10.12.2011 - 18.12.2011 28 °C
Yeah another flight delay but finally we got to Manado. By the time we got to the centre it was close to midnight and we just wanted to sleep. A standard taxi costs 85,000 to the centre. Our budget choice was Rex Hotel, it should have been called Wreck. A room with shared toilet was 80,000rp and 100,000 for private bathroom. This place was so noisey it felt like you were on the street, with people puking outside the window and a room with bugs, well we got up very early and moved on. I’m just glad its in the past.
We decided to head to Batuputih by public transport. This is where the fun begins with our backpacks. First from the hotel we had to get a mikrolet (small blue minivan that can get 10 people at a squeeze in) to the bus station Paal 2, from here it was a local bus to Bitung, we asked to stop at Girian as per our book but nope, not today, and at Bitung we changed to another mikrolet. The last mikrolet was just the two of us so we had loads of space. The vehicles nearly all have huge speakers under the seats playing lots of drum and base/ r nb / hip hop so far, the seats felt like they are moving. In Batuputih we stayed in Mama Roos which was 250,000 for a double room including 3 meals. It was a nice place.
On arrival we were given lunch while they finished sorting out the room, someone else had just vacated it. Lunch was a type of nasi goring with chicken, not bad at all. After this we headed down to the local beach. It had black like sand, according to the local guy it was because of volcanic ash. While we sat there lulling ourselves to a half sleeping state with the sea we were approached by a little girl. Within a few minutes we had been accosted by a dozen children. They were fascinated by how pale we were (We thought we were starting to get some colour, they thought this was even funnier). One girl has smatterings of Dutch from her great grandfather, just the basics but enough for a basic chat. The kids were funny, besides the paleness, they thought it was hilarious that Arjan was so tall and kept looking at him. One girl then started putting on a show of dancing and singing in the sea, she’s a shakira style dancer !! Some of the other girls became a mini girl band and sang some local songs while the boys showed off. They were a funny group and very sweet. They came and went to check on the fishermans catch’s from the sea but otherwise stayed with us till we headed back to Mama Roos.
Back at the rooms we met some of the other guests. They were a Norwegian film crew who had been travelling for two months around Malaysia and Indonesia. The main presenter was Kris who was a self proclaimed naturist rather then a biologist. There was also Billy, his Australian bodyguard. Billy works in a zoo just outside of Melbourne, part of his job entailed wrestling with alligators, wild boars, or basically anything. Kris and Billy had known each other for many years so it was a way for them to mix business with pleasure. If Kris got into any trouble making the wild life documentary then Billy would jump in and wrestle the animal. There was a lot of banter that evening over dinner. The night before Kris had accidently stabbed Billy in the leg, while they rushed him to a nurse to be stitched up their producer and director stayed on the beach with the bonfire drinking alcohol and getting drunker. He said there was nothing he could have done anyway. That evening over some bintangs and local palm wine there was plenty of laughter. With some of their stories it sounded like a show for MTV instead of BBC. Their guide and translater from Bali was in a for a lot of ribbing as they said he hadn’t been very good at arranging anything except cold drinks though that evening they were very happy as they had seen a large boa that was very hard to spot normally. They were singing the praises of their guides. The snake was long enough that it took eleven men to lift it, their photos were very impressive.
They left in the early hours to catch their flight back to Bali to end their trip.
That day we hired a guide for a 5-6 hour trek so that we could try to see some animals ourselves. We saw black macaques (monkeys), at the start, we followed them for awhile while they walked beside and around us, with the smaller ones playing in the trees above our heads. We were also quite lucky to see cuscuses, they stay very high in the trees and can be a bit difficult to spot, but of course the guides know what they eat so they also know what trees to look in. To me they look quite similar to sloth’s. From here we walked a bit further to see Tarsiers. These are one of the smallest mammals around, looking a bit like real life gremlins. They wake in the afternoon, and start off very sleepy. This is good for us so we could take some photos as they starred back at us with their huge eyes. The guides attracted them out of their hidden holes in the trees with grasshoppers. The tarsiers were so quick to jump to the food and back. I managed to get a video of this as I wasn’t quick enough for photos of that part. After the feeding we went to see a tree filled with bats, to check out some more wildlife and some fauna before settling for 30-40 mins to wait for nightfall. It is then that we went looking for snakes and spiders. We didn’t see any snakes but we did see a huge tarantula.
That evening the guide told us some stories about the film crew. Nearly everything they saw was real except the large boa. It is in fact possible to see them when trekking but it is extremely difficult. As the film crew were so eager, the locals decided to help but didn’t let them in on the secret. They had rented the snake from the local zoo in Bitung. The film crew still don’t know but I wonder how they would feel, it was one of their proudest moments. In total though they had some amazing stories of their trip so I doubt it would have taken too much from the experience.
We left the next morning by local pick up truck , and then the usual swap and change with local transport to get to the port. It was time for us to chill a bit and recover from all the mosquito and midge bites from the forest.
We took a local boat for 25,000 rp to Bunaken. The boat takes about an hour which isn’t long but with the rain etc and an open side, well we arrived like drowned rats to check into Daniels homestay. Here a budget cabin was 150,000 per person a night with three meals included. The last available cabin had no off switch for the electricity which doesn’t work with mozzies, so they let us stay in the nicer cabins for the same price for one night ( normally at 250,000 pp/pn). Ahhh we were finally at the beach to snorkel. We stayed on the island for three nights to soak up the rays and see the fish. Yes, we saw Nemo !! among many others. When you swim out you will first see a field of seagrass. There are many seastars amidst the grass. Most are brightly orange coloured with black spikes. Then the coral appears and after about twenty metres there is a deep abyss. This is where you find most of the fish. I have spotted parrotfish, anemonfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, angelfish, wrassers, sweetlips, fusiliers, coral breams and snappers.It really was nice once you swam about 50 - 100 metres from the shore to the coral…Besides snorkeling, we just walked, swam, read , drank and chatted to people. Very relaxing few days.
On the last day we clubbed together with some others to get a private boat back to Manado in the afternoon as none of us wanted to wake up early for the public one. There is only one public boat per day. The boat though had to land on the other side of the city because the tide was too rough for the boat to go to the normal port. This meant an overpriced taxi back to the center but sometimes you have no choice, well it was either that or walked with the packs for multiple km’s ( I should mention we both had severely burned backs and legs at this stage, the snorkeling meant forgetting time easily, so the sunscreen wasn’t always put back on quick enough).
Back in Manado we stayed two nights as Arjan wanted to visit Tomohon market, we got there around 8am. The surrounding area is nice but the market is a one time visit. I’m not going back there. This market is quite famous for the meat that it sells and we had heard about it before. If you have delicate stomachs then stop reading this paragraph. This market has section with what looks like from a distance as charred/burned carcases of possibly pig, as you get close you see it is dogs, beside the tables are cages with live dogs waiting to be killed, as you approach some look resigned to their fate while others howl for help. Above one cage, a piece of cardboard sits that still drips with blood, a wooden mallet holding it down, also covered in blood. We had already heard that sometimes a dog would be killed above the cage and that the blood would drip onto the other victims. To be honest I couldn’t handle this and had to wait outside, after getting confused in the market and walking past these tables numerous times I stayed at the bus station. Arjan went back in for curiosity, he saw also bats, rats, cats and snakes….not even just little snakes but really large ones. While he was looking around and saying to himself it’s a good thing Nikki didn’t come back in, I was having my own experience. While I was waiting some people walked past to the bus’s with their groceries, which included the charred remains of animals. It seemed standard that they burned the fur and possible insects from the animals before people took them, all but one. One man walked past with the body of a young dog over his shoulder, with his bouncey walk the body banged off his back, to make sure it was dead he banged it off the kerb, when he saw me flinch, he smiled and did it again. Moments later Arjan came back and I was ready to leave.
After our market experience we headed to the bus station to find out about the bus’s to Gorontola. We had the choice of the local cramped bus at 5.30am or a minibus with legroom at 10am…The price difference was big enough but considering it’s a nine hour journey, well we paid for the space. It was 135,000 a person (public bus is 80-90,000). The minibus also dropped us to our hotel door which is handy with the bags. Only thing I will say about the journey, it wasn’t too bad until the driver bought some fruit to put in the boot. Lets just say I hate Durians. Why do people like them? I understand why they are banned from many places. The car really stank for half of the journey so it was windows opened time……