After Torajaland, Greg and I took a bus north. The actual route could have been done faster if we were just interested in transportation, but we wanted to see some of the sights and we heard that the Lake Poso area was worth checking out.
I don't have a map for the area, but we went to Pendolo, Palopo and Poso. Not in that order. It was pretty crazy, we were confusing the names ourselves.
Pendolo was at the south end of Lake Poso, and we arrived there at night after a long ride by bus. Lonely Planet told us the "right" place to stay, and so we stayed there. The hotel owner was a great guy, and there were no other tourists, and he came out to the eatery that was on stilts over the water, and told us, in person, the next steps in our journey. He also told us about how, the very next night, his hotel was full up because some big government officials were going to show up. It felt like an important place!
I was having trouble sleeping those days, and I'd get up and go somewhere and do something outside of the room, if possible, to avoid bothering Greg while he was trying to sleep. I called these my "nocturnal missions". Sometimes I'd read a book. In this place, however, the lights were out. The electricity was out. It was dark, dark, dark. I had trouble just finding the door to the hotel room.
So i got out of the room, and the "lobby" area was totally dark. Totally. Nobody has insomnia in this country. So I'm there, with my flashlight, and I figure that it would be nice and comfortable outdoors. Well, the doors to the lobby were locked. LOCKED! There was NO WAY to get out. If there was a fire, we'd be cooked. But somehow I wasn't worrying about that.
OK, so I sat there in the lobby for a while, reading. Got tired. Went to bed. yawn.
The next morning, the boat was leaving from the south end of the lake. The hotel owner was supposed to take us over to the dock, in another small boat. I was getting nervous that we were going to be late. The owner said something that I didn't understand. He seemed unconcerned. Greg explained it to me. Apparently, besides giving us a ride over to the dock, he was also going to give a ride to the captain of the boat. The captain of the boat we were going to take. So it wasn't going to leave without us.
I wasn't quite on Indonesia time yet.
We got to the boat and I felt like I was really in indonesia. Little kids were jumping off the dock and swimming. They all seemed really happy. Gosh, why can't you take inner city US kids and bring them here?
The boat took off and tugged across the lake, going north to the town of Tentena. We read in the Good Book about how the river that pours into the lake at Tentena has eels, and the eels were a delicacy of the area.
Periodically the boat would call on various ports and invariably there would be someone there to cater to anybody who had a few hundred rupiah to spend on snacks or whatever.
We got into Tentena and, as usual, Greg found us the cheapest place to stay. This place, by the way was the cheapest place I stayed in the whole 2.5 months in southeast asia. It cost 5,000rp, or about two dollars US. Greg said he stayed in places that were cheaper, maybe 3,000 rp (a buck and some change), but this was one to remember.
This place was about a kilometer out of town (which was why it was so cheap). Every year there was some sort of Central Sulawesi Festival, and this was the fairgrounds where it was held. It was unclear exactly what the festival was about, it seemed like some central Sulawesi cultural festival, almost a denial that we're all being melded into one big country called Indonesia.
Each bungalo had four main rooms (one big bed) and two dorm rooms (three or four bunks) and two bathrooms (the standard mandi). For 5000 rups, you get a room to yourself. Greg and I were the only ones in our bungalo so we each got a room and a bathroom to ourselves. The water in the mandi was somewhat silty and cloudy, but it was good enough for bathing.
Not much was going on, so I decided to go for a walk, check out the grounds. Greg said I was crazy, there was nothing there. I found a small building in the complex that apparently was some sort of tourist bureau. It's not like there was lots of tourists around; I could see through the screen door, there was nobody in the room, but the TV was on. I knocked on the door, and after knocking several times, someone in the back room came and let me in. There was pretty much nothing going on there, but I bought some postcards, and got a free booklet on Central Sulawesi, and all the wonderful things to do there.
The four postcards I got were boring and useless. The writing surface was glossy like photos. I could barely write on them. The photos showed different kinds of tribal dances and stuff. Kindof crummy flash instamatic pictures. Not even any good looking women. Nevertheless I wrote messages on them and affixed postage, ready for the next time I was back in civilization. Little did I know how long it was to take.
The book on Central Sulawesi talked about a lot of local stuff that was really boring (in english and Bahasa Indonesian) but there were a few interesting tidbits. There was pretty much nothing to do in Central Sulawesi according to the book. Well, you know, they try hard to make it look like there's stuff going on. It was a tribal backwater, and having tourists from the West was a recent phenomenon. They talked about stuff that was important to them, but meaningless to me.
One thing I thought was interesting was a place where they talked about the tribes in Central Sulawesi. You know, Indonesia itself has 366 different ethnic groups (according to some government bureaucracy that had to draw the line at some point and lump one village with another). Well, there were all of twelve ethnic groups in Central Sulawesi ("Sulawesi Tengah" in bahasa). And they listed them, one through twelve. Some of them they subcategorized, the Blah [i made up that name], including the North Blah, the West Blah and the South Blah in the village of Foo. It went on like this, down the list, categorising all these tribes and ethnic groups that, hundreds of years ago, were probably at war with each other, but today it's all forgotten. And then, the last entry was "Other Tribes". Like, really, the number of tribes depends on how meticulous a job you do in counting them. When you get done, you lump the rest of them under "Other Tribes".
The central restaurant was open for lunch. Well, maybe, you run back to the kitchen and yell for somebody. And the good part was, they had BOTH kinds of beer, large AND small. Here you see Greg and me with large Bintang beers, the local "best seller". You get to like it, after you try the other brands. Which usually aren't available anyway.
The Lake Poso fairgrounds where we were staying was out of town, and it was surrounded on three sides by ricefields. The fourth side was the Lake itself. I tried to swim in the lake. I thought maybe if it went well, then I could maybe use my mask and fins. This was pretty much the only fresh water I swam in, the whole time I was there.
Although it was OK to swim in the lake, it was really boring. First you walk across the wet sand; there's very little dry sand beach there. Then you start wading through the shallow water. And you walk and you walk, splashing along. After a long while, it's up to your knees. It's really, really shallow. And it became apparent that it wasn't going to get more interesting; no coral, no nothing. Meanwhile it started to rain, and I had this built in thing from boy scouts all about how you don't swim in an open lake when it's raining, because suddenly you're the highest lightning rod around. So I went back in.
The next day Greg and I went off to this one place we heard of where there was waterfalls. Can't remember the name. As usual, Greg wanted to walk there instead of taking a bemo (minbus). It turned out to be a healthy hike; Greg estimated that we did 20 kilometers that day.
What? No pictures of the waterfalls? I must have forgotten the camera.
Greg didn't want to go in. Some story about flesh-boring worms only found in freshwater streams. Well, I dunno, that's what I heard later, it didn't happen to me and actually Greg just didn't feel like swimming that day.
On the way back, this cat led the way.
By some coincidence there was a small village of Balinese in this area. They were probably evactuated here from some volcano area that was exploding or something.
The idea is, if you have a country divided by ethinc tensions, you split up the groups and intermix them so that the only thing they all have in common is their language and their nationality. They lose their former ethnic identity. That's what they're trying to do.
Die, government, die.
I try to start a new trend. Tired of the same old black umbrellas, western society goes ape over the new style of umbrella that looks like a banana leaf.
well, ok, the trend didn't catch on.
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