The ferry ride from Bali to Lombok wasn't what you could call arduous. I had spent most of the trip on the roof of the boat drinking Bintang, reading a book, and getting sunburnt. Nothing says "I'm on holiday" quite like getting the outline of your sunglasses tanned onto your face.
After an entertaining stop at Gili Trawangan, where I watched a girl fall from the side of the ferry into the azure water in front of several hundred people, we left the white sands of the Gili Islands behind and headed towards the cloud covered volcanoes of Lombok.
I was dumped without ceremony at a small beach where three drivers were waiting. This is always a terrible situation as you have almost no power to bargain with. You can tell the driver you're definitely not paying the outrageous price he initially suggested but he knows your only other option is to walk for an hour in the midday sun with nothing but the three beers you downed on the ferry to sustain you until you find a better deal.
However, I made the driver work for his money by getting us lost. This is a situation I am regularly in. My sense of direction is often outweighed by a contradictory sense of "Fuck it, let's turn left and see where we end up". Anyone who has travelled with me will know exactly what I'm talking about.
After several phone calls and some dirty looks, my quietly seething driver pulled up to the homestay and Ketut met me outside. This was my first week back in Indonesia and my first week of solo travel for some time, so I was a little nervous and rather suspicious. I tend to be on edge during the first few days and think everyone is out to rip me off or steal all my stuff. My first meeting with Ketut erased all of that.
Ketut is a open and friendly man with a beautiful family who have built several private rooms into their home in the Balinese Hindu village in Batu Layar. The rooms are simple, clean, and above all, excellent value. What really made my stay so perfect was Ketut and his family.
I love staying in homestays so I can get a small glimpse into what life is like in the places I visit, better than I could ever get by staying in a resort. My stay with Ketut was perfect for this. On my first afternoon, he gave me the grand tour.
In the surrounding area locals let out pigeons in the early evening, which fly around in small groups with their characteristic whistling. Occasionally a pigeon from a neighbour would break off and join someone else's group, returning to their cages once the sun had disappeared. Thus one person had lost a bird and another had gained one. While gambling in Indonesia is technically illegal, surely a man shouldn't be charged for rewarding a neighbour who had found a wayward bird.
Further down the road, Ketut's brother bases his wood carving business. Over the days I was there, we watched large logs being carved in a unique blend of North American totem poles and Indonesian columns. These were being made for a hotel being built somewhere else on the island. Much to Ketut's delight, the local carvers thought I was the Boss, coming down to inspect their work. For some reason, smiles became hesitant and chattered stopped while I was there, standing in my flip flops and sweating through my singlet. Very boss-like.
Ketut pointed out the local international school in the process of being built and the best places to buy satay and meatball soup. He showed me where an Australian woman runs another homestay and the small store for essentials. When you are travelling to a new place, this kind of advice is almost invaluable. It can take days to figure out what you can learn from a true local in an hour of good natured chat.
So welcoming was he, that in the evening he dressed me in traditional Balinese Hindu attire and we went to a meeting with his friends, where we played games. I got to meet and spend time with real locals in a way you just can't do without someone to introduce you.
Ketut helped me arrange everything I needed. At no time did I feel like he was out for profit, yet I would not have minded if he had. He would drive me into the nearby town of Sengigi and pick me up if I needed. He helped me arrange my hike up Rinjani with a company that were perfect for my budget and he didn't overcharge me to make some money on the side. It was on this trip I met a girl, which Ketut found hilarious. If we ever get married, he said, we have to visit him and thank him.
If you, or anyone you know are ever in Lombok and would like a place to stay where you will get to know some genuinely good people, I cannot recommend Ketut enough.
Where is Ketut's Homestay:
Here's a map!