Sunday, September 28, 2014

INDONESIA - SULAWESI - BIRA - 4 to 9 JUNE 2014 - 'DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER'

Info

Car/driver Makassar to Bira 800 000R
Bira entrance fee 20 000R
Hotel Anda –
Nusa Bira Indah Hotel – 081343636883 – 200 000R air con room
Motorbike hire - Bamboo Warung

The journey




I left Makassar with my driver/car towards Bira, the traffic wasn’t too bad and the roads were okay. The drive took about 4hours not six with a stop for lunch. The driver spoke very limited English and he was loud and a bit annoying with his constant chatter about nothing but he drove fast and furiously. Eventually, I told him to stop talking and drive only.
I paid the 20 000R entrance fee for Bira and checked out two hotels and chose the Anda Hotel. It was clean, aircon and quiet for 475 000R.

I wandered down the road and down the steps to the beach. Bira was a pretty white sand beach with sand similar to Byron Bay. The water was clean, light blue and very inviting. Warungs lined the beach with tourist/fishing/banana boats dotted along the beach and in the water. I met and chatted with a nice group of local school students back for the day from their high school at Makassar.
I spent the late afternoon on the beach, enjoying the sunset, having a few local and Makassar conversations and a couple of cold beers.
That night I had dinner at the Bamboo Warung. It was cheap and tasty had a number of chats with expats, locals and the staff of the warung. It was a great eatery for information.
In the morning, I decided to change hotels. The room was good but the price too high for what I was getting plus it was boring and the staff unhelpful. After breakfast, I moved hotels to Nusa Bira Indah Hotel – 081343636883. The owner was very short and small but she was so sweet and nice. The rooms were spaced well apart on stilts. The room was large with wooden walls and floor. It had a comfortable large bed, air con and bathroom. All for 200 000R and breakfast.
Once settled, I went for a walk west along the beach. It was very pretty with small waves and a backdrop of a long limestone cliff which was eroded at the base by sea and salt action. Along the way, there were a number of steps up the cliff face heading to nowhere or starting 3 to 4 metres above the beach. There were also a number of small shallow caves.
On my return, I had a really tasty lunch at the Bira Beach Hotel. I ate lunch here a number of times has it had a cool breeze, good food and a nice view over the beach.
Later, I went for a snorkel off the beach. There was a drop about 200m out that had heaps of fish and some corals. The current was reasonably strong and heading in the wrong direction to where I wanted to drift so I only snorkel there for a short time.




I had dinner again at the Bamboo Warung, met a few locals and expats from New Caledonia who were repairing a boat. Udi (I think) from Makassar was playing guitar. It was all a lot of fun with some singing.
The next day, I went for a long hike after breakfast up the nearby hill of Pua Janggo. It had a nice view of Bira and the harbour. I backtracked down the hill then continued along the road and down the turn off to Kaluku Cottages at East Beach. It was a long, pretty white sanded beach but the off shore winds made it uninviting for a swim. At the northern end of the beach was a boat building area. The boats being constructed there were massive and heavy wooden structures. I think it would be very hard to get them onto the water.



I retraced my steps and stopped at Kukulu Cottages for a lime juice. The accommodation was pretty and well maintained but isolated beach feel.
I continued along further south to the harbour. The beach here was rocky and covered in flotsam. The harbour was interesting with a few large boats.  I walked out of the harbour area and back to Bira.
Back at Bira, I had a sunset swim down the beach, starred in many local photos and drank a couple of beers. At dinner, I met a nice couple, Colin (Irish) and Rachelle (English), who were dive instructors in Thailand.
It was a noisy sleep with a large group of students arriving early morning and talking till 4am.
In the morning, I organised a boat to snorkel the reefs off Pulau Liukang. The boat trip was short and fun. At the island, the snorkelling was good with pretty coral and lots of different types of fish. Later, the boat landed on the island and I wandered around the beach and village. I t was very interesting and pretty but the camera batteries went dead. I had a great fish and rice lunch at the homestay at one end of the beach. The homestay had a separate room for 250 000R fan and 350 000R air con. It looked very nice and was located right on the beach.
Back at Bira, I had a lazy afternoon with beers and a swim at sunset on West Beach. I met a number of people such as a group of Indo bike riders from Makassar who spoke very good English and two university students who recorded an interview with myself.
Today was exploring the area by motor bike day. It started off a bit slow but to cut the story short there was no bike from the hotel. I walked up the road and got one from the Bamboo Warung. That took about 20 minutes.
I just drove all over the place, I had no map but I had a great time driving through towns, villages and to various beaches. It rained a lot so I had some rest/ talk sessions in sheltered areas until the skies cleared. In one of the stops, I was invited onto the family veranda for a chat and was offered water and biscuits. The biscuits tasty so well. It was a fun ride!



Back to the hotel, rest, late lunch, a couple of beers down the beach and a twilight walk along the beach. I got the phone number – 08114211418 - for the home stay on Pulau Luihukan and booked a room for two nights.
My lesson today was to organise things the day before I go anywhere or if not wait patiently. I went down the beach to organise a boat to the island with the guy who got the homestay number for me but he wanted 600 000R. The next guy I got down to 150 000R. I went back to the hotel and tried ringing the island homestay. At last, I got an answer and the boat was 100 000R and he would meet me at my hotel. It just got better from then… he carried my bag to the boat, sent a guy (who couldn’t swim well) overboard when my hat blew into the water. My parting vision of Bira were waves on the beach which looked bodysurf able.

INDONESIA - SULAWESI - MAKASSAR - 2 TO 4 JUNE 2014 - 'HOT IN THE CITY'

Info

Kenari towers – 0411 873 476 - aircon room with sea view 500 000R
Taxi – Makassar airport to hotel 110 000R
Car/driver to Bira – 800 000R
Becak cycle tour 100 000R – seems relatively a lot but it was for five hours and it was hot and it was a long way.

The journey




I arrived at the domestic airport in Bali for my flight to Makassar, Sulawesi. The domestic airport was then at constant change due to the upgrading of the facilities. It was an easy check in with Garuda and after a flight delay of ½ hour I was up, up and away.
The flight was good as Garuda provided in-flight entertainment and a meal which was included in the price.
I arrived at Makassar airport. In very little time, I was at the taxi stand organising transport to my hotel. The road from the airport was wide and modern but deteriorated closer to the city centre into a warren of crowded streets.
I arrived at the Kenari Towers Hotel and chose the second room they showed me. It had a huge bed, aircon, TV, and a partial sea view of the harbour. It was very clean. So far so good!
It was near sunset so I caught the elevator the 7th (top) floor where there was a restaurant with a commanding view over Makassar city. I had dinner and a few beers and met a local couple who were babysitting their nephew. The sunset was pretty and with darkness the lights of the city began to twinkle around me with their added reflection on the sea. Really nice but it was still very hot!
My sleep was broken due to the air con and mosque. I wasn’t loud but ear plugs helped.
I woke early and caught the elevator to the roof for the sunrise. I watched as it burned its way over the urban horizon. The temperature was already on the up.
I had breakfast at the hotel and had a chat with a nice Indonesian family.
Down to the reception and I booked a car for Bira at 8am the following morning.
I walked down to the nearby waterfront. The waterfront was a wide concrete area that stretched along the coastline between the ocean and the main road. It was adorned in statues depicting various features of Sulawesi life with stairs at various points that lead up and down to various concrete features. The ocean water was dirty with floating rubbish but still the vista of the harbour was pretty and serene. The waterfront was called Lestari Beach but there was no beach. Hmm!
I couldn’t help but notice that I was being followed by a cheerful, persist and beckoning becak (cycle with sitting seats) driver as I walked along the waterfront. I ended up hiring him for 100 000r for a city tour. He was a bit of an idiot but the tour was fun. He has a wife and one boy.
The Tour
Our first stop was Fort Rotterdam which was cool. The fort has large walls with a walkway that skirted along the top of the exterior wall. Inside the fort were a number of buildings and grassed areas. At the large entrance gate, I was greeted by another guide (100 000r) whose name was Rusli Amin He was very informative and gave me a stack of advice, insights and information on travelling in Sulawesi. 
After the fort, the becak drove for ages into oncoming traffic. I pointed this abnormality to the driver but he just smiled. I decided it was better to let him look ahead than to distract him. Generally, it was a bit disturbing but fun!
The next stop, was the Chinese area. After a brief look, I lost interest and onwards we cycled.
It was a long ride to the fish market harbour. It was a challenge not to step in mud or fish crap as well as avoiding sliding on the tiles of the fish market which was covered in fish blood. It was very grotty, smelly but the people were friendly. I liked it!
Next was the cargo boat harbour. There was a 5 000R entry fee. We walked along the docks looking at the various boats. He pointed out that one of the fishing boats was going to Bira, my next destination. They actually offered me transport in the boat if wanted. I didn’t want.
Next was the traditional market. At this stage, I walked as it was too awkward to ride the becak through the closely packed crowd. It was very interesting but by this time it had become intensely hot. It was time to end the tour.
He cycled the bike back through narrow streets, traffic and eventually, the main road to the hotel.
At the hotel, the driver tried to convince me the tour was 100 000r per hour. I laughed and gave him 100 000r plus 50 000r even though I personally thought he was an idiot but still a fun guy. He taught me a few local phrases which I used as we cycled around.
a-pa-kar-re-ba = how are you?
Bugi = good.
Chick-a-lee = person
Later, after resting, I walked over to the waterfront to the mosque for sunset. The mosque was truly a beautiful building. It was built over the water sitting on huge concrete columns with two entrance bridges at the north and south ends connecting it to the waterfront walkway. I walked across one of the bridges, removed my shoes and wandered around. I met heaps of locals and was in heaps of photos. I was also invited to join the faithful in prayer. I declined mainly because I couldn’t assume the prayer position with my damaged toe. As the sun set and the darkest moved in, the mosque was lit up with tranquil bluish lighting. I already thought the mosque was amazing but now I was stunned that any building could be of such beauty.
I had dinner across the road from the waterfront then walked back to the hotel for drinks on hotel roof. There was a band playing! They were okay but I was the only person there beside the staff.
After a good night sleep and breakfast, I was ready for the journey to Bira.

INDONESIA - BALI - LEGIAN - 30 MAY 2014 TO 2 JUNE 2014 - 'I'M ON THE ROAD AGAIN'


Pre trip info

The following are some points that give an idea to the following blog entries on my trip to Indonesia.

1 the trip was to be roughly for four months in duration.

2 at various stages, I would be joined by my wife and two children.

3 a lot of this trip was to be based on surfing destinations and adventure destinations. Unfortunately, I had torn ligaments in my toe two months ago and couldn’t surf. It still hadn’t healed at the start of this trip. Now, I was travelling with a plan to have adventure destinations until my toe healed. The toe scenario comes up a few times in my future writing.

Info

Central Coast Shuttle Bus - 1300 559 657 - Terrigal to airport - $95 return
Jetstar - Australia to Bali – JQ37 Jetstar - 5:20pm to 9:45pm - 30 kg – 10kg hand
Transfers airport Bali to Legian - Nyoman - 200 000R - 08155775989
Kumala hotel – Jl. Werkudara - 0361 732186, 733448 - email: gkumala@indosat.net.id - www.hotelkumala.com - 375 000R– standard room
Indo sim - Simpati – for calls to Australia – 0101961 no zero and add rest of number
Cevan tour and travel – 0361 883 8883 - cevintour@gmail.com – Jalan raya seminyak no. 41 – Nanik from Java – www.balicevintour.com

The journey




It was an easy drive in the shuttle bus from home to Sydney international airport. I was there with plenty of time and a quick check in at Jetstar.
The departure cards can now be filled-in just before entering departure gate, which is heaps easier.
Jenny, Agung’s wife was at airport she was on the same plane with a group of people.
I met a mother and son on the plane. She was a sports psychologist and was also writing a motivation book. She had glandular fever once and continued to have symptoms like K.
At Denpasar Airport, the order was - pay VOA – customs check for all visas – luggage pick up – luggage screened – taxi counter just inside exit barrier.
Nyoman was waiting at the airport. His family is well and he is managing a ceremony shop in Tabanan. He drives now only for friends.

I checked-in at the Kumala Hotel and met Kay and Janet. Kay recognised me from TA. It was midnight Indo time and 2am Ozzie by the time I settled into my room 111.
I woke up tired. The aircon was very noisy so I changed rooms to 110. I had an early walk to the beach, then breakfast then up the road for:
Indo sim
Cash money @10 770
Book Domestic flights - Garuda – DENPASAR TO UJUNG PANDANG (MACASSAR) 
Later, I rang and booked a hotel in Makassar – Kenari Towers Hotel – 0411 873 476 – 500 000R
I had a massage by 2 girls but it wasn’t very good – pola spa in Jalan 66
Lunch was at the Muslim warong in Jalan 66 – still tasty.
I caught up with Michael, Sid and Mark – friends from Oz - and had dinner and drinks at sky gardens then a bar crawl and dancing. It was a good night and I was so tired at the end.
I was told that planes were cancelled due to a volcano eruption in Sumbawa.
The next day, I had an early beach walk, swim and then I arranged my gear for Sulawesi.

Later, I had a massaged by four ladies at avocado spa, Jalan Werkudara – a very different experience - 200 000R – it was an okay massage but the talking was non-stop.

Lunch was at Warong Merah in Jalan 66

I forgot extra bag locks so I bought 2 @ 70 000R – no found them! I now have extra, extra locks

I walked along the beach to jln Padma to find Brett and Agung. No luck! On returning, I walked back along beach and stopped for beers and a rest in one of the beachside sits near the Jayakarta Hotel. I met Indo Kay and Julie and their two other friends. Kay has an Australian boyfriend from Gosford. I was a little sceptical but she showed me photos of Terrigal and boyfriend.

Later, I had dinner at some Greek restaurant at Seminyak.

The following morning, I had breakfast and chat with Oz Kay and Janet at the hotel. I put some gear into storage, then organised a car to the domestic airport in Bali – 100 000R – and off I went on a new adventure!

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