‘Those lacking in determination need not apply’.
This is how ads for the Togean islands should start… Especially if advertising to ‘economically-stunted’ backpackers who can’t afford a private car.
Heading north from Rantepao the Togean islands, although quite some distance, should not be that difficult to reach. However, this assumes that the roads are good, connections make sense and the vehicles road worthy! Perhaps the Togeans want to keep their emerald jewels to themselves; or reward the foolhardy that make the effort.
How bad can it be?
Well it is true that we are used to the unique blend of transport that exists in this part of the globe and that we have adjusted to the equally long time it takes to get from one place to another – 5 hour bus ride here, 12 hour bus ride there, 34 hour ferry…
But the Togean islands take gold.
Day 1: Rantepao – Tentena
Time: 09:00 – 22:30 (13.5 hours)
Distance: 312 km
Transport: Battered bus
Leaving our friends behind a day before we wanted – it’s holiday season and busy – we departed Rantepao. The bus – not comfortable or air conditioned – was not many journeys away from the scrap heap, but it was our ticket out of Tanah Toraja.
Our seats were conveniently angled so as to allow a quick slide into the aisle; however, when this would be required we weren’t sure, or eager to find out. Using my feet as stabilisers to stop me sliding to the floor, Joyce leaning uncontrollably into my shoulder, we headed North.
Stops were brief. Food was unfulfilling. Every now and again the road turned into an off road experience… in a few places landslides had provided this added and undesired challenge. They were scary moments that we had too often – made worse by the absence of suspension and what we assumed counted as ‘steering’. But we made it through. Obviously.
Morning brought with it a beautiful view of Tentena lake and a leisurely breakfast, with fellow travellers – come friends – that we were now heading North with. A motley crew we must have made.
Our Bemo was in a similar state to the bus the previous day. It did; however, manage to transport us to a halfway point – an undistinguished part of road – where we, for some unknown reason, changed into a car. We didn’t complain. It was much nicer.
Then we rumbled on to Ampana. Soon our rumbling became splashing. The rain tore down from the heavens, water sprinted off the hillside and made islands of houses…
… There was evidence that it had recently made rubble of roads and carnage of anything bigger than a car… That’s the underside of a truck we passed!
The truck had tried – and failed – to go over a hastily constructed bridge (made from planks of wood following the collapse of the road). It had toppled backwards into the awaiting water. Things were getting worse. Trucks, vans, buses; none of them could pass and were lying abandoned on both sides of the road. Here is part of the queue:
But, once again, we made it through.
Day 3: Ampana – Kadidiri (one of the islands)
Time: 08:00 – 14:00 (6 hours)
Distance: 60 km
Transport: ‘Servicable’ car, Public ferry, Local boat
Comparatively, day 3 was easy and devoid of action. We passed easily from car to ferry, from ferry to boat. It was still long and we were ready for it to be over.
Tired and hungry, we made it to the islands.
Total time: 53 hours (leaving Rantepao at 09:00 on 19th July and arriving at Kadidiri by 14:00 on 21st July); 27 hours actual travel time
Total distance: 538 km
Transport: 6 different types!
This is the longest journey I’ve ever taken to get from ‘start to finish’. Was it worth it?
And how much determination will it take to leave?