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A Lombok waterfall tour: Air Terjun Sindang Gila and Tiu Kelep

by Silke Elzner

Our hike to two spectacular waterfalls in the North of Lombok Island triggered in me this one very important question. Am I an adventurer? It was an important question to consider.

Surely, I would call myself an “explorer”. I am a big city girl, and exploring cities is well within my comfort zone. Give me twelve-lane roads, confusing public transport options, maze-like old towns and shady neighbourhoods any time of the day and I am sure to come out alive. But the jungle? On a tropical island in the Indian Ocean? To see two waterfalls? That was a different story altogether.

Was I an adventurer or not? I was soon to find out.

View of the valley with the waterfall from the restaurant

I clang to the false hope that we were not required to wear steady footwear on our tour through the thick dark forest, so I figured that the hike may not be too difficult after all. And I was right. At least initially.

We started our walk in the little town of Senaru in Lombok’s north, a pretty little place which afforded us fabulous views of the valley and the very same waterfall we were about to visit: Air Terjun Sindang Gila. Through a derelict visitor gate we went, designed to collect tourist dollars but now abandoned, and then we climbed down a rather comfortable stair down into the valley.

This is where I saw my very first family of monkeys in the wild – what a miracle!

Monkeys

Once at the bottom of the valley our group followed a canal – literally a walk in the park, rather pleasant with the gurgling sound of the water next to us. Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, and there we were: at Sindang Gila Waterfalls.

Legend has it that a prince once chose this waterfall as a hiding place as he was chased by a lion.

We spend a good twenty minutes here, admiring the full force with which the water plummeted down some forty meters from the volcanic rock of Mount Rinjani. A white, violent cascade through the thick jungle foliage, only half-heartedly interrupted but a small ledge around one third down the way. We watched as some daredevils found their way down to the bottom of the falls to take a pounding by the water that came down the mountain with such incredible speed.

The canal

Rest area near the waterfall

Sendang Gile Waterfalls in Lombok Indonesia

Smaller waterfalls nearby

Looking up Sendang Gile Waterfall

After we had taken plenty of photos and selfies and shot our videos, the park guide suggested visiting another waterfall which was even deeper in the jungle, another 45 minutes walk away. So we moved on from Sendang Gila to Tiu Kelep which was said to offer even better conditions for a refreshing dip. Encouraged by the easy hike to the beginning of our walk we happily agreed and set off to conquer this new destination.

Instead of just seeing the usual jungle surroundings we were actually treated to some unusual scenery thanks to the fact that we were following an aqueduct, partially even walked on top of it, crossing other rivers and deep valleys covered in lush foliage. It offered some interesting perspectives and new sights.

A new way of crossing streams

Part of the way we have to use the aqueduct to progress

I still felt safe, but little did we know how challenging it would be to cross two mountain streams barefoot with all our gear. Mind you, we all managed to cross in a civilised manner, but getting your feet wet and standing on slippery pebbles and sharp stones is no fun at all.

I think this is when I realised that there was not a lot of an adventurer in me after all.

Yet, eventually we did find our way to Tiu Kelep, and the most adventurous of us couldn’t be stopped by a barrier of massive boulders – they climbed over the rocks in no time at all, stripped down to their swimmers and jumped in! I am sure it must have been a refreshing experience after all this hiking in the hot tropical wetness of the forest. At the very least, a bath in the stream here is said to be healing and even make you more youthful.

The jungle is dense and wet

We follow a canal to the second waterfall Tiu Kelep

Alas, the second we arrived at Tiu Kelep, the heavens opened and a downpour began that wouldn’t stop until well after we had left the park and had returned to the restaurant where our bus was parked. Pouring, warm rain engulfed us, soaking us from top to bottom. All of us were desperately trying to protect our technical equipment (we were travel bloggers, after all), woefully unprepared for such an unexpected tropical rain shower.

You think crossing the rivers barefoot was a challenge? Try the same while unlacing your soggy sneakers on the muddy forest floor, all the while trying to protect your camera and smartphone from the rain.

Don’t get me wrong, there are worse things in life than getting wet, and we all managed to return to our base despite the fact that we were literally drenched from head to toe. We wrought out our t-shirts, towelled dry our hair, checked our equipment, and sat down for lunch and had a good laugh. Just a couple of minutes later and the sun was out again and we watched as steam rose from the valley that we just ascended from.

Was it all worth it? Totally! Seeing monkeys in the wild, for starters, is a precious experience that I will never forget. The sights, smells and sounds of the jungle, the murmur of the water, the thunder of the waterfalls, all of this has been just magical.

I just need to remember to prepare more for the unexpected: a rain poncho in my backpack would have helped me with the rain, and shoes or sandals without laces would have been the better choice for crossing the rivers. Nevertheless, a fantastic experience altogether which pushed me well out of my comfort zone and made me redraw my personal boundaries.

What about you? Have you ever had a travel experience that you mastered against the odds and which added some unexpected adventure to your life?

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Water flowing in the jungle

Tiu Kelep Waterfalls

Steam rising from the valley after the rain