The island of Lombok was our latest destination for travel adventure. The big draw card here for Wes and I was Mt. Rinjani. We were both craving some major activity after over a month of beach life and leisure and there’s nothing quite like hiking to the peak of a 3,726M volcano to remind you you’re alive!
The only way to trek the volcano here is to either join a group or hire a private guide, so we joined up with a group of randomly assembled European characters (some we loved, others we could have done without) and hit up a 3 day trek. Rinjani is the kind of beautiful that seems fake. We spent our first night on the crater rim overlooking an aqua colored crater lake and a still smoking in-set volcano. That night there were so many stars! Getting up at 2 am to reach the summit for sunrise was brutal and most of the hike that day was the same. Struggling up on the loose shale slope really felt like climbing Lord Of The Rings Mt. Doom. I almost gave up about 20 minutes from the top, but then our guide pulled out some life saving cookies and he and 4 of our group pushed onto the top. Hiking is funny. It is so difficult and grueling sometimes but gives you an unexplainable satisfaction that inevitably outlasts the misery and always has you coming back for more. In this particular case resting our aching bodies in a volcanic heated hot-spring on the 2nd night of the trek didn’t hurt!
Alongside the incredible beauty of Mt. Rinjani was an unbelievable amount of trash left all over the mountain and along the banks of the lake. This garbage was made by and left by organized groups of trekking tourists. It was another example of the ugliness of tourism and set in a place as serene at this it was impossible to ignore. So lets talk about tourism and western influence for a minute…
Travel can be such a double edged sword, especially when venturing to the developing world. Digesting the cause and effect of tourism on both Bali and Lombok really became a difficult reality for me to grapple with. It’s pretty clear to say that traveling the world and experiencing different countries and cultures is a great life passion of mine but as globalization extends it’s grasp more and more I find myself questioning more and more about my contribution to the homogenized, western consumer culture that is literally swallowing countless traditional cultures the world over. It’s a tough reality to take in and a tough decision to make whether or not avoiding travel in these parts of the world would be the right thing to do?
Bali itself is a totally developed island when it comes to servicing holidaying westerners, and about 80% of their economy is dependent on tourism. On one side I know that tourists visiting Bali is now vital for the island to survive, and yet the rat race that this kind of world creates, the one we already exist in where you have to work constantly to make more money to have more things and all the things that come along with that is really quite sad to examine. What I find the most perplexing is how the entire world has eaten up this disconnected way of living. One of the things I value most about travel is experiencing places that help give me perspective by reminding me about the very important things in life, but western culture is totally saturating all these parts of the world and it’s really too late to do anything to stop it. And really, at the end of the day what would be “right” for the people of the developing world? Would I deny them the things and luxuries and conveniences I enjoy in my life so that they could retain traditions and family values they are unavoidably losing? Who am I to say what is better, and simply by traveling here in the first place who am I to judge.
Not with this all said I feel so incredibly lucky and grateful to be able to see and experience the awe inspiring places we’ve traveled to during the last 6 months. Down in the south of Lombok we spent a few sleepy days on the breathtaking beaches of Kuta. Here we found the rustic beach scene I had been searching for, loads of rattan built restaurants, shops, and bungalows on a wild tropical beach. Lombok is finishing construction on an international airport and there is loads of development all around Kuta and I’m sure it wont be long until the whole village undertakes a modern upgrade, so I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience Kuta before it’s forever changed.
If nothing else jumping back and forth from uber development and consumerism to quiet countryside places has really drives home for me the things that I value, the places I find beautiful, and the kind of simple life that most speaks to me.
Lets all remember to value the simple things shall we!