Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bumbang Ku

Bumbang Ku 

We were met in the harbour at Gili Air by our guide for the day, Awan. Boat transfers and a very swish car with driver had been pre-organized for us.  The harbour on Lombok to which we arrived is called Bangsal. It is very busy with fishing boats, smelly market and small wurungs lining every street.

We had had much discussion with both Madin and Awan about exactly Bumbangku Ku Beach Cottages were.  They kept saying we meant Bangku Bangku, which is a long way west of where we needed to head. So in the end we just told them, Gerupuk!

The road leading to the new freeway was pot holed and very rough. Soon we were on the way to a wedding.

This was held in a very tiny, impoverished fishing village. The bride was Madin's daughter! We were invited to attend the actual ceremony.  This was held in the very small mosque in the centre of the village.  We followed the bride and her new family-to-be to the mosque. The bride was beautifully dressed with a lovely yellow lace jelba covering her head and arms.  It was decorated with yellow lace flowers and silver sequins at the edge.

The inside of the mosque was lined with the local male dignitaries all wearing Indonesian hats and sarongs. We sat outside peering in.  Soon we were asked to join the bridal party inside the mosque! It was a bit uncomfortable becuse we know that women ar not allowed inside with the men and here we were both being invited in.  There was some scurrying about as appropriate sarongs were found for both Peter and I.  This was to be wrapped around our waists to hide the legs! Both of us had hats on. We were told we could take photos and move about during the ceremony at the appropriate times to take other photos.  

The wedding papers were examined in detail by the Amir. Then the ceremony began with Madin giving his daughter to his future son-in-law. He asked the groom whether he would look after his daughter, etc. The boy had to reply, helped by prompting from the older men, upon which the two men shook hands.  Then came the vows between the two young people.  The groom was very nervous and couldn't get the words right.  He tried again and again, with much prompting.  Beads of sweat were now pouring off his face.  Eventually the Amir gave him the written script to read to try to help him get the words correct.  Again and again he tried, always with something wrong.  At last he got the words right and there was much cheering and clapping in the mosque.  Then it was the bride's turn.  She was word perfect the first time!  Some money was exchanged. That was the end of the ceremony.  Very simple. The marriage was a love marriage apparently, not arranged as one would assume! Everyone was given a small sealed container of water with a straw.  We didn't stay to participate in the wedding breakfast - there was still a long way to drive!

The drive to Mattaram, the capital of Lombok, took us along a dual carriage highway that was still being completed in some sections.  In Mattaram we needed to buy a new memory card for my camera, buy airline tickets back to Denpassar and get some ear drops for Peter who now had waxed up water in his ear!  We were taken to a very new shopping complex.  This surprised us as we had assumed, wrongly, that such a place didn't exist in Lombok.

Being Sunday, it was a public holiday for most people, so the money exchanges and banks were all closed.  People throughout Lombok were enjoying a day out.  The public beaches were all crowded with families enjoying the wurungs, picnics and socialising with one another.  

Our journey took us through irrigated and very intensely farmed areas.  Rice paddies, vegetables, cotton and tobacco are all grown in this region.  The remaining areas we drove through were very dry. Lombok is very dry by comparison to Bali!

I really wanted to look at the famous Ikat weaving done in the women's weaving commune.  Our guide took us to this small commune village in the heart of Sukurara.  This is where the ceremonial sarongs are made renowned throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.  The pieces are hand and foot woven on very ancient looms.  The women have to wear a woven belts to protect their backs and stomachs because the wooden stabilizers for the weft and warp are at the  front of the looms and the women sit between then using their bodies to hold the theads taut.

I wasn't disappointed.  The work was exquisite! It takes at least a week for the loom to be prepared for the woven pattern before weaving can begin.  Through each thread divider, two strands must be placed. The thread dividers are less than 1mm apart and less that 1mm in width, so the work is very fine.  The women use mostly cotton, but also silk and gold and silver thread.  Only about 10cm can be woven on each day, so they are also painstakingly slow to make.

The head woman of the commune took us around the village to view the women making the cloth.  The village was very poor, with each small house having just 2 rooms - a bedroom and a kitchen with a small open area at the front; room enough to keep the loom.  The men and women are all involved in farming, so the weaving takes place in the down time.  Although the houses were built so close to one another and the people so desperately poor, there were no nasty smells.  The houses inside were immaculate.

The drive took us past the new international airport, due to be opened on October 1; two weeks too late for us!

After this the road began to deteriorate. By 4.00pm we had reached the small port of Gerupuk, where we were supposed to call the hotel to let them know of our arrival so they could send the hotel boat to collect us.  But the phone calls made to Bumbangku all gave the same message that the phone could not be connected.  So with this we proceeded to hire the services of a local boatman.  He could however, see that we hadn't been there before and had no clue about the correct charge to take us to our hotel, so we were swindled we later discovered!

From Gerupuk it is impossible to see Bumbangku  so here we were on a local fishing boat heading out to sea with no idea where we supposed to go, with a boatman who spoke very limited English.  We past seaweed farming and a few crayfish farms. The seaweed is used in the manufacture of cosmetics. We passed one of the famous Lombok surfing spots, a long way out to sea and breaking just before a rocky reef. All surfers have to catch a boat in order to surf here. A floating bar at the edge of the break allows the surfers to have a rest and a drink.  Finally we rounded a rocky hill protruding from the sea, to catch our first glimpse of our hotel.

Bumbangku Beach Cottages is located in a very sheltered bay towards the most southeasterly tip of Lombok.  It is the only hotel located in the area and best arrived by boat because the road to it is almost impassable. The hotel in Gili Air was a three star hotel, Bumbang Ku a one star hotel.

Within the bay is very intensive lobster farming, but not yet extensive enough to detract from the resort feel of the place.  Most of the accommodation is bamboo cottages with thatched roofs with attached outdoor bathrooms;  these contain a hole-in-the-ground toilet, flushed by bailing water from a large urn, and a cold water shower - quite OK in this climate. We have one of the larger cottages - about 3.5 m by 3m.

When we first arrived there were several other guests; three French couples, an Aussie family and a New Zealand women with her adult daughter.  Tony ( Aussie) had a Phd in political economics, so our conversations were very interesting as we discussed the current political situation in Australia.  His wife, Julia, is a psychologist working in schools.

The French tourists in this part of the world make no allowances for local etiquette.  The "partner" of one French couples insisted on bathing with a g-string and completely topless.  This is an Islamic island, so the behaviour affronted the sensibilities of the local Sassak people.  Another had an anger management problem, which he took out on the staff when he was kept awake by a local village wedding - nothing at all to do with the hotel. On another occasions he screamed at the staff when he arrived late for breakfast and the coffee was cold.  He ranted and raged for almost an hour, yelling personal verbal abuse and swearing. It turned out that although he spoke French with his French wife, he was from Barcelona.  I wonder what John Cleese would have made of that?

An extremely thin female dog visited the restaurant for each meal and then went away again.  She has been named Dolly by the New Zealanders because of her big tits.  She has produced four fat and cute puppies, hiding them in a small cave nearby away from the villagers and other dogs. She has obviously wasted herself away with feeding the pups and needs a good feed, a good worming and a good home!

The owner of Bumbang Ku is a woman called Nunung.  She seems to be an extremely successful business woman, who owns a real estate business and a separate tourism booking office in Mataram.  She came to visit her latest venture, the hotel at Bumbang, twice whilst we were there. Nunung has wonderful people skills.  She provided, for all the tourists, a delicious free lunch of fresh Blue Swimmer Crabs and local vegetable called celerik.  A truly delicious meal! I taught Sono, the chef, how to make Chilli Ginger Crab.  Anyway the vile Frenchman (from Barcelona) went home happy.

The reason for providing the lunch , was in fact, not to appease the Frenchman from Barcelona, but to apologize for the water problems.  Whilst we were there, a new and deeper well was being drilled.  The contractors needed water from the first well to dig the second well. So without notifying the hotel staff, the water was completely disconnected for long stretches at a time.  Then the old pump wasn't strong enough to pump the water up out of the new and much deeper shaft.

Bumbang Ku has only been open since January 2011.  So what Nunung has achieved in that time is truly remarkable.  The location is so remote that there were no infrastructure facilities such a water, power, telephone and internet when she first bought the land.  In early 2011, a well was sunk, generator purchased and telephone (not reliable) were installed; cottages were built, of the bamboo variety and some deluxe units built.

We were very ably looked after by the staff, Anggar, the manager come fixit man, Sono, the chef, Simi, his assistant, Issey, the gardener and  Mutazam, the housekeeper.

We have tried to do a long walk every day. There are three very small villages nearby.  All of them are involved somehow with the sea, either as fishermen or aquaculturalists for lobster or seaweed.  The village to the east is extremely poor having the poorest soils and very limited water.  This village is situated right beside a national park of 380 hectares.  A small strip of sea abutting the peninsular of the national park is marine park.  However, the ranger only spends about one day per month here, so no policing of logging or removal of trees happens.

On day three, some lovely South African women, Dee and Marianne, arrived with a friend from Kalimantan.  They were fun to be with. Both live in Cape-town.   Marianne, has with her husband, purchased the block next door, onto which they also plan to build a small holiday resort. Two of Dee's kids represent South Africa, a daughter is an Olympic water polo player and the other, a son, Paul Harris, a slow spin bowler.

On day five, we took the boat and a driver to have lunch at a well known restaurant, Astari, high in the hills above Kuta, Lombok. We asked the driver to give us a bit of a sightseeing tour of some of the local attractions before we went to lunch.  I wanted to visit the local market to see what spices and herbs were available in the local area.  We wanted to buy some tea leaves for a decent cup of tea as well as some other sorts of spices so that I could cook something different in the hotel kitchen. 

The driver took us to a traditional Sassak village. This was beautiful, very tightly packed together houses all made from wood, bamboo and palm fronds.  It was surprisingly cool, no smells despite the fact that there was no running water anywhere.  Toilets are all long drops and bathrooms open air structures with a large urn for water and a pail. Women in the village were weaving and making jewelry from coconut shells and colored beads. The villagers have community rice paddies in which they all work, down on the flat below the village.

Then we were taken to a batik workshop, where we watched a man designing batik lengths of cloth on the floor.  Each motive was done on the fabric with it draped over the hand, all perfectly positioned and separate from each other.  It turned out that he was a designer and creating new symbols for the island of Lombok on the cloth. These included, Tamarind, chillies, spinach leaves, onions and garlic.

The road to Astari Restaurant was dreadful.  Supposed to be tar, but with the worst holes and sand patches imaginable. Two cars driving up were forced to turn back because their car didn't have enough power to make it up the steep hill. Apparently there have been many very serious accidents leading up to the restaurant.

The lunch was very nice, but the chef at Bumbang Ku makes far tastier food! The best thing about the Astari restaurant is it's location.  The view is spectacular! From the restaurant verandah you can see Bumbang to Kuta, with the surf, reefs and steep mountainsides.

The owner of Astari is a man called, Gaz - an Aussie.  He asked us where we came from, and told us that he had a cousin living somewhere in the Narooma area, did we know him.  Graeme Mummie lives at Potato Point and we know him and his wife Lynne very well!

It was sad to leave Bumbang Ku, as we felt that we were leaving a kind and friendly family.

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