Borneo diaries, day 25, Sulawesi diary day 1, Hitchhiking a cargo boat from Telam Suleiman (Biduk-Biduk, BidukBiduk, Biduk Biduk) to Palu, Kalimantan Borneo to Sulawesi


(I’ll continue with the English indulgence for the sake of internalization, I apologize from here on for my sloppy writing. Or you could learn catalan :P)

Getting into a boat is easy, you are reading a book next to the paradisiac harbour, the lady on the eating kiosk tells you that the boat that is arriving goes to Sulawesi in 2h and you can join it if you rush for your backpack 15km away :]

However getting into getting into the boat is the difficult part (as other posts show). Yes you need time, extreme flexibility and find the right place.


It all starts with me in peninsular Malaysia wanting to cross to Borneo. Big cargo ships are protected by walls of redtape that I couldn’t climb, although I did could climb 3 ships and ask freely before being detained by the police 🙂

After that experience, and once in Kalimantan, I decided to try instead shorter hops in smaller vessels.

My next try was in Terakan, north Kalimantan, there I could find a small cargo boat that was willing to carry me. However it could only be done by getting some government official approval. Where to get it and how without knowing Indonesian escaped my abilities.
As I was saying in a previous post seas are closing due to redtape, ironically in this case because a ferry (that I try to avoid) shrank.

Next was to try the shortest distance possible. Biduk-Biduk on a peninsula close to Toli-Toli. I was told that there are many fishing boats, and latter, cargo boats from Taulk Sulaiman. They might not have any problem into getting me in. No paperwork needed.

I go there and I find this unbelievable beach paradise that I described in the previous post, and after asking where to get the boat I go literally to the end of the road.
01°09′19.8″N 118°45′46.79″E

A harbour with a lone wooden dock around half a dozen of small, one flor,  vessels await.

After a complex conversation with my few Indonesian words (kapal Sulawesi, boat Sulawesi; di mana? where?; kapan?, when?) and the week days I’m told that the boats depart in one week. Too long even when having to wait in paradise. But after a bit more of discussion someone tells me that a boat might be going in 3 days, Wednesday or Thursday (it’s Monday evening). Paradise, little houses and coconut trees where to plant my hammock, small fires, waiting 2 days… that sounds like a plan!

Next day I go back to confirm things,  an angry man tells me there are no boats until 2 months… that’s bad. Other tells me something about 2pm next day, uncertain but good, anyway I feel lost in translation.

Next day I go to the harbour since the morning until my boat appears 😀

Into the boat:


After being told that the boat will be departing in one hour, you ride fast the bicycle to your host  house, woke them up to say bye and take the backpack.

Your ride back gets a flat tire. You get the first 14 (or so) year old ride driving with one hand (but according to my experience he must have been driving anywhere from 7 to 4 years already). And you get in the boat, a small wooden cargo vessel, about 15m long, one level white and blue. That’s it!


The boat ride:
Someone asks my name, age, nationality and reasons for traveling, it is noted in a notebook. Another local passenger joins, that means that is common to have extra rides between islands.


After 1h repairing the batteries it departs. The sunset on the heavily rocketing sea is nice. Fried fish for dinner and sleep at 8pm, hard wood, shaking boat and diesel exhaust, good night!


Sulawesi diary, day 1, marine police.
At some point close to midnight the diesel engine starts puling out much more exhaust into the vessel than what is normal. I go to the front part and enjoy the cloudy moon ride, it’s simply a fantastic scenery, no words. I get tired and since now the sea is almost flat I can easily and soundly sleep on top of the rice sacs of the front part, avoiding the flumes.

Cloudy sunrise, one can't have it all! but the amazingly shaped, mountainous Sulawesi is on the left side and front 😀

Marine Police
After few hours of enjoying the striking mountain sea scenery and entering, Palu bay surrounded by long mountains welcomes me. Also the marine police welcomes me and the boat, boarding us with a zodiac. After 20h in my ride and 250km I’m taken by the police :D, great! I’m received by all at the Wasi harbour like a movie star.


Uncertain in what to do with me, they got me to show every single item of my (small) luggage in case I carry a gun or drugs… After a looooong wait  they can’t  figure out if my documentation is in order, so they plan to send me for the immigration office in Palu town (Wani is 23km away). Then another long wait until they get a Hello Kitty car. In the  mean time I’m invited to lunch and asked several times if I can give them my things, from the bracelets to my camera…


After a really slow ride I’m driven to immigration where they confirm that everything is alright, and they teach the marine police that I can travel as much as I want with my visa. So for future hitchhiker travelers they shall know! To their defence I seem to be the first foreigner in at least 15 years that has appeared like that in a cargo boat, so they where confused.

On the Immigration office they started to ask too many questions if my fundings and my out of Indonesia  tickets (both that I don’t have), and they didn’t get clear that I was hitchhiking a cargo boat, so I looked politely to the clock and after few pictures they let me out. Avoid getting into there if you can anyway!

In summary, keep trying, asking, find the right place and learn wait 😀 (although waiting in paradise is easy 😉

On a side note while being hosted in Palu by a Couchsurfer, Fadel, when another traveler, from Virginia, US, got a ride in the boat of the uncle of friend of my CS :D. The boat brings fresh vegetables from Palu in Sulawesi to Samarinda in Kalimantan, and comes back. So contact the couchsurfing community in Palu (or another port city) and ask for help!



One thought on “Borneo diaries, day 25, Sulawesi diary day 1, Hitchhiking a cargo boat from Telam Suleiman (Biduk-Biduk, BidukBiduk, Biduk Biduk) to Palu, Kalimantan Borneo to Sulawesi

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