The 250 kilometer long road between the regional capitals Sumbawa Besar and Dima has recently been widened and improved. The distance can be passed in about five hours if you have a car with a driver without hitting loose chicken, dogs or goats. A lot has changed since the 1970's, when this was a trip of about 11 hours on an unpaved road full of dust. The regular bus services take about seven hours. The first part of the trip from Sumbawa Besar is kind of boring, but the second part has a lot more to offer. Try to get a seat in the front, or near a window on the left side, the best places are at this side, where the sea is as well.
Weaving in Pato
It is, after leaving Sumbawa Besar, not a bad thing to stop the hired car for a while in Pato for a visit to the songket-weavers. Songket is a fabric in which silver threats are woven. The material itself is hand-woven on traditional weaving machines. When the women didn't have anything else to do in their lives, it would take 45 full days to produce one complete cloth, which are only worn during ceremonial occasions. The high price they ask for it is not an unreal amount. But you can also get cheaper fabrics, of course with a little less good quality.
Turn left near the 6-kilometer sign, follow the road to the village of Moyo and drive another two kilometers to Pato. Women are often weaving at home. Otherwhise they are willing to give a demonstration. The next line will probably perform a small miracle: "Dimama ada orang tenun kain songket?" (Is there anyone which weaves songket?).
The next part of the main road is kind of boring. At the 40 kilometer sign the flatness is broken by several cone-shaped hills, but you have to wait for 78 kilometers from Sumbawa Besar before you see the sea, near Labuhan Bontong. Here are many small fishermens boats on a background of Gunung Tambora. Two kilometers ahead the road runs inland towards Empang. At the 100 kilometer sign the village of Labuhan Jambu starts, a village on pawls.
The view is dominated by dozens of small canoos, bigger boats - among them bagan, a kind of mobile fishing platform with a strong belly - which float around in the huge Bay of Saleh. The road runs over the coastal hills and cuts through the bases of many smaller peninsulas which stretch into the bay. Groups of monkeys wait for a small snack from the other side of the road. Every once in a while you will see a cock running over the street.
At the end of the bay you can see the first hills and the vegetation gets bigger and more dense. This piece of road has only been completed in the early 1990's. From some altitude you can see the creeks of the Bay of Saleh and the Kowangku Islands as well.
Gunung Tambora Peninsula
Via a mountain ridge, the road reaches Soriutu, located on a plain where rice is build, surrounded by hills. A 90 kilometer long road from Soriutu to the west follows the southern coast of a huge peninsula, dominated by Gunung Tambora.
This picturesque, bad road ends near Calabai, a wood city along the coast. Fifteen kilometer inland is Pancasila, where you can rent guides for a trip on the Tambora. A heavy trip which takes two to three days. Calabai can be reached by bus from Bima and from Dompu by truck (several times a day), but it's easier to take the boat from Sumbawa Besar.
The road which runs from Soriutu to the north soon reaches the Bay of Sanggar, where it splits: a reasonable good road towards the west, to Kore and Piong, and a less good road towards the northeast, to Kilo.
Plateau of Dompu
Back on the main road you will pass a hilly ridge before you reach the green, fertile plains near Dompu, the first cultivated area after Sumbawa Besar. Here, the women wear rimpu, a sarong around the head and shoulders and only leaves the face to be seen. The local equivalent of the usually while jilbagb (Arabic) or kerudung (Indonesian), worn by girls which visit islamic schools. Several years ago the rimpu was worn on a more conservative way, but that has been loosened up a little.
Dompu has several losmen. Several of them are clean and confortable. Most travellers don't even stop here; most continue their trip until Bima. Exceptions are mainly some Australian surfers which go to Hu'u via Ranggo, about fourty kilometers south of Dompu.
Surfing near Hu'u
The waves near Hu'u, along the Bay of Cempi, are usually good in June, July and August during the southeastern monsoon. Since 1987, when Hu'u was discovered for it's great surfing, the losmen who aim at surfers have become popular here. But it's nothing compared to the beach of Kuta on Bali: the waves are not overcrowded. There is a daily bus service between Dompu to Hu'u. The waters close to the beach seemed too merky to snorkle, but surfers told that the view is better just off the coast, where the waves break on the edge of the reef.
Saltproduction near Bima
Beyond Dompu the road lingers through the hilla and sloped ricefields, to reach the salt plains around the Bay of Bima (Teluk Bima). The low dykes around the salt plains are regularly opened, when fresh seawater is irrigated into the plains. The salt is packed into blue bags. The sun takes care of the harvest, during the dry season there is a 'harvest' every five to seven days. One hectare brings in about 2.000 kg of salt.
The road runs around the southern tip of the bay in the direction of the airport, 17 kilometers outside the city, and runs close to the shores of the bay in which fishermen are always active. After crossing the raised road with on both sides the salt plains and a Chinese graveyard on the right side, there is Bima. On a small hill at the edge of the city is a Balinese temple.