Prisoners of paradise

The Togean’s are a hard place to reach (as you know).

What I failed to appreciate during our voyage to reach them was that with each passing day an additional – exponentially increasing – dollop of expectation was added to what we would find…

Which was: White soft sand beaches, untouched jungle landscape and crystal clear, blue and turquoise waters. This makes up every square inch of the archipelago. They are secluded havens of nature. And for this I love them.

Expectation reached.
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However, their seclusion leads to a nagging problem… The resorts have got you by the ‘short-and-curlies’… Expectation missed by a mile!

I was thinking of telling you about all the problems but I don’t imagine I’ll get much sympathy from you! 😉 So i’ll say no more and instead remember the Togeans – the way they should be remembered – for their stunning scenery and incredible local people…
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It is the sight and sound of the Togeans that I will miss the most. They are minimalist in nature, their simplicity able to bewitch and enthrall.

A colour palette of hues: blues, greens and yellows; the endless combination of ocean, jungle and beach.

The soft putter of engines as age-old wooden boats glide through the millpond calm ocean, unending and unbroken.
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The lap of the sea, the push of an oar, the barely stirring of the glass like sea, whilst in the distance clouds roll in the sky, silently.
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This is the Togean’s. Not much to do, but sit and stare.

And so our days meandered by, mainly reading… I have managed to read 5 books in the time we have been here (and whilst I am sure most of you have been a few decades quicker off the mark than me, read 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s great).
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We also ventured far from the hammock and once again disappeared beneath the waves. We muck dived, coral dived and wreck dived (on a crash landed B-24 WWII bomber plane – very cool). Here is a short video of the exploits… Well here actually!

We took a – longer than expected – Kayak ride around Kadidiri. We saw our friends return from such a venture, careening towards the sand, beaching the kayak and removing themselves from the vessel. ‘Where have you been?’ I innocently ask. ‘Around the island’ came the simple reply…

Great I thought. It had taken them about an hour. With Joyce and I keen to pause our bookworm habits for a short while we jumped in the Kayak and paddled off…
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Ah, the wonders of miscommunication. They had actually gone around the small island just in front of us, not Kadidiri, which is considerably larger. Over 2.5 hours later; tired, hot, a little sun burned, but better Kayakers because of it, we returned from the open sea. Our friends were more than a little amused!

The day before we had to leave soon arrived.

We wanted to visit a sea gypsy village. The original people of this island-chain, who historically were nomadic seafarers, hopping from island to island constantly. Now many have settled in small, separated communities.
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The welcome from the kids in the village was deafening, the screams of ‘mrs, mrs, mrs’ (my correction of ‘mr not mrs’ when addressing me lasting no longer than a couple of seconds) fell off into the distance and across the seas.

The kids, and their parents, were beautiful and we and a great hour or so playing games, jumping around and entertaining these boisterous kids…
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As well as helping to lift their bike – there was just one for the whole village – out of the water… the phrase ‘the village bike that everyone has had a ride on’ has never been so true, literal and accurate! Anyway, one of the kids was having ‘too much fun’, lost control of the bike and went flying over the side of the pier and into the water, bike and all.
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It was a heart warming experience.
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Finally, and importantly, we also spent a lot of time meeting and chatting to incredible people from around the world… The islands, more like ‘best social club in the world’. Too many names to mention here but ‘HI’ (see most of you in North Sulawesi… You know who you are!)

Now island life must end and we head back once more to the mainland, its cities, its choked streets, its pushing people, its beeping horns.

But I’m okay with that. It’s time to leave.

Time for the Togean’s to become a picture postcard memory.

Time for time to have meaning once again! 🙂
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A quick side note and warning to all divers:

We dived with two centres: Paradise and Black Marlin, both based on Kadidiri. From our experience, and that of our friends, Paradise should be avoided. In the few days we were around Paradise:

  • divers were taken down to 40 metres (although they were not certified to do so);
  • one instructor dived without fins in a strong current (he had forgotten his pair). This lead to the sharing of a pair of fins between 2 divers (I.e. 1 fin each), which they exchanged at 40 metres in the strong current (stupid!)
  • lead instructor (and dive centre manager) verbally abused a student because she was somewhat anxious about being underwater… A perfectly acceptable state of mind for a first time diver
  • an instructor physically pulled down a new open water student by the ankle because she was ‘descending too slowly’ and adjusting to the feel of being under water for the first time
  • an instructor pulled down a (different) student by the ankle – for the same reason as above. Unfortunately this student was not able to equalise and was complaining of ear pain the rest of the day
  • divers had to remind the instructors to take oxygen and a first aid kit on the dive boat. A prerequisite for any dive trip.
  • these are the things we know about… So who knows what else happened, and is happening now!

    Paradise is a ramshackle dive operation. Do not dive with them.

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