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Published: October 16th 2016
View of the covered bridge
Sulawesi’s roads will leave you shaken like a Vodka-Martini. They are bumpy, twisty and narrow. Consequently short distances take a very long time. It’s a good thing the scenery is extremely pretty or else it would be quite a bore getting from one place to the other. My destination was Tentena in Central Sulawesi. My point of departure Rantepao.
Rantepao, of course, is where I last left off in Indonesia, about 9 months ago. Naturally it is where my new journey will begin. Obviously getting to Rantepao involved some Indonesia travel, let alone getting to the country in the first place. Let’s boil it down to a long flight with long stopovers, a short flight, a night on an uncomfortable bench at Makassar Airport and a long day bus to Rantepao. That about sums it up.
Rantepao to Tentena doesn’t look like much on a map. On the ground it took about 19 hours. Most of it during the day luckily, so I could watch the superb landscape. The night was less thrilling, with the bus driver seemingly having a hard time staying awake. Having a prime seat at the front gave me a first class view of the
Eel traps in the river
drivers drooping eyelids. His speed was a leisurely 20 km’s an hour, so I figured if he fell asleep I would be able to rush over and intervene before anything substantial would occur. But the worst didn’t happen and we slowly rolled into Tentena at midnight.
Tentena is a small Christian town located on Lake Poso. It has a languid charm, and the lake is beautiful and refreshing. Tourists drop by on their way to the Togean Islands further north. Apart from swimming in the lake, it is also a good place to try bat… or dog. I have had dog before, but bat, now that was something new. And I am always in for something new. So I ordered spicy bat at a little riverside warung. It was spicy indeed. And bony. Tiny bones. Really if it hadn’t been for the wings it could have been anything. They cut it into small chunks, it isn’t as if you get a whole stuffed bat on your plate. The wings, however, are distinctively bat-like. Not feathery, but leathery!
Having satiated my desire for bat, and after hiking out to a nice beach for a dip in the cool blue
waters of the lake, it was time for another shake-up. Not to the Togeans. Not just yet. Instead I went to Kolonedale, which lies on a bay to the east. There is nothing much said about Kolonedale in the guidebooks. It is the stepping off point to little visited Morowali National Park, and the bay itself is dotted with islands, mushroom shaped rocks, hidden coves, beaches and cliffs that plunge straight into the turquoise waters. Or so I was told.
I didn’t visit little visited Morowali either, I came for the island dotted bay. It sounded better in the books. Though it surely was beautiful. Perhaps the problem was not its beauty but the problems was being able to appreciate it properly. This requires a bit of cash. As always when going somewhere nobody goes to, you run into the trouble that there is no tourist infrastructure and you end up having to rent a private boat to tour the bay. This can be cheap, but in Kolonedale it wasn’t. It was once, if the good book is to be believed, but not anymore.
So Kolonedale isn’t especially cheap. Probably due to a nearby Chinese owned mine, which
Flower and river
has generated money, and led to inflation. Inflation of the wrong kind, higher prices without rising standards. This meant a cheap box like room with flimsy walls and no bathroom was more expensive than my huge room with western bathroom in Rantepao. And renting a boat was equally a rather costly affair. After hard bargaining I managed to get the price down enough for me to be able afford two measly hours of touring the bay.
In two hours you can’t really do much and appreciate much of the natural beauty that passes you by. I’m sure if you had a full day, you could swim or snorkel around those little islands, lie on a secluded beach, and more. I couldn’t. I have a budget to think about.
Instead I said goodbye to Kolonedale and went to my next destination. On a ferry that only left at 1 am. Surrounded by curious locals. There were no matrasses, just a linoleum covered hard wooden platform. It wasn’t conductive to sleeping. The next morning began bright and glorious, with jungle clad mountains to one side, and the endless sea to the other.
The little village of Baturube was the
end point of my ferry. Small jetty, small beach, some ramshackle houses, and a few shared taxis to bring passengers onward. What more do you need? I got a Kijang (one of those shared taxis) to Luwuk. Over some more atrocious roads, with mesmerizing views. Views of bays and islands, and jungles, and rice paddies and Balinese transmigration villages full of Hindu shrines. I was properly shaken once again when I arrived in Luwuk.
My friendly chauffeur brought me to nice hotel on the waterfront, which he said was good and cheap. And he was right. From Luwuk you can catch a ferry to the remote (as far as tourists is concerned) Banggai Islands. If you are looking for a place that sees one tourist every year or so, this is the place to go to. It is the Togean’s without the tourists or the facilities.
But I won’t be going there. I figure I can go to the Togean’s with the facilities, or in other words, the Togean’s! I do like a challenge, but for such ventures as Banggai you need a lot of time to properly see them. I don’t have that time. Well I do,
About 6 km's out of Tentena, a Dutch owned resort, that allowed me to swim at their private beach... Because it was off-season so I wouldn't disturb any guests
but I choose to spend it on seeing a larger part of Sulawesi, instead of focusing on one small part of it. For me, the reason for coming down this way was simply to try a different route to the Togean’s, and in that I have succeeded.
Another shaky route has taken me to Ampana, the gateway to the Togean Islands. This Vodka-Martini has been shaken to perfection, now it is time to enjoy it on some island paradise!
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