Just about got there...
06.08.2013 - 13.08.2013 35 °C
You know the tv images of the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970's, or more recently, the Indonesian boat people trying to get into Australia? Well, that's what we looked like on our boat trip to the Togean islands in Sulawesi.Once we saw the boat we knew there was no point in even asking about life jackets. I (Aine) busied myself looking for something buoyant to cling to in the seemingly likely event of a capsize. My money was on one of the many 20 litre fuel drums which littered the deck!
We had expected a car ferry with seats etc but our boat was several notches down the evolutionary boat building scale. Because of the week that was in it i.e. the end of Ramadan, all of the boats were canceled due to the holiday. But a few of us unsuspecting tourists were literally herded onto a small boat with some locals on one of the last boats to the islands.The passenger space consisted of a 1.2meter high space below the deck so you had to bend at 90 degrees to get in and move around. Seating arrangements were simple enough i.e. the floor which comprised wooden planks. Of course the wiley locals knew where to park themselves and were lying out on most of the available floor space which meant that us tourists had to plonk ourselves by the engine and the generator used for pumping water out of the boat. The decibel levels were seriously damaging!
Of course to start the boat the crew needed to lift the planks on which we were sitting to crank the engine using various spanners, hammers etc. Peffect! But things could have been worse: we could have been tied together at the feet like our companions the live chickens.As we departed the 2 deckhands were busy emptying the 20 litre fuel drums into the engine, all the while spilling diesel all over the floor. Afterwards they relaxed by smoking several fags whilst sitting on the remaining full fuel tanks! Our panic levels were somewhat alleviated when we realised thing could be worse - the fuel could have been petrol. I had also noticed that the drums had originally contained hydrogen peroxide so we were hoping there wouldn't be some sort of adverse chemical reaction. It seems our lives were in the lap of the gods so we decided to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Three hours later we stopped at the little village of Bomba and all the locals disembarked. The water was so shallow that the boat was hitting the reef underneath. Another nail biting moment! Off we headed again and now with the locals gone we managed to get the choice planks on the bow of the boat. Lovely and breezy. At one stage we looked to the wheel house and noticed that the captain was asleep on the deck! Thankfully one of the deckhands roused himself and took the helm. Another 2 hours later we arrived at our destination of Sunset Beach on a little private island.
Our boat couldn't dock as there was no jetty so we had to transfer onto a smaller boat with all our luggage etc. Not easy. A few minutes later and we were checked into Hut No. 2 complete with resident bat, open eaves and a single hammock to fight over. We ran into the sea to wash off the sweat and engine oil and enjoyed the sunset over a bottle of Bintang beer and a dish of the now ubiquitous nasi goreng. (The freeze dried dinners we bought for hiking in NZ are beginning looking more appealing by the day....) Never mind, for the moment we have a little slice of heaven at the quirky Sunset Beach.