Senaru Waterfalls

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May 30th 2018
Published: May 31st 2018
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Today Brian and I have booked a full day tour to the Senaru waterfalls, which are in the foothills of Mount Rinjani about a two hour drive north of the resort. Our guide introduces himself as Ifan.

We head north along the main road around the island. It might be the main road, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not very narrow. It is nominally two lanes, but we need to pull off the bitumen whenever a truck comes the other way. We share the road with an endless stream of motorbikes, as well as stray goats, chickens, dogs and the odd cow. I don’t think it would be good if we ran into a cow, and based on what we’ve seen so far we suspect that the average life span of a dog that lives anywhere near this road couldn’t be more than a few days.

We stop to visit a local market in the town of Tanjung. The market is big and busy, and it doesn’t look like there’s anything in the way of local produce that you couldn’t buy here. We’re in an overwhelmingly Muslim area, and Ifan tells us that it would be "impossible" to buy alcohol anywhere in Tanjung. No such problem however with tobacco, which you can buy by the large bagful. Also no issue with buying enough fireworks to light up a small city. There’s plenty of fish and meat for sale, although the raw and unrefrigerated chicken covered in flies doesn’t look all that appetising. Ifan tells us that most households in Lombok would typically own three or four motorbikes, which would explain the hundreds of them parked in front of the market.

We drive on, and cross a number of bridges across very dry riverbeds. It occurs to us that there hasn’t been a single drop of rain since we arrived in Lombok. We’re supposed to be on our way to see waterfalls, but we begin to wonder whether they’ll have any water in them.

We stop by the side of the road, and Ifan pulls some peanuts up out of the ground for us to taste. They are much more moist and less crispy than the ones we get in packets from the supermarket. He also shows us some rice plants. An individual plant doesn’t seem to have all that many grains of rice on it, so it must take a lot of plants to make up a packet. No wonder so much of the land here is taken up with rice paddies.

We start to climb up into the foothills of Mount Rinjani. We’ve read previously that it is a very active volcano which last erupted only a couple of years ago. We pass a sign telling people which way to run down the hill when it erupts. We’ve seen similar signs telling people which way to run up the hill if there’s a tsunami. I hope these two zones don’t overlap; I’d want there to be at least somewhere we’d be able to take refuge if the volcano decided to erupt during a tsunami.

We reach the village of Senaru, and Ifan introduces us to our guide for the trek to the waterfalls. He in turn introduces himself as Simon. I say "hello Simon", and he somehow translates this as meaning that my name is Simon as well. Whilst the conversation that follows is a bit confused, it is a lot better than what usually happens in these situations. Usually what would happen is that I would tell Simon that my name was Dave, he would think that my name was Dive, and he would then quickly go on to suggest that rather than trekking to the waterfalls I might be more interested in going diving somewhere.

The path to the waterfalls follows a large irrigation channel, which has been constructed halfway up the side of the very steep gorge. It is partly an open canal, and partly a two metre or so diameter tunnel through the hillside. Simon tells us that it is over fifty years old, and was hand-dug by the local villagers. The whole system looks like a major feat of engineering, which would have required a ridiculous amount of manual labour to construct. The channel supplies water to all the rice terraces which we can see in the valley far below us.

We reach the impressive first waterfall which is known as Tiu Kelep.

We’d been wondering why we needed a guide, as so far the path has been flat and very easy to negotiate. We keep walking along the base of the very steep sided gorge towards the second waterfall which is known as Sendang Gile. The path quickly deteriorates, and then stops completely at the edge of the river. It seems that we now need to wade across some waist deep rapids, to reach the continuation of the path on the other side. Brian takes one step into the river, and one of his thongs breaks. This is not good. Simon tells him that it’s still twenty minutes to the second waterfall, and that we’ll need to climb up more rocky paths and wade through more rapids to get there. Doing this barefoot would not seem to be a particularly attractive proposition. Just when all seems lost, another pair of thongs miraculously appears on the edge of the path. We’re not at all sure who they belong to, but there’s no one else around so we decide that they’re fair game. Even more miraculously, they’re a perfect fit for Brian’s foot. We struggle on through thick jungle and more waist-deep rapids. The only things missing that would make this into a movie grade jungle adventure are the crocodiles and piranhas. We’re pretty sure now that the reason they make you take a guide with you is to make sure that you don’t die. The second waterfall is even more spectacular than the first. The near vertical sides of the gorge around it are covered in bright green vegetation and look like a massive vertical garden.

Next stop is a traditional Indonesian village, which is a bit further up the valley next to the start of the trekking path to the summit of Mount Rinjani. The village is full of straw huts. I‘m not sure too many Indonesian villagers live in straw huts any more, and we suspect that it is only here for the benefit of tourists. This suspicion is confirmed when we find that we need to make a "donation" to the village before they’ll let us leave.

We have dinner overlooking the beach back at the resort. Brian’s been doing a bit of research and shares some snippets from some articles he’s read with us while we wait for our meals.

The reef off the beach next to the restaurant was apparently damaged a few years ago by someone from a nearby village, who decided that it might be a good idea to catch fish here by blowing them up with dynamite. The article goes on to say that “he eventually stopped when he blew himself up”. Yep, that'll do it.

We knew that Muslims weren’t allowed to eat, drink or smoke during Ramadan, but another article says that they’re also not allowed any “extreme emotion”. We suspect this means that they needn’t bother opening the maternity ward at the local hospital for a few weeks about nine months from now.

It's been a long day.....

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