call of Nature
Christina Schott, The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Wed, 04/22/2009 8:22 PM |
A German couple who found their piece of paradise in a remote area of Lombok opened it up for others to enjoy. Christina Schott spends a few days in the shadow of Mount Rinjani.
I don’t want to leave yet.
That was my first thought when I woke, as the beginnings of dawn shimmered through the curtain. Wrapped in my bed covers, I climbed out of my bungalow’s sleeping chamber onto the open balai below. Still half asleep, I soaked up the extraordinarily fresh air and all the noises surrounding me like a second cover – the rhythmic cacophony of crickets and geckos, chirping swallows, the gurgling of a preening turkey, the wooden bells of some distant cows and the pleased nickering of a horse.
Somewhere behind me, Rinjani Mountain hid itself in the impervious mist, but finally some shafts of sunlight managed to pierce over the rim. Slowly, paddy fields and coconut groves emerged in the bright whitish light floating down the mountain’s steep slope and into the Pacific Ocean some five kilometers away. I dozed again in the relaxing knowledge that I would definitely stay another day in this astonishing corner of the world.
Seems I’m not the first.
“Many people who come here for just one night end up spending a few days,” confirms Roland Frommlet, who owns Rinjani Mountain Garden with his wife, Toni.
The well-hidden resort is located 3.7 kilometers uphill from the small town of Bayan on the northern slope of majestic volcano Rinjani on Lombok Island. Roland and Toni used to sail around the world with their charter yacht, offering tours for groups and individuals. For several years, they were based in Bali organizing sailing trips to Lombok, Komodo and Flores.
“After 10 years, however, we were getting tired and needed to settle down”, says Toni, now 58.
So they set out to look for their personal paradise. From the back of a motorbike, they scanned neighboring islands Bali and Lombok to find a spot suited to their needs.
After more than a year of searching, Roland rumbled up a bumpy road in Northern Lombok that seemed to end in the middle of nowhere.
“But when I turned around and saw the panorama, I knew that I found the place I was looking for,” the former skipper recalls.
Negotiating conditions with the farmers who owned the lands and meeting the bureaucratic standards was no easy task, but many village meetings later, the German couple was allowed to realize their dream: an ecotourism resort attracting nature lovers, while at the same time helping the people of the nearby villages to develop a new source of income and thus improve their standard of living. Almost all employees come from the neighborhood, learning the basics of gastronomy and English on the job. Donations from the business help the village children get new school uniforms. A new playground is on the way.
After two years, and with the cooperation of the villagers and a lot of work, many things have changed. The 1.5 hectares of rice fields have been partly turned into a well-kept terrace garden with fresh water purling all over the place. There’s a vegetable and herb garden as well as a couple of huge basins for fish breeding (Roland had already achieved a reputation in Bali for his German-style smoked fish that he still sells to top restaurants and hotels).
One of the reasons for his choice of land, therefore, was the plentiful supply of fresh water: Some subterranean drainage from Mount Rinjani’s crater lake emerges in the forest just above the villages and provides people and nature with high-quality spring water. For easier access, the resort is now helping the villagers build a new two-kilometer pipe from the well to their houses.
Initially designed as a somewhat adventurous camping site with tents rather than rooms, the resort now also offers overnight visitors more comfortable bungalows in a beautiful lumbung (rice store) style. All bathrooms on the compound have hot water showers. Because of the positive response, there are plans to build more bungalows soon. “We didn’t expect as many visitors as we had in our first year after opening,” Toni says. “Therefore we had to change some plans.”
Besides the occasional individual travelers, the resort has become popular as a destination for school camps and motorbike clubs.
Another plan is to set up an animal rehabilitation station. Toni, who is unable to leave behind any animal that needs help, already has something like a little zoo around her house. The horse, Last Minute, for example, was going to be slaughtered when its German savior bought it from the butcher at the last minute. Now the mare roams freely around the resort, happily mowing the grass and entertaining guests at the same time. Her best pal, German shepherd Rex, was abandoned by its owner because he was desperately ill. Toni cared for the dog until he was able to run and eat again – and even to plunder unattended barbecues aided and abetted by Last Minute.
Most of the Mountain Garden’s animal inhabitants have an equally interesting story, too long to tell here: There are the lady dogs, Ayu and Nigra, silver leaf monkey Lisa, two melody-imitating parrots, a pair of sheep, a family of turkeys and troops of gabbling ducks and geese. In short, it’s a paradise for animal lovers.
“Our idea was to offer activities for the whole family,” Toni explains. “While the parents want to go trekking, their children could go horse riding.”
Besides wandering around the resort itself, visitors can also explore the surroundings. A pleasant 90-minute walk – best guided by one of the local employees – leads through two villages, where life goes on very much in traditional Sasak style. They even seem more authentic than the model Sasak villages being commercialized for tourists. The return trip takes you through palm groves and rice terraces.
Another walking tour goes to the upper level of the famous Sindang Gila waterfalls. However, by taking you there from the other side, you won’t have to join the masses strolling down the path from Senaru – the tourist village from where most Rinjani climbing tours start. The Mountain Resort just filed its application to get a permit for operating tours to the top of Rinjani. “This was the special wish of the villagers,” explains 63-year-old Roland, who says his own volcano-climbing days are over.
As for me, I was totally satisfied by exploring the closer surroundings, followed by a long swim in the resort’s panoramic pool fed by natural spring water. Instead of using chlorine and other chemicals, the pool water is naturally cleaned by plants and little fish. Swimming in it feels like bathing in a small lake.
After watching the formidable sunset over the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the distance, hunger called me to another highlight: Toni’s famous barbecue. Her guests can choose between hearty German meals or lighter Indonesian favorites. Her marinated pork ribs are said to lure regular guests from as far away as Mataram and even Bali. With a stomach full of delicious food, I ended the day as I started it: Listening to the astonishing concert Rinjani’s nature seemed to stage out there just for me.
Rinjani Mountain Garden
(Roland & Toni)
Teres Genit, Bayan, Lombok Barat
Price: One night in a tent for Rp 130,000 (shared bathroom), one night in the bungalow for Rp 260,000 (hot water shower, breakfast, complimentary drinking water included). Meals from about Rp 30,000 to Rp 80, 000 per person.
Getting there: By car or motorbike, take the north route from Senggigi to Bayan. After passing the turnoff to Senaru village on the right and then the Old Mosque on the left, the main road makes a sharp left turn. Don’t follow it, but take the small road going straight up the mountain. After 3.7 kilometers, a sign “Roland & Toni” points to the entrance of Rinjani Mountain Garden on a steep right turn.