A couple of blogs back I mentioned that we had a nine night period where we would be staying in eight different hotels. This was down to three things; wanting to visit Borobudur overnight, having to do a visa run to KL and travelling to the Togean Islands. You really have to be keen to travel to the Togeans, especially when there are some many other beautiful islands in Indonesia with far better transport links. But, we like a challenge!
Our journey started with a flight from KL to Makassar with an over night stay in Makassar. The next day we had another flight, this time from Makassar to Luwuk followed by a six hour car journey to Ampana. We then had one night in Ampana. The final leg of our journey was via two boats. What could possibly go wrong?
Before our flight time from KL changed we needed nothing but a bed for the night so we'd gone cheap with our hotel choice. It was a vast contrast to the KL hotel and brought back memories of China; we were the only westerners and got lots of attention. We had a few chores to
do that afternoon so we ventured out of the hotel and went in search of a post office, an ATM and a convenience store. We managed two out of three; there wasn't a convenience store in sight. As we walked down the side of the road we got lots of hellos and double takes from people - we were definitely a bit of a novelty!
We've been hunting for a post office for about two weeks now so we were over joyed to finally find one. The girl behind the counter had clearly never sold stamps for postcards before and had to call someone to figure out the cost. As she did her co worker walked in and was thrilled to see us - he shuck our hands, asked us our names and then asked if we'd like to go with him and his friends on a boat trip the following day! So lovely!
Given our location we had no choice but to eat in the hotel that night. Paul optimistically ordered pizza, which turned out to be as appetising as you'd expect in an area that had very few western tourists. He decided that the further off
the western beaten track you get, the worse the western food becomes. Sometimes you just have to play it safe and order the Indonesia staple, Nasi Goreng (tasty fried rice).
Makassar to Luwuk
Our flight to Luwuk the next morning was with Guaruda Indonesia one of the most reputable airlines here. There was a free shuttle from the hotel to the airport so the chance of a taxi hiccup was small. But the shuttle was still sat outside our hotel 15 mins after it was due to leave, as we were waiting for eight more people. In the end they sent us off on our own.
As we walked away from the check in desk I noticed that the boarding time on our tickets said 11.55, but we were due to fly at 10.40!! The departures board was only showing the next few flights so we went back and asked if there was a delay - it turned out there was, but we didn't get a clear message on the new expected departure time. Not the best news as we had a six hour car journey at the other side. We went through security and found
ourselves a cafe to base ourselves in for a few hours. We had decent internet so it wasn't completely dead time.
Our flight was listed on the board but did not have a departure time, so Paul went to the gate to find out what was going on. They were still saying we had a two hour delay. Periodically Paul checked the screens to see if there was an update. On his third trip he'd walked about 30 steps when our names were announced - the rest of the announcement was in Indonesian so we had no idea what was going on. The only other time this has happened to either of us has been when the plane had boarded and was about to leave. We ran to the gate and it turned out they had boarded the plane. It was only 11.30, 25 minutes before the printed boarding time on our tickets. They whisked us through but then ended up stood outside waiting for a car to take us to the plane. We must have waited 10 minutes in the crazy heat - we even offered to walk as we did not want this plane to leave without
us. It didn't, thank goodness - we made it - but still have no clue what happened!
Luwuk to Ampana
Luwuk airport is tiny and in a gorgeous location. From the runway you are a stones throw away from the turquoise sea. We collected our bags from outside the building and made our way to the car park, where our driver was waiting for us. At 13.40 we set off on our six hour car journey. We'd been traveling for about 40 minutes when the car stopped. The road ahead was closed - our driver made a phone call and then turned the car around and took what we can only assume was the alternative route. What followed was a 30 minutes hair raising drive, on a barely tarmaced, single track road with a sheer drop. But wait, it turned out not to be single track - there was two way traffic. There'd also been a couple of very dodgy looking guys on the side of the road who our driver had stopped to give money to. Maybe a very unofficial toll??!! Surrounded by palm trees we made our accent up through scenery that reminded me of
sinister jungle scenes from the movies. Paul half jokingly said 'this is where they bring westerners to kill them'.
It brought back memories of our overland journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap, a notoriously hard going journey along roads that nothing other than a 4 by 4 should tackle. We spent much of that journey expecting the bottom of the car to fall out, and this was much the same. When our driver stopped and got out of the car we really did have flash backs to our Siem Reap journey (when a tire had burst). He spent forever looking at the front two tyres, then went around the back of the car and we thought he must be going into the boot for the spare, but he just had another look around and then jumped back in the car and carried on driving. We had no idea what had happened, but he seemed to slow down after that.
When we finally made it back onto the main road we clapped to show our relief (our driver had limited English so we were back to making fools of ourselves!). Little did we know that we still had more
crazy road to come. Large chunks of the road were gravel with massive pot holes in them. There'd been a lot of landslides, so when we did get tarmac it would be partially or fully covered with rocks, trees and gravel - the worst had deposited a 6ft boulder in the middle of the road. We drove through some very ramshackled villages, with houses that looked like rickety sheds you'd tear down at home (all of course with massive satellite dishes out front). We played chicken with a herd of cows, a goat and a cat (separately rather than together!) and came to a complete standstill when we came across a digger in the middle of the road. We thought we were never going to get to Ampana. When the road finally gave way to some consistent tarmac our driver put his foot down leaving me a little travel sick on the windy roads.
At 8pm we pulled into our hotel in Ampana. We'd made it!
Ampana to Togean Islands (finally!)
Our Ampana hotel was only 10 minutes away from the harbour so we booked a tuk-tuk to take us. We've seen lots of people travelling
with suitcases (especially on the Gilis) and it's good to know there are still something you can do only if you have rucksacks, and this was one of them. The driver took my rucksack and rode with it on this back leaving us with two small rucksacks and Paul's large rucksac to balance at our feet / on our knees.
Our boat journey out to Wakia was blissfully uneventful, we just arrived a little later than expected due to a couple of unscheduled stops. At the harbour we were met by the people from our resort for our boat transfer across to KADIDIRI Resort. This was quite comical - we were on a massive slow, old boat, just the two of us and two crew. One of the rival resorts was picking up six other westerners on a lovely new shiny speedboat - we were nervous we'd chosen the wrong resort - what did they all know that we didn't? I guess we'd find out soon enough!
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