Minahasan Delights And Disasters

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the Gorontalo ferry from the Togeans. It was only a week ago that the same voyage collided with a small fishing vessel, the real trouble started when the crew opened the main doors to rescue the fishermen and water began to flood into the hull, if there’s one way to sink a ferry, then that’s how it’s done. When we boarded I counted a grand total of six life jackets – there were at least one hundred passengers on board. That is just one of the reasons why Indonesia has a very poor record when it comes to transport disasters.

I couldn’t come to Indonesia and not trek up an active volcano. Since being put on ‘alert’ status two years ago, Gunung Lokon near Tomohon has erupted ten times, the last one back in March, can’t get more active than that. You’re not actually allowed to climb the volcano for safety reasons, but the security guards take the day off on a Sunday which is typically Indonesian. The guy at our hotel told us it was safe, so off we went…

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Gunung Lokon

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Hardened lava

A couple of hours hike took us to the crater where we had some nice views of the surrounding islands. A little bit of smoke was coming from the crater but no big deal, the main issue was the smell of sulphur AKA rotten eggs. As we began to climb to the peak an increasing amount of smoke started rising up from the crater and the views vanished, time to head back down. I guessed this was quite normal for a volcano of ‘alert’ status, but when I woke up on Monday morning and glanced over to Lokon I understood why you’re not meant to climb it.

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V is for Volcano

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The Crater

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Time to move out

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7am – Monday

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The Minahasan people of North Sulawesi are well known for eating almost anything. Spicy bat can be found on the menu at some Tomohon warungs but if you want to taste rat, python or dog you’ll have to be invited along to a local party. We attended a seventy first birthday bash next to our hotel where I decided to reluctantly continue my culinary quest and taste a small portion of mongrel meat from the buffet. Dog, in my opinion, tastes very similar to lamb or mutton, it didn’t half make me have some weird dreams though. Those dreams turned to nightmares the following day when we popped into Tomohon’s daily meat market and saw the exotic food being prepared, then the dog taste from the previous evening seemed a whole lot worse. WARNING: Animal lovers might want to skip the next set of photos…

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This little piggy went to market..

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This little piggy wished he’d stayed at home…

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Intestines…

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Python…

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Rat skewers…

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Bat…

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Before, and sadly…

After…

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Let’s not forget…

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Bra

From the heights of Lokon, to the underwater world of Bunaken island in just a few hours. Bunaken has some of the most spectacular marine diversity I’ve seen in my short diving life. In our half a dozen dives we saw rare pygmy seahorses, napoleon fish, black/white tip reef sharks and eagle rays to name but a few. We saw plenty of shelled reptiles at a dive site quite fittingly named ‘turtle city’. Giant green turtles slept in the coral while the smaller ones swam along gracefully. Some decided to hide within the rocks, but you could still see a turtle’s head popping out. This was the most Chelonia Mydas I had seen in one dive and thought it was great, the bloke from Ashington on the dive boat said it was ‘turtally amazing!’

20130923-094358.jpgFinding Nemo

20130923-094351.jpgDive buddies

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The barely recognisable Pygmy seahorse’s colour depends on the type of sea fan it lives on

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Underwater photos courtesy of Leigh Taylor

As magnificent as the underwater neighbourhood around Bunaken may be, it is under threat from a Chinese mining company who are attempting to bleed the island of its natural resources. The people of Bunaken are doing their best to keep them at bay for now, but I can’t help but think that the chance of making some quick and easy cash will eventually turn their heads. Also, Bunaken’s proximity to Manado means that a lot of the rubbish floats over from the city, on one dive we done after a storm I saw more plastic bags floating around than big fish. A 150,000 Rupiah marine fee for divers is in place to preserve the waters around Bunaken, sometimes you won’t be asked to pay it by your resort, I wasn’t. The Lonely Planet claims it goes to a good cause but those books contain so much incorrect information, you’re better off just using it as toilet paper. So, if you’re not asked to pay this ‘marine fee’, then don’t, I have first hand information that the money simply filters through into the hands of the dirty government, corrupt pigs. This is no more apparent than the sorry sight of a pile of dirty nappies washed up on the Eastern side of the island. Bunaken is an amazing place for now, but if nothing is done very soon by the Indonesian government and its people, then eventually it will resemble somewhere from the darkest depths of Sunderland…

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Dormant volcano ‘Old Manado’ at sunset, let’s hope it continues to look like this

Back on the mainland it was time to leave Sulawesi, it’s been a delight to visit such an interesting place where death and diving play an important role in keeping this part of the world unique. With Mount Lokon still smouldering in the backdrop, I realised that I hadn’t seen an eruption this big since Joe F******* Kinnear’s foul mouthed rant at the British press!

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