#5 Sulawesi, Oct. 10, 2011

My bus from Rantepao to Tentena was coming from elsewhere and going right past my hotel so the ticket agent told me that the bus would pick me up, which it did at 9:00 AM, as promised!

The first eight hours of the 10-hour trip were lovely. The air-conditioned bus was fine and we were high in the mountains with beautiful scenery. The road was not good, but there were two young Lithuanian men sitting in front of me, with whom I had a very nice chat. They were especially pleased that I had visited Lithuania last summer, so I recapped my trip for them. We were the only tourists on the bus. Many other passengers had brought sacks of rice (?), which were lying all down the aisle.

Of course, eight hours is enough for any trip; but wait, there was more! It had gotten dark and begun to rain, as we came down the mountain on the skinny, bad road, in the rain and in the dark; and came down and came down for five more hours. The 10-hour trip took 13 hours! During that last five hours, though, we did stop for a dinner break and I had a beer and some good food with the Lithuanians, which made the rest of the trip go better!

It had stopped raining when we got to Tentena at 10:00 PM, and a motorbike man solicited my business to take me to my hotel. During the three km ride into town (the terminal is out of town a bit) it began to rain again, and, while driving the motorbike, he began taking off his helmet, suggesting that I put it on against the rain! I convinced him to keep his helmet on and tend to his driving on the slippery streets. We finally got to the Losman Tropicana without coming to grief, but the hotel was FULL! “You didn’t book the room!” the driver said accusingly. True, I didn’t! Back on the motorbike in the rain to another hotel, which did have a room. What a day, my pack and I were soaking wet, but I survived!

My hotel, The Pamona Indah Permei, which I hadn’t really seen when I arrived in the rain, fronted on the beautiful lake, Danau Poso, which was overlooked by the mountains that I had crossed the day before.

When I began exploring Tentena the next morning, I saw more of the lake/river with its covered bridge (not exactly up to Madison County but charming anyway) and its new modern bridge, swarming with motorbikes.

 

 

 

From the covered bridge I viewed the eeltraps, where perhaps my lunch had been caught.

 

 

 

Yes, for lunch, I tried the fried eel. The flesh was like firm white fish—rather good, but it was very heavily battered and so had lots of fat. It reminded me a little too much of Kentucky Fried. It was very expensive, relatively speaking. An ordinary dish costs 15 or 20,000 R; something special costs 40,000 R, but this cost 80,000 R.

After lunch, I walked quite a ways and did manage to find an internet, which worked surprisingly well. Then it rained (poured) again, just as I got back to my hotel. I didn’t need to be soaked a second time! In fact, it poured from about 3:00 PM until after midnight! I expected things to be washed away (like roads) the next morning, but actually everything looked normal.

I hired a guide to take me to the Air Terjun Salopa, a waterfall about 15 km from Tentena. We set off on his motorbike, and except for a few puddles, the rain the day before didn’t seem to have caused any problems. The waterfall was beautiful, probably partly because of the rain the previous two days. It was rather spectacular, in fact.

We continued on to the Siuri Beach on the lake. Here the sand was yellow, I mean really yellow, and was a pleasant place to go swimming, which I did. It was a nice cool-off as the weather was hot and humid. On the way back I asked to stop at the ‘new’ market on the edge of town. When I inquired further of Joni, my guide, he said they had built a new one because the old one had been bombed (five people were killed) in the ‘troubles’ between the Muslims and the Christians that happened in 2006. My guidebook commented on the troubles, but didn’t say anything about a new market or the old one being bombed. Actually another person told me that the fracas really wasn’t between the religions, but that a bunch of young men had gotten drunk and started a fight in front of a mosque. Rumors flew, the thing escalated, and the army was called in to restore order. This person said that the local people didn’t know how to make a bomb, and so the market bombing was done for political reasons by the army. Who knows? Unfortunately the new market wasn’t very attractive. I think it takes generations for a market to develop a proper patina.

Safely back to town, I had a lunch of boney fish and warm beer (!) and then found the internet again that I had used the day before. The air certainly was clear following all that rain!

The next morning (at Joni’s suggestion the day before) I left at 8:00 for the ‘Terminal’ to get a bus/car to Poso. When I arrived on the back of a motorbike taxi, the Terminal was completely deserted with nary a bus/car in sight. A young man said in halting English that since this was Sunday, there would be no buses/cars to Poso until late in the afternoon. So much for Joni’s expertise!

Back at my hotel, a man ‘found’ me, who was going to Poso and said I could ride with him, which I did. Our party consisted of Amir, his wife, and the driver. We had just gotten out of town when we stopped for refreshments. Everyone (including me) tied into some corn on the cob sauced with hot chilis (quite good!), which they apparently boil in the husks. I finally had an opportunity to try the palm wine—just a taste, and it tasted palmy.

When we arrived in Poso I suggested to Amir that I might like to stay in the Losmen Lalang Jaya, which he thought a good idea. Amir is in the tourist business, so knew the hotel and the people. After I got situated in this most bazaar hotel—it’s ramshackle and is on stilts over the waters of the Pacific—Amir told me that it was the proprietess’ birthday and I was invited to have lunch with her friends and family. We had a wonderful lunch—burassa (they were so impressed that I knew this name!), chicken and potatoes in a wonderful spicy sauce, three other vegetable dishes that I don’t know at all, and then three desserts. They were so hospitable to me—what a lovely happening.

My room is colorful and has a private bathroom with a mandi, a tub of water that you slosh on yourself using a dipper, and also flush the toilet that way—but it was a western toilet although it had no wooden seat!! I think this is the most atmospheric room that I’ve ever had—well maybe not—one in the Casamance of Senegal was even more bazaar, I think.

Late in the afternoon Amir came, and we walked to his office so I could use his internet service. Following that he called another friend and his driver and we went to look at some beach property that Amir was planning to buy. We topped it all off with drinking a special hot drink, heavily gingered, and eating some ricy things with fish in the middle, as we sat on a promenade overlooking the ocean.

Today I explored Poso a bit, which is a very nice town. Tomorrow I will go to Ampana.

Carol

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