Well, we’re in paradise. Not the subjective paradise of being really happy about something, but the objective, cartoonish image of paradise that is used to sell beer, swimwear, and Jimmy Buffet albums to New Yorkers in January.
Two days ago we arrived in the tiny coastal city of Ampana in the middle-ish part of Sulawesi, and one of the two main ports that take you out onto the Gulf of Tomini to the Togean islands. (A map is helpful). We got up in the morning and took a car to the port where we watched a boat get loaded with bags of cement (which is hilariously called “semen” in Indonesian, so watching guys struggle to carry heavy bags of semen around, well…it was funny). Finally we got onto the boats, about the size of fishing boats, and set off.
The gulf of Tomini is beautiful, tropical, and totally calm, since it’s protected on so many sides by land. It has the feel of a vast, brilliantly blue and green lake, with tiny fishing villages built on stilts next to islands, and even some houses are built in the middle of the sea, miles and miles away from land, on 20 foot tall stilts. We made a few stops at these tiny villages to unload cement and villagers, but M and I just sat back and took it all in. It basically was a lovely cruise, albeit on a boat with crazy loud motors that banged away beneath our feet. Still, it’s comically tropical. Flying fish flew alongside as we puttered along, and we just met a couple whose boat was accompanied by a pod of 200 dolphins on their way here.
After about two hours we pulled up to a tiny little spit of an island, about 300 meters away from a tiny fishing village called Bomba. This island is shaped like a triangle with powdery white sand on two sides and a rocky shelf on the third. It is home to a little guesthouse of 7 bungalows, and that’s all. The owner bought the island in the 1980′s for $4. Now he and his family run the place, and have more family members in Bomba cook all of the food for the guests, which is ferried over to the islands by their children (some as young as 5) in little wooden canoes. There’s nothing to do here but relax in a hammock. The food is incredible, and every guest gets their own whole grilled fish for lunch and again for dinner. The fish are caught right at the end of the little jetty where the canoes pull up. Snacks are served every afternoon, the staff is constantly laughing and basically proving that a life spent out here really does make for happy, charming people. And the all-inclusive cost for bungalow, food, and free daily snorkeling trips (if you can roust yourself from the hammock to do it)? $12 per day.
The grandson of the owner, standing on the pier and fishing by hand.
The beach right in front of our door…if we had a door instead of a hammock.
Sunset over the sea
Another sunset over the sea from our doorway
This guy is the son of the guy who bought the island. He runs things and never, not ever, did not have this smile on his face
It would seem that it’d be boring to spend so much time doing nothing, but it turns out to be pretty damn easy. One guy has been on this island, which is really about the size of a big McDonald’s, for 6 weeks. At first we thought he was crazy, but now it’s starting to make more sense.
The only drawback is that there’s only electricity from 6 pm to midnight, and only no running water. But it turns out that that’s enough electricity to charge our ebook readers and, when we can rouse ourselves enough to do it, write up quick little blog posts.
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