To Jakarta

March 17th

We wake at Miko hotel in Makassar. Breakfast is [agreed] at nine o’clock, but before that Agnese, Andra, Imants and Rūdolfs go to the post by taxi. After breakfast, five of us go to the market, where we create photographing festival for locals. We all return to the hotel and by a van go to the airport to fly to Jakarta, where we also land successfully. With three Blue Bird taxis we arrive at a rather the nice accommodation The Packer Lodge. Here there are comfortable beds for everyone in one’s own niche. Shower and toilet works even without buckets. There is a possibility to get beer which we hurry to use. We cozily sit and eat a bit. In the evening, some of us still find the strength for a walk through the city, going to the Dutch Square. Around it there are pedestrian streets with a rather lively night-trading. We enter a fine restaurant with live music, where we get kindly shown all the rooms, but after all of that we get back in the streets again. As this is the capital, the locals no longer show the desire to take photos with us. We have got knocked out of the usual. After 11pm we return and disperse over our shelves. In our room they are in two floors – 8 pcs. It is much more comfortable than in many other places. We fall in a sweet sleep after this saturate day.

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.

Day of crazy traffic

March 2nd

Our day started very good, rental cars arrived early, one was white, next was gray and the third was black, or – we got two Toyota Avanza’ s and one Daihatsu Xenia. Drivers with the experience of left side driving took their places and our journey had begun. First we visited the harbour with traditional wooden ships built by Bugis people. We were allowed to explore one of them from inside. The day was sunny and hot.

Our next job was to buy supplies for the trip at the supermarket. It took a long time. After filling gas we were ready to leave Makassar but there was an obstacle, a big traffic jam that lasted for an hour. What an incredible mess, small motorbikes sneaking in every gap! For all these reasons we left Makassar only in the afternoon. In the dusk we entered mountains and the rain started. During the day it was sunny and hot. Our team was split by traffic and we could not contact each other by mobile phones due to a bad network connection.

The road was full of surprises, there were pits, sand piles, wrongly parked cars, careless pedestrians, dogs. People’s activities are concentrated on roadside, seams that all Indonesian life happens here. So gradually we get accustomed to local specifics. But luckily we reached Sengkang without any scratch (many thanks to our drivers) and we spent a night in a luxury looking apartments. A dinner and cold beer after this long trip were right on time.

The day of millionaires

March 1st

After 4am after journey of around 38 hours and half-slept night in the airplane we finally arrived at hotel Miko. We sort out the formalities for the hotel and around 5am can already go to bed. Just need to listen to the morning prayer and the dream can start. What a pity that less than 4 hours are left for this lovely activity.

At 9am we arrive for breakfast. Everyone is enthusiastic, just from time to time someone tries to fall asleep. The hotel is ok. For the breakfast we have tender rice and rice with spices, some fluffy, white, supposedly meat, also something like liver and a spicy soup. Everything is well. Some are complaining that they don’t have windows in their room, some others do have a window but it is looking to a chute. The eclipse t-shirts are distributed.

The day is dedicated to exploration of Makassar. But foremost the business. The sorting of car rental and currency exchange. The conversation with the hotel staff are long. Finally we get a minibus with driver and a guide. We had been thinking that the rental of the car will take the most time, but that’s not so. We finish that surprisingly fast.

Now the currency exchange. We walk in several banks and decide for the one where we started. The process takes time. We understand then that in this country nothing is happening quickly. The rate such that for 10’000 rupees one needs to pay 66 eurocents. And so – hurray, we become owners of several millions. We are millionaires, there are no problems.

Now to the city. We go to the port where there should be the old wooden ships. But it’s not so, they are not there or our guide did not know how to find them. Instead we find a fish restaurant. The entrance doesn’t look trustable but here they don’t care about the outside look yet. At the entrance there are several boxes with different fish, We choose the one which is called Dorada in Europe and another one, a bit fatter. The fish here cost 3.5 to 4.2 Eur for a fish. I imagine how much would it cost in Europe, uhh. And then they start to bring us all kinds of starters, spicy gherkins etc. Another bonus of the restaurant is that there is live music being performed here. The people are happy, take photos, also gladly sing themselves. Also our guys sang ” ja es būtu to zinājis, ka tik labi šai vietā…” [Latvian folk song]. The response was average, the Indonesians need to develop to understand us.

And then to the city sightseeing. We proceed to Hollanders’ fort [Fort Rotterdam]. Many local youths are hanging out here. Many want to take photos with us. We meet an interesting man who teaches English to the young sailors. He promises to show us the wooden ships. Then we walk to the sea coast. No effective sunset as there are clouds. However the clouds give a nice background. Just need to walk some 2km and we are back in the hotel. Just one more procedure left – the distribution of money. There are lots of banknotes, many jokes and a millionaire status for everyone. Can sleep peacefully. Only thoughts on how to keep that fortune are bothering.

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.