Standing atop the ferry, surrounded by a crowd of friends, we bid farewell to the sandy beaches we had called home for more than a week.
A light cool breeze dispelled the mellow rays of the setting sun and wisked away the occasional tear that appeared on the faces of those not yet ready to wave goodbye to the gold and jade shores. It was a heart warming moment as the friends, divemasters and staff we had laughed with over many evenings sent us on our way.
Our way: to Gorontolo (by ferry) and then, having found some transport, onto Tomohon – a little town in North Sulawesi – our penultimate stop in Indonesia.
On the ferry we opted for the very posh sounding ‘business class’ (spelled ‘Bisnis class’). This may indeed be how it is spelt in Indonesian; however, I think it was mis-spelt and a warning of things to come… considering past ferries (See Pelni Wilis) it was not really that bad, but I was incredibly glad I didn’t have to work the following day!
We put into harbour at, the not too agreeable time of, 4am. Our intrepid crew from Rantepao was still with us (a miracle we hadn’t scared them off I know). Hello Ben, Marisa, Nicola and Elisabetta… Good times. And we set to finding a car…
After much (failed) negotiation…
One change of car; our driver intended to take the six of us north (a journey that ended up taking 11 hours) in a car roughly the size of a micra… Bags and all! Err, no…
And much back and forth between ATMs, petrol station and a return visit to the harbour (an hour wasted altogether)…
We finally left Gorontolo and headed north.
Whilst this journey was not the longest we’ve endured in actual time, the fact we had suffered rather a rough night and the stress of the journey itself made it seem never ending.
The ‘stress’ came in the form of a very (very) tired driver who kept falling asleep at the wheel. No joke. This resulted in all of us being on tenterhooks as we took it in turns to watch the driver and SHOUT, clap our hands (and generally go into mild hysteria) when we watched his eyes close and his head go limp. We had to ‘make’ him stop 2 or 3 times to have a quick 10 minute power nap before heading off again.
I do not want this experience again. Period.
When we finally reached Tomohon we splashed out on a deluxe room… with hot water and everything! The first time in almost six weeks. It was an over indulgence, but the soft, feathery, head-hugging pillows took all our cares away. Then we set about exploring Tomohon.
Unfortunately, we were unable to hike the volcano (Gunung Lokon, pictured below) as it had been too ‘consistently active’ over the past few weeks. Something that hadn’t changed with our arrival.
We decided to visit the volcanic centre to see what was going on and found out the volcano was on ‘alert 3’ (out of 4… At which point they evacuate the entire city). Gulp! Here’s a snapshot of the seismograph readout whilst we were there… The squiggly line means ‘very active’.
We also visited a big lake…
And a little lake… Exciting I know! 😉
In fact, the little lake had awesome sulphur pools, boiling and bubbling away as Lokon stretched its magma-muscles!
A Christian sanctuary followed by a Buddist temple…
The vista from the temple was, in its way, gothic. Eerie. The sun was setting, painting the sky with fire and blood. Lokon continued to protest wildly; each minute threatening to wrench more than just smoke into the sky. Whilst in the foreground mystic statues stood watch. Never changing.
The evening past and as morning broke eerie coalesced into macabre.
We were at a traditional Indonesian market but the scene before us was, from a Western perspective, barbaric. Littered around the market lay carcasses of all creatures. Death hung in the air. From pig head to blackened bats, their mouths etched in horror.
And more horror lay on the tables beyond. Dogs. Some dead. Others awaiting the same fate.
Seeing the live dogs brought an end to our market visit. I understand that within this culture, and others (like Vietnam) it is just another form of meat. I respect that. But seeing it this close up. Catching the pleading eyes of dogs, caged and petrified, was enough for one morning’s outings.
And so ended our time in Tomohon and my carnivore ways (temporarily). 😉
Onto our last Indonesian home… Manado.