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Sembalun: A trek, a hot coffee and a library

Vyara Wurjanta

The Jakarta Post

East Lombok  /  Wed, March 7, 2018  /  08:57 am
Sembalun: A trek, a hot coffee and a library

A walk in the clouds: Mount Rinjani is seen from Pergasingan Hill in East Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. (Sintawati Fajar Farani/File)

We started climbing up Pergasingan Hill the morning before from Sembalun Lawang, a village at the foot of Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second-highest mountain. We were accompanied by Puput, who was from the village, as our porter and guide.

Concrete stairs welcomed us as we passed the entrance gate to the hill. An ominously steep, 70-degree ascent awaited us.

I felt a bit guilty for not having warned Sinta and Cindy, my two hiking mates from Jakarta, to wear the proper shoes. Having read about the soft hike up Pergasingan Hill on the internet, they apparently decided to wear sandals.

Unfortunately their sandals couldn’t grip the soil strong enough whenever there was sand or gravel along the path. I lost count of how many stops we made along the seemingly endless ascent, but we managed to climb to the top of the hill, even if it was at a snail’s pace.

Puput said the hike to the top of Pergasingan Hill would normally take around two to three hours. But unbelievably, we spent four and half hours. Well, it wasn’t a race after all, and we had so much fun along the way.

Puput had already pitched two tents by the time we arrived on top of Pergasingan Hill. People called the spot “Peak One”. From here, one can see Mt. Rinjani and the beautiful landscape of Sembalun Lawang and Sembalun Bumbung villages surrounded by green hills and rice fields.

Picture perfect: A magnificent view from Pergasingan Hill with its green rice fields greets visitors in the morning.Picture perfect: A magnificent view from Pergasingan Hill with its green rice fields greets visitors in the morning. (Sintawati Fajar Farani/File)

There was another peak, known as “Peak Two”, following a path full of shrubs in the northeast direction. From this point, people can see the sunrise and also Gili Lawang and Gili Sulat, two islands off the northeastern coast of Lombok.

But we were satisfied enough with the panoramic view of Peak One that we decided to stay there. And we were lucky that it was Monday, so it was pretty quiet. There were no other people around.

“This place is usually full of tents on weekends,” Puput explained, pointing a vacant area around our tents.

As the sun started to set, Sinta and Cindy, both photographers, prepared their gear to capture the moment — a spectacular view of the sunset, the beautiful landscape of Sembalun village, the majestic Mt. Rinjani, and far away behind it, the caldera of Mt. Agung just above the clouds.

We spent the night in front of a bonfire while sipping Sembalun black coffee we had bought a day earlier, and singing to the sounds of Cindy’s ukulele.

The next morning, the aroma of coffee awoke me. I was no coffee addict and couldn’t tell the difference between arabica and robusta, and I always have my black coffee with sugar. But that morning, sipping Sembalun’s pure black coffee made me feel good.

Rays of morning sunlight crept onto squares of rice fields below as we sipped our hot black coffee. It was indeed a blissful morning.

Bookworms: Rumah Baca Sembalun charms children with its books and playground.Bookworms: Rumah Baca Sembalun charms children with its books and playground. (Cindy Susanti/File)

That afternoon, we visited a village library called Rumah Baca, run by Rosyidin Sembahulun from Sembalun Lawang village.

We learned a lot about Sembalun from the 38-year-old, who worked as a journalist for a local newspaper and also as an activist for the Sembalun Community Development Center (SCDC) community organization, which aims to develop Sembalun.

As Sembalun was frequently visited by tourists — mostly foreign ones who want to climb Rinjani — the community works to, among other things, expand its tourism options by promoting paragliding from Sembalun hills area.

“Too bad we haven’t gotten the tandem parachute yet,” said Rosyidin, who is also active in the radio community, from which he got his “Bang DJ” nickname.

As a book lover, Rosyidin wanted his village people to read. He was inspired to open a library after watching a talk show on television about a person who opened a library in a small remote village. “I wanted to do something for my hometown,” he said.

Rosyidin SembahulunRosyidin Sembahulun (Cindy Susanti/File)

With the help of Singapore Polytechnic Ngee Ann School, in collaboration with Bajang Sembalun Creative Community and Sembalun Lawang Disaster Mitigation Team, Rosyidin opened a village library called “Lombok Love Library” in 2014. Later on, it was called Rumah Baca Sembalun.

“We wanted to give Sembalun people, especially children, access to information,” Rosyidin said.

Read also: Garden library brings books to public spaces in Kupang, Atambua

The library’s bamboo and wooden structure was unique and came with a playground for children. There was a slide, a climbing wall complete with holds and a space full of small, colorful balls.

Even without books, the building would tempt children to come and play. And it does.

Rosyidin said children from nearby the elementary school often came and played or read books during their recess time. “Playing while learning is indeed our library concept,” he said.

Unfortunately, when we recently visited the library, most of the books in its collection were damaged due to heavy rain. “We plan to move our books somewhere safer since they would quickly get damaged if we keep them in an open-air building like this,” said Rosyidin, adding that he plans to use an old building nearby to house the library.

We did not plan to visit the library and unfortunately, did not bring any books with us — something that it desperately needs for its little readers.

Rosyidin said the library’s presence has brought positive change to the people there. Previously, they were shy and afraid to talk to strangers. “Now, they even say hello first to strangers visiting our Rumah Baca,” he smiled.

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