I started this day, the last in the Togian islands, by waking up early – before 7 o’clock – to watch for birds before breakfast. It was a small success! I saw several new ones, including the Black Naped Fruit Dove – which was very beautiful. Apparently the trick to birdwatching is being early, who new!?
Those who did not go to Taipr island yesterday, me for example, then jumped into the boat right after breakfast and set off over relatively rough waters (at least for our boat). We passed by several resorts on our way to the former “Taipr Paradise” resort, situated on a small island. Now deserted, you can walk around in the empty shells in this once paradise. But that was not our purpose here! Taipr is surrounded by coral reefs and we had an hour or two to explore the wonderful world below the surface. There were lots of fish and thankfully for me – nearsighted and without contact lenses – many of them were curious about me and swam forward so I could almost touch them. It was certainly the best of the places we had visited for snorkeling so far in Sulawesi. On the way back the boat had a tough time in the waves and rocked worryingly. Irina, our host and guide, leaned over to me and said “If the boat turns over, be prepared to grab your belongings!” At first I thought she was joking but then I remembered that she had already told us about how unstable this kind of boat was and that they had actually turned over with a tourist group once. But all went well and we were back exactly on time for lunch.
In the afternoon, while the tide was low, most of us walked along the shore to the village on the other side of the island. Our main goal was to buy palm sugar, which is produced here. When everybody was happy with their share of the brown sweets, we strolled around the village and greeted its inhabitants. A while after coming back, there was a “quacking” sound from the forest, high up in the canopy. We could not see what it was at first, but finally two magnificent Knobbed Hornbills appeared. This hornbill is endemic to Sulawesi (they live nowhere else) and sadly there are signs that their numbers might be in decline. It is listed as “vulnerable to global extinction”. After dinner there was a big Latvian song sing-along and later some went night snorkeling. Not me though, I was very much inspired by the day’s events, and sat on the veranda of my cottage and wrote this story.
I felt it already in the evening before. That smell. Like rotting fish. Swedish surstromming. Could it be a durian? I didn’t know. It certainly wasn’t my feet this time. The smell gave me a headache. Or perhaps I was just dehydrated. Morning came and we had sausages, peas and small sandwiches for breakfast. And off we go! I was driving, and it was quite a nice drive through villages and hilly terrain. We were going from Wuasa towards Doda to look for the ancient megaliths in this area. The road was often good but narrow, sometimes with really high grass on the sides, making it like driving in a tunnel. In many places the road was bad though, with potholes, mud, even bigger potholes and steep drop offs. There was a few military checkpoints. Closing in on Doda there was signs formegaliths both left and right. After trying the right hand path, which turned out to be blocked, we walked the left path to the Tadulaku megalithic complex.
The first thing that happened was that we met the lady from the National Park Service,who had provided us with information about Lore Lindu. Agnese had the chance to complain about the missleading information that it was possible to see tarsiers at lake Tambing. I went ahead of the others for some “alone time” with the megaliths and the chance to perhaps spot some birds. It was a really hot day and the sun was burning relentlessly. About half way around the complex I was glad to see a lonely pine tree, and rested under for a while, feeling right at home. Many of the megaliths were shaped like giant jars, and I heard afterwards that some had cooled themselves down in the water inside. One was shaped like a flying saucer and one was shaped like a person, or a god-like figure.
Then there was the long drive back to Poso. We had some rain. At one of the military checkpoints the soldiers wanted to take pictures with us. We all lined up for the cameras, with guns and all. Back in Poso it was hard to find a guest house, because nobody spoke English when Agnese tried to call different places. After a while we found a place next to the main road. After settling in, we went to a restaurant for grilled fish with rice and vegetables. For the night I was offered to sleep on the floor in one of the air-conditioned rooms but declined. It is usually a good idea to try to adapt to the heat, the air-con will just give you a cold. Tha was my reasoning. The other rooms were really hot though, and I had difficulties sleeping. When I woke up the next day, I realized I had got a cold.
We considered to go from Doda south and then west to Tentena as that seemed to be faster judging from Nokia maps (no other map app had anything at all in this area). Yet the local person said the road is not doable by car – but doable if we were hiking…
By this day I had learned enough Indonesian to be able to arrange rooms in guest houses or hotels, however when the person on the other end of the phone says they speak English, I’d expect them to understand more than “Hello”. Or if I tell them in Indonesian “please talk slowly”, it doesn’t help if they start laughing and talking even faster…
But Poso centre has many guest houses so the easiest was just to go to some and talk Indonesian in person. Then they realise you are not supposed to speak their language at all and are more patient.
Also Air-con is a must if possible at all (this hotel “Armada” only had 2 such rooms)