Today we must return to Makassar, because we have booked flights to Jakarta the day after. The travel distance is a bit less than 400km and the estimated driving time (as advised by motel employees) is around 7 hours. So the plan is relatively simple. However Sulawesi still has some obstacles in store for us.
We had spent the night in Wisma Surya motel in Palopo. The Wisma Surya motel is of a low standard. Facilities are dirty and poorly maintained (for example some of the door locks do not work properly). Travelers also need to share their rooms with cockroaches. On the other hand, the rooms have air conditioning (probably one of the most important things here), the price is low and the staff is friendly.
Last evening we had a small car accident and one of the cars lost a wing mirror. During the morning preparations we fix the problem ourselves (we decide not to waste time in search for a car repair service). The lost mirror is replaced with two makeup mirrors, fixed side by side with some duct tape. As the result, each of the two mirrors has a bit different view angle. Anders finds this convenient and perhaps even better than the original design. We also discover that the same car has a flat tire. Rūdolfs is very quick to replace it with the spare wheel and we are ready to leave (the time is around 7am).
The traffic in populated areas of Sulawesi can get really heavy. When we leave the motel the streets are densely packed with small motorbikes (maybe people are rushing to the work or school). After only few minutes we experience another accident – one of our cars gently touches a motorbike next to it [or the other way round]. As a result the motorbike loses its balance and the riders fall down. We stop the car to see if anyone is injured and how to deal with the situation. One of the motorbike riders is a young girl who seems to be a bit shocked by the accident. She is offered a seat next to a small kiosk on the side of the road. Here we wait the police to arrive. The happening attracts some local people. Several policemen arrive one by one, but the situation is a bit confusing as the police don’t seem to have a specific and quick procedure to go through. There is a man in the crowd who speaks English and he is prepared to help us to communicate with the police. Finally someone takes the girl to a hospital (probably someone from the family) to check her physical condition. I believe, it would be fair to say that this situation is nobody’s fault. In this chaotic (by European standards) driving culture things like these are meant to happen time to time. However our group is not in the position to waste the time and we are prepared to take the responsibility by paying a small compensation to the girl. The girl is examined in the hospital and no injuries are found, but there is some minor damage to the motorbike. Finally we have to agree to pay 2million IDR (approx. 140 eur) to the girl to be allowed to continue our trip without the administrative procedures.
During the two hours while dealing with the situation, the other car has obtained a new wing mirror and we are all set to go. The route takes us South along the ocean coast, and later West to Parepare. In this way we avoid going through the mountain areas. It seems that the fruits sold on the side of the road are specific for different areas in Sulawesi. We decide to taste Srikaya – a fruit which looks like a large pine cone. We find it sweet and very tasty. We also try Salak, which we are not so keen on.
Shortly after Parepare we get on highway. Now, for more than an hour, we can drive faster than in any other place during the trip. But little do we know that soon we’ll be slowed down to our lowest speed. The traffic in Sulawesi can get very heavy (it can’t be said enough). We enter Makassar from north in late afternoon and this requires a lot of mental strength. The road gets more and more packed until it is almost entirely clogged with cars and motorbikes of different sizes. Here we spend about 2 hours to drive 2 km. Ilgonis, who is driving one of the cars, leaves the drivers seat and manages to find a place to relieve himself from the liquids accumulated in his body. The car line has not moved a single mm by the time he is back.
The traffic jam ends on the large road junction, where one of the roads leads to the airport. We still must pass two toll roads (8500 IDR and 3500 IDR) before we reach Miko Hotel in the northern part of Makassar. Miko hotel is the same place we spent the first two nights in Sulawesi. Here we have also agreed to return the rented cars. We have arrived to the hotel before 8pm (11 hours after we have left Palopo). We have a lot of leftover food – instant noodles, rice, tin cans with fish, corn and peas, bread, jam etc. We decide to have this food for dinner and the reception kindly provides us with some hot water. We have the cafeteria area all to ourselves and we spend our last evening in Sulawesi in a good mood.