Togean islands north to Manado
06.08.2013 - 18.08.2013 28 °C
N.B. THIS BLOG CONTAINS SOME GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF DEAD ANIMALS WHICH MAY BE OFFENSIVE. (BUT WE ARE JUST RELATING WHAT WE SAW)
Our days at Sunset Beach were pretty busy. NOT. We could only walk about 15 metres in any direction as the beach was very short and the surrounding jungle was steep and impenetrable. It was nice though because we had enforced R&R and wound down to a snails pace. The days revolved around meal times. We were a little like prisoners wondering what our next meal would be. Inevitably it was rice, noodles and fish. Being on an island one would think that the fish would be great. But no. We were usually served up small fish, like small mackerel, which had the life cooked out of them and were as dry as a boot. We generally heard them going on the pan about an hour before the meal was served. Breakfast usually consisted of plain pancakes or rice. And is that was not bad enough our host, Uni, never brought enough beer and many evenings we went without. But we survived with tunes from Seamus on the tin whistle and from our neighbours Fabien and Melanie on the ukulele. We met a lovely bunch of people there.
We went snorkelling most days and one day we went off on the boat on a snorkelling trip. It was lovely. The togean islands are just recovering from over a decade of dynamite and cyanide fishing. Crazy I know. There are some beautiful corals but we noticed that in places they are being eaten by the dangerous looking crown of thorns star fish. Its predator, the Napoleon fish, has been all but fished out for foreign markets.
On day 5 we tried to make an escape to another island. We also wanted to meet up with Éidín's sister Helena and family who were on another island. After a 3 hr boat ride to their island we found that they had gone on a day trip and even worse, there was no accommodation for us on the island! We tried a couple of places but all were full. So we had to go back to our wee prison on Sunset Beach where we were lucky to get our beds back as more tourists were just pulling up as we landed!
Two days later we made good our escape and boarded the overnight ferry to Gorontalo, a 13hr ferry ride. Uni, our ever disorganised hostess had told us she had bought tickets for executive class seats, all cabins being booked. On arrival on the ferry, it was absolute bedlam. The car deck was full of families with blankets, the upper deck was full of backpackers and locals trying to find a spot for the night and every available space and seat was taken. And we had no seats! Meanwhile the wiley Seamus had opened a door to a cabin which was empty. And it was no ordinary cabin - it belonged to either the captain or one of the officers! Two single beds too! After feigning ignorance and pretending we had booked a cabin, we managed to secure it by greasing the hand of the officer in question. There is a god!! We felt kind of guilty so I went on deck and asked 2 girls from Slovenia (Masa and Ursula) to join us. Both gorgeous so Seamus was delighted.
The passage was rough, noisy and smelly but it was infinitely better than sleeping on deck. In the morning as we disembarked we paired up with a Dutch girl and an American lady and chartered a car for the 12 hr drive to Manado. All I can say is that we were glad to arrive in one piece, the driver having a penchant for overtaking only on blind bends. Three days later, my behind is still sore after the journey!
Manado is a nice city (by sulawesi standards) located by the sea. People are super friendly. Genuinely so. So many people wanted photos with us and to practice their English. The city was gearing up for independence day on 17th Aug so the national colours of white and red are everywhere. Of couse Seamus is convinced they are all Cork supporters! The highlight of our visit to Manado was a visit to of all places, Pizza Hut! After a month of rice and noodles we were chomping at the bit for more European carbs. Even though I haven't set foot in a PH for 25 yrs we were like kids in a sweet shop. Several cokes, one meaty pizza, chicken carbonara and a big bowl of salad and we were in seventh heaven. The simple things in life :-)
After Manado we travelled inland to Tomohon, which is located in the cooler mountains and situated between several volcanos several of which are active. We shared a mini bus with the Slovenians ( who we met again - I think Seamus secretly organised it!!) and a German couple to the crater of 2 volcanoes spewing out sulphurous fumes. The land here is so fertile and it is lovely to see all the ridges of carrots, onions, chillies and cabbages. We stopped for lunch at a lake and then at another mad green lake bubbling with sulphur.
On Saturday we visited the (in)famous Tomohon market, where all kinds of everything is for sale. Of course there is the usual fare: coconuts, fish, veggies, bamboo, and sugar, spice and all things rice. This market is also famous for its more unusual fare namely bat, rat and dog. There was even snake and monkey but thankfully we didn't manage to find them. If you think you will be upset by seeing roast dog, don't look at the next few pictures. Theses animals are part of the local food culture and who are we to question that with our western values? Though we (ie Seamus) went to the market with the intention of maybe sampling some of the traditional fare, having seen it first hand we suddenly lost our appetite and opted for fruit salad for dinner that night!
To recover from the market we walked into the main town and waited for the Independence Day parade. Indonesia is celebrating 68 years of independence. The latest invaders were the Japanese (preceeded by the Dutch). It really is a big day out and the parade consists of mainly school children all dressed up and playing instruments. It appears that almost all Indonesian kids can play some instrument or other. Even the 5 and 6 year olds were playing. V cute. Of course at the end of the parade we bumped into 2 of the local cops. They were both baby faced but it turns out that the guy on the right of the photo is only a year younger than (grandpa) Seamus and had served 23 years in the force!