A Journey Well Worth It

Even with three years of practice, I still hate goodbyes.

I fumble through them awkwardly, just glad to get them over with. That’s exactly what I did saying goodbye to Lina and her family before leaving Adonara. Luckily and unluckily, Bapa was already in the jungle making Moke, so I only had to say goodbye to Roy, Lina, and Mama. I promised that I would see them again one day, and I really hope I can keep that promise.

I found a place on the crowded boat, waved goodbye to Lina, and started to mentally prepare myself for the difficult journey to come. My plan was to go to the Togean Islands, a scattering of volcanic islands nestled in the middle of the oddly shaped Sulawesi, and a true diver’s paradise. From there, I have an Air Asia flight waiting to take me to Malaysia the day before my visa expires in Indonesia. I still can’t believe how fast this month went…it seems like only yesterday I was walking out of the wire around my hostel in East Timor.

Getting to the Togeans turned out to be a complete nightmare…compounded by my lack of planning, the big presidential election in Indonesia, and the shoddy travel infrastructure in Sulawesi. I won’t bore you with too many details, but use your imagination and keep in mind that 90 percent of the way was fraught with scams and there was very little English.

It went like this…

Minibus from Lina’s house to the dock in Weiwerang.  ->  four-hour boat to Larantuka  ->  six-hour crowded bus to Maumere in Flores  ->  early flight to Kupang, Timor  ->  flight to Makassar in sulawesi  ->  flight to Gorontalo (small town in central Sulawesi)  -> overnight boat to Bagimana  ->  five-hour bus to Ampana  ->  ferry to Wakai  ->  private speed boat to Kadidiri Island.

Between every arrow above there are taxis, finding a guesthouse, negotiations, new towns to navigate, missed connections, delayed flights, people lying their asses off so I would take their expensive transport rather than public, etc.  All had to be done in the local language, and once I got to Sulawesi the dialects were different. All in all, it took me six full days of travel to get from the middle of nowhere Flores to the middle of nowhere Sulawesi and onto my island — ouch!

Exhaustion and road rage made me willing to pay any price, so I ended up with $17 a night at Black Marlin, a dive resort on Kadidiri Island — which includes three meals and free coffee/tea because there are no restaurants on this tiny piece of sand. The island hosts three small places to stay which include all meals. Black Marlin is definitely the most posh…but to be honest, I felt like spoiling myself a little after the last month of roughing it.

That is, if you call showering out of a bucket and electricity for only a few hours every night “spoiling” yourself. Still, the scenery here is magnificent and the beach / snorkeling is the best I have found in Indonesia. I am also just a few kilometers from the Equator, the closest that I have ever been to it, and the sun is stronger than I ever expected. I did my best to sit in the shade on the boat over, but a small triangle of sunlight was shining through cracks in the boards…within 15 minutes I had a red triangle branded on my left arm. It’s that strong!

The people in Black Marlin are great. I’ve met some interesting people and it’s fun to socialize with other white people after so long. Us new arrivals were thrown a campfire party on the beach and made to feel extremely welcome. During the day, most of my time is spent hiding from the sun in the shade of a coconut tree and reading Mr. Nice by Howard Marks. If you didn’t have a criminal mind before reading this book, you will after!

On the way here, I met Giorgio, an Italian that honestly is the best looking guy I’ve ever met on the road. He was having a hard time getting to the islands as well, so we bonded amid our suffering. A conversation turned up that he works in London, Milano, and New York as a model — for Vogue magazine even! A motorcycle accident realigned his priorities and now he’s budget traveling…he definitely gets credit for being the first Vogue model I’ve met on the road.  🙂

Kadidiri is as difficult to get off of as it is to reach. A quick calculation made me realize that with only one boat a week leaving here, I am going to overstay my Indonesian visa by at least one day, if not two. This will be my first overstay in any country and hopefully I can just buy my way out of it — although, doing a jaunt in an Indonesian prison would give me something interesting to write about (and free accommodation even!)

Even though I will be officially illegal in this country in a couple of days, and may miss my flight to Malaysia, life here on the Equator is good. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have my feet (albeit still festering with infection) back into the sand!

Tomorrow, I actually get off of my butt (not an easy thing to do here) and will wander the impressive jungle in the middle of the island followed by catching a boat to a tiny atoll for some world class snorkeling.
Photos to come!

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