Leaving death behind was a relief and we were really looking forward to discovering Tentena in Central Sulawesi. We jumped on the only bus to Tentena for what became the longest bus ride we have had in a long time. A few pukers, a meeting with a funnice Franco-irish couple, 318 kilometers and 14 hours later, we reached the charming small town, very late at night. Because our party of 4 was motivated to walk to our hotel, 3 km became again for the night an acceptable walking distance. Ah the peer pressure! Our hotel was small and cute and the staff absolutely lovely. After a good night sleep, we had breakfast with the couple we had met on the bus and they invited us to drive with them to Ampana as they had hired a private car. As you know, we are all about traveling with public transportation but after “a few pukers, […] 318 kilometers and 14 hours”, we had the feeling we had earned the right to upgrade our mode of transportation. After roughing it up in Latin America and Indonesia, we desperately needed some lazy beach times and there was no chance we could turn down this proposition. Especially since this also meant that we would have more time in the Togean islands. Who are we to say no to this?!
I wasn’t sure whether I liked this couple a lot because she was French and got my (questionable) sense of humour or whether it was because they seemed to be an older version of us. Either way, the next days promised to be fun! We rented two scooters and Noni, our fabulous hotel manager, gave us tips to make the most of our day in the area. Surprisingly, there were cool places to check out. We knew that Tentena was located on lake Poso but we had not realized that there was so much to do and see over there! Bring it on then! We headed first to the Saluopa waterfalls and to be honest, we didn’t expect much. The past few months, people have recommended us several waterfalls and so far M and I have rarely been impressed. The ride to reach Saluopa was lovely and after stopping at a Balinese village on the way, we arrived at the wunder of Tentena. Still skeptical, we crossed a wooden bridge, walked through a tropical forest, “climbed” up the steep steps and there it was: an impressive waterfall! We couldn’t believe it: a beautiful waterfall was standing in front of us. A succession of little falls composed this “we would have been stupid to miss this” fall; we almost felt like we were back in Tad Sae, another stunning waterfall (in Laos).
Very happy with our morning, we decided to have lunch on a beach… A beach, you ask? Yes, even tho Tentena is located on lake Poso, fresh water, it offered us the time of an afternoon the feeling to be on an exotic beach while strolling under the palm trees. On the way to the beach, the dirt road was quite challenging but fun. Who does not like anyway a good slippery road and potholes? Following Noni’s recommendation, we headed to Sirui Beach but didn’t stop there as it was described to us as extremely touristy. Instead, thanks to Noni, we opted for the beach where locals prefer to hang out. It felt so good to get rid of our shoes and walk barefoot in the warm white sand. We strolled along the lake. The water was lovely and the locals very friendly. As we were almost the only tourists, many families greeted us and wanted to talk to us… in Bahasa… What a wonderful experience to be surrounded by laughter and smiling faces, a warm feeling in our hearts that makes us love Sulawesi even more! We found a warung and enjoyed a noodly lunch with our feet in the sand. Priceless! Before going to our hotel, we had one more place to check out: the Pamona caves… Untouristy, this place was supposed to be a cool detour. We could not believe what we found: a cave that required us to kneel, almost crawl and bend our heads. I had never been so happy to be a tiny explorer! Luckily we had packed our headlamps and we followed a trail that took us down the naturally lighted cave, casually walking by bones. We were definitely hoping that those bones were not from lost explorers!
To celebrate our stopover in Tentena, which was (by the way) the best decision as the trip from Rantepao to Ampana would have been a long torturous one otherwise, we decided to treat ourselves to fresh fish. Noni, again, what to say she was our Tentena angel, sent us to Ongga Bale. We loved that place because there was a corner for locals where you sit on the floor around a table or a corner for tourists with chairs and tables. You can hopefully guess which corner we chose… (Which would mean that I do have regular readers. One can hope!). This place was exactly what we needed: we got to pick our fish from the lake, have it grilled and served with rice, vegetables and spicy sambal. Simple and tasty! Happy! After 176 days of roughing it, it was time for us to head to our last destination where we intended to relax, swim, eat and repeat. Next stop: Togean islands