lombok is the tourist heart of the Island. The area concludes the traditional villages which are visited in most day trips - and which are not far from the 'big three' cities - and the southern coast: the beach of Kuta, where the festivities around the sea worms (nyale) takes place and Tanjung Aan, with beautiful beaches for surfing. Many travel agencies organize day trips to these easy to reach destinations.

For those who are more than just a little bit interested in the Sasak culture certainly has to bring a visit to the village of Batu Kumbung, northeast of Mataram. It's a traditional Sasak-village, 3.5 km north of the Narmada Water-palace. Some woman still weave traditional fabrics, decorated by the ikat-technique. There is a creek which is said to be healing.

The village has a certain degree of fame because of it's music- and dance-groups. They perform in the region at weddings. The environment is very good for a walk. You can learn the local dances or learn to play an instrument. It's possible to spend the night in a home-stay.


The tourist route first takes you towards the southeast to Praya (markets are held on Saturdays). Just before this district capital a right turn brings you to the weaving village of Sukarara. Along the main road are five weaving factories. These centers consist of a traditional wooden floors, protected by a roof. Each center has a shop which sells the local fabrics, without being pressured by smart tricks. Negotiating is normal.
Picture: Lumbung
Another turn from the main road leads to the pottery area, concentrated around the village Penujak. Near the 'promotion center' in the village you can often find people working on projects, like water jars with decorations of lizards and frogs. They are sold on the local market, but they also make 'tourist' products like vases and jars with covers. The objects are created from rolls of wet clay, which is beaten into shape with a flat stick. The daily production is often baked off in the late afternoon. You can buy these products in the local shop. Six nearby settlements also offer pottery products. In Kampung Tenandon, they use gas-ovens, so the creators can make stronger and thinner products. The smallest objects are also glazed.

Sade: Traditional Houses

More south you will arrive in the village of Sade after you have passed the little town of Sengkol. There are many traditional houses and rice sheds here. The building permit doesn't allow the construction of modern houses with red paned roofs here. Small boys, which sometimes speak some English, guide the tourist through the village and explain everything of which they think it's interesting. The government constructed a concrete path through the village in the late 1980's, probably because too many tourists fell here.

Along the path you can now buy ikat-fabrics. The ladies who are selling, have much experience and will trick you if you don't see through it. The traditional houses have a platform inside which is built one meter above the ground, and is made of a mixture of clay, droppings and straw, which is polished into a shining floor. The roof is made from natural products, the walls are made from bamboo or palm leafs.Sade, a village with just more than 150 farmers families, has a big number of had-shaped rice sheds on pillars (lumbung), which have become the symbol of Lombok.

Kuta: The Nyale-ritual

From Sade it's just a small jump to the southern coast near the village of Kuta (markets on Sundays). The area is used for the construction of hotels, but still is a reasonably quiet place. You can also find losmen there, as well as restaurants. The nature along the eight-kilometer coastal road from Kuta to Tanjung Aan and Grupuk, which runs close to the beach of the bay, is just splendid.

The beach of Kuta is home to one of the most remarkable annual rituals of Lombok, the Bau Nyale. Every year, five to seven days after the second full moon (usually in February, sometimes in March) a sea worm living under the limestone rocks, starts it's reproduction cycle by sending eggs and seamen to the surface of the sea. This same event also takes place elsewhere in Indonesia, for example on Sumba, where it is the start of the Pasola ritual.

The population of Lombok believes - just like the Sumbanese - that the number of these nyale, as well as several aspects of their behavior, have a direct influence on the coming harvests of rice. There is a legend about a beautiful princess which was desperate because of the many fighting candidates for marriage and threw herself into the sea. From her hair, the nyale were born. A legend of the same kind is used on Sumba.

Just before the appearance of the nyale, thousands of people spend their nights on the beach of Kuta. When the worms are seen, the ritual is opened by the mangku, the leader of the traditions. The fertility aspect of the ritual is shaped into a form which unique to Lombok, a conservative community in which young men of marriageable age have little possibilities of contact. During the nyale-festivities, parents are less strict for their daughters, and young people can have contact with each other without control, but only in groups. Courtesy is only allowed in public; not everything is possible.

Young men and women, dressed to their best, form separate groups and walk around to see what is available. Flirting is done by poetic songs and subtle word games; the opposite of macho behavior. There is a good, happy atmosphere.

As sunrise the youngsters get to sea in boats to collect the worms. Later on these animals are consumed in different ways: raw, mixed with coconut, grilled, salted and fermented partially. They are also kept in bamboo It is said that eating nyale-worms stimulates sexual feelings.

The government, which is looking for ways to make the ritual more attractive for tourists. For years, actors were hired to act as the princess from the legend. This is kind of useless, since the tradition is attractive enough. The 'play' belongs to the tourist hotels, but not on the beach of Kuta during the local rituals.

Tanjung Aan: Beautifull Bay

From Kuta, the coastal road goes towards the east to Tanjung Aan, a bay which is a kilometer wide. Big waves break on several rocky islands in the mouth of the bay. The wide sand beach catches the blue-green seawater, where seaweed is grown on bamboo rafts. There is a hotel, which was closed even before it was opened, probably because it was built too close to the water.

After Tanjung Aan, the road continues for a couple of kilometers to the village of Grupuk, where the recent introduction of seaweed cultures, for agar-agar, has brought in the very needed rupiah. Close to here, it seems to be a very good surfing spot, it is named 'Desert Point' by the Australians.

Just before Tanjung Aan a 13 km long unpaved road leads to the village of Awang, located along the shore of a big bay where the settlements are still very traditional. Only a few people take this road. From a hill just before Awang you have a good view over the bay.
Picture: Seaweed
A big number of bamboo rafts with seaweed float on the sea. The others tie colored flags on it for recognition. In Awang you can charter a canoe with motor for a visit to Batu Nampar, a village more to the east. From Batu Nampat is a good road towards the north. Several times a day bemo can bring you to Sengkol.

It's a good idea to spend the night near Kuta, and to return by another road. For a very nice view over the entire area you can make the short but steep climb to the peak of the hill west of Kuta. There is a paved road straight to the top, where you can find something of a hotel. The view is very beautiful.

Batu Nampar: Traditional Villages

From Kuta you can go to Batu Nampar via Sengkol, Mujur and Ganti. Shortly after the turn of Ganti to Batu Nampar you will find the big village of Batu Rintang. Here are only traditional houses and rice sheds. Only few tourists come here; the residents are very interested in the habits of foreigners.

The village across the road has the little friendly name Mata Mailing, 'thieves eye'. In several parts of Central- and South-Lombok thieves are admired as long as they steal from other villages (often cattle) and share the profit. Stealing dates back from the time that there often was hunger. Smart cattle thieves were proud of their title 'master thief'.

Outside Batu Nampar are big salt planes and in the bay are the familiar seaweed platforms. Buginese and Mandarese migrants, which rather use the pillar-houses from their homeland, are more usual than the traditional Sasak housing. Some of these houses have beautifully colored, geometrical motives on the walls. In Batu Nampar you can rend a boat to the other side of the bay, to the village of Ekas. The trip takes about one hour.

Tanjung Luar: Buginese Settlement

From Batu Nampar the journey continues to the north and near Ganti to the east, to two coastal settlements: Ekas and Tanjung Luar. To reach Ekas, you turn south, pass Jerowaru (markets on Thursdays) and follow a good, unpaved road until the village at the eastern shore of the Awang bay. The road runs through a nice landscape along salt panes and low coastal hills. You can probably find a motorized canoe in Ekas for the way back to Batu Nampar of Awang. To reach Tanjung Luar you have to go to the east from Ganti, through Keruak and further to the coast.

Tanjung Luar is inhabited by Buginese migrans grom South-Sulawesi. Most residents are fishermen; they mainly catch squid, especially in the period October to April. On the long, curvy black sandy beach are hundreds of small boats, and right of the pier are several bigger boats.

At low tide the village people go on the flat reef to look for shells, but who wants to see that has to accept the loud screams: Turis! Turis!. Also be careful at the beach, it is often used as public toilet as well.

In Tanjung Luar you can rent boats for a daytrip to Tanjung Ringgit on the southeastern most tip of the peninsula. There ia not much else to see northeast of Tanjung Luar. On the way back you should stop near Keruak, to see the traditional canoe building. Craftsmen work along the southern side of the road, just before the crossing in the center of the town.

Beleka: Art and Tobacco

From Batu Nampar you can also return to the east-west main road via the art-village Beleka (market on Wednesday). In the center of Gadin Mas, rattan and bamboo baskets are made, objects with pottery with decorations and shells. You can buy lots of things. A big part of the production is shipped to Bali, where people pay much more.

The arid soil around Beleka is brand for South- and Eastern-Lombok. Tobacco is the most important crop, which needs little water. There are several dams which don't seem to have more to do than offering people a place for bathing and washing. Late in the afternoon the road is not very fast, because water buffalo's are taken home. After Besun (market on Thursdays) you will arrive in Kopang. Both villages, as well as Ganti in the south, are good starting points for a visit to East-Lombok.

Last revised on December 14, 2009
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