Reunited with Sarah

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
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Trip End Jul 17, 2006


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Friday, October 28, 2005

Whew, after several days and thousands of miles of travelling, I badly needed a few days to rest and shake off my second bout of "Delhi belly" which had been with me since Chennai. I wish! The hotel Sarah had booked us into, although very nice, was right next door to a mosque and so at 5am in the morning the call to worship came thundering over the tannoy system. I know Islam is getting enough of a bad press as it is, but they should seriously consider the effect of such practices on the non-muslim (and very tired) members of the community.

Anyway, the city of Manado was a really refreshing change of culture, somewhat like an Asian version of "Home and Away". My memories of it include sipping shakes in "Dolphin Donuts", beer and barbequed meat on the seafront, customised blue mikrolet (the Indonesian alternative to auto-rickshaws) and their b-boy drivers cruising the streets puffing on ciggies and listening to 80s rock, and lazy afternoons at the movies.

One day we headed out into the spectacular surrounding highlands of Tomohan. Sarah climbed an active volcano, but unfortunately I still couldn't trust my bowels to hold out for the three hours it would have taken. We stayed at a pretty homestay where Sarah had previously been camping out waiting for me to arrive from India. She introduced me to "Beatrice" the manager who kindly offered to cook us some traditional Minahasan cuisine. Sarah had already warned me she was a terrible cook (sorry Bea!), managing to mess up even an omelette. Not ideal when the main dishes probably don't taste that good at the best of times: cold bat, with wings still attached and pieces of pork, skin, fat 'n' all wrapped in what can only be described as a charred tobacco swiss-roll.

Back in Manado we invested in some snorkelling equipment and took a boat to the nearby Bunaken Island. We lived in a family-run beach hut for 4 days of snorkelling morning and afternoon and eating fresh fish in between, which was all included in the ridiculously low price of $8 per day! Being the only guests we had all the privacy we wanted, only being interrupted now and again by some over-enthusiastic puppies! The snorkelling on the fringing reefs was by far the best have ever experienced. The water was crystal clear with visibility of at least 20m, and absolutely teeming with all kinds of colourful fish like being in a giant aquarium. About 50m from the beach the reef suddenly plunged from a depth of 2m into deep blue oblivion. The current along this vertical wall of coral pulled you along with minimal effort, and in my imagination I was superman flying over an acquatic metropolis below. The drift also attracted larger creatures such as reef sharks, rays and turtles gliding gracefully by! One evening Sarah did a night dive and I, not yet being qualified, tagged along for some snorkelling. This was a pretty scary experience, given that I was alone in the vast blackness of the ocean armed only with a small underwater flashlight. At times my imagination ran away with me and I thought I caught glimpses of things moving out of the range of my beam in the deep waters below. The coral looked beautifully different by torchlight - apparently many species only emerge from thier hard limestone coverings at night - and after about 20 minutes of swimming along with my heart in my mouth I found the lights of Sarah and her dive buddy on the wall about 15m below me, which was a real comfort, and I swam above them the rest of the way letting their escaping bubbles tickle my tummy. I resolved there and then to learn to dive the next chance I got.

Our final stop in the Minahasa region around Manado was Tangkoko National Park, home to the world's smallest species of primate, the tarsius monkey. The park turned out to be a complete bitch to get to, and the final stage of the trip involved sheltering from the rain under the tarpaulin of a pickup we had flagged down. We didn't arrive in time for the evening trek so instead arranged to go into the park at 5am the next morning. The trek was a little disappointing in terms of wildlife: we saw no black macaques which are usually a very common sighting, though we did see one huge hornbill making a thunderous barking noise as it perched in a tree and which sounded like a helicopter as it flew low over our heads. We eventually reached the furthest point of our trek, known as the "sleeping tree" where the tarsiers, being noctural animals, spend the daylight hours hanging out. This particular morning, however, there was very little sleeping going on as Sarah and I rapped the base of the tree and flashed our cameras up the hollow inside to see if we could pick out their huge round eyes. Our photos showed loads of the little fellas clustered at the top of the tree and even one of the little fellas posing for pictures about halfway up, gripping onto a root inside the tree with its unnaturally long fingers. Seeing these rarest of creatures (they only live in Sulawesi) really made our day and we headed back to Manado having made plans to kidnap one asap to be our mascot for the trip.

More photos to follow soon, so please check back...
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Comments

Adolf on

I love reading ur blogs. colorful, positive yet simple and relaxing.
do u happen to remember the name of that Bunaken unrealistically cheap bungalow?

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