Togean Islands

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Where I stayed
Fadhila Cottages

Flag of Indonesia  , Central Sulawesi,
Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Day : 135
Temperature : 33 degrees
Weather : Mostly sunny, humid, thunderstorms in evenings

The Lonely Planet book says that it takes a considerable effort to get to the Togean islands….what an understatement. We left our hotel in Rantepao at 7am and caught two becaks into town – one for our luggage and one for us. Our bus arrived at 7.30am. We settled in our seats and mentally prepared ourselves for the 9 - 10 hour bus journey north.  An hour into our journey we had covered the vast distance of approximately half a mile! It was going to be a long, long day.  At 10.30am the bus pulled over to the side of the road and all the passengers piled out. Kevin and I remained on the bus like a pair of lemmings until we discovered that it was apparently lunch time. We were not particularly hungry, but the rest break gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs and take a look at the cloves which were at various stages of drying at the side of the road. Back home, we use cloves for cooking, to give flavour and aroma to various dishes. Out here, they are used in cigarettes. Since most Indonesian people seem to  smoke like chimneys, there is a huge demand for cloves, and so clove plantations are frequently seen throughout the region.

After a one hour break the bus set off once again. By 1pm our stomachs were rumbling and we'd finished our packet of Bourbonnes biscuits and our two packets of crisps. By 3pm it was obvious that there was not going to be any lunch break.  At 4pm we were still on the road, only we’d packed even more passengers onto the bus. This brings me to an interesting point about personal space, a concept which is clearly non-existant in Indonesia. Let’s create the picture. Imagine your typical rickety old Indonesian bus.  I am in the window seat, Kevin is in the aisle seat.  All the seats are full and there are people sitting on the floor in the aisle. There is a local lady sitting in the aisle to the rear of Kevin facing the front of the bus. She is resting her head on Kevin’s arm as she tries to sleep. There is a local man sitting in the aisle immediately to the side of Kevin, facing the front of the bus. He is resting his entire arm on Kevin’s thigh, and is resting his head on his forearm.  There is another local lady sitting in the aisle slightly in front of Kevin. She is facing the rear of the bus and she is sitting on Kevin’s foot. Kevin cannot move an inch. All the locals seem happy enough.  Kevin is grumpy.  It does make one wonder what would happen in a bus in Birmingham if someone decided to use your thigh as a pillow??!

 At 5pm we finally pull over to a café at the side of the road. All the passengers get out and we follow. We would have been able to eat if we had not at this point eaten our fingers!! In my best Bahasa Indonesian I manage to communicate that I would like "nasi" and “sayur” and “teh  pahit” – rice and vegetables and tea without sugar. Our fellow bus passengers all find my attempts at speaking their language highly amusing. Our food and drink arrive. I retrieve my powdered milk from my bag and proceed to add a teaspoon of the milk to my tea…at which point several passengers spontaneously burst into laughter and with much hilarity begin shouting to each other and pointing in our direction. This is clearly the most outrageous thing they have seen in a long time! I find it amusing that they find it amusing! When we have finished and paid for our dinner which cost 25,000 Rupiah, about £1.90, we board the bus again. At 7pm we arrive in a town which is marked on our Lonely Planet. We think that it surely cannot be far to our destination from here. I can feel my feet and ankles swelling to the size of tree trunks and I am sure I there must be a DVT developing.  Finally, just after 9pm and nearly 14 hours on the bus we arrive in the town of Tentena.  We ask to be dropped off at our hotel, but nobody knows where this is. Nearly every passenger on the bus gets involved in the conversation regarding the location of our hotel. Our Lonely Planet is passed from person to person and phone calls are made on our behalf. Unfortunately the location of our hotel remains a mystery so we are dropped off at the bus terminal, some 3km out of town. The bus terminal is empty. We wave down a passing pickup truck to ask directions and he kindly offers to take us into the town. We pile our bags on the back and jump in. We offer the driver some money but he refuses to take any, so we thank him and head to the hotel. It ticks all the boxes – a comfy bed, hot water, breakfast included. We really needed a good rest. We finally collapse into bed at 11pm.

At 3.30am we are abruptly woken by extremely loud music being played through a loud speaker. As we groggily wake up we realise that it is church choir music, repeatedly followed by ringing church bells. What on earth?! I go outside to see what is going on. All the guests from the hotel are doing the same. We bang on the door of the hotel staff but the lady that answers cannot speak English and she indicates that there is nothing she can do. Everyone is furious. At 5am the music finally stops but it is now replaced by a cacophony of crowing cockerels, howling dogs and wailing cats. The sun is now rising. We can hear the rest of the guests showering and we decide to do the same as there is no chance of going back to sleep. Only there is no hot water. So we pack our bags and head out to the reception as we might as well get an early start on another long day of travelling. However this was an expensive hotel and we were supposed to have a good night’s sleep, hot shower and breakfast. We were not happy bunnies. After speaking to the hotel receptionist and to other guests we discover we are told that the church plays this music to drown out the noise from the mosque. We had been aware of previous fighting in the region only a couple of years ago, but perhaps this is an indication that there is still tension bubbling away under the surface. We didn't pay the full amount, after all, we’d had hardly any sleep, no hot water and no breakfast. So we picked up our rucksacks and left. After walking the entire 3km to the bus terminal with our rucksacks on our backs we were pretty tired.  We stopped at a warung and drank some tea. The bus terminal was deserted. After speaking to the sole security guard on the gate it seemed that the next bus to Poso, our next destination, was not until 10am…it was only 6am. Thankfully, we met a local lady who was hitchhiking to Poso, and by chance a car soon stopped and it had room for all of us. We loaded our luggage and clambered in. It was an hour and a half to Poso and not the most comfortable ride with our luggage on top of us, but it was far better than waiting four hours. We offered the driver some money, but  he refused to take any, and he kindly dropped us off at the bus terminal where we could catch the next bus to Ampana. By 10am were on a comparatively luxurious minibus on a five hour journey along the east coast. We arrived in Ampana in the early afternoon and made our way by horse and cart to our hotel which was on a lovely location on the shore. In the evening a pod of dolphins came into the bay and we were able to watch them as the sun went down.

The following day we caught a boat ride to the Togean Islands with some other westerners. Our first stop was near the village of Bomba. We stayed in a hotel which was set on a beautiful beach with soft powdery sand. Unfortunately, the hotel was not particularly good value for money and the sea was shallow and not suitable for swimming. There was not any snorkelling and so our group decided to charter a boat the following day and head to the island of Kadidiri. No sooner had we landed on Kadidiri and we decided to leave upon discovering an outbreak of eye infections on the island. Not wanting to end up sick we returned to the boat and headed further north to another island. We finally ended up at the Fadhila cottages, a small resort on an island opposite the village of Katupat. We stepped off the boat onto the jetty and discovered the most enormous school of sardines surrounded by preying jackfish and barracuda, and the odd lionfish darting into the swarm as it hunted it’s dinner.

There was a very nice atmosphere at the Fadhila Cottages and it was a lovely place to relax. The beach was nice, although not of the white powdery stuff we have seen elsewhere. Our bungalows were basic but acceptable and we had unlimited fresh water for showers.  The food was very good although there were no deserts and it did get a little repetitive after a few days. Breakfast could have been comfortably twice as much.  It would be wise to bring some snacks and especially some fruit since there is nothing to eat between meals and very little fruit available. It was easy however, to take the boat over to Katupat (or even swim if you like!) to buy some biscuits. The staff were exceptional, all very friendly and knew all our names on our second day and as you can see by the photos they were happy to join in the crazy antics of our fellow guests at the resort.

The diving has been ok but not exceptional. We have seen the biggest sponges we have seen anywhere else, some beautiful anenomes with several shrimps living in them, a turtle far in the blue and a large eagle ray. The corals have been a little disappointing and there are not many large fish. We have also sadly seen evidence of dynamite fishing on our dives. Our snorkelling has been just as good as the diving so there is really no need to pay a lot of money for dives. On one occasion we took a canoe with Ramona and Eric (the German couple whom we met in Ampana) and headed over to the island of Bolilanga. It took an hour to get there against the wind and the current. The sandy beach was beautiful, and the snorkelling was much better than at Fadhila. We saw morays, pipefish, large barracuda, all the usual coral fish and the corals were in much better shape.

It was very nice to spend a week in one place, unpack all our clothes and do some laundry! This is the longest time we have stayed in one location since our travels began four months ago. But Sunday soon came round and we said our farewells to everyone at Fadhila, loaded our bags onto our little boat and made the two hour journey to Wakai to catch the ferry. We had booked a cabin on the steel ferry to Gorontalo, which was just as well since the boat was heaving. Every available floor space was taken with people lying on mats. One of the most interesting things we saw was a baby in a  fishing net which was tied to the roof, a kind of baby hammock…the baby seemed happy enough! We slept on and off in our cabin, although by this time I had been suffering from a painful ear for 3 days and Kevin had some milder symptoms, so it wasn’t a restful night. We arrived in Gorontalo at 4am, sat around for an hour waiting for a car to turn up, then finally made the 10 hour journey north to Manado. Thankfully I slept most of the way, dosed up on painkillers. We arrived in Manado in the late afternoon, thankful to have found a nice hotel.

Convinced that there was something now wrong with our ears we headed for the nearest hospital in an attempt to see a doctor. We explained our symptoms to the first doctor who looked rather confused. I think we may have been her first patients and she had clearly never seen an otoscope before (the thingy the doctors use to look in your ear) since it took her and 5 nurses at least 10 minutes to assemble it, then the batteries were dead! She was at a loss of what to do and we were given a blank look. Doesn’t give you much confidence does it!! We headed to another clinic to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Thankfully this clinic looked much more professional. Some pretty pictures of the inside of our ears were taken and an ear infection was diagnosed. We are now both on a course of antibiotics, painkillers, ear drops and some steroids to reduce the inflammation and will have to wait until things settle before we can go diving. So from here we will spend four or five days on land, maybe go to a national park and spend a few days and then we head to Pulau Bunaken for hopefully some great diving and maybe a shark or two…..

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Monique on

Once again, all of your photos are absolutely outstanding especially those underwater which are breathtaking. I don't think I would be brave enough to scuba dive though. Thanks for sharing.

Sylvia & Eddie on

Your photo's of the scenery & underwater are wonderful Sylvia has decided she couldn't face the water creatures but i would like the opportunity. We've also decided you are both quite mad especially when telling of all the transport problems!! It just makes our bones ache just to think about it.
Alice at the moment is on her way to Mongolia. Take care both of you. Love from us and the two Pumpkins who we've now christened 'Mr Mistopholes' or the 'kid on the block' and Screamy is very much the home bird.
Sylvia & Eddie

mytravelnote on

It's really a great journey!!
And you have a very funny experience in the public bus, I never know such that things happen in my country... LOL

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