Journey to Sengiggi

The next part of our journey was one that we had thought about for a while before we even arrived on Flores. We basically had a few options open to us, which all came down to cost v time v experience.
We had to get from Labuhan Bajo (LB) on Flores, to ultimately Gili T which is a huge distance to cover and there were several ways to do so.

The 3 options we considered were –

  • 2 days/2 nights shared boat trip that was expensive, but on route it included some time on Rinca plus a couple of snorkelling trips and would take us from LB to Mataram on Lombok, where we could get a boat to Gili T the next day.

  • Fly from LB to Bali and then a taxi to the long ferry crossing across to Gili T or fly from LB to Bali and then fly from Bali to Lombok and do the short crossing to Gili T.

  • Get the ferry from LB to Sumbawa, then an overnight bus across that huge island, then another ferry across to Lombok and then the bus to Mataram, a 24-hour journey, then a boat to Gili T.

So, in our usual true fashion, we did a spreadsheet weighing up the pros/cons and costs for each option.

Option 1 was our first and most likely choice for a long time, as it ticked all the boxes for what we wanted to do in LB and it would get us there with the minimum hassle (well except for the poor safety records of these sort of trips which were slowly putting us off).

Option 2 was expensive, but would have got us there quick and we would have just had to do the Komodo stuff off our own backs.

Option 3 was cheap, but would have took around 24 hours and we would have still had to do the Komodo stuff on our own.

As we had decided to do the Komodo stuff whilst in LB, and having spent a fair bit already on doing said trip, we plumped for option 3. We had done a little bit of research on the journey; several blogs give vague details of how it goes, costs and what to expect… little did we know that it would soon turn to shit!

It involves 6 parts to the journey as follows with approx. times –

Ferry from LB to Sape on Sumbawa – 7 hours

Bemo from Sape to Bima – 2 hours

Bus from Bima – Poto Tano – 7 hours

Ferry from Poto Tano – Lombok Port – 2 hours

Bus from Lombok Port – Mataram – 2 hours

Taxi from Mataram – Sengiggi – 1 hour

We had already decided not to try and get up to Gili T from the mainland all on one day, so booked a hotel in Sengiggi, which is a tourist town on the West cost of Lombok, about 1 hour from the capital Mataram. This would also allow us to get a fast boat direct from there to Gili T, but we booked 2 nights there to give us a bit of a break after the travels.
We had read that the ferry goes from LB around 09:00, but was advisable to get there from around 07:30 to book a ticket to ensure you got on the ferry. After the slowest served breakfast, we rushed down to the harbour area, and looked around for a ticket office. Unable to find one, we did manage to ask a local and he advised us we were at the wrong harbour area, so off we went down the road a bit and found the correct place.
As usual, we got approached by touts offering tickets that combine all the journeys, however after reading about how these can sometimes go wrong, we had decided to just buy our individual tickets as required. We got our ticket for 50k IDR each from the official ticket booth and then boarded the awaiting ferry. 

It was a fairly large vessel, with a vehicle deck, then a middle deck which was split between a communal sleeping area filled with lots of bunk beds, a seating area with TV and a small catering unit and then a small ‘Premium’ area which just had slightly comfier seats. We went up another level to the top deck, which was an outside area but sadly lacking any seats. Due to Sadie having the potential to be ‘sea-sick’, plus it being already 20+ degrees, we headed to the front of the ship which was mostly under shade and plonked ourselves down for the journey. This area slowly filled up with locals plus a few more travellers, and one girl sat down near us so we got chatting. She was from New Zealand and also travelling to Mataram, so we would stick together for the full journey.
Looking over the side of the ship, we seen several local fishing boats pull alongside us and watched people offload bags and themselves onto our ship, not entirely sure they had tickets either haha.

We soon set sail and it was quite a pleasant journey which took us along the side of Komodo Island and the views were stunning. Several locals engaged in conversation with us, and in particular a group of 3 young girls seemed fascinated with us all, and took photos and giggled a lot. 

We arrived in Sape, on Sumbawa around 4.30pm and we quickly got called over to an awaiting Bemo, for the 90-minute journey up to Bima, where we needed to change to an overnight bus which all depart at 7pm apparently. This short 30k IDR journey was uneventful, well apart from lots of locals on the bus throwing up into plastic bags, yup it was another wild rollercoaster ride through the countryside.

Shortly before we had even got to our destination, one ticket tout jumped on to try sell us tickets to Mataram for 300k IDR, but the 3 of us had read it should only be about 200k (plus a local on the ferry told me not to pay more than that), so we kindly declined and decided to take our chances at the bus terminal. The next part of the journey is sold as a combined ticket, so overnight bus/ferry/bus that you stay with the vehicle, perhaps you can buy them individually but we weren’t aware of how to, plus on arrival at the bus terminal, we were already pushed for time.
As soon as we got off the Bemo, it was tout-central, with everyone trying to get you to buy a ticket from them, shouting for you to approach there ‘bus’. After discussions with a couple of them, some wanted 300, one we spoke to was 250 and as we had been informed the ‘going rate’ was 200, we held off.
Then one guy said he would do it for 190 to get our business, telling us his bus had air-con and a toilet, so we agreed and loaded our bags into the open luggage compartment. It was dark now (so couldn’t see the bus properly) and we were hungry and wanted to grab a quick bite, but in hindsight we all wished we held off or paid a bit more! Unsuspecting at this stage, we headed off to a Warung and grabbed some Nasi Goreng, I had tofu/tempe and we quickly scoffed it down before heading back to find our ‘bus’.

We got on board and found the bus already pretty full, all locals and bags everywhere. Our seats were together, with our travel companion sitting across the aisle on her own.
The first thing I noticed was I had to reseat the cushion on my seat, as it was falling off. On looking around, there were a few chairs in a similar state, so moving wasn’t even an option. The seat did recline though, eventually. But that would turn out to be pointless anyway as I was to find getting a sleep on this bus was near on impossible.
It was like an oven on this bus, made even worse by us having got some wind-burn from on the ferry, which was starting to sting a little. We just assumed that the air-con wasn’t on yet as we weren’t moving, we patiently waited for our bus to leave. Looking out the window, there was maybe about a dozen buses all sitting in a line, waiting to go. Looking at the other buses, they already looked a better class of vehicle than we had, nice and shiny, clean and comfortable, and as we would discover later, prompt and punctual.
We were the last of the group of buses to leave the terminal, and it wasn’t long before we were stopping at the side of the road to bundle in yet another local with loads of bags, in fact this would be repeated most of the journey across Sumbawa, which should have been a 7-hour trip across the island to the port of Poto Tano.

Our bus with its clunking gearbox that I honestly thought was going to fall out on several occasions, worked its way along the winding roads at what felt like a snail’s pace. It took us just over 2 hours to do 35 miles, this was not boding well for the remainder of the trip. We had read that most of these journeys take about 7 hours, so leaving around 7pm (we were 30 mins late), we should still have managed to catch the ferry around 4am. Going at the rate we were going at, it was looking more like a 10+ hour journey, which turned out to be about right too.
Oh yeah, the next problem, the air-con (or lack of it!)… Sadie went down to speak to the driver as we had still not felt it come on, the bus was still roasting and the skylight was ajar but failing to circulate any air.
She came back saying that the driver had basically told her there wasn’t any air-con, well this pissed me off as we had a ticket and had been told it had got it… so I went to confront the driver and his assistant to find out what the story was. After what can only be described as a heated but pointless discussion, the driver pointed to his dash where there was a control for air flow, which was already on and up full, so yeah it basically didn’t work! I pretty much told the assistant who was a cheeky little s**t as it was, if he didn’t sort something out, I’d be taking our money back from him!
Amazingly, his solution was to try and manoeuvre a water bottle tied to a bit string (that was already stuck in the skylight) so it jammed it open a bit further, which proved futile as it wouldn’t stay like that anyway. And that was the best we got the whole journey, thankfully the wind-burn receded a bit as we got further and the outside temp dropped, making it just slightly bearable later.

I mentioned the multiple stops we had, this was to either get more people on, let a few off, pick up parcels, drop off parcels, the assistant to run and get more cigs for the driver (he must have smoked about 100 on the journey) but eventually we made a stop around 1am, where he switched the engine off. People started leaving the bus, so we took this opportunity to stretch our legs and get a bit fresh air. On exiting the bus, everyone got given a piece of red card, which turned out to be a ‘meal voucher’ to use in this grotty little place we had stopped at, which had all its food sitting out waiting for us I assumed (we were about 2 hours later than scheduled at a guess), which we skipped!
We used the toilets, and yes indeed they were as bad as expected, and then stood outside the bus having a cigarette.
It was at this point that we could see the bus in a better light, and it wasn’t good! I’ve already described the inside with the lack of air-con, broken seats (oh forgot to mention that some of them were not even in line for some reason) and smell of diesel for the whole journey. But this was nothing compared to the outside of the bus, there was rust all over the panels, some of which were coming away from the frame. I’ve no idea how the luggage compartment doors stayed closed (well I hoped they had), some were tied by string. One of the rear emergency doors was hanging off, with a 2-3cm gap surrounding it from the frame, and the general condition of it was terrible. I was scared to look at it anymore, and quickly got back onboard and hoped for the best. 

We eventually got to the ferry terminal about 05:30, 10 hours after setting off from Bima. After a pointless stop in a car park there, we were then told by the security guard to get on to the awaiting ferry as it was waiting to go. This was a similar ferry to the last one, but slightly smaller and no top deck, so the 3 of us stood at an outside area and waited to depart. Around 06:00 we left, just in time for sunrise and we were treated to a beautiful one, and we were also glad to be off that bus for a while, but dreading having to get back on it again at the other side!
The ferry should have taken about 2 hours, in fact it took 3 as for the last hour, we circled round the port of Lombok awaiting a space to get docked. 

And then we had to get back on that bus, for what should have been a 2-hour journey, but in our usual fashion ended up taking nearly 3, as we dropped off all the locals at their little villages and dropped off parcels that had been collected.
As the bus emptied, we all sat together again, however the seat in front of us that she sat in was actually sliding across the floor. The whole frame was moving and the welds holding it to the floor looked like it was about to snap, so we carefully kept our feet clear of it in case it collapsed onto us.
We turned a pretty sharp corner, and yep the whole seat tipped up with her in it, luckily she was ok.

We then arrived and quickly said goodbye at Mataram Bus Terminal whilst trying to get rid of taxi touts, and didn’t exchange any details sadly but I think it was on this last stage of the journey that we found out our companion’s name, but to be honest am not even sure what that is now, as we were that tired and traumatised from this penultimate part of our journey.

Sadie and I then got a Grab taxi from the terminal to our end destination, which was the icing on the cake as the driver had just been threatened by the ‘local mafia’ taxi guys and had 20k IDR taken off him as a fine for picking us up at their area, which of course I told him I’d pay that for him.


So, we eventually got to our hotel, JoJe Bungalows in the small tourist town of Sengiggi at around 12:30, which was nearly 30 hours after leaving our hotel in LB, I had managed to get about an hours sleep the whole journey, with Sadie not getting much more.
We had booked here for 2 nights, and we were both so glad of this after that long journey, and we didn’t really do much in that time.
We went for drinks on the beach the first evening, then for an amazing meal at a place called Temptations (it was that good we unusually went there both nights).

The next day we sorted our fast boat direct from Sengiggi to Gili T through a company called Perama Tours, which turned out they had incorrectly booked us on the slow boat from a different area, but we managed to get it sorted by email before we departed. The rest of the day was spent going for a walk along the town, and catching up with the blog/photos from Flores.
I got up at 01:30 to watch the Columbia v England game in our hotels bar, and it was just me and a few staff there, so I had a few beers and watched England lose an equalizer in the last couple of minutes, but then scrape through on penalties!
Then it was time to get back to bed, as we had an early morning start for the ferry to Gili T.

Link to Journey to Sengiggi Photos


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