The “end-of-the-world” archipelago

For our last week in the country made of 13,000 islands, we set sail for Togean. The archipelago, wedged in the immense cove of North Sulawesi, is renowned for its isolation and its heavenly landscapes. Our first moments on the territory confirm this.

Taking the public boat Ampana-Bomba, Sylvain is quickly accosted by locals who begin a debate on scooter accidents at the sight of our scratches and Cléa chat with a couple of German travelers with whom we make common road from Tentena. We glimpse the first sparsely populated islets, full of lush vegetation (cocotiers and hardwoods of all kinds) and songbirds difficult to see.

Bajau village at the southern entrance of the archipelago

Poya Lisa, our first stop, fits quite well with the reputation of the area: a dozen bungalows unoccupied on just 200m of land, two sandy beaches on either side, all surrounded by corals where sublime fish nest. We spend two days on small onions, alternating snorkeling, tasting of the fish of the day and rest under mosquito nets when the tropical rains are rampant.

We appreciate the tranquillity but our tourist solitude is amazing and confusing for such a beautiful place. And then there are other pearls to explore further north! We go back to the sea towards Kadidiri, by private boat following a public transport tour. We arrive at the setting sun in a new dream setting on the outskirts more touristic than the previous one.

Arrival in Kadidiri in the late afternoon

We spend two pleasant days in the company of a couple of Italians and a marginal German, common meals/debates and exploration at our leisure of the surrounding corals and… of a lake of harmless meduses! We lend ourselves to the game, the creatures “frolic” as they please while we observe them more closely than ever.

On the third night, to vary the pleasures and save some money (13 euros per person for the full paradise pension), we go camping on the nearby beach: Barracuda Beach. It’s teeming with mosquitoes and sand fleas and Cléa meets a snake and two wild pigs that are not very reckless! For the rest, the night is punctuated by tropical rafts and a friendly discussion with 3 Indonesians who (us) acost and leave at 2am in the middle of the tropical jungle, armed with their handymle machete: “Hello Mister! Apa Kabar? Francis? Ah football, Lionel Messi!” (missed).

Bivouac in Barracuda Beach

The next day, back at Kadidiri beach, we learn that the ferry to Gorontalo scheduled for Saturday is cancelled for obscure reasons… This time the inconsistency of local transport puts us well in the panade: the plane back to Singapore is booked for Sunday, it would be foolish to delay our departure by bike because of abusive Robinsonade! We finally find a ferry connection from Dolong, which forces us to migrate as quickly as possible to the aforementioned village. The wallet is alluded and well soaked, we spend one last evening very nice at the home: Nasi Goreng and papaya salad in front of the TV where is broadcast the film “Ratatouille” that seems to please children and children!

Evening screening in Dolong: “Ratatouille”!

Togean will finally leave us the memory of a wild region, very isolated and as uncrowded as the rest of Sulawesi this season. Beyond the many hotel complexes waiting for an influx of visitors, the life of the islanders remains punctuated by fishing and daily activities. Some positive signs for biodiversity are also visible, such as the ban on dynamite fishing, the breeding of new corals or the collection of plastics by the sea… “touristy” beaches only.

Sulawesi, in the rain…

Could it be fatigue or just a blow less well, the first few days in Sulawesi are difficult. The night ferry trip went relatively well, however, despite the unsanitary berths (cockroaches, smells, etc.) and the length of the journey (18 hours at sea), we appreciated the company of a French long-term traveller and the air bowls on the deck of The huge boat.

Long crossing in perspective!
Doors open at Makassar harbour

Makassar, visibly urbanized and congested, appears around 7pm on June 5th and we hasten to find a pete-pete (minibus) heading to the North Terminal to get a connection to Rantepao. Goal achieved and 2nd night in a row in transport.

We arrive in the early morning in Toraja country in the rain. The typical houses are beautiful but the atmosphere is gloomy. We quickly understand that the climate has not been good for 1 month and probably that tourism is following the trend. In short, we ride an unreliable scooter and leave for the traditional villages around.

Vegetable roof with Toraja sauce

The roads are bad (chicken nests, mud) and we get had in a tight corner: slide and slight percussion against the car crossing. More fear than harm, we get away with a few scratches. Two passing Dutchmen stop and give us valuable assistance: antiseptic on wounds and discussions in Indonesia with the locals to assess the damage. The scooter is well damaged and we have to have it repaired urgently before returning it to the renter… we get away with cheap and a few hours of patience. This experience leaves us a little disappointed not to have been able to explore more the Toraja region which has beautiful assets such as rice fields and imposing buffaloes that patulate before finishing sacrificed for funeral ceremonies and then decorate atypical huts with their horns.

Buffalo Mud day

We’re keeping our spirits up and heading north. After almost 2 full days of bus in a thick jungle and a pleasant stop in Tentenan, an ostensibly Catholic village on the edge of a lake full of eel (it looks), we reach Ampana on June 8th.

Tentenan Lake Edge

Soon the Togean Islands that we wait with great hopes and will represent our last Indonesian adventure!

Flores, here we are!

On May 27th we board the “Medang Jaya 2”. Here we are embarked on a 4-day crossing with 30 companions in a dormitory covered with mattresses of about 35m2.
The societal experience is unique!

Lombok-Flores crossing sleeper (4 days)

The adventure consists of exploring a few islands around Subawa and Komodo on foot or snorkelling and visiting the famous Dragons.

Cold-blooded nap

In short, between two sun-set-rise, we sail in the more or less restless waves and swim above the Manta rays, a black-tipped shark or multiple colorful fish.
We’re thrilled!

Slalom at dusk between the islets of Komodo

We disembark in Flores with our “gang” of Westerners in the middle of a port full of containers and banana trucks.

Labuan Bajo simple and straight welcomes us for only 1 day and a half transport research to go to visit the east of the island. In order to avoid the plane – chosen by the majority of our European companions – we cross the island at the cost of many hours by bus.

One stop among many, on the road to Bajawa

A first attempt ends at the 13th turn with an engine failure that forces the driver to be towed to the village after.
This bus being the only one going to Bajawa, we multiply the transport to reach its destination, just in time to catch a glimpse of the perfect Inerie volcano at sunset!

Last rays on the outskirts of the Inerie

The next day to Moni always by bus, in the middle of forests, palm trees, banana trees, cocoa trees, rice paddies, small villages, along the seaside and the beaches of blue-green pebbles. We are always more winding roads. On the bus, we are accompanied by huge bags of rice, shallots, and chickens of course!

100% local bus and chicken

The trip takes place in an atmosphere of local music intersecting reggae and “experimental” music with a fast tempo Korean pop type (and we know Korean pop ?)

The island is incredibly green and seems to be completely covered with forest.

Arriving in Moni, we meet Alice and Elise two squid from the boat crossing who have outpaced us in the adventure. They encourage us to undertake the ascent of the Kelimutu even if the sky seems very overcast! We walk through a gigantic forest to the beautiful lakes, among the wild guava saats and with a few leeches stuck on the ankles. They too have the right to admire the view!

Sacred Lakes of Kelimutu

The next day we end the stay with a bath in the hot springs and a tour of the market, it’s lively and worth it 🙂

Moni Daily Market!

The sky is unfortunately very grey for 2 days … since that’s what we’re going!

Last evening in Maumere where we enjoy an impromptu concert in our bar, HQ of an evening, waiting for the ferry to Sulawesi and new adventures on the other side of the Flores Sea.

Improvised Blues in a Maumere Bar

Fisticuffs in Rinjani

Lembar, 19 may 2019.
We land on the island of Lombok after 5 quiet hours by ferry. We had to fight to find the right harbor in Padangbai and refuse the “tourist” offers for speed boats but the savings and authenticity was worth it! Direction Kuta Lombok
, by taxi since bus are still not proposed… The driver speaks about politics and hopes wholeheartedly that Joko (current President of the country, not the tennisman) will be beaten after recounting the votes, without which, according to him, Indonesia will again experience disasters like the last 5 years (it’s true that they were not spared: earthquake in Lombok, then in Sulawesi, eruption in Java, etc.). 3 days later, on the 22nd, the re-election of Joko is proclaimed.

In Kuta, we spend a few pleasant days exploring the surrounding coasts (Pink Beach to the East which is not so pink as advertised and a little pricey, Mawi and Mawun to the West that are worth its) and surfing in Gerupuk on rather easy waves (for Cléa at least). The area is beautiful, rural and much less crowded than Bali South (the other Kuta).

Mawi Beach, at low tide surfers are rarer

It is also appreciable to encounter a moderate-looking Islam, contrary to what we read in the guides.

As we are in trust with our host, this one offers us to organise a trek to the famous Rinjani volcano, the second highest peak in the country (3726m). We accept, pay and find ourself, after a few hours of driving along villages in recontruction, in Senaru the entrance door of the area. “The Agency” welcomes us and explains our future itinerary: 7km of forest/jungle, 2km on the final slopes uncovered, bivouac at the edge of the crater and… That’s all! Since the earthquake of July 2018, impossible to go to the Lake, neither to hot water sources nor to the Summit. We feel cheated and a little silly not to have collected more information. We debate, we argue, and after multiple phone calls we understand that many intermediaries took their share of the cake (especially in Kuta). We end up giving up by demanding to recover some of the amount back to compensate for the false promises. Finally the walk is great (2000 m of elevation) and the final view, at the edge of the crater, is gorgious. The small cone in activity and the Summit are beautiul, and we see even Bali, the sea and the Gili Islands in the early morning!

View of the Rinjani crater (last eruption in 2016)

During the night, at the bivouac, we also have the “pleasure” of hearing our Chinese neighbors chating without ever whispering… It is even more irritating than monkeys and our second Finnish neighbor finally signify them a “shut-the-fuck-up”! Efficient:)

Bali sea below Caldera

On the 24th we reach Gili Air where we finish this week in Lombok with 2 nice days of biking, beach ad sorkeling on this tiny piece of paradise!

Next step : Flores and its famous dragons !

Touk-touk, horse cart or motorbike?

Yogyakarta alley (Illustration by Charles)

We talked about it in a previous article on Java, motorbikes are very present everywhere in Indonesia. This means of transport seems indeed prized for its simplicity and independence even for the younger ones (from 14 years!). And rather useful for the steep elevation…

But it comes with inconvenience such as noise, air pollution and many accidents while the bus unfortunately seems to lose ground and that the horse cart are no longer there for folklore. As for the bike, its place remains very marginal (touk-touk and self-service bikes, incredible for Yogya!). Fortunately some elders remain loyal!

Bali, it’s over

Padangbai, here ends our Balinese week. Arrived on Thursday 9th of may by the public ferry from Java, we explored the secluded and pleasant facets of the island, following advices of our friends.
The program? Snorkeling from Pemuteran in the direction of Menjangan Island (nice since the corals are very preserved and colorful), walks in forests and between the coffee trees around Munduk and hippie tourism in the rice paddies of Ubud.

Ubud neighbourhoods

Finally, bathing and re-snorkeling on the neighboring islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida as we explore by scooter for lack of public transport. The great novelty is that we took out the tent for 4 nights of bivouac… at the top! Finally a bit ‘ of adventure ‘, away from the guest houses and our daily comforts.

1st night under tent in Temblingan, nice spot on the outskirts of a Hindu temple. With the forest around, it almost looks like the Franche-Comté 🙂 Only the dogs and the round of motorcycles (the two faults of Bali) will disturb this evening in the freshness.

Temblingan, green!

The next day will not be exactly the same mayonnaise: after 10km of walking in forest under the songs of the birds we reach Beratan by thinking of finding a corner of camping “signposted”. Anyway, we galerons, end up seeing a distant shore and we install it on the advice of a local.
Fog helps us stay camoufled until dark and we enjoy a big meal on the front (chicken skewers, peanut sauce, noodles and rice)!

Fresh dishes on the lake

A week later, after the parenthesis in Ubud that we recommend despite the number of Yankees, we find again the joys of the bivouac in Atuh Beach, on the island of Nusa Penida. The place is magical, a clear sea surrounding steep rocks and more a tourist at nightfall. It feels good!

Panorama of Atuh Beach

Yes but here, the sand is unsuitable for the sardines of our non-freestanding tent and the monkeys that rodent oblige us to decamper/re-camp a little farther from their forest end! It folds and ends up sleeping for a few hours intermittently, lulled by the wind, the sound of the waves and the cries of the monkeys who bicker.

Planet of the apes, the remake

The next day, after an invigorating morning swim and a walk, we go back on the road to the scooter-headed Kenlingking beach. And there, despite the incessant influx of tourists to the belvedère, we take a lot of eyes
! It is even more beautiful than the day before: the arms of the Earth surrounded by an azure blue sea where we can see even, by far, the rays mantas “fly” in the Bay.

Panorama of Kenlingking Beach

We attack the infernal descent with our big bags on what looks like steps (badly) carved in the rock and bamboo as a bodyguard. Once on the beach, Cléa approaches the rays mantas and Sylvain not really a fish in the sea for a penny splashout in the waves.
The night falls and we install our mosquito net on makeshift portents in bamboos. It is cool, the heavenly vault is beautiful and only the drum of the waves takes us out of our wandering lethargy every now and then.

Mosquito net on its luxurious frame !

Saturday, may 18 in the morning: Whew, the high tide did not reach our camp overnight:)

We bathe, go out, then climb the steep cliff. Penida tour is over… tomorrow, already, Lombok!

Java is rock and roll

For this second article on Java, we make you discover some sound atmospheres collected this week. Put your header louder :)!

We start with the arrival by train to Malang station:

Train Malioboro ekspres

Then the street musicians who have brightened our bus ride to Probolinggo with guitar, ukulele, congas and songs a capella:

Singing in the bus Malang-Probolinggo

In Kalibaru, night market atmosphere, with the agitation that joins every break of fasting:

Street market in Kalibaru

The famous litany after sunset:

Evening pray

Finally, still in Kalibaru, once nature has taken back its sound rights:

On the banks of the River in Kalibaru

Selamat pagi Indonesia!

After two days in the futuristic and disproportionate world of Singapore, we embark on the 2nd of May for an Indonesian getaway backpackig. Let’s go to Java! Yogyakarta, located in the South-Central of the island, allows us to familiarize ourselves gently with the Javanese universe. With a little bit of agripping, we find the streets crowded of 2 and 4 motorized wheels with uncontrolled trajectories, still there’s a nuance of “calm” compared to India or Nepal. We do not fail to make ourselves collar multiple times for a tuk-tuk ride (a kind of rickshaw in front of a bike or a moped) but resist and use our legs to visit quickly the vicinity of Kraton, historical and political downtown and taste the first local dishes: chicken in soup or skewers, rice often steamed and some vegetables (beans, cabbage or cucumbers) cooked just enough spicy and of course bananas of the market!

Covered market in Yogyakarta

We leave the next day exploring Borobudur and its temple “postcard”. It was expected: the entrance ticket is disproportionately expensive but the site is actually charming and photogenic. First Sunrise at 3am and first volcanoes on the horizon, we look forward to approaching its!

Soon we set sail to the East by bus to the city of Solo (Surakarta). Let’s be honest, we’re disappointed. The big town lacks charm, the corks are omnipresent at the moment of our journey between the station and the hostel. Fortunately the day without car on Sunday brings us a certain comfort: sandals, skates, carioles and horses are out! During this time, Ramadan launches into the streets of the city with a multitude of itinerant walkers, sails that unfortunately resemble more and more to burkas and prayers in echo several times a day. These moments of prayer rather depaying at the beginning, then become slightly invasive by their duration (sometimes several hours) and their volume (they are ubiquitous!).

Mosque of Solo on his bed of motorbikes

Further to the East, we return from balm to the heart when arriving by train to Malang thanks to our pleasant rooftop Hostel made of bamboos, to new culinary discoveries (bakso and Sate to the menus) and the colorful alleys of Jodipur district. It is also an opportunity to cross the first “counterparts” backpackers tourists. Indeed, we are getting closer to Bali…

Train overlooking the Jodipur colorful village

New stopovers of this first week decidedly urban and made of public transportation: Probollingo then Jember and Kalibaru who do not really have a particular charm but leave glimpted green forests surrounding and flirt ever more with the majestic volcanoes. We take te road to Bromo and then Ijen!

Here, believe us, our experience is up to what we have been able to read or hear. Each of the volcanoes visited at night offers us a magical experience: Bromo immortalized from afar because again in activity since 1 year ago and Ijen accompanied by a guide as close as possible to the sources of bluish sulfur. It’s touristic but still pretty darn handsome.

Sunrise on Bromo and Ijen volcanos

Thus ends these 8 days in Java, authentic, urban and relatively preserved of mass tourism, except in the vicinity of volcanoes. If you plan to mak a trip there, choose the train to cross the island (economy class is enough) and Yogya to discover the urban side. What’s next? Bali where we will try to avoid hordes of Australians and Frenchies to rather meet nice fish. To be followed!