Sunrise cycling on a beautiful tropical island is about as good as it gets. Soft pastels brighten into a blazing blue, a gentle breeze rolls in from the sea and the air is fresh with possibility.

I savor these moments of peace and serenity.  Soon I will be left panting, my heart pounding, my legs shaking as I climb some of the steepest hills on the planet.  But for now there is nothing more pressing than watching the clouds drift past, fisherman cast their lines and children trot off to school.

We island hop from Bali to Lombok to Sumbawa, each dot of land more beautiful than the last.

In the month of August, Bali is hectic and crowded with swarms of European holiday-makers.   We give Kuta Beach a wide berth and head up to the highlands where the air is cool and crisp.  This side of Bali is not exactly quiet, but bearable.  The views out over the lakes are stunning and the Hindu temples intriguing.

A very colorful festival was going at one of the local temples near Ubud. I really wanted to go crazy snapping photos, but locals here are understandably hesitant about being photographed. (There are just too many tourists here on Bali.) One kind mother consented to having a photo taken of her son.

Beyond Bali

In search of more serene surroundings, we push on to Lombok.  Once past the busy beach town of Senggigi , tourists once again become a rarity (which is how we like it).

Rural life on Lombok revolves, quite naturally, around the sea.  It’s a tough life, but the proud fishermen seem content as they paddle out to sea.  Children frolic in the waves, old women herd cows along the beach and young mothers work hard to meet their family’s needs.

I caught his retiree and his dog out for a beautiful sunset stroll by the sea on our first evening in Lombok.

The kids seem so joyful as they romp around on the beach. This little girl was a real sweetie.
The road around Lombok hugs the coast for much of the way. Early one morning I stumbled across this woman leading her herd out to pasture.
This woman appeared to be gathering sand and gravel from the beach--a tough task.
The hills are almost constant. Up and down from dawn till dusk.
Plenty of hills on Lombok but great sea views to take your mind off all the hard work.

It gets even better

Sumbawa, a tiny island hardly anybody has even heard of let alone visited, turns out to be the highlight of the trio.  After 4 hours on the ferry from Lombok we pull into the port during the worst of the searing mid-day heat.  The land is scorched and barren but somehow beautiful.

Not exactly an ideal time to be trekking across the island with a load of firewood. This was our first glimpse of the beautiful island of Sumbawa.
This fishing village appeared pitifully poor but what a view!
Ramadhan was still in full swing which made meals a problem. Late afternoon food sellers begin wandering the streets in preparation for breaking the fast at sunset. This hawker appeared a bit young.
A serene stretch of coastline on Sumbawa.

Perfectly Content

Indonesia is shaping up to be on of my favorite countries in Asia for bicycle touring.  Its scenery is incredibly diverse--it's got both mountains and the sea, desert-like landscapes and tropical ones, too.  The Indonesian people couldn't be friendlier--they're always ready with big smiles and warm greetings.  And the climate's not too bad either, the highlands are refreshingly cool and ocean breezes make for pleasant cycling along the coast.

Flores is next up.   An island so hilly, says our Lonely Planet, it's suitable only for cyclists of Tour de France caliber. We'll see about that!

Island Hopping: Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa

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