We passed a remarkably comfortable night, all things considered, but we couldn’t wait to get out of the place, so immediately after breakfast we packed our bags, paid our bill, + left. We were held up briefly by a military parade along our street. I was particularly amazed to see that the bass drummer in the band was wearing a frogman’s outfit, wetsuit + all (tho’ fortunately for him without flippers.) Extraordinary. There was some haggling with a group of becak drivers, but as they wouldn’t drop their price to a reasonable level, (not that one ever knows for sure) we shouldered our bags + walked. It really wasn’t too far. We were moving to the Hotel Ramayana which was by all accounts a little more expensive but much more pleasant, + had the added advantage of being close to the offices of Liman Express, the bus we were taking up to Tana Toraja, the attractive area north of UP. We called in at this office, as we happened to be on that side of the road, + the guy there, mistaking Val’s general request for a positive booking, duly booked us in for tomorrow’s 7 am trip. Ah well, we thought, + resigned ourselves to the fait accompli.
Then across to the Ramayana, which looked too good to be true. We walked in to a spotlessly clean + neat foyer, fully expecting to be looked at with scorn, but no, we were beckoned to the desk, + there it was in black + white, R7000, just as we had been told. By any standards it would be an entirely acceptable hotel – compared to the Alaska, we were in paradise. Our room was beautifully clean, + tho’, like last night, the attached bathroom held a Spartan toilet with water + dipper to flush it, in this case the toilet was clean, the room was clean, + there was a shower.
We set off immediately for town once again, obtaining first from the pleasant guy at the reception desk some info + a small map. We then caught the bemo to town + strolled down towards the docks. There were a number of small shops advertising on a blackboard the various ships sailing around Indonesia for the next week or so, + it seemed (after some initial confusion), that we could get one on the 24th, or Dec 1st, giving us some choice about how much time to spend in Tana Toraja.
We strolled around next to Fort Rotterdam, the old Dutch fort which is now being re-fitted + restored. It was quite impressive, + also houses a small but interesting museum, well laid-out. It was too hot to linger tho’, so we found ourselves a becak driver willing to take us out to Paotare, the fishing village a little way north of the town, + also the centre for the old Makassar schooners still in operation (UP’s old name was Makassar.) A long + very bumpy ride, + tho’ Paotere was interesting, it also stank. We asked a couple of people about the possibility of a schooner to Surubaya, in Java, + tho’ one bloke seemed to think there might be one, once again the language barrier came down to prevent a more fruitful discussion. We took a couple of photos, + then started walking back to UP, that seeming preferable to emulating mad dogs + our countrymen, + standing around in the midday sun.
We were fairly confident of finding either a bemo or becak closer to the main road – the section thro’ the village itself was very bad, potholed and/or cobbled, so wasn’t likely to attract much attention from those people if they could avoid it. And so it proved. We seemed to get a good deal too, being quoted R500 for the trip back to the hotel. It seemed rather cheap, so we weren’t surprised when the fellow pulled up at the wrong hotel. We apprised him of his error, + he asked directions of some local people, + off again. A tortuous route he took too, along one street which, with the mud, would have been difficult for a fuelled vehicle. However, we arrived eventually, to an unpleasant little scene. I gave the driver R600, at which he protested, saying it was very hot (which was true), + that he was very tired (which was very probably true.) On the other hand, if he had quoted us the R1000 which he was now demanding, we would have turned him down + looked for a bemo. It was his mistake, not ours, + tho’ I was happy to contribute an extra 100, I didn’t see why we should be unfairly penalised. Anyway, I ended the argument simply by walking away + into the hotel. An unfair tactic maybe, but all’s fair… as they say.
We rested for a while, then walked out to do some shopping, checking out greedily a new supermarket. We then passed a film developing store, + we discovered that they would be able to develop our photos there + then, at about a third the cost in Australia, so I handed them over, + we strolled away to a nearby bakery to kill some time. Val was a little annoyed with me, since she thought we should have taken advantage of their slightly more expensive but larger + borderless prints. I had rejected this because it meant waiting till tomorrow morning, or, for us, whenever it was we returned from Tana Toraja. + I wanted our photos there + then if possible. But she was right – I should have consulted her. Tho’ she, too, should have made her feelings clearer. Still, the bakery was excellent, + we bought both bread + snacks.
I wish the photos had been as inspiring. On first looking at them we were bitterly disappointed – so many seemed completely drained of colour. Either we weren’t making enough allowance for the brilliance of the light, or the films had deteriorated in the heat, or the developing was just plain bad. Actually, when we got them back to the hotel, there were some excellent photos in there, which cheered us a little, but a lot were pretty well washed-out. Instant sepia. Feasted that night on a home-cooked meal of sardines, mash + peas, but the snacks we had eaten had taken the edge off my appetite, + one needs a good appetite to down such a meal.
One of the disadvantages of travelling, especially of the sort we tend to do, which is rarely to linger, is that one is always looking out for, and making preparations for, the next stage of the journey. But UP really did seem to have very little to occupy us, so it was probably no bad thinbg that we were on our way out and up to the far more attractive-sounding and interesting Tana Toraja. And in the meantime, we were able to enjoy the delights of the Hotel Ramayana.