Monday 1st May Tana Toraja, Sulawesi to Makassar, Sulawesi
We’re off to Ubud today for a few day’s rest before we start our second, more upmarket boat trip to Komodo. We are up just after 5AM, packed, breakfasted and ready to leave at 7AM. We take room photos before we leave. Murray takes the front seat by default, and in Makale takes photos of the white buffalo sculpture at the roundabout, a landslide, but misses the interesting covered bridge, an obsolete road bridge over the main river which has been turned into commercial real estate. Also takes street scenes, rice paddies, the Christ statue, the sculpture of a ceremonial coffin carrier with a team of eight men carrying it, and the gold domed mosque.
Getting out of town, we travel past mountain peaks we missed in the dark on the way up, and Mr Pandu stopped for Murray to take photos of the peaks and curved rice paddies. There are some really high peaks in the area, but they are hard to photograph.
We make a stop at the ceremonial gateway to Tana Toraja, a boat-roofed structure with white statues over archways on the present and past road bridges. We combine a walk across the road bridge for photos with a loo stop, then carry on past karst limestone outcrops into seriously Muslim country, with a mosque at least every kilometre, and approached the high mountains around the “Erotic Mountain”, in the onion growing region.
Further on we reach Salo Sadang, the big river, and go off the main road on a narrower shortcut to the coast north of Pare Pare. This is a different road to the one through the mountains we took on the way up, and passes through kilometres of flat land rice paddies. The villages are Bugis, denoted by the crossed barge boards on the eaves of the houses. There are large irrigation canals through the fields and along the road. Coming into Pare Pare, we drive along the coast, past trimaran squid fishing boats with rows of compact fluoro lights along the outriggers. We continue along the foreshore on a very rough sort-of road, cut through a port area, then exit into the town proper, where we find Restaurant Asia, a large Chinese restaurant for a pretty good lunch, including a surprisingly good avocado smoothie.
Heading south on the divided highway, we get back into rice paddies and karst limestone country off to the left. Above the mountains is a series of towering thunder heads, all the way down the coast. We stop at the same “dange” restaurant for coffee and their special sweets, and to give Mr Pandu a break. While we are waiting for service, Murray goes into a vacant block next door, walks down the back on a new brick wall to take photos of the paddy fields and the clouds over the mountains, and is surprised to see two large animals in the water. At first he thinks they are otters or similar, before working out that they are very large monitor lizards, having some sort of amazing confrontation, standing right up on their tails and clasping each other. He takes a photo, then changes to video to record what is either a violent confrontation, or some sort of mating.
We pass the area where we took such good photos of the rice paddies and limestone formations, but don’t feel the need to have another look, and carry on towards the airport and the inevitable traffic jam where several major roads meet. Once we got onto the toll road, the traffic eases and we make good time into the city proper. We tip Mr Pandu well for his effort on the trip, bid farewell to Dodo, who was at the hotel to welcome us, then head out for a farewell dinner with Jerry and Sharon, who will be staying in Makassar for most of tomorrow, whereas we will leave the hotel before the crack of dawn. We thoroughly recommend Dodo Mursalim for organizing trips to Tana Toraja. His organization was excellent, accommodation was very good for the price we paid, and his choice of driver and guide was first class – and he was entertaining as well as helpful. We call it a night fairly early, pack our gear and try to get some sleep before our 3.45 AM wake up to leave the hotel by 4AM.
Tuesday 2nd May Makassar,Sulawesi to Denpasar and on to Ubud, Bali
We are up before the alarm, as usual with a flight looming, and are down in the foyer, unusually, before Mike and Debbie. Find Mr Pandu parked outside, and are underway to the airport by 4AM. Traffic is light, but we still use the tollway, and are dropped at departures by Mr Pandu, and say our fond farewells. The crowd on the Tarmac outside departures is pretty formidable, reminiscent of other third world departures where you have to fight for a place in the queue to even get inside the building, but the cattle chute leading to ticket check is empty, and we pass through, aided by our check-in info on the Iphone. Security is OK,and our water bottles pass without comment, and we find Gate 2 without incident. Dianne is walking gingerly, and her ankle is still very swollen, but she manages without needing a wheelchair this time. Mike and Debbie have gone ahead and have found a Starbucks in the departures area, and we don’t see them again until near boarding time. We check our departure a number of times, but the electronic board outside Gate 2 shows other flights, and it is only by careful listening we hear our flight called, and see people moving towards the door. We check with staff, and it is our plane, but the signs at the gate show quite different flights, but the staff just brush it off with a bit of a chuckle when we query why it is wrong. We get our two window seats on opposite sides of the plane, although Dianne had to move a young bloke who had probably never flown before.
Unfortunately, we either didn’t, or couldn’t, check where we were in relation to the wings, as we missed the wing, but got a good full-frame view of the engines. There wasn’t a lot to see on Murray’s side apart from the sea, but Dianne managed to get photos of the volcanoes on Lombok and Bali on the way in, while we circled to come into Denpasar from the west. The flight was good, although breakfast was pretty basic, but at least enough to take pills on.
At the airport we checked the official price for taxis to Ubud. Thought 350,000Rp was a bit fierce, so tried our luck outside, getting offers of 450,000, 400,000 which we bargained down to the official price, and took it. The taxi was a 5-seater Chef, possibly a rebadged Holden. Fitted all the luggage, but a bit squeezy in the back until Murray swapped with Mike from the front seat to the back. Traffic wasn’t too bad on the big roads near the airport, but became pretty horrendous going east along the coast then north to Ubud, with urbanisation all the way, and only occasional glimpses of rice paddies. Can’t believe the changes from our last visit in 1992, much less our first visit in 1977!
We have the correct street for the hotel, and Dianne has it shown on Maps.me and tries to tell him he is going down the wrong one-way street, but the driver insists on asking unlikely bystanders. The one-way system of roads, plus the stop-start moving traffic jam doesn’t help, but he eventually finds the right street, but we’re at the wrong end, and have to do a long circuit to get to the right end of our street, and our 5 star hotel, Alaya Jembawan. This is the second property for Alaya in Ubud, and when we booked it had only been open one week, and was still being finished, and had no reviews, so we got it for a great price of A$136 per night.
The cab driver is finally convinced that maps.me knows it’s stuff, and gets the details from Dianne. We tip the driver an extra 50,000Rp for degree of difficulty, and descend into the full force of 5-star accommodation, all smiles and considerations, but they can’t do much about improving our check-in time. We all wait in a cabana near the pool with drinks, and finally get first go for a room, but find the room is two levels down, with garden views, but no lift, and is a bit musty. We move in, and Dianne destroys the bed, but is not too happy, especially about the stairs. Staff must have had the same idea after seeing Dianne walking, because they came back a few minutes later and offered something on the ground floor, but we had to wait for the room to be vacated and cleaned. The result is a long wait, but we finally get a lovely room on the ground floor, right beside reception, with pool and garden views, obscure glass loo and bathroom, and the world’s biggest bed.
After a rest, we do a short walk to the main road, which is crowded, but not all that interesting.
Dianne goes back to the room, while Murray walks south to find insect spray at a convenience store, plus a possible dining area at a local food court.
We decide not to swim in the afternoon, and take it easy. In the evening we go out to Mama Mia’s Pizza, down in the eating zone. When we ask about taxis, we’re told they won’t come here, and we’re offered a lift in the hotel’s own new car, apparently free. The driver is young and friendly, and drops us right outside.
The pizza is pretty good for a change from nasi goreng, with starters and fruit drinks. After, we think we have arranged for the restaurant to ring a standard taxi to pick us up, but the hotel car turns up, having been rung because we gave them the hotel’s business card so the taxi would know the address, but they rang the phone number. We’re all pretty embarrassed about this, but the problem is corrected with a large tip on arrival. Pretty good night sleep with minimal rooster activity, and not a lot of traffic in our narrow street.
Wednesday 3rd May Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Lazy day with minimal walking for Dianne, and some swimming and lots of Internet.
Fox family movies and Kix shoot-em-up movies plus Al Jazeera TV for Murray. Enjoyed last night’s dinner so much do a repeat of Mama Mia’s, using a taxi called by the hotel. The driver is OK, but over-friendly, probably touting for a tour later. We take his card to ring him later. After we have finished our pizza, we try to contact him, but can’t get an answer, so walk the street for a while, then ask at one of the many taxi agencies, and get a start for 50,000Rp. The woman running the agency shuts up shop and drives us back to the hotel.
Thursday 4th May Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Another lazy day. Mike has booked us all in for a butterfish meal at Nomads, as he had a great meal there five years ago. Plan to leave a bit early and do a bit of sightseeing, but suddenly remember our free afternoon tea (coffee or tea, but nothing for non-tea or coffee drinkers, and some local cake specialties). Walk up the street, having a look in at 225,000Rp white wine at the bottle shop (compared with 50,000 half bottles of gin). Find Nomads, a touristy street-front bar and restaurant half a km up the main road, meet up with Debbie and Mike, and have two tasty chunks of butterfish, well presented, but tough to chew across the grain. On the way back to the hotel, we stop to buy two bottles of white for the cruise, then settle in for another night of on/off AC and doona.