Sharing coffee with a gecko and getting ill

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Asia » Indonesia » Sulawesi » Palu
May 4th 2011
Published: July 18th 2011
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So we were back in Palu. Last year we were here for 4 days waiting for a flight and not much had changed. There was still nothing to do. No old temples, beaches or small interesting villages. They didn't have a cinema, a big mall or even a nice local dish to try out.

We got in and checked into the same hotel as last time. After a quick order of French fries from the room service menu we headed out to get a new camera. This had come after many frustratingly beautiful or weird things happening just too far away for us to take a photo. We tried a large shop but as the only person who spoke English was in school we went to the next shop.

We were looking to get the same type of camera and this shop was a Panasonic one so it was looking good. It started to look a lot better. We showed the guy in the shop our camera hoping he had the same make. Instead he told us that there was a service centre around the corner and they might be able to fix our camera. We got befriended by an English teacher who got us some ojeks there and back.

The service centre took our camera and hotel name and the guy said he would get back to us within 24 hours to say if he could fix it or not. We went back to our room then got nasi goreng from a great little warung. We got back to our hotel after 7 and the guy from the service centre had called. We called him back and he was around in 10 minutes.

He told us they had taken the camera apart and cleaned it but it was the motor was broken and a new part would be needed from Jakarta. We thanked him and said goodbye. Then we got the camera back to the room only to find the zoom worked perfectly. Made up we started to worry that this meant something bad would soon follow.

We woke early the next morning to get an ojek to Dongalla. We managed to flag down one guy down and the hotel called us someone. We bartered a price of 50,000 Rupiah each and set off. It turned out to be quite a long journey (90 minutes) and with a stop over to fix a puncture on Emmas bike. This was good because it got us a great view of the coastline but our backsides soon regretted the bumpy ride.

We got there and booked into a place called Sandy Cottages. It was really cheap at 200,000 Rupiah so we stayed there for a few nights snorkelling off the beach and drinking beers. Electricity was only on from 6-12 and most nights when the lights did eventually go out a cow invaded the guesthouse. This resulted in a few restless nights (for Emma not Andy) and so we moved to the posher resort further down the beach.

We had spent a lot of days here buying beers so we could use their sunloungers and they gave us a room with 3 meals and a coffee break for 400,000 a day. The food wasn't as good but the wifi, nice room and private beach more than made up for it. Also it was the weekend and our end of the beach had filled up with locals and some of the huts had started being used by the hour by local Indonesian men and their escorts.

We snorkelled around but soon both of us got quite ill with a stomach bug and had to holed up in our room for a few days. We still forced ourselves down for coffee time however as it came with a donuts and a gecko that came down to eat bits of it. We made friends with the manager Junai who helped us arrange transport to Palu and also got us a ticket to Ampana so we could head to the Togeans.

We got to Palu and decided to stay a night there to get some cash and supplies (chocolate) and also have one last night of electricity, Internet and water. We stayed in a different hotel this time as our usual one was full. The new one had bedbugs but we came out unbitten thanks to our silk sheets - either that or they were just bugs. We got picked up the next morning and were made up to find that we had 3 seats to ourselves in the 8 seater minibus.

We dozed through the journey but woke up to buy sweetcorn from some women and when we got halfway to Poso (6 hours) people got out and for the remaining for 5 hours we had an extra few people crammed in but still only 3 on our row. We finally got dropped off in Ampana at the only place we knew in town Oasis Hotel. After checking in they told us that there were no boats the next day to Kaddidiri and we might struggle to get to Bomba as well.

Kaddidiri is the island we stayed on last time and we wanted to go back here for familiarity then move to Bomba where there is a more basic place to stay. At this point though we just didn't want to stay in Ampana for more than one night. They told us that we could go with the owner on her speedboat straight to Kaddidiri and it would take 1 hour instead of 5, but we would have to stay at their resort Paradise and pay up front on card as we didn't have enough cash to cover the full cost.

We didn't like the idea of this as we were stuck staying there if we paid up front and last time we had looked at the rooms there they weren't as nice as Black Marlins. Again good luck struck and the man who was helping us interpret told us he was part of a tour group and they had a private boat going tomorrow that we could pay to come on. It was double the cost of the public boat but we were OK with this as it gave us choices when we got there.

We got up early the next morning and got on the boat with a group of older Dutch tourists. We stayed on the top of the boat for the journey chatting Indonesian with the captain who was drunk on sopi (moonshine) and offering us some. There was a small tornado forming at one point and the captain sobered up to keep us a safe distance away. Short of a small pink police boat the rest of the journey passed quickly as we both dozed on top.

We got to Kaddidiri and looked round the rooms on offer at Paradise and then went to check out Black Marlin. Black Marlin was cheaper and the rooms were nicer but when we asked if we could pay for the room on card as well as the diving they were adamant we couldn't even though 12 months ago we had. So we were stuck. We could stay half the time and pay in cash or go to Paradise. We settled on one of the nicer rooms in Paradise.

The next two weeks blurred a bit. We started with nasty sunburn from falling asleep on top of the boat but made the most of doing nothing reading and snoozing lots. We chatted to people who had been to Bomba and they said that here was nicer and the main attraction of Bomba was living with a local Bajo family who had a spear gun for you to use when snorkelling. We decided against this as shooting nemo didn't appeal to Emma and Andy's delusions of catching and cooking tuna were never going to happen. So we now had more time at Paradise.

Throughout our two weeks there we got chatty with the regulars, another two couples who stayed about the same amount of time as us and also the dive instructors. Emma started to get a real tan on the go spending hours in the baking sun. It was so easy to do nothing and as usual we took the easy option.

We eventually got motivated and signed up for a dive trip to Una Una, the local volcano. All the pro divers on the island were excited about this and as novices we were hopeful of something good. We did a dive the day before so we could dust off our dive skills. We had done less than all the other divers and our last one was 9 months ago.

Unfortunately after a boat not starting and the second boat having very little petrol we went to the wrong dive site. Instead of Batu Pansing we went to Taipei Wall which we had done the year before. We dived anyway as we didn't want to take the 1hour journey to Una Una the next day and have any problems with gear. We saw a few things early on, a huge puffer fish, a large barracuda and various other fish but like the last time we did it it wasn't amazing.

The next day we were up early for Una Una. The day consisted of two dives and lunch in between on the beach. THe first dive was a coral wall leading up a slope to sand. It was a good dive and we went to about 24 metres. We saw some jacks and fire gobi which was cool. Also we heard our first dynamite underwater. It came from some distance off but was still impressively loud. As a warm up for the next dive it was great but everyone was more excited about the pinnacle.

We got up and onto the boat. The other two dive groups had seen the same as us with an Australian couple - Hamish and Kat - had seen a turtle from a distance. We had a simple lunch on the island whilst one local girl stared at us from behind a tree and got back on the boat for the Pinnacle. This was a large rock rising to a point covered in coral. The best point was the number of fish that because of a current ended up swimming around it - earning it the name fishomania.

Here we saw schools of jackfish swimming in the blue and also a small type of box/pufferfish that swam around in huge groups. These small fish were very inquisitive and some stayed put as you swam through them floating right up to your mask. On the pinnacle there were loads of small reef fish with more gobis and a big trigger fish. For the sheer number and variety of fish this was one of the best dives we had done before. We worked our way round and up the pinnacle and finally hit some current on the flat top. We floated along on this and went back to the surface when our air ran out.

Sammy and Camilla, the dive instructors, had arranged for another dive for us to make up for Taipei Wall and we went out a few days later to Batu Pansing. This was another great dive with another huge puffer fish, batfish, bumphead parrots and even some garden eels on a large stretch of sand. Eventually the current on this dive got too much and we deployed a banner to float on top of the water and went back up to be picked up.

Four dives was enough for us and we spent a lot of the rest of the time snorkelling, chilling and drinking. The snorkelling on the resorts beach was great. Emma made an enemy with a trigger fish who always chased her when they met. We saw an octopus, jellyfish, nemo fish, pufferfish, schools of wrasse and loads more small colourful ones. We also went out on a dive to snorkel and after drifting over a wall with a mean looking barracuda the boat captain took pity on us and dropped us off in some shallow coral which was beautiful bright colours.

We managed to rack up a hefty bill for Bintang Beers but soon found that local moonshine - arak - could be bought further down the beach. We wandered down one night and bought a few plastic bags full. We drank one round the fire with the locals and some other guests. It tasted like perfumey paint stripper but with a dash of coke it was drinkable. Their drunk chatting and catchphrase "why not coconut" kept us amused.

We passed the last few days playing word games with German and Spanish speaking people trusting that the words were all real ones. When the weather was good we snorkelled and when it wasn't we slept. We arranged to get the car ferry back to Ampana where unlike the last time we left the Togeans we were going to miss the food.
Last year we ate a diet of fish and rice for two weeks and if Black Marlin had still taken card payments it might have happened again. As it was the food at Paradise was far more varied and we ate better than we did in main land Sulawesi. The food ranged from rice and fish to pizza and bruschetta, stopping briefly on varied soups and chips on the way. And if there was ever any doubt over who wrote up these blogs it should now be clear its Andy but as its only one paragraph about food its also obviously edited by Emma.

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