Fact: up until a month ago, we had never heard of the Togean islands; But to be fair who has? Unless you specifically speak about (overcrowded) Bali, Java or Sumatra, Indonesia (for most people) seemed to be a mystery. Indo-what? Bali? Ah! But no complaint here: no better feeling than to actually visit countries that haven’t been completely taken over by tourists. You gotta love a well kept secret. To round up our A&M adventure, we were looking for a peaceful place to relax, swim, eat and repeat. Many travelers had recommended the Raja Ampat islands to us, popular but still peaceful and affordable… It sounded fantastically wonderful (almost too good to be true); we were playing with the idea of spending a few days there until we met a very nice traveler from West Papua in Yogyakarta. As much as he loved his island, he warned us that we would waste a lot of time (and money) trying to get to West Papua / the Raja Ampat islands for only three nights. In other words, this detour was only worth it if we had time… which we didn’t have! This was definitely a bummer (who does not want to spend time in paradise?) but luckily this fellow traveler had something in store for us! He knew that we were considering flying to Sulawesi, so why not check the Togean islands? A few google searches later, we knew that we had to go there.
Fast forward a few weeks, in the middle of the night with us thinking that we might die. Our new friends, the funnice Franco-Irish couple, took us along in their private car and what was supposed to be a good idea became a bad good idea. A terrible idea, actually. Our driver picked us up at stupid o’clock, 2:30 to be exact and he looked… exhausted. Wait… was he really the guy who was supposed to drive us all the way to Ampana?! This couldn’t be right… We jumped in the car and after half an hour of trying to fall asleep, we realized that our driver had no problem to fall asleep and was struggling to stay awake. Suddenly he pulled over and got out of the car for what we thought was a toilet break. Think again… he came back and said: “sleep”. I beg your pardon… what? “Sleep”. We paid you a lot of money for you to take a nap. Sure, why not?! Let me think, still thinking, rethinking… This was not happening. We had a ferry to catch! M offered to drive and our young (exhausted) driver suddenly was wide awake. He wasn’t tired anymore. He jumped back behind the wheel and off we were (again). Since he was clearly not NOT tired, none of us could get some sleep and what should have been a comfortable drive turned into a tensed trip, every one of us hoping to make it safe and sound to Ampana.
Surprisingly we reached the port to realize that our driver had dropped us off at the wrong port. Instead of bringing us to the ferry, he had taken us to a place where speed boats depart. We felt so angry to have been cheated, especially since we kept telling him that we had to catch a ferry. He left before we could ask him to take us to the right place so we were stuck where more expensive boats were leaving from. Fucktastic! You gotta love such morning starts… NOT. After letting my frustration out, we started to look around to weigh our options and found the best solution 1) take an expensive cab to go to the right departure place and spend 6 hours on a ferry to Wakai, where we had to charter a private boat to go to Bolilanga resort – a place we had found on internet and looked fabulous 2) or take a more expensive speed boat, spend only 1 1/2 hours on that said boat and sleep one night on Kadidiri that offers cheap accommodation before heading to Bolilanga… our lack of sleep surely influenced our decision. There was no way we were putting ourselves through a 6-hour ferry trip and option 2 was unanimously chosen. Our A&M adventure has been all about traveling like locals, eating like locals, drinking like locals but on that day, we were ready to accept being called a… tourist!
Thanks to ms. Ulfa, a wonderful sales lady in Ampana, we decided to overnight at Kadidiri Lestari. This was a cute place with cute little bungalows and a cute little beach. Owned by a local family, we felt welcome for the moment we stepped off the boat. Once we overlooked the depressing rubbish, that unfortunately spoils the shore and is a common problem for many islands around the globe, the swim to the corals was nice and snorkeling was even greater. We even spotted sea horses which definitely made our day! It was probably the first time I went snorkeling without any apprehension, the first time I actually enjoyed it fully, the first time I didn’t need M by my side to enjoy the underwater world. We even had the chance to try an Easybreath mask on! Now snorkeling became even easier and we knew right away that we needed one! Luckily Christmas is coming soon and we have been pretty good this year… Snorkeling became so much fun, we got up early the next day before taking the ferry to Katupat and went exploring again, this time closer to Kadidiri Paradise, another resort, slightly fancier than Lestari. Our short stay on this island was filled with laughter and warmth. The family who owned the resort was lovely and very helpful. Meals were included in the accommodation price and the food was simple, homemade and delicious. The four of us us loved this place and even tho we greeted not to have more time to explore the island, we couldn’t wait to discover Bolilanga.
Since we met on the bus to Tentena, the four of us became a package and traveling together being a lot of fun, they decided to join us on our Bolilangan exploration. We were picked up by the resort staff and the first sight was beautiful: a long(ish) white sand beach, a pier to watch the sunset from and smiling people welcoming us. What not to love about this place? And our first impressions were not once disappointed. Our bungalow was very comfortable, clean and it felt like a home from home. The island has belonged to a local family for years and the owner, Alan was fabulous. He tried hard to make sure we were happy on his island. After meeting our Franco-Irish friends, we didn’t think we could meet some more amazing people! We were so wrong! We spent three days with a bunch of funny, funny, funny French travelers. We felt like we had known each other for years. This was really the perfect end of our backpacking adventure together, the perfect place to be among lovely people but also the perfect place to be sad as the time to say bye to M was coming up quick. Our plan was to do absolutely nothing but who were we kidding? We weren’t able to do nothing. We booked a day trip to different snorkeling spots, had lunch on Karina Beach (which was supposed one of the nicest Togean beaches but was actually a huge dump) and went swimming with Jelly fish in the Mariona lake.
When we reached Reef #1, we enthusiastically jumped into the water… to be washed away far from our boat. Unfortunately any attempt to snorkel was washed away (literally), the current was insanely strong so our captain took us to Hotel California, an ocean shelter for fishermen surrounded by wonderful corals. I absolutely loved this place but I ended up being frustrated because some beautiful fish and plants were on the bottom of the ocean, too far for me to have a good look at them… This was when I realized that I was ready to take my relationship with the ocean to the next level: I needed to learn diving! After a delicious lunch on a (more than) trashed beach, our swim with jellyfish (if your remember, my last encounter didn’t go that well) in a warm lake was strangely amazing. Surrounded by thousands of blue and orange jellyfish, tiny or pretty big, I felt like I was floating in an enchanted Forrest surrounded by fairies. Surreal! A Perfect day with a perfect group, what a great send off! Even though I couldn’t believe it, my adventure has come to an end and it was time for me to start my long journey home. Next stop: Luzern.
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!