Lombok is divided into four governmental regions, West, Central, East and North Lombok regency. The south of the island, expert for those areas bordering the west and east coasts, are therefore classified as "Central Lombok" although if development plans go ahead, it is likely that a new regency will be formed for the south in the next few years. For this reason, we have included a separate "South Coast" section in this magazine.
Central Lombok (Lombok Tengah) encompasses the southern slopes of the Gunung Rinjani mountain range through the centre of the island to Kuta in the south. The capital of Central Lombok is the city of praya. The northern region, located on the mountain slopes, is cooler and more lush than the south, being protected by forests and jungle and receiving abundant rainfall in the west season. There are many rivers, waterfalls and streams originating from the mountains and feeding the areas below.
Here you will see bright green rice terraces similar to the slopes of Ubud in Bali, together with fields of corn and other food crops, as well as large plantations of lush tobacco plants (Lombok is a major producer of tobacco for the export marked). Traditional villages and hamlets dot the foothills, with livelihoods centred on farming and handicraft production, such as pottery, traditional fabric making, woven grass, rattan and bamboo crafts, and woodworking. To the south, the landscape becomes much drier away from the mountains, as the area receives much less rainfall than the north. wide fields of dry crops become the norm, with the communities here strongly focused on agriculture and farming. Corn and peanuts are familiar sights, as are the water buffalo hitched to antiquated ploughs, still used to till the land. On reaching the south coast, the landscape opens up to reveal a long coastline with some of the most sublime beaches and views in indonesia.
Getting There and About
The wide and well maintained main road that runs through the cities continues east across the entire island to Labuhan Lombok on the east coast, providing easy access to the central and eastern regions. Public buses and bemos run from bertais bus terminal near Sweta, but for exploring the area properly and the small villages off the main road, private transport is essential. Tour are easily arranged with local tour operators. The roads are generally in good condition and the area can be explored by car or motorbike. Central Lombok if off the beaten track for many travellers and accommodation and places to eat in the area are scarce. What few exist are usually basic home stays and backpacker accommodations, and local warung and roadside stalls, for seasoned travellers. Alternatively, many of the villages can be explored on day trips from Senggigi or Kuta.
Activities and What to See
Following the main road around 50km from Sweta across the island, a sign posted road leads north to Tetebatu, on the southern slopes of Gunung Rinjani. This is a cool mountain village with beautiful rice terraces, forests and bright green fields of tobacco on the lower slopes wet and misty during rainy season, cool and lush during the dry. Tetebatu is a nice place to stay for a few days and a good base for exploring the nearby villages. Many travellers come to Tetebatu in the July/August high season to enjoy hiking to the waterfalls and through the rain forests in the area.
There is a nice waterfall called Air Terjun Jukut (sometimes referred to as Jeruk Manis Waterfall), located about an hour and a half walk to the north of Tetebatu, through rice fields and a monkey filled forest. The scenery is lovely and the falls are worth seeing, but it's best to take a local guide with you, as there have been problems in the past and the falls are not easy to find. The waterfall pours over a sheer cliff, about 20m high, into a pool surrounded by boulders and steep walls covered in greenery. It's a good place for a picnic and a swim weekdays are best, as it may be crowded on weekdays are best, as it may be crowded on weekends. Guides can be arranged at the home stays in Tetebatu.
Loyok, a small dusty village on the road to Tetebatu, is where families make traditional woven products, using rattan, grasses and bamboo. The baskets, boxes, mats and other weaving are of good quality and are often sent to Bali, where the fetch much higher prices than in Lombok. Visit the shops and the family compounds out the back, where there are often several generations of the same family sitting around, chatting and weaving. Woven cane and rattan placemants and pretty decorative baskets make great gifts and souvenirs to take home. Prices are cheap but, as anywhere in Indonesia, bargain down anyway (but not too low-these people need the income). Nearby is Lendang Nangka, a pretty traditional hamlet, from here it is possible to hike to Jojang Spring, with great vistas and a forest inhabited by black monkeys. Heading further east on the main road, a turnoff at Lenek leads to the small village of Pringgasela. This area is steeped in traditional and is a major centre for both songket and ikat, with the traditional fabrics produced by hand on old fashioned looms. Visit the small houses and shops here to purchase the distinctive traditionally woven, colourful fabrics.
Shopping and Markets
Heading south from the main road, about a half an hour drive southeast of Cakranegara, is the small and dusty local town of Praya, the hub of hte south and the seat of the Central Lombok governmental administration. There is a local market every Saturday and Praya is central to many of the area's handicraft villages. There area a number of warungs and small eating houses in Praya, as well as many shops selling local goods.
5 km to the west of Praya is the weaving village of Sukarara, where quality ikat and traditional woven textiles are displayed and sold. Weavers work outside many of the shops, using antiquated "back strap looms" to painstakingly produce works of art. Weavers sit 'inside' the contraption, weaving the threads by hand to create pictures and traditional emblems in the finished cloth. The more authentic pieces use thread that is hand-dyned using bark, coffee grounds, leaves, clay and other natural dyes. some of the larger pieces can take several months to weave, and collectors from around the world visit this village to purchase the blankets, sarongs and cloth produced here.
Further south, at Sengkol, there is a local market each Thursday and Beleka, about 10km east of Praya, is the site of a Wednesday market, Both sell food and vegetables, live chickens and fish, as well as some locally produced household goods. They make an interesting visit if you are in the area.
The Lombok International Airport (Bandara Internasional Lombok, abbreviated to BIL) is located on 550 hectares of land in the small village of Tanak Awu, a few kilometres south of praya and around 40 kilometres south of Mataram. The area is still very rural, but major roads were upgraded to support the airport opening in October 2011 and travel to the cities, and to Kuta in the south is easy.