The last day

March 19th

To sleep in the airplane is not easy, but needed. Somehow I manage to devote about 5 hours for the sleep, however, when there are 4 hours left till the destination, I don’t manage to fall asleep in any way anymore and have to watch films. After a while lights get turned on in the saloon. It is a sign that breakfast can be expected soon. We land in Istanbul at 5:50 in the morning. We need to spend some time in the security controls, where Vitolds has to part from a folding pocket knife that was left in his hand luggage. We have almost 3 hours till the next flight, which each of us spend entertaining themselves in the airport departure area. At least as much as it’s possible to be entertained there. Boarding is announced one hour before the departure. We meet at the gate, where we get boarded on the bus outside and get driven to the airplane. It is cool. My clothes are traveling in the check-in suitcase, so I still do with a t-shirt, shorts and sandals.

Around 11am we have arrived in the Cologne airport already. Finally we get to see our luggage. Nobody is missing anything. Now I can also put on more suitable garments for the climate. To get rid of the baggage suitcases, we go to the Ryanair check-in desk. Huge queue, but no one to service it. After a while, however, the queue begins to move forward after all. We meanwhile manage the weight of the suitcases to match the permissible limits. Success. I check-in my suitcase and then run to the adjacent desk, because all the boarding cards for the people flying are in my phone. However, it is not a problem and everything is quickly sorted. Someone has found a suitable place to spend the time and around 13 o’clock we move to the cafe S-Bahn in the adjacent terminal building.

After a while I receive SMS from Agnese (she went to Germany separately, by a different flight): “Where are you?” I answer equally “logically”: “In the adjacent terminal, eating is happening”. Despite this, she finds us. We spend another hour in the cafe and then go to check-in Agnese’s luggage and to yet another security control before the last flight today. The Germans are exceedingly hard-working and seek out thoroughly. They are interested in both bags with food and boxes with gadgets (chargers, batteries, screwdrivers, etc.). After consultation among the security-colleagues I get everything returned and let to take with me. Danke Schoen! Typically, that the Ryanair passengers have already lined up in a really long queue for boarding still well ahead the start of it. We have no desire to stand, so we wait until most people are already on board. It has its cons – there is not really place for the hand baggage anymore. I stuff it under the chair, as I can somehow endure these inconveniences for the couple of hours of the flight. Despite the tense posture I manage to get some sleep.

When I wake up, we have already flown into Latvia. At 19:50 the aircraft lands at the airport “Riga”. Land is covered with snow in places. It’s a bit strange after the 3 weeks spent in heat. The bus drives us to the entrance, there we await our luggage (how nice that everyone has everything) and entering the waiting room, we meet the first welcomers. The final group photo still and then in groups we disperse to home.

The trip is over. Long live the trip!

The Day in Jakarta

March 18th

Light breakfast in the morning in the cozy hostel, the suitcases put inside a lift which will also serve as our luggage storage, then also our arranged taxis are here. We are going to the national monument of independence. We drive up to a large park, where we get out. Monument in the center of the park. The park area is very large. Everything is clean and tidy. For Jakarta residents, this is a favorite place for sports activities. We have reached the monument. With high-speed elevators we go up to the 115-meter high tower’s viewing platform. Stunning city panorama. The park is surrounded by beautiful skyscrapers. From the top everything it is so clean, beautiful and neat. Then we go to the History Museum, which is located 3 meters below the monument. The museum exhibition is arranged in a circle. There is 51 diorama in total, in which the whole history of Indonesia is reflected. Impressive. Indonesian history, like history of many nations, is dramatic.

In the evening begins our way home but we still have time – half a day. We have decided to go to the zoo, because we want to see those primates and birds, which we did not see in the wild. To the Zoo we go by taxi. It is more convenient, and, to some extent, a small city tour. The tickets are incredibly cheap for the zoo. In the zoo all of us disperse according to their interest. Ilgonis is looking for the dragon that he didn’t see on the island, Agnese – for tarsier, Andra – for gorilla. Me and Vitolds are delighted by orangutans. How wise they are! How they know how to communicate with us, to show themselves. Unfortunately Agnese must leave sooner and without seeing tarsiers, as her plane leaves earlier, but we will be together again in Cologne.

After an hour also the rest of us, more or less satisfied, leave the Zoo. By taxi to get our belongings from the hostel, then to the airport. We spend 3 hours in the taxi, after all it’s a 9 million-people city. We see the un-polished side of the city, many spend their lives miserably. Near the airport there is an unimaginable congestion. Then we notice something interesting – stretch by stretch there are guys with motorcycles standing who are ready to deliver travelers, being late for their flights due to congestion, by motorcycle, including the baggage. Motorcycles here are able to go through the eye of a needle.

We are finally at the airport. We change our clothes. Unspent millions of rupees exchanged for some miserable euros. We are in the Turkish plane, where we are awaited by wine and a hearty dinner. Goodbye Indonesia! It was nice to get to know you at least a little.

Hati – hati (be careful)

March 16th

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.

The first day of sauna

February 29th

I wake up more active than yesterday. The lighting in the saloon is still off, everyone have their blinds closed, but if somebody tries to peek out then there is a bright light along the saloon. Many are still sleeping, but some are awake. I watch some films on the seat-panel screen. In a moment everyone are woken up by switching on the saloon light. After some time we get offered breakfast. There is an omelette with two slices of toast, tomato salad with mozarella cheese, a bun, butter, Turkish yoghurt for the desert, jam and water. Filled out the immigration form.

Finally the time has come to land and we land nicely, finally we are on hard land. Going out from the airport by a tunnel a moist hottness hits us. The first day of sauna, one can say. In the airport building the air is conditioned – then it feels better. We wait for everyone to meet at one place and then also all together go for the passport control, where we got a stampo in our passports saying “IMMIGRATION INDONESIA VISA EXEMTION”. I got it stamped next to the voting signs, Normunds got it on the “Children” page. We go to get the baggage. Waiting for some time till we get it. Then out to the airport, last scannings, neither liquids nor computer needs to be taken out.

We get out of the airport and arrive in sauna. It’s already got dark outside as darkness arrives already after 18:00. It is 27 degrees centigrade and steamy. We look for the bus to the first airport terminal, we almost catch one, then wait for the next one. Many different busses stop here, some of them still moving while the people get in or out of the transport. The correct free inter-terminals bus comes and we board it. We squeeze in the back with all the suitcases. We started to drive, it stopped in 100metres and there was Agnese whom we had agreed to meet in the airport.

All together we successfully arrive at the first terminal. We go in without taking anything out. Here they don’t care at all whether the computer or liquids have been taken out and put separately. We notice a big cockroach running near the check-in belt. We check-in and give in our baggage. Then all of us go to the plane through a big decorative arch which is leading up, and then we cross a bridge with a garden underneath. The halls are nicely cool as everywhere around there is ventilaton everywhere that comes from the floor. We gather all at the same place where there are more seats, and wait for our plane which is scheduled at 21:45. The designed time has come and we go to the gate. Looks like nothing is happening but the door is open. We go forward, but it turned out that it’s not available yet and the airport staff member run after us to get back. We were said that it will be in half an hour. Then all of us are waiting. We notice that also on the screen the time is moved forward by 20 minutes and in a moment it gets lost from the screen. We are asking what has mattered. They said that it’ll be another half an hour late. We conclude that we shouldn’t believe our eyes and shouldn’t believe what is said and hope for the best. Finally the long-waited call for the plane has come, and we go down the stairs and in the bus that takes uz to the plane.

The plane is rather new. The air is rather cool. We take our places. I snooze for a short while and wake up in a moment and conclude that the plane is still on the runway, then in a moment we take off. I started to work on putting together a video which had to be done a long time ago. They started to give out a paper bag to everyone. There was a bun and a glass of water in the bag. Finally we arrive at the end and get out, and no less hot and humid air awaits us here as well. We get to the baggage belt and wait four our baggage, those are coming slowly and without a hurry. After some of things have rotated the 4th time, our first pieces of baggage start to appear and soon we get the rest. When we have got everything we are about to go out but we get stopped on the way to check whether we have taken the right baggage and only then let us go. We go further, and there is a taxi booking system on the way and we take 3 taxi companies in random. When outside, there are many people who are calling us to go to their taxi. We start to find out prices and bargain. In the end we agree that we all get into 2 taxis and each of them will cost 150’000 rupees. We squeeze the baggage and also squeeze ourselves in the taxis since after all we are 11 people. We drive out on the road and soon stop at a post where it’s needed to pay 3500 rupees for the toll road for light vehicles. After some time we approach our hotel going through area that in Europe would be called a slum, and soon spot our hotel which excels nicely from the surroundings. We get kindly welcomed in the middle of the night and get a room and we divide the rooms. The hotel is modern and nice. There is a conditioner in the room which we quickly turn on and get a shower and go to bed. Good night!

Agnese’s notes:
To Makassar we were flying with Sriwijaya carrier, the return ticket around 100Eur.
In the 2nd terminal of Jakarta airport there are many money exchanges – those which are closer to the exits the rate is worse. There are no exchanges in the 1st terminal where most local flights depart from. We arrived in Makassar airport with one of the latest flights and there were no possibilities to exchange money, so good that we exchanged some for taxis in Jakarta airport.

Day of farewells, meetings, green grass and red beer

February 28th.

The first people arriving in Riga airport are Ināra, Vitolds and Imants. Then soon after also Rūdolfs, Dace, Andra, Ilgonis un Gunita. Agnese has trusted Imants the responsibilities of the group leader till Jakarta. In Riga he has 8 travellers under his supervision. Two more will join on the way. The main worry is to divide luggage so that nobody had more than 15.9kg. We are saved by Rudolfs who has a half-empty bag. Everyone is a little worried about Andra’s name day’s cakes – who is going to eat them. Luckily they are eaten by ourselves instead of the customs officers.
We lift up above the sun-lit clouds and 3 hours later land in Bergamo airport near the rainy Milan. Going by bus to the central Milan. On the way some of us are very delighted by the green grass along the highway. In the centre of Milan we need to switch to another bus to Malpensa airport. During the ten minutes while we reach the bus stop we get 20 offers to buy umbrellas. In Milan Kārlis has joined us. In the airport Ilgoni’s suggestion about drinking beer is supported by 100%. The Italian beer labels are Peroni Forte 8% (you can ask more details to Imants) and Peroni Rosso which has a lovely red colour and is also tasty. In the Turkish plane we get well fed and diminish our thirst, so it’s actually good that we have warmed up a bit. The flight goes by without noticing and around the midnight we are already in Istanbul where Normunds joins us. The first day has finished. Let’s see what the next one will bring!