The last post from the blog from my Scotland/Ireland ride in 2015 never got posted until the first day of the Sulawesi ride almost two years later. I promised myself that I wouldn't let that happen again. But here I am in a cabin in Perth on the first day of the Munda Biddi ride, and what am I doing? Writing up the last instalment of the previous trip! I find that once I turn for home, the motivation to keep up the entries just drops away.
Anyway, here is how it all ended up.
The boys from the homestay were very slow to get the little boat organised to take myself and the two Lithuanian boys from Pulau Kadidiri back to the main port on Pulau Wakai, where my bike, and the overnight ferry back to Gorantalo were waiting. I was getting a little impatient as I could see boats full of Europeans from the resorts heading in that direction.
Sure enough when we arrived at the port my worst fears were confirmed, with a long line of Europeans waiting for tickets, and the ferry looking very crowded. At least I felt a little differentiated as I had a bike with me, and hey, look closely, I'm Australian! The Indonesians were setting out their cardboard mattresses, and eating 'nasi bungkus' on the lower deck, and I parked the bike down there (in hindsight I would have been better off bunking down there too). The scene on the top deck knocked me flat, with every square inch occupied by Europeans of all descriptions, old, young, wannabe hippies, Dutch skinheads, and as if to drive home my anguish, a very tanned, sunglassed young blond woman whose tight black tee shirt read, 'I love Australia!' So my claim to fame of being the only Aussie on board was also blown out of the water (at least she didn't have a bike). This was only Indonesian ferry I've ever been on where the canteen sold Bintangs, and they were going down at a rapid rate. With all the mattresses taken up I found a little space in a closed off gangway and struggled to sleep amongst the waves, the wind, the hard cold steel and the Bintang induced socialarity of the other travelers. In almost story book fashion I finally fell into a deep sleep in what seemed only minutes before the foghorn blared out as we had arrived at Gorontalo two hours before schedule – 4 am!!
I felt I had the last laugh. As the Europeans and the Australian girl in the back tee shirt negotiated furiously with the touts who wanted to whisk them off to the next big destination, I casually got on my bike and pedalled quietly off into the dark empty streets. Back in town I found a hotel, woke the boy behind the desk, and fell into a deep sleep in a reasonably comfy bed.
That day I sampled some traditional Indonesian cakes and coffee, had a haircut, toured the Portugese fort and was given a 'nasi bungkus' for the next ferry trip to Bitung, from where I hoped I could ride back to my starting point at Amurang. This was to be a Pelni Ferry, which to me are more like ships. I stressed about getting there early to scrounge out my space but in complete contrast this ship was basically empty with only the crew and the odd family or two aboard. For a small fee the crew stationed me in my own cabin with TV (not working), a table, a toilet and a shower with hot water. The sign on the door said 'Kapal Pemilik' (Ships Owner).
This was a much longer journey so the comfort was most welcome and I caught up with much of the sleep I had missed the night before. When sun rose I wandered the decks getting good language practice with those on board. We were cruising parallel to the mountains I would have to cross, and so I spent a lot of time thinking through various plans of attack to get back to Amurang.
The ship arrived early which seemed like a good thing. However we anchored a kilometre or so off the harbour and spent the next three hours waiting for our dock berth to become available. During that time I was approached by an elderly Indonesian woman with her grandson. She wanted to use my phone as her credit had run out. I was feeling tired and sceptical but stuck by my mantra of trying to always keep positive and let her use the phone.
The elderly lady was very thankful and asked about my plans. It turned out she lived right at the top of the huge mountain I had to cross to get back to Amurang. She also was being picked up by a ute truck and was happy for me and the bike to sit in the back. So when we finally got to shore I was whisked into the back of the truck and had great reception to listen to the Bulldogs live as we drove up to Tomohon.
I slept on the floor at her very busy home and was offered RW (dog meat) for tea. Declined! The next morning I coasted for about 50 km which was almost all downhill. Sendowan Baru was all locked up when I arrived back at my starting point. I took some time to reflect. It had been a fantastic trip which fulfilled all of my dreams and more.
I reckon travelling alone has great advantages but there are many times you wish family and friends were there to share the emotions. This was one such moment.
Eventually Frank arrived and was pleased to see me in his own reserved way. Over the next few days I packed the bike, headed back to Manado for a final night in that city I have become quite fond of, and flew out for Malbourne.