18.12.2011 - 31.01.2012 30 °C
So last time I updated this we had arrived to Gorontola to stay in the Melati hotel to await our boat for the Togeon islands. To be honest we didn’t do too much in Gorontola, the town was a bit depressing and anything really worth seeing was on the outskirts of town. While staying in the hotel we met a Belgian couple who had just returned from the islands and from a new resort called sunset. We had already read the review books written by other visitors at reception and had already half decided to check the new place out. It was good to talk to them about their experiences which were very positive. As Sophie and Matty were from different parts of Belgium, the whole Flemish/French thing meant that they had to speak English together. As it was my birthday the next day when we had to travel we decided to have some beers. In the evening Julieth and Peter arrived at the hotel after their long journey from Manado, we had originally met them in Bunaken and again in Manado but hadn’t had a proper opportunity to get to know them. Julieth is Colombian, while Peter is from Germany; they had been living together in New Zealand and were making their way back to Berlin to start a new chapter of their lives. This is a totally great way to relocate. Peter’s sister and her boyfriend had been in Indonesia before and while in the togeons she had been on a fishing trip with an older Indonesian man. It was Julieth and Peter’s mission to find this man, after all he had shown the guys a great time but also brought them to a spot where they saw a shark. It was after piecing together lots of stories and reviews that they found their man – papa uni. His daughter Uni actually owned the new place where we had chosen to stay. With the four of us travelling together it meant laughter and stories flowed. The ferry was an overnight uneventful one; we had a cabin so slept through the night. In fact it was the captains cabin because of my birthday. Arriving bright and early at port we were met by Uni and her father, the famous papa Uni. We first walked to Uni’s home to get the boat to Togeon Island were Sunset Beach was situated. Uni was married to an English guy, Ian who stayed on the island with us. Their son, Sam was a papa uni in training, trying to steer the boat from the start and help his ‘opa’ with the controls.
Sunset beach had only opened a few months previously and had four bungalows for rent. The costs included three delicious meals with a large variety of vegetables, rice, eggs and fish. The restaurant was raised with stilts and sat high so that you could take advantage of an uninterrupted sunset and capture some of the refreshing sea breeze in the evenings.
The only other guest was Peter from the UK; he travels six months of the year and spends his summers at home living in his caravan. The two couples, Peter and Ian formed an easy going group who did snorkeling trips all day with papa uni and played card games at night with cold beers (the cheapest of the islands). They were easy days, broken up by the race to the hammocks to chill. Each bungalow had only one hammock so it was fun to have the battle of the sexes between the couples. We spent xmas eve around a bonfire on the beach with a great music playlist (thanks to Julieth), great company and a roaring fire. Though we didn’t see the same things as Peter’s sister we had an amazing time and now Peter is more famous than his sister whom they still remember, after all he is the first westerner that papa Uni has seen to climb a coconut tree.
The snorkeling trips were to Karina beach, a postcard perfect beach (to steal a line from Julieth; it was like living in a postcard), to Taipei reef to see an amazing amount of fish above beautiful coral and along the wall, and around Taipei Island which is owned by Paradise beach but is deserted.
On xmas day the four of us decided to travel together to Poyalisa. This retreat is just off the side of Bomba. At low tide it is one island but at high tide the restaurant is separated which shows it as two islands. It is obvious that this place has been open for more years then Sunset beach as they are more prepared with water resources but it doesn’t detract from the memories of our first stop in Togeons.
It’s at Poyalisa we met a Belgian guy called Lucas, he has worked in the boatyards for most of his life, he was offered early retirement and now travels for half the year. He easily fitted into our little group and every evening was spent playing games and teasing each other. He introduced everyone to a game most commonly known as dog, this led to everyone’s competitive sides coming out and a natural flow of banter followed. Lucas had been staying there for a while and had gotten to know the locals quite well. His stories kept everyone in stitches, especially the ones involving his pursuit of cats and preventing them from killing the birds that flew to his garden every year. Poyalisa was run by Dr Ismail. Though we had most dealings with smiley giggles (his nickname because of his infectious good moods). He has a heart of gold. On Poyalisa you can have free snorkeling trips (for short distance ones) and a small contribution is needed for full day trips. They also organize trips to the town and a local bat cave. But the main attraction for many is: the coconut crabs that live here. There was a lot of excitement when we got to see one. It was very sad to leave Poyalisa and the togeons after eight blissful days but it was time to move on.
Its at Bomba that Arjan tried his first Durian fruit, and possibly his last....
The boat to Ampana was small and the waves came to a few inches below the windows. The sea was very choppy and though the journey is only a few hours it felt like a lifetime. You know it’s not your imagination when locals look sick and some even start to pray. Arjan and I were sitting below deck near the engine, the fumes weren’t helping but the boat was crowded so we were lucky to have somewhere to sit. Julieth and Peter were on deck but also had a rocky journey. When we reached land we were very thankful. From town we had arranged to get a car to Tentana were we would spend one night before continuing to Rantepao in Tana Toraja. It took a little while to organize the transport as it was the holiday season (Dec 30th) but after eight hours in the car we arrived in town in the evening. Here we realized that nearly everything was booked out and all prices were at high season for the holidays. We booked into Wisma Monton for four nights, the accommodation was nothing special but the restaurant meant we had fantastic views for the New Year’s Eve fireworks. The rest of the sightseeing of the town will be continued in a separate entry as it is mostly about the funeral traditions which include the slaughtering of animals that not everyone will want to read. While Julieth and Peter had to leave town for their next journey, possibly through India we changed hotel to Pias Poppies. This is situated on the outskirts of town with a beautiful garden and charming rooms, and now for a girly comment; the stone bathroom is very cute and I love the tiled bath. The food here is the best in town and we feel a little bit spoiled…..