From Diary 5
5. The girls try eagerly to serve breakfast at seven, but Morten is still sleeping, and I wish I was. It is a tough life to be on vacation with us! The plan for the day it - once more - to find some volcanic activity at Mt Soputan. The map we finally found last afternoon have given us some confidence to try again.
Unfortunately, Morten have, in his wisdom, chosen to leave it in the boys car last knight. We had it for almost six hours! Well, we still have a rough idea, and at nine, we walk up to the big bus terminal. A small tour around the marked before we head for the first little blue, which brings us to Sonder. On the edge of town, I spot a swamp with pink Lotus.
We been here before, and find the blue to Kawangkoan right away. He drives with only us onboard, and we reach Tombaso fast. The driver on this blue do speak a bit of English, and he tell Morten how to get to Mt Soputan. The blue for Tombaso, and then - lost in translation. We get straight over in the Tombaso blue, and the other passengers agrees on where we ought to jump of.
It is a sealed, but narrow road, leading towards the volcanoes, and we start walking. The first we meet is a extremely large horse racing course. There are even a race today, but we head on. Then we reach a tremendous large drilling rig. Could be for thermic energy?
Then there is a little village, and we are greeted like usual. This is farmers, but their gardens are still well maintained. So are the fields: There are no weed to be found anywhere, and that is due to manual weeding. As Morten points out: The share amount of insects and birds proves it. We see spectacle birds, nectar eaters, singers, sparrows, crows, black magpie, kingfishers, pigeons and others, which are too fast for identification.
A Calotes is sitting in some sunflower-like bushes, and golden skinks are disappearing right in front of us. I spot what could be an ant-plant on a little tree. It is! It look at first as a Hydnophytum formicarum, but later, I find what could be some Myrmecodia sp., but It might be something else.
Right next to these small ant-plants is ant-fern with a significantly ant-rhizome. I have never seen it before, not even on photos, but it sure attract ants! There are several orchids in the same tree, and I spend some time crawling around in it, while Morten wits underneath with the charm of a vulture or hyena. The light is fare from good, and the three kind of ants slightly annoying, but I want photos!
There are many local farmers passing us. All are real well dressed and real smiling and eager to have a look at us. I try to act normal - not easy, I tell you - especially not when all I want to photo is sitting way up in the trees. The next is one of the cup-shaped Asclepiadaceaes with flowers. The next is a normal Asclepiadaceae with flowers. The branch I'm holding on breaks off, and I fall to the grown. Morten had just given up, and had his back to.
Giant bamboo are grown for their stems. The new shoots are 25 centimetres in diameter, when it reaches the first meter in height. Within long, it will reach 20-25 metres or even more. The path narrows in, but it is still sealed with volcanic glass with tar. It get steeper and steeper, but the farmed fields continues. It is all kind of vegetables, from tomatoes to onions. No weed at all, but they do weed a lot.
The fields are all laid out in the same way: Meter vide walls with lines across. Must be good at holding on the water and soil. Must take a tremendous amount of work, but that don't seem to be a problem on Sulawesi. I got a feeling of these people are fare from lazy, but they only work what they have too. Then they have the energy to smile and maintain their gardens too.
We reach one peak, but there are still a long way to the big ones. In one tree, I spot some head-sized ant-plants. That causes for some neck-breaking crawling again, but I am rewarded with some awesome plants. Both ant-plants, Asclepiadaceaes and huge orchids. Unfortunately, the last one is not in flower this time of year.
We make a loop around the peak. More views, more trees with ferns, ant-plants and orchids. I even find a parasite plant on a orchid. On another tree, an new Asclepiadaceae is flowering. Here are cows scatted around. Most we have seen are Indian oxes; big, white animals with a rope through their nose.
Even though it is only two o'clock, the light is slightly fating. Clouds are forming around the peak, and we decide to head back. We keep seeing insects. One is a helmet beetle, and the most flamboyant insect I have ever seen. Gold metallic with a fantastic sparkle.
It starts to drip when we reach the village, and we reach the main road just in time. We wait - actually; we don't: The little blue are exactly on time for our approach. First a lift to Kawangkoan, one minute, and we continues straight to Tomahon.
Jump off at the centre of the town, and walk down main street. It is still raining a bit, and we decides for dinner, even though it is only half pass five. Find a clean looking restaurant for once. They don't bring a menu-card, just all their courses. We dig in, and end up paying 5,50, but then we are stuffed!
Pass the Cool Supermarket on the other side of the street to get a bit of snag to the long evening. I got way too many un-finished photos in stock, and spend the evening sorting, reframing and resizing them. Meanwhile, we look at our finances:: We have used 100 each during the last eight days, and we have not been saved on anything - except on the 100 volcano guided tour. Compared with the 100 a day diving part, it is cheep!
6. Our host at Home Stay Hotel is a real nice man, and besides from being real informative - which we need - he is also very helpful. After he have explained to us how to get to the active volcano; Lohon, he actually drives us there. On the way, we passes a huge factory area that produces wooden houses. He also tells us that the "Bulle-bulle" the kids shouts after us means "White", either as albino of like us.
The volcano, which can be seen from the town, are located less than three kilometres outside town, from the other end of the rather large Tomahon. We drive up a real bad gravel road, and passes a stone- and gravel query. We can see the steam coming up from the side of the huge cone, and start walking, when the road get too bad.
Where the road ends, the dried-out river starts. It is mainly bare rock, formed by water and stoned through time, flanked by large grass and ferns. Morten finds a gigantic snout beetle - or it find him. I shot a lot of photos, and we let it fly.
By the way: The area is actually closed due to recently volcanic activity. There was no guard at the "entrance", and we think we have it all to our selves, until we meet a volcanist on his way down to town. We have a chat with him, seeing his photos of the crater and the burning sulphur at night. He is on his way down to get fresh water in the city.
The water in the rock pools look perfectly clear, but contains too many chemicals for drinking. Some parts of the river is challenging, some parts are passed in the tall grasses along the river. Morten say: Now we only need to see a snake.
Ten minutes after, I have found him one. It may not be big, but it is colourful and easy to photo, as it is on the bare rocks. A lot of photos later, we let it continues its journey down river. The loose rocks in the river is a story by them selves. Here are all from pumice over iron to black, volcanic glass and some that look like they have been liquid - which thy have.
We are getting closer and closer to the giant cone, and now we can not only see the huge steam cloud, we can smell the sulphur. We reach the volcanist camp, and have a longer chat with another scientist. We promises not to go into the crater, just have a peek from the edge. He is leaving for town as well, and we think "Yeah-yeah". Well, we actually kept that promise!
The loos gravel in the area look like it have been coated with half a centimetre of concrete. All the trees in the greater area is dead, and only a few straws of grass are alive. The volcanists go into the crater to take measurements wear masks. One of them lost his temperature probe this morning due to heat!
No wonder they monitor this crater: Tonohon is laying right at the foot of the giant volcano, and the river forms a briliant highway for lava. I'm just glad it is not closed-closed. We continues up to the craters edge. The crater is around 4-500 meters vide and 250-300 meter deep.
When we reach it, it is filled with white steam. The wind is driving it up the main cone, and we sit down right at the edge and wait for at photo and a peek down to the bottom. The wind drives the steam around, and we with it. Then, the wind clears the crater partially, and we spot the blue-green lake and the red and yellow sulphur deposits. If there should be any doubt: IT IS AWESOME!
We walk around the crater edge, avoiding the strong chemical steam. We might find a way down, but honestly: We have no desire to. I get to push a few rocks down, and they seems to fall for ever! There are a constantly hissing from the deep below, besides form that; not a sound. Steam are coming out on many sites on the crater wall, some quite close to the edge.
It seems like the intensity variates, and sometimes, we have a clear view to the bottom. The scenery changes constantly, and I end up with more than 100 photos and ten minutes of video. All we need is some sun, but after an hour admiring, all we get is rain. We start heading back, but stops numerous time to admire the view to the cone, city and area in general.
On the way back, we have a closer look at the interesting rocks and boulders in the area. The gravel have been cut by rain water, and the sides is covered in crystals. On the top, there are only a few plant species, but as we head further down river, there become more species like tree ferns. The river have started to fill, but is is drained in many places, and I get down without having to step in water.
Due to the rain, there are not many insects, but a green cicada caught my eyes. So do a few flowering plants, and when we have passed the quarry, I find ant-plants and ant-ferns. Here, as so many other places, many plants seem to be non indecorous.
Back in town, we catch a a small blue, which brings us the ten kilometres back to the terminal. It is time for lunch, but I don't feel like nasi- or mie gorang, and talk Morten into a bakery with coffee. Not that great, but as a Dane, I admit to be spoiled!
Just like on Bonaire, here are dressed-up cars with speakers and dresses-up people. On Bonaire, they looked like Rasta-men, here they look like a mix between KISS and Dark Wader in his young days. Some Santa Claus and Christmas music is involved too, and I guess it originates from a Dutch tradition.
Back at the hotel, we arrange a tour to some hot springs this afternoon with the son of the house; Areel. An hour with washing cloth and loading photos, and we are ready. We drive south, and end up in a very touristed place with everything from cafes, hat- and souvenir salesmen. It is Bukit Kasih, an area with hot srings. Here are plenty of people, but all are locals, enjoying the Sunday.
We follows Areel to the cafes, and get a coconut-milk-beer, tasting quite a lot like buttermilk. Then we leave him at the hot pools, and head up the mountain. The sulphur steam holes are all over, and so are the trash. This is the first place we find it in amounts worth mention, and it is annoying.
There is a concrete stair going around the whole area. We meet several groups of people on their way down. One group insists on getting their photos taken along with me - which causes Morten great enjoinment!
On the top, there are places of worship for five religions: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhism. The surrounding nature is slightly disappointing, except from some Dutchman's Pipes.
It is getting cloudy and eventually darkens, and we get the soaked Arial and head back. He ask if we have had snake, dog and bat, and we end up at a local restaurant, getting the most. Arial is a real nice fellow, and truly interesting to chat with.
He will finish as doctor this month, and he have travelled quite a lot in Asia. We see some of his awesome photos from the region, and end up arranging a sun-set tour tomorrow at 4;30. Sounded recently at the time... We have been eating chicken, snails, fish, dog, pig, bat, carrots, beans and some weird stuff too. And: Bat is not bad at all.
On the way home, Areel find Morten a bottle of the local moonshine, made on coconut. Like most other moonshine, it is characteristic... Home to write diary, and way too late to bed.
7. Morten have set his alarm at four - way out of sync with my sleeping pattern! We set off at half pass, driving through the still sleeping town. On the north-eastern end of town, a real rough road leads up Mt Tomohon. It turns into a narrow but new sealed road, leading to a new parking lot.
We head upwards in the beginning light, through the tall elephant grass by a narrow path. At the peak of Mt Tomohon, there are a fantastic view all the way round. The surrounding peaks, Tomohon city, Manado, the sea and the great lakes of the area. There are a little wildlife around us, among it; a huge tick, and the longest Daddy Long-leg I ever seen.
Right next to the peak, a giant hole shows the immense force of the volcano. It is cup-formed, and 3-400 meters vide and deep. It have been possible to climb it, but the bushes are now covering the walls, making it to hazard. On the peak, a transmitter for the automatic seismological station stands. The light changes while we stand there, and first, we get more and more details. Then clouds forms, and after an hour, we are in a sea of clouds along with four other peaks.
We walk down, and drive on to Bukit Linow, a large lake with both fresh and sulphuric water, bobbling up in one end. It have not opened yet, but a little down the road, the view is fantastic. We sit an chat with Areel, while we see the light change over the multicoloured lake.
A short drive in the area, and it is opening time. The entrance is a bit steep; 2, but we get a thin cup of coffee included. There are hot springs, bobbling up in the lake, and there are different birds on and around it. Some ducks, cow herons, a fishing eagle, swallows and a willy-wagtail. Skinks are catching flies along the shore along with dragonflies.
Around eleven, Areel have to return home, and we have a break at the hotel. I am still more than 300 photos behind, along with the explaining tags on 200 more. Wish I could save it for a cold winter day at home - but then I wouldn't have a clue what to write.
After having worked a bit on them, we take a walk around town - almost literally. A road leads round the eastern part of the town, passing open fields and residential quarters. We end up at the terminal ant the huge marked. They start closing while we grab a cup of coffee, and the rats takes over.
We head home through town, which don't offers that many temptations anymore. We stop at a little internet cafe next to our hotel to book a hotel in Singapore. Then through the Cool Supermarket on the other side of the road to buy some calories.
Tickling with photos, interrupted be a dinner at a nearby restaurant. We are ready to leave Tomohon for this time, but we might return one day. The area is so beautiful, the climate perfect and the people fantastic. I finally catch up with my photos close to midnight - it have been a long day!
8. We start the day slowly, Saying goodbye ant thanks for all to the hosts at the Home Stay. Then walking through town after the last packing. A round on the market, pass the hen-pusher and into the small bus for Manado. It is by the main road through the island towards the capital, and it is a narrow but sealed road.
We passes many nurseries and some basket weavers in-between great nature; I even spot some huge ant-plants! We reach Manado after less than an hour, and start the hunt for the hotel we have chosen. Get some hints by a girl at the southern terminal, and after two small blues, we start walking through the pulsating and interesting town.
We passes the harbour, but the Rex Hotel elutes us. End up spending one euro on a taxi, and get a decent room for 7. Drop our small back-packs, and head out in the city again. We have to pick-up our large diving-gear-backs at the diving office at Mega Mas, and have to ask a few times before we find it.
On the way, we pick-up some lunch at a interesting Muslim food court near the harbour. A real nice meal for two, with coffee and juice for 1,60. Then we try to find a few things, just to check the price. Some things can be bought for one tenths of the Danish price - same brand and model! Morten buys a watch, and we get some hints to where to go on our next visit to Sulawesi by the manager.
We find the shop where we left our gear, and Alfonso have some advices on where to go as well. Out to catch a taxi back to the hotel with our heavy gear. Drops it off, and head out again. No chance we sit on a hotel room during the day! Manado is a interesting and real friendly town. Like all other places we been, people greets us with "hallo mister", when we passes them on the street.
They most be more use to tourists around here, and we even see two. Sulawesi should get 3-4000 tourists a year, most go to Bunaken. No wonder there are so few further south! This island have a huge potential as a tourist country, but it feels like we have it for our selves - which suits us fine.
After a lot of walking, we head back, trying to get a bit lost - which we usual manages fine. Success again, and somehow, we end up in China Town - which we didn't know excited. Large temples and typical shops, but it is getting late. We find back to the hotel, and discovers a restaurant next to it.
By some freak accidence, we end up ordering the same menu as we got for lunch. This time it cost 6,50, and it is not quite that good. Back at the hotel, we try to get our things packed for flight. Once again, we have way too little soft where (cloth) to protect our hardware (computers, photos and alike).
9. Up at seven, find a bakery that sells coffee, walk through the centre, try to find fitting jeans (no way they have my length). I find the flatten seeds of Gnetum gnemun, and buy a packet. They are a real disappointment: Taste mostly like dry, tasteless pasta. In Singapore, I learn they are meant to be deep-fries, and then they are crispy and bitter, and quite good.
Back to wait until it is time to leave for the airport. The pre-ordered taxi bring us swiftly to the airport, and within 90 minutes, we are in the air, towards Singapore for new adventures.
The Sulawesian adventure turned up to be slightly cheaper than I have feared, and way more exciting and interesting as I have hoped for. It is some total awesome islands, which I most likely will be re-visiting in the future.