Arriving at Bunaken Island, North Sulawesi

Bec & I flew into Sulawesi from Bali on Thursday night around midnight! After a truly terrifying hour long taxi ride to our hotel from Manado, we finally got to bed around 1am. The hotel had no record of my booking and I couldn’t access the internet, so the fellow at reception upgraded us to a cottage. The cottage was significantly more expensive than the ‘long house’ which I later discovered I had booked and paid for, yet was in such bad condition that I dread to think what the ‘long house’ actually was like. Strangely there was only one powerpoint in the entire room and it was under the bed. While there were bedside lamps and a tv, none of their cords reached the powerpoint! Thankfully though, the air conditioner on/off button was a switch on the bedside table and it actually worked because even at that hour, it was hot and humid.
After breakfast the next morning, we headed back into town to get to the dock where we were due to meet the boat from our hotel at 12 noon. It was stinking hot and humid when we got back to the town centre of Manado and as we still had an hour till we were due to be at the dock, we went looking for es campur (shaved ice served over jellies made from agar agar, diced fresh fruit, syrup, sago & condensed milk drizzled over the top) pulling our packs behind us and with our day packs on our backs. We searched up and down nearby streets with no luck and then just as we gave up and turned around to head back towards the dock disappointedly, we came across a kaki lima (mobile stall) selling es teler. We asked him to bungkus (literally package or in English – takeaway) 2 servings. I then needed to find the name of our hotel (so I could ask for it at the office on the dock), so we sat down on a concrete step behind the kaki lima and I got out my ipad. While sitting down, we also began eating our es teler and it was amazing how quickly we revived. Es teler is shaved ice over strips of fresh coconut (meat), avocado chunks, chopped pineapple (in this case), agar-agar jellies, sugar syrup and roasted peanuts. It also is usually served with chunks of bread and condensed milk which we didn’t want so as a replacement I asked for extra ice! The freezing ice cooled us from the inside out and instantly the heat and humidity felt less oppressive.
We got to the dock 10 minutes early to discover our boat waiting for us and the other couple (Dutch) had also just arrived. This meant we got away early and enjoyed the half hour journey leaving the hustle and bustle of Manado behind before arriving on the small peaceful island of Bunaken, north of Manado.(See the map above). The tide was right out when we arrived and we stepped down into the ankle deep water to discover the water was as warm as bath water! No sooner had all the luggage been moved from the boat to the reception building, the heavens opened. We sat and enjoyed the squall which brought strong gusts of wind that blew posters and maps off the walls yet no rain blew in under the roof line so we could sit and enjoy the rain without getting wet.

20131117-075152.jpgFollowing the rain, came overcast conditions reminiscent of the weather Trees and I experienced on Pulau Cubadak in West Sumatra. After the heat and humidity in Bali and Manado, the cooler conditions are gorgeous. Last night while sleeping I even had to turn the fan down because I was so cold!!
After the rain stopped, Bec and I went for a walk both to stretch our legs and explore and just as importantly, to find a warung that sold es campur or kelapa mudah (young coconut drink). We stopped at every warung we came to (not that there were too many!) but no one sold any. One of the staff here at our hotel, Bunaken Beach Resort (BBR), suggested it was due to the rain which made sense to me because I then remembered that I have heard throughout Indonesia of their belief that there is a high chance of getting sick if you eat ice while it is raining.
The track we followed to the village is about a metre wide and in parts paved in bricks and in parts unpaved.

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The unpaved sections were full of potholes filled with rain from the recent rain. We passed several other places to stay before coming to the village, however until we reached the village, most of the path was lined with banana palms and other vegetation, a mixture of mangroves and other trees which have probably been on Bunaken for centuries! In cleared areas, the wild creeper I saw growing in Sumatra, Kalimantan and West Papua is also here covering the ground and anything else in its path and growing happily alongside it is lantana, a noxious weed in Queensland!
The only traffic that passed us on the ‘road’ were motorbikes and ‘bajaj’ which look like a cross between a motorbike and a ute.

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They are used to transport just about anything including crops, shopping, fuel etc and also people! Handy aren’t they!
As they are the only forms of transport on the island, it is generally very quiet and peaceful. Our hotel is also far enough away from the village that we rarely seem to have passing motorised traffic, it is mainly foot traffic, and the few that pass our way drive slowly thankfully. Our room is the one closest to the road,

20131117-075512.jpgwhich means we are also the closest to the water too, however to get to the water, we have to cross the ‘road’. The rooms are set in lovely gardens and connected by a concrete path. There is a dining room where all meals are served and this is included in the cost of the rooms. Just as well meals are provided as the warungs here are few and few between. The dining room is set up high on the hill overlooking the beach. The steps are tiled and quite slippery in these wet conditions, however the view and no doubt the cool breezes on hotter days, make it well worth the climb.

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Our meals so far have been a mixture of Indonesian and Western. Breakfast today was jaffles and pancakes whereas for lunch and dinner we had rice, vegetables and tofu & tempeh (dinner) or pergedel – corn fritters- (lunch). I am loving the Indonesian food.
The staff here, we both agree, are awesome. Everyone is super friendly and so helpful, something i truly appreciate after my time on Pulau Cubadak. The one and only thing I wish BBR also provided is hot showers, but as this cool weather is apparently really unusual, I can see why it is not available! Hopefully we also get to experience some sunny weather if only to make showering slightly more enjoyable!
At dinner last night we were joined by the 2 Dutch women who caught the boat with us and also another Dutch woman who arrived a few hours after us. The last woman is in Indonesia for 13 days,, all of which will be spent on Bunaken! By the time she arrived here yesterday she was so exhausted after flying Holland – Singapore – Manado and then the boat ride, that she could barely write her name when signing the register at reception! I bet she slept well last night! What a mammoth trip!
After dinner we met Ferdinanz, our dive instructor. He is also Dutch and has his own hotel not far from ours, yet happily runs dive courses for anyone, regardless of where they are staying. We explained that we are only here for 3.5 days, so he offered to run the 4 day course over 3 days instead. He gave us our texts but asked us to leave them wrapped until after our first dive, just in case we change our minds about doing the course during this dive. Apparently they are very expensive, so if unopened we could return them without having to pay for them! Ferdinanz then organised for us to be at his place by 9am the next morning.
I went to bed that night so excited. Not only am I actually on Bunaken Island but tomorrow I will have my first dive lesson!

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