Tentena

The following day, we had a long trip ahead of us, as we had to go all the way to Tentena. Not much interesting happened on the way… We purchased some ice cream for lunch, saw some overpriced grapes, Tim peed in a cistern instead of a toilet (that water is used to shower)… All in all, it was already dark when we finally arrived at our destination. I had sent a message to a cs member in Paso a few days back, who advised he was not currently there, but gave me the name and phone number of a good friend of his in Tentena. We did not have a phone to make contact, but I was able to find her on Facebook and talk to her. She welcomed us to her house, and asked us to let her know when we’d arrived in town so she could pick us up. Unfortunately, the problem was we were at the edge of town without a way to contact her.

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However we found a friendly local that called her for us, and five minutes later she was there with her bike. We flagged a second ojek to carry Tim, and made our way through the little town to Alinda’s place. Her house was located very close to the main street, was spacious, clean and tidy. She introduced us to her flat mate, a petite smiley Indonesian called Ester, whose English was poor and was very shy but helped us whenever she could while we were there. On the contrary, Linda seemed boisterous, open, beautiful and extremely friendly. She took us to her favourite cafe, called Samping Rumah, owned and run by a very personable Chinese descendant man. The place had a wall covered with colourful old cassettes of all kinds, and different photos and posters, producing a very unique environment. Tim soon called it “the Indonesian version of a hipster cafe”. The food was cheap and yummy, and it was great to finally get something warm inside of us. The owner was even kind enough to drive Tim back home, as I jumped on Linda’s bike. It was the beginning of one of the best times we had in this country!

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That Friday, Linda was busy so we were on our own. We spent the morning walking around town and taking pictures. We walked for well over 3 hours, getting to the lake shore and wandering about. At some points some students got a girl to jump into a platform and then pushed it away from the shore, so she started squeaking loudly asking them to pull her back. Instead, they all laughed at her and left her where she was. I could not help myself, and I went around and pulled her back to shore. Tim called me a party pooper, but she was grateful for my service, and I did not like the other girls picking on her in front of the boys and us to be “cool” –  I don’t find it cool to have fun at the expense of someone else’s suffering. After that, we went back to Samping Rumah to have something to eat and use their wi-fi. Sitting in front of the fan on some comfy chair, I finished my current novel, Silkworm (quite good, I must confess) and chose the next books I would be reading, a teen fantasy series by Melissa West called “the Taking”. I’d stumbled upon this title on some random blog and it’d caught my eye. I had little to no clue on what they would be like. After reading a well educated English writer, it was rather strange to read this sloppy American writer, whose grammar mistakes and simple vocabulary soon exasperated me. However the story itself was interesting and flowed well, so I soon forgave her for the lack of substance and finished the first book that same day. At one a day, I was done with the trilogy before leaving Tentena.

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Later that afternoon, Linda joined us with some other of her friends. One of them was this tiny, pretty, shy girl called Vika that studied English with her at University. She mostly talked to us using Linda as an intermediary, but was also really lovely and informed us she would be joining our adventures the following day.

Next morning we woke up and were taken to some caves right next to the town, that were right next to a pristine stream and a patch of forest. Linda told us how these caves were used during the Poso/Tentena ethnic violence episodes, when Christians fled to the forest to avoid being killed by the Muslim.. This terrible events marked the whole place, it’s culprit being three Christian girls (coincidentally, friends of hers) getting beheaded on the way to school for no other reason than to send a message… Some bones of the less lucky ones remained behind, but other than that, the caves accepted their part of the story in proud silence, and were pretty impressive themselves.

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Our next stop was the local market, to admire the local offer and fuel up before continuing our journey. In this part of Sulawesi, they catch, sell and eat… Bats. They were gutting them and getting them ready to be cooked right there in front of us. It was as interesting as it was disgusting, and I watched as long as my body allowed me to before I had to move on or throw up. The girls promised they tasted really good, but I am not THAT adventurous :P. For lunch we shared a local dish called Tinatuan, a soup made with rice, corn and some other veggies, that was cheap, tasty and filling.

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The highlight of the day was to be the magnificent Saluopa Waterfalls. We reached them about 30 minutes out of town. On our way, we passed a Hindu settlement, with its characteristic shrines and ornamented walls and offerings. Linda explained they call it little Bali, as many Balinese moved in together and own quite a bit of land around the area..

Once we reached the waterfall, my eyes could not believe what was in front of them. I have seen MANY waterfall in my life, but none as big and amazing as this one. The water flows violently almost, going in all directions, and climbing up on different levels for over 100 mts. They built steps on the side, but in many places the waterfall seemed to have changed its mind and started rolling down them, so they had to divert the path further along. This place was fantastic, and we spent a few hours playing with the water and taking pictures. All the time I was thinking of my Brazilian friends and Chris… On how many falls we went to and how much they would absolutely love that place!

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Vika had to go back to town to leave again for her village as she is the daughter of the local pastor and had to be there to help prepare for the next day service. We relaxed for the remaining of the afternoon, and went out to taste the best noodle soup in town, prepared Javanese style (mie ayam). It came with something similar to thin deep fried bread and it most certainly lived up to our expectations! We then proceeded to Linda’s auntie’s house, to have our second dinner. I could not possibly fit anything else, but Tim definitely had a taste of what was offered. We also talked to them about wedding customs in the area, giving her cousin is soon to be wed. It was interesting to hear that the groom pays the bride family for her, plus something for each of the responsible people for each section of the wedding. Another curious fact is that the day of the wedding, the bride is locked out and has to offer a piece of fabric or coins to be able to enter the room (or that was my understanding). They seemed shocked to hear about western bachelor parties…

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The following morning our hosts prepared some food for us. Chili tempe, veggies, omelette and rice. It was VERY good and I got stuffed with as much as I could fit, as I did not want to waste this amazing home made meal. Tim then proceeded to get a lesson on how to drive a semi automatic bike (no clutch, but gears). He got the hang of it rather quickly, though his feet were too big to easily gear down, which made that bit quite challenging. That, plus the fact it was his second time driving a bike in his whole life, made our upcoming journey slow and equal parts fun and terrifying. Our objective was Vika’s village, where Linda’s room mate family also lived. The rode was quite destroyed, loose gravel only in some sections. To our amazement, it borders the lake, offering unique and stunning views around every corner. Some kids overtook us on motorbikes, laughing at Tim and me struggling up a particularly rough bit. I ended up hopping off the bike and walking uphill, where I got back on. We finally made it to the village, where everyone welcomed us warmly. We picked up some fishing rods and bait from Linda’s uncle and attempted to go fishing on a flooded rice field just outside of town. Mud soon filled our shoes while trying to reach our destination, alongside the crops. The lake had indeed chewed up part of the plantation, and some fish moved in… No one in our party was very experienced with the whole fishing business, and we soon gave up empty handed. I did not even try myself; I enjoyed going waist deep into the lake and playing with the SLR. The shady shelter on the side of the lake provided a perfect retreat that was all my heart ached for…

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Back in the village, we went past Ester’s home to have a cup of tea. Vika left to go prepare some food for us, while we ventured into the lake for a swim. As I pulled my dress up, I soon realized people here do NOT swim using bathing suits at all, and I was quite the sight for them… Later on, we headed to the pastor’s home behind the church, where again we were welcomed with wide open arms and lots of delicious food. The younger girls even dressed up in their best clothes for the occasion, and we took some cute family pictures with the whole lot. For the ride back home, we decided I would ride with Linda, and Ester, who would weight considerably less than me, would ride with Tim. Unfortunately, when we went to turn the rented bike on, we discovered the headlights only worked when you accelerate.. And considering the road is windy and goes up and down (where you would not touch the accelerator) we found ourselves in a pretty dangerous and scary scramble. We did not really have any options, as we had to return to Tentena, but poor Tim did not have the greatest time. I myself drove with an experienced good driver, so we chatted and laughed away the whole trip, while we waited every next step for Tim to catch up…

We had originally planned to leave the next morning, but Linda hinted that it would be good for us to visit the University and talk to some of the students, as they seldom get a chance to meet foreigners and practice their English. We were still right on schedule for our next boat trip, and accepted the invitation for an extra night gladly. Linda would not be available, but Vika offered to spend the day with us. We walked all the way to the Uni (2-3km)… See, for us that is not much at all, but these people drive their motorbikes EVERYWHERE, so it was very odd for a local to walk along with us. Also taking into account she had to pretty much run, as her legs are considerably shorter than ours, we kept making jokes about Vika founding the first Tentena walking club as the president and only member, while facing the startled faces of the locals… Once we reached the REKTORAT, we were introduced to a bunch of people, and a lot of pictures of us with the different departments were taken. The psychology professor was really nice, and so was the dean’s secretary. Both spoke great English and were warm and friendly. Most of the students were too shy to even approach, except for two young girls that joined our party. We all went to a nearby cave to explore it, careful not to slip and enjoying the spiders.

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Once satisfied, we accompanied Tim to get his first haircut outside of NZ. The hairdresser was delighted to touch blonde hair (and I am sure he would have wanted to do more than that) and half an hour later we said goodbye, Tim a few grams lighter and a lot fresher. Right afterwards, we enjoyed a well deserved Tinatuan and iced orange juice for a snack. We walked back towards town and into our favourite cafe, but their internet was out. Vika took us to a Yamaha shop, and they pulled some chairs out on the sidewalk and let us use their wi fi connection to see if we had any responses from Cs in Palu, the next town or we could figure out where to stay… Linda finished the business that kept her busy and joined us, so we said goodbye to our two new friends and went back to our temporary home with Linda and Vika. We had some lunch together, and they sang and played guitar for us. We took it pretty easy for the rest of the day, having a nap, reading and writing. We returned to Samping Rumah for our last dinner in town, therefore completing the circle. Vika’s boyfriend and another girl joined us, and we enjoyed a lovely evening with the lot.

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Saying goodbye was not easy, but it is part of travelling and we are used to it. Thanks to this girls we had a wonderful time in Tentena and some memories we will never forget. Couchsurfing has once again exceeded our wildest expectations and then some 🙂

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