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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(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.

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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.
coordinates:
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:

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Immigration
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!

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Borneo diaries Days 24 & 25, Biduk-Biduk, BidukBiduk, Biduk Biduk, beach hidden paradise, east Kalimantan, not in lonlyplanet :D

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I’ll indulge and write this in English because it has to be shared with the world! Catalans are not enough to conquer this :P.

There is no way in which I can overstate how perfectly beach paradise Biduk-Biduk is, and I been in Majorca, Menorca, Guadaloupe, Tenerife, Nicaragua pacific coast, Phu Quok island, Vietnam coast. The fact that I just met it without expecting it might bias me, but still there is no way I can exaggerate using mere words and photos.

Where to start? lone trees hundreds of meters inside the sea? that’s a peculiar image, but it is just part of the turquoise cristal waters touching long white coral beaches, that at low tide are hundreds of meters wide (thus explaining the trees). Around 40km of tall coconut trees beach road. Villagers fantastically smiling, helpful, eager to interact, living in beach houses with grass lawns perfectly trimmed by the cows and goats that wander around. Beach cows. Evening mixed gender volleyball.

That’s the general 40kms image, broken only by some mangroves forests that extend on the beach, specially on the coast facing east. That makes it even more interesting on high tide as you have unique forested beaches with fresh/salt water mix, and walking tree climbing fish that jump over the water! yes, you entered a nature documentary.

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If that’s not good enough there are beauty spots, local attractions and 3 small islands (from Teluk Sulaiman to Sugeindin pulau; a group of 7 Indonesians paid 150k rupiah per person 3h excursion), this would keep you entertained!

These spots include 2 or 3 medium sized rivers with complete transparent cool fresh water (the first wide river with clear waters that I see get to the sea!). One of which, Labuan Cermin (pronounced labuan jambir) has a boat service (quite expensive I heard) that drives you to a turquoise lake that has a top layer of fresh cool water and a bottom layer of salt warm water. That’s supposed to be the main attraction here, but I saw no tourist there 🙂

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Other attractions include what can be seen on the map. Accessible are the rocks beach (pantai batu dua), literary 2 rocks beach, and Labuan Cermin harbour, full of delightful fishing vessels and cristal waters. You can do long walks, get a bicycle or moto (I still don’t know how, my host simply offered me a motorbike but I took the bicycle :D) or hitch a ride, really easy to do with the locals eager to help you.

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The roads are well paved and virtually flat! And the tidal beach has so fine sand and so compact that you can ride your bicycle in there (but still becomes tiring after few kms). Seeing the fast running crabs moving fast as you pas has no price 😀

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For the southern spots there is need of transport because the road is not paved, but mostly because of the lack of transport to hitchhike and long distances to walk. I guess there are no villages, or only few on that road. The road is not signaled at all. The coordinates of the entrance are:
1.173659 118.76805

I didn’t have the time to explore the waterfalls and cave, but I figure it would be close to impossible to find without a guide as there is no signaling… Something fun discovering 😉
This area is surrounded by sizeable mountains, 400m tall at least, so there is also a hike to be done!

There are at least 5 or 6 accommodations that I could see, stretched for few kms (hotels, losmen, guesthouses, homestays). I don’t know the prices as I planed to camp but was invited to a policeman house :). It shall be local price as the only tourism that I seen seems Indonesian (all the tourism in I’ve seen 3 days amounts to just one lone traveler, the 7 people group and 2 girls taking pictures). The info and signs are only in Indonesian, except for few “welcome”.

If still the accommodation is over budget you can hang your hammock in between 2 coconut trees, or if it rains, camp anywhere, or pick an empty or in construction house. Or just like me, law of solo travelers, let things happen and you might get hosted by a local 😀

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But not all is perfection in paradise, few things missing:

Hammocks! There are non, a beach paradise without hammocks is not complete, but that has easy solution (specially when I’m carrying one :D).

Backpackers community. That might seem like a good thing but there is plenty of room to be alone if you wish, so having someone interesting to talk with (backpackers usually are) would be a good distraction. Also backpackers means books! and books are the best company in this environment.

-There are not many activities. The most engaging that I did involve peeling one or two dozens of coconuts, teaching kids English, climbing sea trees, teaching kids how to swim, selecting and unloading landsat fruit from cargo ships, fishing with a hook and swimming with kids in between the cargo boats. Last but not least, hitchhiking a boat to Sulawesi (the reason I came here, more on that on the next post 🙂

Despite these, and being aware that they are not everyday activities for many, extra distractions by fellow travelers are welcomed, specially for long stays. That’s why I’m writing this, this place could easily be a backpacker paradise 😀

Internet. On the no distractions side, there is no internet connection trough 3G, although there might be some internet cafe, ask around but don’t expect high speed… I did get 1G in certain areas for a working instant message (text only) communication.

English . Don’t expect anybody to speak more than few words in English if at all 🙂

Trash collection. The trash on the floor is not widespread luckily, but you do spot it here and there.

Transport. As far as I’ aware there is nothing like a bus, and the road connecting here to Tanjung Redeb (the closest city) is not even in google maps (but it is on openstreetmaps for most of the track). It is quite bad for the first 100kms or so. I Hitchhiked here the 250kms in 6 or 7h. If you have your own transport this is an ideal destination. And it might be that there are some boats to Tarakan, but I’m not sure.

-No easy swimming at the afternoon. In the equinoxes the tide is maximum and minimum in the equator, specially in new moon.That means that for low tide (afternoon to evening) the water is hundreds of meters from the shore. It’s a nice walk with plenty of sea life (fish, running and burring crabs, sea stars), but the hard noon equatorial sun reflected on the white sand has no clemency. Still the morning and evening swims are amazing, and you can get yourself in one of the rivers for noon, or simply nap on a coconut tree shadow.

Known future. I don’t see risk of any big development threatening this parts, but nature might. I seen plenty of spots where is clear that storms are eating the coast, therefore some stones and concrete barriers are being build affecting the beauty but protecting the road and houses. I don’t know how fast the destruction is but at some point this is meant to look different.

All in all it’s so amazing that I could not stop greening for hours realizing how luckily I was to be there.

diaris de Borneo, dia 22, no massa

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No massa en el día , decisions i falta d’informació em podrien haver dut a altre costat.

He de crear més regles, sobretot algunes que em permeten decidir en poc de temps i en llacunes d’informació considerables.

Nota l’autostop marítim s’està tancant, un vaixellet de càrrega necessita papers per a que jo hi puga accedir! La part positiva és que sí tinguera els papers m’agafarien. Tot i així la mar s’està tancant.

He creuat a Indonèsia, en un car ferri (25€, 3h) i m’ha hospedat un CS poc interactiu. De tawau a l’illa de Tarakan. El sopar estava bonisim però!

Diaris de Borneo, dia 21, rainricer

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“En el moment que deixés de preocupar-te comencés a ser lliure”

M’alce prompte, sobre les 6:30. No estic fi, com si no havera descansat, serà un dia dur.
Em conviden a deadejunar i l’home em du fins a la intersecció, uns 25km nort.
S’acomiadem efusivament, li dic que s’ha d’aprimar.

Poc després una dona que crida molt em du fins el següent poble, on encadene en un altre cotxe en música rara i conductor adolescent ballant en el volant.
Després vora 20 min caminant pel no res on estàn deforestant, un camió em para. Alam el camioner de 24 anys molt preocupat que vaja assoles a una zona “perillosa”. Hi ha Filipos allí es veu, m’oferis un ganivet de cuina, tot i fer la regla dels 3 no, me’l dóna igualment.

Agnes, una exviatgera m’arreplega i em conta els seus viatges. Presecencià els caçadors de caps en acció a Papua, fa 20 anys. També em diu que tawau és perillós i que hi ha una ruta alternativa a Sulawesi, puc creuar la.frontera per terra a la nova carretera, però com he quedat en els CS i no sé on és el pas de frontera (no està als mapes) ho deixe córrer per hui, pot ser demà tot i que implica tornar arrere.

Be, un jove que ha estat a australià, explica a son germà que conduix que vol dir el gest de l’autoestopista i venen a per mi.

Aquests 3 autostops em comenten que no ha plogut en 3 mesos i que hi ha molts incendis. Per sort, ara que vinc jo, comença a ploure…

Completen el transport una grua que agafa altres locals; un pickup en toldo, gallines i un cadell; i un pickup que em fa anar al darrere tot i tindre espai a la cavina.

Els paisatges són impressionants primer. No hi ha cap poblat per centenars de km i travessem selves verges en meitat de les muntanyetes. Però despres arribant a la costa tornem als mars de palmeres…

A Tawau quede amb Mohd, un CS nou que he contactat per la foto que tenia, a dalt d’una muntanya 🙂
Els militars li han pagat els estudis mèdics però ara ha d’estar 10anys a l’exèrcit i no pot anar més enllà de 65km de la base. No li agrada gens però ho ha fet per son pare. Tot i això té l’oportunitat d’anar a Lebanon , ha estat a un areotransportador dels EEUU i li deixen treballar a temps parcial per guanyar diners extra.

Em conta que a Tawau en 2013 un batalló de filipins independentistes que venien d’ Indonèsia atacaren la zona, per això hi ha tant d’exercit ara (uns 6000mil soldats). Filipines encara reclama Sabah com a territori propi. També em comenta que detingueren a un alemany sospitós de ser espia!

Em convida a un àpat, va fent-se habitual i això no és bo…

Vaig al moll on pesque en un del poble, pesquen nomès amb fil! no canya. No aconseguesc informació del ferri, pareix tot tancat, però em diuen que a les 10 deu anar, deuria haver preguntat més pel esdeveniments futurs.

Quan es posa a ploure molt em replega en Mohd i em du a la clínica de familia on treballa. Allà conforme que el carregador i adaptador han mort la nit anterior, problema.

Després a les 8 l’altre CS, TP Lee, em replega. És farmacèutic per controlar medicaments il·legals. A l’igual que en Mohd i a altres països del SE-asiatic el govern paga els estudis però et força a treballar per a ell per una serie d’anys.

Estem cansats i anem a dormir pronte. Per tant no faig recerca del pas per terra, error. La dutxa senta molt be al meu fatigat cap 🙂

Torna a ploure molt! Em diuen que és bo ja que calia, el mateix que n’han dit els autostops i la família d’ahir, duc plutja.

“The more you strugle, the deeper you can go”

Diaris de Borneo, dia 20, família murut

M’alce i sobre les 7:30 i comence l’autostop. No funciona bé hui i camine per més de 30min. Però cal seguir la  regla 0 de l’autostop, no perdre mai l’esperança, el teu autostop arribarà.
El més inesperat transport para, un Mega trailer en meitat d’una carreetera estreta sense voreres i prou de trànsit. Amb ell creue 3 fronteres en 3h, coses de la història (Sarawak-Brunei, Brunei-Sarawak, Sarawat-Sabah).

No s’entenem on vuic que em pare, i l’acompanye fins un desguàs de maquinària i grues, mola! l’ajude a descarregar neumatics de camió.
Al final prou passat la bona intersecció
em para a altra.

El 2n cotxe que passa para, és un matrimoni indígena Murut i l’home parla bon anglès. Dinem on tenen cocodrils, tortugues gegants, peixos gegants i un porc senglar gegant acompanyat d’un mono (normal).

Parem a vore les vistes de les muntanyes plenes de selva, l’home bromeja que en 10 anys seran tot palmes d’oli… espere que realment siga una broma.

Es fan les 3:30 fins on m’han de parar i preocupats que no em passe res (queden 3h de sol) em diuen si vuic passar la nit amb ells. Després de meditar uns segons, seguint la regla 0, 1 i 2 accepte. Pot ser perc un dia però la curiositat mana.

Prova ser una bona decició. Em duen a casa els sogres, ningú parla anglès però aprofiten per actualitzar coses. Vaig al poble on visite els pares. Torne als sogres on jugue un triple pòquer estrany. Bon sopar (vore imstagram) i concurs de beguda d’arroç.

Bec massa, hi ha que fer iteracions on tots beuen en el seu torn. Una palleta marca el nivell que s’ha de veure i jo crec que ho entenc mal i vec 2 o 3 cops més del que toca. Després es reopmpli en aigua la gerra. Jo com sóc el 1r em toca alcohol menys diluït. Posen una 2a gerra per tant les iteracions es fan més comuns, no és bo i me’n vaig a dormir prou afectat. Tot i això ha estat una magnífica experiència 😀

Diaris de Borneo, dia 14, campus life.

El dia anterior m’han dut a un campus universitari a Ponrianak on els estudiants tenen un bosc per ells, un parell de cases de camp i una associació excurcionista amb murs d’escalada i tot! Hi ha molt que manaca a la nostra vida universitària…

Després de 2 autoestops faig 170km i torne a Ngabang per visitar al Kunto avans d’anar-me’n, crec que faré 700km de carretera boja a l’interior de Borneo, tot i que no hi ha més que plantacions d’oli de palmapalmes.

Arrive al campus de’n Kunto i estan fent unnfestival de competicions esportives (voleibol); i Olimpíades matemàtiques i literàries i conta contes per als institiuts de la zona per promocionar el campus. Tot acompanyat de música en directe, tocada pels estudiants, és una atmosfera envejable 😀

Com a nota curiosa he vist una tenda de ratpenats, en un signe de venda de ratpenats damunt de gàbies plesnes d’aquests Ela animals eren uns 2, 3 pams de gran, penjant bocavall, com bons ratpenats.