Beginner on a bike - Lombok's stunning south coast


 

"If you can ride a bike you'll be absolutely fine." I was far from convinced. If it wasn't enough that I'd reached the age of 46 without ever having ridden a motorbike, on our way into Kuta in southern Lombok just a few hours earlier we'd witnessed the sombre aftermath of a fatal crash between a motorbike and a lorry. But still, we'd come to see the fabled beaches of South Lombok and a motorbike appeared to be the only feasible way to getting to see them. After a short demo and a ride with one of the staff from the guesthouse as my passenger, who screamed "Valentino Rossi!" in my ear as gentle encouragement as I wobbled across the car park, I was ready to go.

Of course it's easy to say after a relatively uneventful day, but for a beginner's day out on a motorbike, the quiet road along southern Lombok's coast is probably one of the less dangerous options. The few people we encountered were not in any hurry, and there are no nasty drops at the sides of the road. Best of all, the bike I had could just about touch 30 mph on the flat, and up the coast's many hills I suspect it would have been just as quick to get off and walk.  

Kuta is an unremarkable village, geared mainly towards the handful of surfers who come for the legendary waves off the southern coast. There are a handful of bars, pizza restaurants and gear shops, but nothing that would tempt a disorganised new arrival to stay in town rather than make the trip to the nearby beaches.

With my nervous wife clinging tight to me at the back of the bike, we left Kuta and apart from the occasional farmer carrying far too many rice sacks on his bike, I had no hazards to worry about. Our first stop was the beach at Mawun, a short detour from the main road. After paying 10,000 rupiah (50p) at the informal checkpoint, we parked the bike and set off to explore. A handful of  hawkers called over to us, but in the intense heat they weren't tempted to leave their seats in the shade, instead clocking us for our return when they sensibly figured that we'd be thirsty.

 

 

Mawun Beach is certainly a stunner: a long curving bay of golden sand, lush vegetation on one side and turquoise water on the other. The ocean was warm, the sand underfoot was soft, the waves gentle and unthreatening for a shaky swimmer. Taking a walk around the bay we passed a fisherman getting his boat ready for a midday sail, while a group of Indonesian girls in hijabs chatted to a tall Australian girl who towered over them in her bikini. Back in the shade I behaved as expected as I bought a coconut from the girl who'd tagged us on our arrival.

If Mawun is special, Selong Belanak Beach a few kilometres further west raises the bar a notch higher. Even these two people who are normally indifferent to beaches would have been happy to linger for an afternoon. Not only does it tick the soft golden sand/warm turquoise sea boxes, but there's plenty to watch as you laze in the sun. Confident surfers ride the waves while beginners wobble and try to balance for the first time. The colourful full-length outfits of local tourists contrast with the foreigners in their budgie-smugglers and bikinis. And to cap it all, there's the Laut Biru cafe serving light snacks and not-so-light cheesecake in the precious shade.

The ride back to town was slower (we were carrying cheesecake after all), but by the time we handed the bike back I felt thoroughly pleased with our day out. We'd enjoyed some of the finest beaches we'd ever seen, and at the same time managed to come back without any alarms. Valentino Rossi may have nothing to worry about, but at least I'll be more relaxed about taking on a motorbike if the need arises again.

 

You can get Bali included as a stopover on your RTW here