September 13, 2013 - We headed for Makassar and shared a cab with a British couple on the way to the hotel. He was severely handicapped, using crutches, which seemed to cause him a lot of grief. Surprisingly, they were on a trip around the world for a year, handicap be damned.
We arrived in Makassar and after we had a look around town for a or two day, we slowly started to realize that towns in Indonesia are not too appealing. Even the things that are touted in tourist guides are kind of "meh.." when you see them. At the hotel, we met a German couple and the woman was ill to the point of needing a hospital. Lo and behold, the next day we came down with the same thing and we were confined to our hotel in Makassar for the next week. Some days, we shuffled to a few nearby restaurants, but more often than not, we made due with some pastries and bread products from a chain called "Holland Bakery", right next to the hotel. After about six days of this, we decided to take a plane to Manado, in the north of Sulawesi, to do some snorkeling and diving and rest up a bit. Christina wanted to get a refresher course for her PADI as well.
Still half sick, we rented a motorcycle and rode around the Manado area for a few days, going inland and along the coast to discover what it was like. We went to a volcanic lake, which was mildly interesting.
Inland, we found a few drab towns, although one small place seemed to have an unnatural number of flower shops, I think we counted at least twenty.
Gas stations for motorcycles are everywhere. You can line up at the "real" gas station or buy it for a slight premium from the roadside vendors.
Manado in turn failed to impress, although we found a decent shopping mall where they served good coffee. But it's not the picture we had of Sulawesi, a mysterious place somewhere in Indonesia.
With Manado behind us, we arrived at Raja Laut, a medium fancy dive resort an hour's boat ride away on Bunaken island.
Our view from the huge wooden deck, either from the hammock or the comfy chairs, put a smile on our face.
Our plan was to stay here for a week, do some snorkeling, eat some really good food and move on to Sumatra to go see the orangutans. The snorkeling here is just amazing. Underwater pictures courtesy of Anniek Luijten.
Everywhere you look, there is something new.
Bunaken is a fairly challenging place. There are no real stores, but you can buy cigarettes, Coca Cola and chips, some soap and toothpaste from a number of people who have a "store". Everything else comes by boat from Manado. There is no police, doctor, hospital or pharmacy for a place with five thousand inhabitants.
Our plan to stay here for a week suffered from "scope creep", and on more than one occasion, we had the following conversation with our host at breakfast:
K: “Amedeo ..”
A: “Yes, Kevin?”
K: “If it’s ok with you, I think we’ll stay another day?”
A: “Of course”
K: “Where are we going diving today?”
A: “The dome reef, then the wreck … you can choose for the afternoon”
After our eleventh day here, Christina and I had a two minute conversation in which we basically voiced the same desires and concluded we were going to stay here till they kicked us out, fly to Kathmandu from Jakarta and forget about taking pictures of Orangutans.
And as I post this, I am laying in the hammock, listening to crickets and waiting for our call to dinner.