As soon as we made it onto a large craft, a gentleman waved us to follow him, and took us to a private cabin. We were delighted to see it was rather clean, and had foam mattresses for us to lay on. In this conditions, the upcoming trip was going to be luxurious in comparison with our previous experience on a crowded Pelni vessel. We had also realised that they always provide you with meals, so we managed to score breakfast (rice and a hard boiled egg), skip lunch (did not hear/understand the call) and get dinner, a fish head we did not eat, rice and some boiled veggies. Most importantly, each meal came with bottled water, making our journey very pleasant and restoring our fate in government transportation. I spent most of the time reading. I finished the latest Murakami short novel I was reading: After Dark. I then proceeded to read some of his short stories. However there is some strange feeling I get with short stories… It is like I desire to learn more and see the characters develop further, so after reading about 15 I opted for another novel. This time I chose Sputnik sweetheart, and devoured it before the trip was over. At that point, I decided I needed a break from Murakami, as it was starting to get too familiar and even repetitive…
Right next to our bunker was a Spanish guy, who casually reminded us of couchsurfing… We had looked up a few places back in NZ, unable to find any hosts, but he assured us all major cities had people eager to welcome travellers to their homes.
It was already dark by the time we started to see the lights of Makassar, and the boat slowly made its way to the south eastern part of town, where the port lays. Back on firm land, we gripped our packs tightly, as once again we were warned against pick-pockets, and started walking down the street in search of transport. As per our costume, we wanted to try the local transport. In Makassar, this is a bicycle attached to a little cart, and they are all over the place. Its frame is made of whatever metal was available to them, and looks quite flimsy. I guarantee we were quite the spectacle as we made our way through the streets, holding one of the packs on top of the roof and trying not to laugh at the driver gasping for air. Luckily for him, the hotel we were seeking was not too far away, and he managed to make it in one piece. We had chosen hotel Borobodour Indah as per a Lonely Planet recommendation, because it looked comfortable and had wi-fi. For the first time since Bali, the room had AC, which was quite luxurious and very welcomed in the drowning heat of this city.
The next morning, we took turns exploring the city, while the other focused on sorting internet related stuff.. I had the computer first, so I started by sorting some bank stuff (I discovered a wrongly charged ATM transaction in my account and had to dispute it by filling up some boring forms) and talking to my best friend Mari and my mum. I also used this time to look at CS options in the area, short listing my two preferred ones and sending heart felt requests. Noise outside popped my bubble; the marching band kids from the next door kindy were practicing and producing quite a cute spectacle…
Once my time was up, I stepped outside and faced the appalling warmth of this bustling city. I could not (and still cannot) pinpoint exactly what it is, but Makassar has a certain charm to it, that made us both like it, although we would normally escape as quickly as possible from big cities as such… Instead I let myself get lost in its streets, returning people’s salutes and smiles as I walked past, and confirming that feeling of homeliness I had not experienced for quite some time. I finally returned to the hotel, unable to stand the heat anymore, proceeded to my room, cranked the AC down and worked out; my muscles were rapidly decreasing and I felt impelled to do something about it.
Tim finally finished updating his blog, and came up to find me listening to Fito Paez and singing my ass off as I exercised. I wrapped up my routine, had a shower, and got ready to go back out there. We had decided to do something very unusual for both: Go shopping. Neither of us ever liked the concept much, but were curious about this mall that was a block away, and attracted by its AC :P. The building was 6 stories high, with small stalls cramped with clothes, jewellery, and other stuff for sale (Como un mega Boli, ma!). The top floor had a food court, but none of its pre cooked food looked very appealing. Instead, we chose some sort of jelly mixed with ice cream, and a banana coated with some sweet green stuff and more icy indescribable toppings. Yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds, but we had to try it! After our meal, we walked up and down the stalls, amazed at the never ending variety of garments in offer; it is rather unbelievable, there being so many stands, that they still all manage to keep such a great deal of different stuff, and were amazed by how utterly beautiful some of it was. After much walking, I ended up choosing a colourful skirt and was very happy with my purchase. Tim had wanted a Muslim collar shirt for a long time, but he could not find one as big as he liked, so after another hour or so, we gave up and decided to leave the mall.
Our hunger was not really at peace though, so we sat down at a small street shop right outside the mall, which was serving… Empanadas! They call them “panadas”, and we have seem them all throughout Sulawesi at this stage. They are either filled with noodles and vegetables, or fish. So we had some of them, plus something I’ll call a frittata to make it simple, which was all cheap, nice and filling. Full bellies and happy hearts, we returned to the hotel and enjoyed a lazy afternoon. I started a new crime novel called the Cookoo’s Calling, by J K Rowling (writing under a pseudonym) and read until my eyes grew tired. Once the sun had set and the city cooled down a bit, we went off to explore the waterfront and other places we had not got to before. We ended up finding a ‘Dutch’ bakery (it had a windmill on top) and bought some pastries for dinner – again, I welcomed a break from fried stuff and was longing for some non sweet bread. Tim bought a soup at a local warung that was pretty yummy, and we walked back to our temporary home.
I turned the computer on that night, to discover one of my couch requests had been accepted, and made the necessary arrangements to meet up in the hotel the upcoming Friday. I was really happy to receive such a prompt response, and excited to become acquainted with a local Muslim man, knowing very little thus far about their culture and customs.
I will leave this blog post at that, as I don’t feel like sharing further – I myself have mixed feelings towards the events that developed the next few days, so let’s just finish by saying we caught an overnight bus out of Makassar a few days later.