All is good that finishes in the night

March 3rd, Thursday

The day begins with the mosque prayer sounds at sunrise. At 6:30 for breakfast we enjoy the local traditional dishes – rice and coconut mixture wrapped in banana leaf, discuss the details of the earthquake and impending tsunami in Indonesia. We are delighted that Indonesia is so big that we are not nearby this incident. Meanwhile, the local goat opposite the hotel feast on trash content.

The day is sunny, hot, +29 degrees. At 7:30 we go for a boat ride on the lake Tempe. We get in 3 kayak-type boats with our bums on the boat floor and with a good mood enjoy the sunny day and easily bracing breeze. Along river coasts on stilts built are not only houses but also a mosque. On the footbridges next to the river women are washing clothes and bathe themselves, and are preparing food. Flying are white and gray herons, kingfishers, terns and some birds of prey. We are going through the water hyacinths, some water cabbage, peppers and vine jungle into open lake. One can only imagine how beautiful the view would be if there was the hyacinths blooming time as now only a few flowers can be seen. Visible in the distance is a mountain range, white clouds the sky. There are a large number of bamboo poles sticked in the lake to regulate the spread of water hyacinths’ floating islands. Fishermen cast small-hole nets in the lake. We go to the point where a small village of houses has been built in the middle of the lake. It is fine to live like this, because here it is warm and life on the water could be even more refreshing than on the coast. Fish in one’s reach, the rest can be brought by a boat. On the way back we enjoy the relaxation and boats are competing by overtaking each other. When we have returned to the river, it is possible to see the fish offloading and reception place, which is located on stilts. Lake nourishes the locals and lets them profit, it at least one would like to think so. Two-hour trip on the lake goes very fast.

We go back to the hotel and at 9:30 we depart. 55 km straight stretch of road. Cars are already noticeably dusty and we ourselves are quite sweaty. Landscape with rice fields and traditional houses, built on stilts. Rice is sprayed with a hand sprayer. We see some villas with hedges of decorative shrubs and colorful ornaments. Satellite dishes are all sticked in the ground and pointed straight up to the sky. There are dried corn grains along the roadsides. Part of them get eaten by the roosters and chicken, which, like dogs, consider roadside their territory. Beautifully dressed children in school uniforms, different for each school, come along the road. They are going home from school. Before the second car in our regular column dogs keep dashing out, this time it is the white car, which them solemnly await. On the roadside there are silver domes for mosques sold. We suppose that a dome is a key element for a mosque since in several places visible are bright domes on unfinished buildings. We are talking about the possibility of putting a dome on the car as well, or on the summer cottage in Latvia.

Landscape is changed by coconut and banana gardens. Thanks to the air conditioner it is a pleasant coolness in the car. We notice red clusters of fruits in trees and realise that they are traded along the road; look appetizing, so we buy some. It turns out that they are rambutan – fluffy and delicious fruits with a seed in the middle. We continue moving along a winding mountain road with fabulous palm valleys, later it turns out that that all of the following road section is like this. We pause to photograph mountains and amazingly welcoming locals are offering us to use the toilet in their home.

Our path leads to Tana Toraja district, known for its unusual traditions for burial of the dead. There are peculiar-looking boat-shaped second floor and roof cottages appearing. As it turns out, there are a lot of them. We are visiting graves in cliffs with wooden dolls on balconies, which are clothed like the deceased. We are viewing an impressive cave with burials in old boat-shaped coffins and skulls arranged in rows. Next to several skulls there is a large number of cigarettes placed. Likely they are meant for the dead in the afterlife. It would be a good advertisement for cigarettes – Smoking – kills! Great, that in our group nobody smokes.

On the way to the burial cave we are surprised by unusually fat bamboo shoots and excited by the photogenic and noble misty colored bull. In the center of the village locals gather for rooster fights. Roosters are getting their feet, neck, back massaged and wings stretched. Two roosters start spontaneous unauthorized sample fight which Ilgonis is trying to perpetuate in a photo. The owners quickly stop this amateur activity as roosters can get injured before the ”official” matches (rooster fights, it seems, are officially banned).

Next, we look for the children’s burial tree. We find it only in heavy twilight already. Small children are buried in a many recesses cut in the tree, which are then covered with braided grass carpets attached with wooden pegs to prevent the small spirits from escaping. Tree is standing big, withered and without top in front us. Even spookier atmosphere is created by bright sparks – fireflies – which as the spirits of the children buried in the tree accompany us along the trail to the cars.

We get there at 18:50 when it is already completely dark, yet we decide to go to an evening swim in a lake with clean water. Then begins the great searching game. First we unsuccessfully look for the lake along different roads till it begins to rain and removes all the desire to swim. Then we try to find a petrol tank, but it turns out that so late (20:00) they are already closed. Gasoline can be bought only in bottles on the roadside. It is sufficient to the many motorists, but might not serve our cars. Not gotten any water, or gasoline, we focus on the search of accommodation. And then begins that what words cannot describe. The road along which we go uphill turns into something that can hardly be named road. If anyone would talk about it in a video recording, then all the words would need to be censored and replaced by beep… beep… beep…. Translated they would be 60% of steepness, sharp elbows, broken and collapsed asphalt, large stones and all of that with a solid additive of rain and black darkness. Was it not for our masterful drivers, probably we would get to sleep in the cars on some hillside. Occasionally jumping out and walking, or jumping with the cars through the rocks, in the end we happily reach 1,424 m of height, and are escorted to our accommodation by local boys.

Either because of the nervous tension or it really was so nice, the overnight stay in a mountain hut gave everyone a great joy. Eating the tasty Indonesian rural style food that our hosts had arranged, consisting of noodle soup, crispy chicken pieces, warm eggs and bananas, listening Ilgonis playing harmonica, we dined with fun in the ship-form house and went to sleep with the chicken and other animals emitting a variety of sounds to rise up in the morning together with the roosters and enjoy the first rays of sunshine in the mountains. Only the drivers still could not settle and loudly discussed dark astray experiences. – Then I dove to the right, then left, then pressed on the gas, then on the brakes, then the car went bang on its belly! Beep… beep… beep… – The first and the last beep… are a little exaggerated to magnificate the narration. In the Indonesian tour everything is good, that finishes in the night!

Agnese’s notes:
We saw the dolls tau-tau in the royal burial site of Suaya, the cave with the many bones in Tampangallo which is in a short walk’s distance from Suaya. The children’s burial tree in Kambira. In each of both places it was required to pay 20’000 IDR to the local cashier (in exchange for official entry tickets) for each person
We went up the hill to reach a place called Batutumonga and stayed at Mama Yo’s homestay

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.