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Getting there

My planned departure from FRA (Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport) on SQ25 is 12:00 on 19-Feb-2008. I'm failing the security check, the lady says she is shocked what stuff I'm trying to carry-on while I think this is all perfectly harmless, the serious things I had checked it. So back to the check-in to get rid of some bicycle tools and spares, second round through the security check is slow and my flight is gone, oh no !
Well, the nice folks from SQ (Singapore Airlines) save my day by booking me onto the SQ325 night flight for a modest fee. They also rearrange my connecting flight to Manado but this means I will stay two nights in Singapore. It's not the plan but I can live with that.

Now I have a couple of hours to think why this has gone wrong: My bicycle is an odd piece of luggage and the ladies at the check-in were pretty much lost (yes, my travel agent had notified the airline that I was going to bring a bike). The bike stayed at the check-in until the last moment, when it was picked up. It's like this most of the time, so I have to rush through the security check.
The security check is very thorough, these days. In order to keep up with new tricks of criminals, the actual list of prohibited items is longer than the one published. Items that rarely show up in passengers' luggage (such as bicycle tools and spares) are suspect. The same goes for items that are badly worn or home-made, they don't have to have sharp edges or points to be rejected. I should have given-up some of my "irreplaceable" tools and spares, I might well survive without them. And I should rightaway have checked-in doubles of these parts, with a good chance of them not being removed from my checked-in luggage and my carry-on luggage at the same time. I'll do better next time.

At this point you may wonder what parts the security check considered offending: Cable ties (a whole bag of them), brake pads (9 pairs), break and gear cables, cassette tool, spoke tool, spare spokes, combination pliers, miniature screwdriver handle and bits, pocket pump, tire repair kit, a handful of odd nuts and bolts, a ceramic water filter.

Well, FRA is not the best place to kill time, so I walk around and end up at the food court where I spend a few hours on a drink. Later that night I board SQ325 which safely carries me to Singapore.

An unplanned stopover in Singapore

Singapore, Changi Airport (a real tidy place): All my checked-in luggage (inlcuding the bike) goes right through to Manado / Sulawesi, though neither me nor the airline are sure about this at this point in time.
I have two days to spend in this place, so I buy a prepaid card for my cell phone (locals recommended the "m1" service provider for the best value). This way, SQ can call me any time they get an update on my luggage.
Next thing is accommodation. The hotel services counter at the Changi Airport tells me that this is going to be expensive, due to a trade show going on. I don't feel like spending a lot of money, and I remember that years ago there were several inexpensive hostels on Bencoolen Street. A guy at the Singapore Tourist Services eventually points me to Little India, today's backpackers area.
A two-day tourist pass for the train system (MRT) gets me going. I get off at "Little India" and walk into the direction of Sim Lim Tower. I come across several backpacker places and find all of them full - except the "Fragrance Backpacker's Hostel". There I get a dorm bed for SGD22 (clean 6 bed dorm with lockers, aircon, hot shower, elevator. Unfortunately no Internet in rooms - I hear other places have this). A dormitory is a good place to meet people and I spend some interesting hours talking about this and that. In the evening, I have dinner with an ex-colleague of mine. Nice to meet him again after years.
Next morning I enjoy Indian breakfast (roti canai). At the restaurant I meet a Canadian guy who works in the tar sand industry. He has lots of stories to tell until a group of dragon dance performers arrives. They dance for the next door hardware store, so we have the very best seats. I'm told that this sort of performance is not cheap (for the shop owner) and nowadays very well regulated by the government. All groups have to be licensed and no longer are there unsolicited performances.

After breakfast we go to Vivo City, Singapore's trendiest shopping mall. It's just next to the HarbourFront Centre. The rooftop is the place to go. There's some green, a large shallow pool, good views.

Rooftop of the Vivo City Mall Monorail to Sentosa

The monorail from Sentosa Station is the fastest way to go from Vivo City to Singapore's recreational island. I buy a return ticket and go. It's a weekday, few people visit. For me it's the first tropical sand beach after 5 years and I definitely enjoy the warm sand and water in spite of all the vessels anchored in view. Other Sentosa attractions are "Sentosa Luge" (a chair lift takes you up a hill, then you come back down on a personal wheeled sledge), a suspension bridge, twin observation towers, restaurants, "Underwater World' (a nice aquarium), a bicycle rental operation.
In the evening, two old friends take me out for a Burmese dinner. Thank you guys, this was nice.

My flight to MDC (Manado) / Indonesia is MI276 (Silkair), departing at 10:35 next morning. When I get to Changi Airport, SQ staff still has no news about my luggage. Hopefully it's in MDC, but the computer can't confirm this. I board the plane, enjoy a smooth flight and this feeling of excitement that I get everytime I enter Indonesia.


Visa on Arrival, Manado, Indonesia, yr2008

The visa-on-arrival process in Manado is a bit confusing and involves paying USD25 but officials are nice and helpful, plus there's a money changer. After not even 30 minutes, I have my 30 day visa. Hey, I made it ! I'm in Indonesia !

A few steps past the immigration there's the baggage pickup area. And there, at the back, what do I see ? My checked-in luggage, my bicycle ! Now nothing can go wrong !
The bike has suffered some scratches and bruises from the air transport, but everything is there. The handlebar bag has arrived as well and a thoughtful person has locked it into the holder on the bike. I let the Silkair staff know that everything is fine with my luggage.
Upon closer inspection of my bike, I notice that the cable ties that once held my homebrew tail light as well as the ones that held the sensor of the cycle computer have been removed and well, there isn't a sensor any more on the cable. I also find one water bottle cage and a mudguard broken. And something must have hit the headlamp and bent the bracket. The bell is somewhat deformed, too. Such things happen, particularly at FRA airport. The cable ties I blame on the security check of the Bundesgrenzschutz. They have put their "checked"-sticker on the frame.
Bottom line, no serious damage and my checked-in cable ties come very handy. I pack my stuff onto the bike, airport staff smiling at me, I'm the last passenger of this flight to leave the baggage claim area.

Outside, on ground level, there are several restaurants and ATMs of various banks. And there are counters of several airlines. I start wondering if it might be possible that I go to Kendari (KDI) this same day ? The question is quickly answered by a helpful travel agent who asks me "where are you going ?". Yes, I can go to KDI and there are various airlines I can choose from. I would have to go via Makassar (UJP) though, so I need two flights. The cost is pretty much what I expected and so I appreciate Markus' fast service and buy a ticket from MDC to UJP from him. Following his advice, I don't get the ticket from UJP to KDI rightaway, as this would be cheaper to buy in UJP and better in case that my first flight arrives late. I pay the ticket in a mixture of currencies, as the ATMs at MDC don't seem to like me on that day. Soon, I board another plane, leaving Manado. This time absolutely no hassle with the security check.

Makassar / Ujung Pandang

At UJP, everything is smooth. My bike arrives without further damage. Quickly, I fall prey to another travel agent by the name of Yeki (affiliated with PT. Orient Celebes, Tours + Travel). Not only does he get me the ticket to Kendari for less than it would have cost in Manado, he also changes me money and goes out on his motorbike to buy me a Simpati prepaid card, then helps me register it. So I am pretty much set. The flight goes this same afternoon.


My bike, luggage and me all arrive well at KDI - late at night (22-Feb). The airport (GPS KENDAA) is about 30 km from town, at least if referring to the town center of Kendari. I imagined this was a remote airfield, 30 km from the nearest settlement. Not true. The good road from the airport passes villages and suburbs all the way to town. Not knowing this, I gratefully accept the offer of a friendly couple that I meet on the flight: Their hotel van takes me and my bike to a place where I can spend the night. Very nice, indeed. They stay at Hotel Athaya, the top place in town, beyond my budget. Kindly, they drop me at the more affordable Hotel Venus.

As I hit this remote part of Indonesia for the first time, this is my impression:
There's lots of people living there, one town merges into another, creating a huge urban center. Not exactly jungle.
Though the area is highly populated, there's not much western influence and the standard is generally low. This feels like Makassar 15 years ago and there's just 2 small malls today (GPS RABAM, MALMAN). What they sell is rather basic. Most shoppers don't own a car, so these malls have small car parks. You get the picture.
Comparing to Manado, I feel the Kendari people are somewhat rude.

Kendari Accommodation (Feb-2008)

  • Hotel Rileks (GPS RILEKS)
    It's located near the harbour. Small fan rooms with shared bathroom from Rp 65,000.
    Disco / Karaoke is nearby.

  • Penginapan Murni & Murni II (GPS MURNI)
    These are the two cheapest places to stay. They are located on the main road (noisy).
    Small, dark, not-so-clean rooms w/o fan are Rp 20,000 (asking price was Rp 40,000).
    The place is very popular with locals, and many hang around in front.

  • Hotel Cendrawasih (GPS CENDRA) - my choice
    Large, relatively clean rooms with fan and attached bathroom (traditional mandi) start from Rp 75,000. The place is accessed from the mainroad, but it's steep up and a bit to the back so that noise is not too much of an issue. Vehicles can be parked in front of the lower rooms, while the upper rooms feature a pretty nice view of the town and bay.
    It's good value for money, this most popular place amongst international budget travelers.

  • Kania Hotel (GPS KANIA)
    Located on the main road, it is clean but dark. Shared bathroom with hot water.
    Rates starting from Rp 85,000 for a fan room.

  • Hotel Athaya (GPS ATHAYA)
    The best place in town, preferred by business travelers. Starting at Rp 400,000.

  • Hotel Kubra (GPS KUBRA)
    Next door to Athaya. Targets business travelers, preferred by Operation Wallacea.

  • Hotel Venus (GPS VENUS)
    Jl. Malik Raya 22 V, telp.(0401)329000 and 329910, small car park available.
    The place is not far from Hotel Athaya.
    Large A/C rooms with TV, attached bathroom (hot shower) from Rp 175,000.
    OK, though not the best value.

Most hotels offer free tea. Some include a small breakfast.


Boat to Bau Bau

Kendari's two key transportation waypoints are the airport (GPS KENDAA, 30 km out of town) and the jetboat jetty (GPS KDI, in the busy harbour area).
There are several jetboat companies serving the Kendari - Raha - Bau Bau route. MV Super Jet is one of them. The trip from Kendari to Bau Bau on the MV Super Jet 15 is Rp 96000 for me and my bike (plus Rp 5000 insurance plus Rp 4000 harbor tax). It takes from 7:30 am to 12:00 with a stop in Raha. During that stop, it makes a lot of sense not to leave luggage unattended.
MV Super Jet runs 3 boats, all made from glass fiber and powered by 2 engines. They are said to be the fastest (I measure 40 km/h peak), but later I find that the larger boats of the MV Sagori Ekspres are both more comfortable and faster.

Photo: Atop the MV Super Jet 15 to Bau Bau

Other Places of Interest in Kendari

My main objectives in Kendari are: Send a parcel, buy a hat, find a ticket to Bau Bau. After one half-night at Hotel Venus and another night at Hotel Cendrawasih, I hop on the MV Super Jet boat.

Bau Bau / Pulau Buton

Though Bau Bau is much smaller than Kendari, its accommodation and transport options are nicer. I reach Bau Bau at noon (24-Feb), leaving enough time to survey hotels:

Bau Bau Accommodation (Feb-2008)

  • Penginapan Wolio (Jln Mayjen Sutoyo No.20, GPS WOLIO) - my choice no.1
    Central location, 8 simple and clean rooms, 6 at ground level and 2 on upper floor. Some rooms have fan, others have sufficient ventilation to do without. Windows are facing a nice inner yard, bathrooms are shared. Guests can park their motorcycles in the yard. Staff is very friendly and owner speaks English. At Rp 35,000 / room this place stands out from the rest. It is often full so staff is choosy about the guests.

  • Hillhouse Resort, local name "Villa" (GPS VILLA) - my choice no.2
    This place is somewhat special. Several wooden houses located outside town atop a hill, 3.3 km direct line from the harbour. It is by far the most scenic place to stay (see the photo). Spacious rooms are Rp 100,000 per night and feature electric light, fan, mosquito nets and hot tea. It's cool enough as not to need air conditioning. Rooms share a covered deck or balcony as well as the bathroom (traditional mandi). Add Rp 20,000 if you want breakfast (note there's no warung nearby, so whatever you plan to eat, bring it or order it.
    I'm told that this place no longer accepts local guests (who don't care much for scenic accommodation and rather want to be close to the Bau Bau business center). If you need a quiet, cool place to relax, if you can do without TV and shops, this is the place to go.
    To get there, first go to the Kraton, then further up the mountain. The road is steep and some sort of motorized transport is desireable. Staff recommends you call them first before you actually go there, but my experience is that the phone is not answered while the resort has at least a caretaker who can take action if visitors show up.
  • Hotel Ratu Rajawali (Jln Sultan Hasanuddin no.69, GPS RAJAWA)
    Large, reputable hotel, 1 star, looks good from outside

  • Hotel Rosichan (GPS ROSICH)
    from Rp 75000

  • Hotel Liliyana (GPS LILIYA)
    from Rp 66000 (fan, attached bathroom), average

  • Losmen Yusrida (GPS YUSRID)
    AC rooms, attached bathroom, Rp 100,000 / Fan rooms Rp 70,000

  • Losmen Transit & Losmen Pelangi (GPS PELTRA)
    Very basic, dark, cheap

  • Losmen Wangi Wangi (GPS WANGI2)
    Several single rooms, very basic, dark, Rp 30,000
    The cheapest place in town. Motorbikes can be parked under a roof inside.

  • Hotel Yana
    Close to Transit and Pelangi, a little better but still basic

  • Penginapan Maranu (GPS MARANU)
    Either AC rooms (Rp 100,000) or fan rooms (Rp 60,000) both w/ attached bathrooms

My first night in Bau Bau I stay at the "Villa", where I enjoy a quiet, cool and rainy evening. I do some maintenance on the bike (rear brake cable outer casing broken) and chat with the resort's staff.

Bau Bau: View from Villa

Other Places of Interest in Bau Bau


Cycling around Southern Buton

Village road b/w Bau Bau and Sampolawa I spend the night at the "Villa" and the morning downtown Bau Bau where I find food, an ATM that accepts EC/Maestro-card, but no bicycle computer to replace mine with the lost sensor.

Eventually I get going south. My first stop is Pantai Nirwana (GPS NIRWAN). This beach is not that big but popular with Bau Bau locals. It's Monday, so I'm pretty much alone. Some kiosk there are selling drinks and snacks, this is where I buy my water & bisquit lunch. Dilapidated huts along the beach provide shelter from the sun. Some rubbish litters the white sand beach, but it's not that there is no cleaning up at all.

From Pantai Nirwana, the road passes the villages of Lanela (GPS LANELA, the Nelles map and the local Harsena map wrongly call it Lawele), Batauga (GPS BATAUG), Laompo (GPS LAOMPO), Majapa (GPS MAJAPA), Dusumb (GPS DUSUMB, a nice view over the sea right from the road) until it eventually reaches Sampolawa.


A hell of a bill I ran up at the Penginapan & Restaurant Pasumbala Faya, Sampolawa It's just about getting dark as I reach Sampolawa (GPS SAMPOL), 47 km from Bau Bau (according to the roadsigns). It's a small place and virtually everything of interest is around the harbour / market area. Lots of coal is being shipped from this harbour. There's a single restaurant & guesthouse, called Pasumbala Faya. It's very basic, the sort of place where it's best to time a shower with the rain, so that there's water in the mandi. Surprisingly, electricity is up 24h. Either this place IS expensive because of the lack of competition, or they overcharged me quite a bit at Rp 200,000 for a meal (rice, fish, vegetables), 2 mugs of tea, a shower and a tiny room for the night. This breaks all records in non-value.

Westerners rarely seem to visit Sampolawa, I am THE attraction. First lots of children stare at me and men talk about economy, trade, energy. It seems they don't believe that I'm merely a tourist looking for tourist attractions. This evening, I am told that Butong is rich with oil, asphalt, gold and uranium. People hope to be better off, once this is being exploited.
In the field of tourism, I'm suggested to visit the Kraton near Desa Rongi, 14 km north of Sampolawa.

With no cell phone network in Sampolawa (they tell me it is soon coming), people tend to gather at the Wartel telephone shop at night. I spend about an hour there, first waiting in line and then trying to call home which doesn't work that day.

Desa Rongi, Kaongke-Ongkea, Air Panas Dokter Statler

Tailgating a bus on the road to Kaongke-Ongkea I leave Sampolawa early in the morning (Tu, 26-Feb), in order to reach Pasarwajo before nightfall. The road is climbing into the hills, rather scenic. I reach the Rongi junction where it's right for the village and left for the Kraton.

I go up to the Rongi Kraton, it's a steep road. Atop the hill, friendly villagers welcome me and show me around their tourist attraction. The Kraton is nothing more than a few remaining stones of old walls, scattered between village houses. I even don't take photos. Soon a heavy rain starts, and I'm being invited into the Rumah Adat (a house with open walls where villagers celebrate and meet). I learn of a hot spring not far from my planned route, why not slot that in ?

After an hour the rain stops and I say goodbye (the road down is real slippery now), heading on to Kaongke-Ongkea (GPS KAONGK, 8 km from Rongi). At this junction village I have to turn left for the hot spring, right for Pasarwajo. I take the hot spring. Past the check point and 2 km downhill, there's a sign that marks the turnoff (right) to the "Air Panas Dokter Statler" (GPS AIRPA2), then 200 m of steep dirt road to a stream where I park my vehicle. Across the stream (by foot), another 20 m to a little pond where warm, sulfurous water surfaces (it's said to be warmer in the morning hours). Very easy to find (when a helpful motorcyclist guides you). I take a dip in the sulfurous water, on the way back another thorough dip in the (cold) stream to get rid of the sulfur. OK, hot spring done !

On the way up to Kaongke-Ongkea, it's time for some fast food at a makeshift-warung selling grilled corn cobs (jagung goreng). It's the season. Enough energy to get me up the hill and 18 km further to Pasarwajo. This stretch is climbing up to 500m high and there's lots of broken asphalt, so shortly before I reach Pasarwajo, I deserve another grilled corn cob.

Warung food near Pasarwajo


Pasarwajo is as urban as you can get on this side of Buton. It's a lot smaller than Bau Bau, but all essentials are available: Bus services, hotels, restaurants, a market, various shops, telephone and Internet services (Internet doesn't work), motorbike and car repair services. I even see several small shops selling electronic components but cannot find a reed switch to fix my bicycle computer.

Pasarwajo Accommodation (Feb-2008)

Sign at Pasarwajo: Jual Ayam Potong

Other Places of Interest in Pasarwajo

Later that day I get a haircut done and ride around a little as far as Dongkala. The night I stay at Lozmen Rizki and next morning I head south to ..


A tour around the Wasuemba water sources Wasuemba (GPS WASUEM) is a daytrip from Dongkala (on a mountainbike at least). It's the end of the road, unlike the Harsena local map suggests.

The road takes me through the fishing villages of Dongkala (GPS DONGKA), Tolando (GPS TOLAND), Wabula (GPS WABULA). They are all beautiful villages with many traditional wooden houses. When stopping for a few minutes, kids start gathering around me.
Between villages the road is climbing into the hills, and it is getting steeper and steeper the further I go south. My bike is a 27-speed and I use the lowest and highest gear most of the time. Some of the descents are frightening (so steep that it's better not to touch the rear brake, maybe 20% gradient). The road is sealed and the asphalt is mostly good.

Eventually I reach Wasuemba (GPS WASUEM). I go through it and continue on a trail beyond the village, where soon a couple of kids on bikes catch up with me and tell me that this trail ends at a beach. So we all go to the beach (GPS PANTA2), I take some photos and ask if there's any tourist attractions in the area. Well, there are lots of springs in Wasuemba and I'm happy the kids want to show me around the place.
They take me to various springs, pools, caves and tell me how these sources are used (GPS AIRMA1 = air mandi = bathing water, GPS AIRMI1 & 2 = air minum = drinking water, GUAAIR - gua air = cave with a spring and lake inside). We also visit an elevated spot (GPS VIEW1) with a nice view of the sea. The difficulty of the tour is to avoid alarming other groups of kids that then join, which is not what we want. Well, the group steadily grows and at the end sure all of them like some Rp and many get disappointed.

The only source of food in the villages are the kiosks (bisquits, cake, soft bread, instant noodles, water). On my way out, I buy a few of these things so I can cope with the hills on the way back. I put the steepest hills behind me before it gets totally dark and I arrive at Pasarwajo after nightfall. This night (27-Feb) I spend at Losmen Lambusango near the market.

In the morning, I enjoy breakfast at Rumah Makan Wangi Wangi at the northern end of Pasarwajo. I'm on my way out, I want to go north along Buton's east coast, let's see how far I get. Just as I leave Pasarwajo, I see what seems to be the local gas station on the right side of the road:

Does it look like an energy crisis ?

Cycling from Pasarwajo to Kamaru

Wasuamba village could need some work on its infrastructure From Pasarwajo, I follow the coastal road to the north-east. The road starts out nice, then deteriorates as I move on. More and more broken asphalt, partially overgrown, increasingly steeper hills, bridges with holes. I wished my bike had stronger brakes and I'm glad there's no rain. I pass the villages of Matanauwe (GPS MATANA), Kumbawaha (GPS KUMBAW), Ambuau (GPS AMBUAU), Lasalimu Pantai(GPS LASALI), Wasuamba (GPS WASUAM). At some of the junctions along the way, it is not obvious where I have to turn so I ask passing motorcyclists or farmers.

Wasuamba is abt one kilometer seawards from the mainroad junction. I ride into the village and find 2 kiosk where I enjoy water and bisquits before I visit the jetty and the part of the village that is built on the water. I notice that roads, jetty and walkways are in urgent need of repair.

I continue the last few kilometeres to Kamaru. On the left side of the road I notice a little spring with a tiny artifical basin below. A coconut bowl is provided so I can wash my bike and refresh myself. As I get close to Kamaru, the road is becoming wide and smooth again.


A tidy little village that sports an old and a new ferry terminal (new one not yet in use), a market place, some kiosk (one is pretty well stocked and does basic cooking). Kamaru has electricity until midnight.

Kamaru's unnamed penginapan

Kamaru's first penginapan (guesthouse) has just openend, it is so new that it doesn't have a name yet. At Rp 15,000 per room it's incredibly basic (bring your own light, blanket, mosquito coils, ..).

Kiosk Ani at Kamaru

Alternatively, it's possible to stay at Kiosk Ani. She has a room that she rents out at Rp 25,000 with breakfast. It looks like this could be better than the guesthouse.

For Kamaru's best (and only) dining, there's no way around Ani's combined restaurant and photo studio ("Kiosk Ani"). The menu is short but the food is hot.

Cycling from Kamaru to Buton's West Coast

Road through Hutan Lambusango The road starts out bad and goes better and better. The first village along the way is Lawele (GPS LAWELE), then there's forest (Hutan Lambusango) and the road climbs the mountain. No villages for the whole way up to the peak (an estimated 10 km). There are some caves along the road. The peak (GPS PEAK6) is about 390m above sea level, from there it's a fast ride down through a populated area. The village of Talingko starts a few hundred meters after the peak, next there's a little waterfall (GPS WAFA4), then the villages of Wakangka (GPS WAKANG - a rumah makan) and Kapontosi (GPS KAPONT - the market). Now back to sea level and heading for Bau Bau, I pass the villages of Wakalambe (GPS WAKALA) and Mabulugo (GPS MABULU) before I stop for dinner at the Rumah Makan Siparappe (GPS SIPARA).

After I finish my fish and rice dinner (Rp 25K), the son of the family asks if after nightfall, I'd like to join him find some crabs (menjari kepiting) in the pools behind the restaurant. Working as a motorcycle taxi (ojek), he's happy to earn a little extra money from selling crabs to compensate rising gas costs.
The crab-hunting equipment consists of a net, a bucket, a Petromax-style lantern. Well, it looks like it's becoming an exciting night. I wear my headlamp. Barefoot, we follow paths between the pools and climb over adventureous watergates, until we reach a place where crabs are supposed to be. We walk along and through the shallow pools with the lantern lighting up the water. As soon as a crab shows up, the hunter is supposed to throw the net over it, then move it into the bucket. In the real world, this doesn't work too well. First, we can hardly spot crabs in the muddy water, even with the Petromax very low over the surface. Then, the process of throwing the net further reduces the visibility while the Petromax is not supposed to get wet. So the crabs escape easily. My headlamp soon turns out to be the better technology, its sharp beam cuts through the muddy water much better than the lantern and it leaves both hands free. Bad for the crabs, not too bad though. Over an hour later, we return with 3 large specimens in the bucket, a reasonable result as I understand. We wash, have tea and go to sleep.
While women and children use the bedrooms, the men sleep outside under the restaurant roof and enjoy the sea breeze. Later that night everyone wakes up from heavy rain and we move the mats to the center of the restaurant floor where it's dry.

Next morning (Mar-1) after breakfast, I say goodbye and pedal on towards Bau Bau with a plan to stop at Bungi Waterfall (Air Terjun Bungi, GPS WAFA5). This is about 13 km beyond Rumah Makan Siparappe. The turnoff from the mainroad is at GPS 2WAFA5. The water marks the end of the road and there's a rest area with 3 thatched roof huts that protect from the sun. At this time of the year, the water is brown and there's lots of it. Right at the rest area, the water does an unspectacular drop of 1m while a footpath leading upstream invites to explore.
It's Saturday, no food is being sold there, I'm all alone. The amount of rubbish around still suggests that this place is somewhat popular. I take a rest, read a little and consume the rambutans I have brought. Then I do the last few kilometers to Bau Bau.

Coming back to Bau Bau

As I reach Bau Bau, I don't feel like climbing the hill up to Hillhouse Resort. Instead, I look for an alternative place to stay. I survey a few more hotels (for details, refer to Bau Bau Accommodation) and decide to check into the central and friendly Penginapan Wolio. I stay there from Mar-1 to Mar-4.

Coming back from the kampungs, Bau Bau feels like a big city. A good selection of restaurants, all sorts of snacks sold in the streets, markets stocked with fruits beyond what is being sold in the kampungs. Now I even manage to find spares to fix my broken bicycle computer !

Excerpt from Operation Wallacea's poster on Hutan Lambusango, seen at a Pasarwajo restaurant From the day I've arrived at Kendari, I've seen posters and was often expected to be a member of an organization called Operation Wallacea. Somehow, most westerners that show up in the area belong to or work with this organization. From what I understand, these guys are into nature research, environmental protection and development aid. I want to find out a little more and visit the Wallacea's Bau Bau office. It takes me a while to find it. I'm welcome and a lady explains to me in English what Operation Wallacea is doing in the area: The Bau Bau office deals with protection of the Lambusango Forest (Hutan Lambusango) and provides an infrastructure for foreign students who enter the forest and do research on local nature. This is said to be highly interesting and unique. The organization maintains a basecamp at Labundobundo (located between Lawele and Waondowolio). Pulau Hoga is not their area, there's another office for the marine park. Wallacea is an NGO and is financed through the students who use their services.

At the Wallacea office, I receive the contact details of Lawana Ecotone, an NGO that takes care of Wallacea's local logistics. I call Lawana Ecotone and make an appointment for the afternoon. Without the help of the kampung people, the office is hard to find. I meet the boss, Agus. He can spare some time to tell me about his business. I learn that Wallacea's student business is a seasonal one. Every year from June to September, the facilities are pretty much booked out but all the other months there are vacancies. Not only does Agus take care of Wallacea's logistics, he also promotes business outside the student season. He's the person to talk to for a jungle trek, he knows the guides, can get permits, has maps and access to the facilities, has an Internet connection (his e-mail address not quoted here for obvious reasons). Thinking back about my trip around southern Buton, I tell Agus that I cannot imagine Hutan Lambusango to be full of creatures that could be interesting to science. I haven't come across any large jungle area, the road is mostly lined with kampungs and gardens. Agus explains that behind the houses there's gardens approx 2 km deep, beyond the gardens the actual forest starts. From the road it doesn't look like it, but there's definitely a lot of forest in southern Buton.

Both the Operation Wallacea and the Lawana Ecotone offices are listed in the Bau Bau other Places of Interest section.

Wakatobi Marine National Park / Pulau Kaledupa / Pulau Wangiwangi / Pulau Hoga

From inside the night boat between Bau Bau and Wanci If there is a tourist magnet in this area, it is Wakatobi Marine National Park. Wakatobi and Pulau Hoga in particular are said to be a superb diving location. I never got beyond snorkeling but since I'm here I cannot miss this.

The public-transport way to Pulau Hoga involves quite a bit of island hopping: From Bau Bau (Pulau Buton) to Wanci (Pulau Wangiwangi), from there to Ambeua (Pulau Kaledupa) and from there to Pulau Hoga. It's possible to get to Pulau Kaledupa by speed boat from Pasarwajo (Buton's east coast), but most people (includes myself) prefer the slower (and safer) boat from Bau Bau. This leaves in the evening and takes 9..11h depending on weather conditions.

Ready for the first hop: The wooden slow boat has no seats but berths so that it is possible to sleep throughout the trip. The ticket is Rp 80,000 (basic berth) / Rp 100,000 (one of 4 or 6 berths in a cabin). I go for the cheap option, because the berths in the cabin are shorter as doors take up space. The night is warm, the boat travels over smooth water at 15..17 km/h and arrives at Wanci town / Wangiwangi island in the morning of Mar-4.

Wanci (Pulau Wangiwangi)

As I exit the Wanci harbour, I notice a map of the island drawn on a wooden board. I appreciate that, take a photo and decide that I want to start the day by taking my bike up the island's mountain for a nice view and a cool breeze. I make it halfway across the island and record some GPS waypoints, then come down again to look for a place where I can spend the coming night. Wanci has a surprising amount of hotels and guesthouses, several are along the busy and narrow road that leads south from the harbour to the market, others are scattered about town. Expect to pay Rp 2,000 for an ojek trip within town.

Wanci Accommodation (Mar-2008)

Prices are per room unless stated otherwise. This list should be pretty comprehensive.
  • Hotel Setiana (GPS SETIAN) 13 fan rooms with attached mandi at Rp 100,000
    Spacious rooms, very nice and clean. TV in common room.
    In the evening, a cafe / bar operates on the top floor.
    Though there are no AC rooms at this time, I consider this the top place in town.
    Hotel guests may rent a Toyota Kijang car for Rp 400,000 per day. Drive yourself.

  • Hotel Wakatobi (GPS HOWAKA)
    4 AC rooms with attached bathroom at Rp 125,000 / 175,000 / 200,000 / 250,000
    5 fan rooms with attached bathroom at Rp 70,000

  • Penginapan Nirmala (GPS NIRMAL) - popular
    1 AC room with attached bathroom and TV at Rp 150,000
    2 fan rooms with attached bathroom and TV at Rp 100,000
    8 fan rooms with shared bathroom at Rp 50,000

  • Hotel Al-Azizyah (GPS AZIZYA)
    2 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 100,000
    2 fan rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 75,000
    2 fan rooms with shared mandi at Rp 50,000
    2 fan rooms with 2 bunk beds each (4 people per room) at Rp 65,000
    Clean, very spacious, a large function room covers all of the third floor
    This is the southernmost hotel in Wanci

  • Penginapan Jelli (GPS JELLI) - my choice
    2 fan rooms with attached bathroom and TV at Rp 70,000
    4 fan rooms with attached bathroom, 3x Rp 50,000 and 1x Rp 40,000
    Friendly place in a quiet area with attached cell phone shop.
    Free tee and sweet treats for breakfast. I stay there from Mar-4 to Mar-5.

  • Penginapan Nita Sari (GPS NITSAR)
    1 AC room with attached mandi at Rp 60,000
    2 fan rooms with attached mandi at Rp 40,000
    5 fan rooms with shared bathroom at Rp 30,000

  • Penginapan Lamongan (GPS LAMONG)
    2 fan rooms with attached bathroom at Rp 65,000
    4 fan rooms with shared bathroom at Rp 50,000
    A cell phone shop is attached to this penginapan, convenient to get some pulsa when you run out

  • Hotel Rahmat Indah (GPS RAHIND)
    A large facility with 24 rooms, all have attached mandi, price range is Rp 30,000 .. 50,000
    Rooms are not the cleanest, upstairs there's karaoke. This is as close to a red-light district as can be.

  • Hotel Gajah Madah II (GPS GAJMA2)
    A total of 7 fan rooms (all attached bathroom) at Rp 55,000

  • Melati Indah, Rumah Makan & Penginapan (near Gajah Madah)
    Very basic and in need of renovation. Fan on request, shared bathroom, Rp 20.000 per person

  • Wisma Samudera (GPS SAMUDR)
    5 fan rooms, 3 with attached bathroom, 2 with shared bathroom at Rp 30,000 per person

  • Penginapan H.Abdullah (GPS HABDUL)
    9 rooms (no fan, no AC) with attached bathroom at Rp 35,000
    This place is closest to Mola Utara

  • Penginapan Ratna (GPS RATNA)
    10 fan rooms with shared bathroom at Rp 25,000 per person. Free tea.

A nice beach on Wangiwangi island

Places of Interest on Pulau Wangiwangi

The island of Wangiwangi is actally quite nice for a little cycling. There are flat, hilly and mountainous areas and a good mix of roads. It's not a big island, so one can go around in a day. This is what I do. There's some nice beaches along the way and the occasional cave with a fresh water spring inside. In various places on the island new roads are being built, so by the time you read this, you should have some more road cycling options.

The Wangiwangi people have an above-average sense of business. I was told that they traded island produce (not necessarily that of their own island) directly with Singapore. The availability of used clothes and bicycle imports on Wanci markets is one obvious result of this trade. Then the amount of hotels and the plan of building an airport on the island point into the same direction. As you would expect, cell phones work in Wangiwangi.

Ship wreck at Sombano harbour, Kaledupa

Ambeua (Pulau Kaledupa) and Pulau Hoga

My boat to Kaledupa leaves the Mola Utara jetty in the morning of Mar-5. The fare is Rp 30,000 (includes my bike). Except for some rain, the trip is smooth. Having arrived at the Ambeua harbour, I take some photos of the ship wrecks (it appears they just leave them there until they dissolve). Then I do a quick ride around town and check out my options: Is there a boat to Hoga and what is the accommodation situation ? At the harbour, I am told that the public boat to Hoga has left while Kaledupa does not have guesthouses or hotels. However, several families rent out rooms if visitors ask for it. I'm a little bit lost at this point as I'm not aware how the system works. Luckily a motorcycle taxi rider (ojek) by the name of Ola (hp 081-543116284) gives me a thorough introduction.

There are 3 ways to organize a stay on Hoga:

  1. Have an arrangement with Wallacea. Everything, starting from your arrival in Indonesia, is taken care of.
  2. Have an arrangement with Island Garden Resort. Everything, starting from Bau Bau, is taken care of.
  3. Go independently. From the Kaledupa police station, get a permit to visit Hoga (if you don't have a photocopy of your passport, visit Ambeua's "computer shop" first). Then find the owner of a hut (usually Kaledupa people, ask around). The owner will then find a boat, get the hut ready and carry over not only you and your gear but all your supplies (water, food, candles, oil, batteries, ..) for the planned number of days. Then he will walk you to the Wallacea office where you register (or get sent back if no permit from the Kaledupa police). The owner of the hut will then return. You will see him again on your planned departure day, when he will come and pick you up.
Sombano Village I fit into the third category - and what would you expect - Ola's family owns a hut on Hoga, he has access to a boat and he will be happy to organize my stay. We plan this for the next morning, so I will spend the night on Kaledupa.

Ola reveals to me that Wallacea has a house in Ambeua for their own use. It is rarely used in the off-season (outside Jul-Sep) so that it is possible to rent a room there. This would be much nicer than renting a room from a family with lots of kids. On top of that the Wallacea building features a high-mounted cell phone antenna that I could use !

We go there and find the house locked with nobody around. It's a large wooden structure on stilts with a balcony running around 2 sides. While Ola gets the key, I have something to eat at nearby Kiosk Eva (GPS KIOEVA). Ola is back with the key, unlocks the door and shows me around the house. The building has 3 double rooms and 3 single rooms, all equipped with fan and electric light, kamar mandi and kitchen are shared. Electricity is available all night. The charge is Rp 30,000 per person and guests are expected to clean up when they leave.

Having sorted out the accommodation, I explore Kaledupa by bike. First to the northern end of the island. The road is narrow, steep and most of it in very bad condition. It passes gardens and patches of forest. Eventually I reach Sombano (GPS SOMBAN), a tidy little fishing village with a white sand beach.

I return to explore the southern part of the island: Buranga, Tanome, a waterfall (GPS WAFA7), Peropa, Bajam. The roads in this area of Kaledupa are better than the one to Sombano and the ride on the crater rim in Bajam area is fun. I make it back to the main road just after sunset and reach Ambeua well after nightfall. Another meal at Kiosk Eva, then back to the Wallacea building. I have been riding 35 km this day, so Kaledupa is not a big place. Ola comes around again and helps me draw my road map of Kaledupa island.

A word about cell phones: There's no cellular network on Kaledupa so that cell phones need to connect to the Wangiwangi network. This rarely works without a Yagi antenna mounted on a high pole. And this means that someone who has a cell phone can only be contacted when he is at home and when the phone is connected to the Yagi antenna. Consequently, SMS is a very popular way of communication.

Places of Interest on Kaledupa

A typical hut on Hoga Then, Ola tells me some more facts about Hoga:

What makes a stay on Hoga difficult is the lack of fresh water. All wells on the island have semi-salty water that may be acceptable for a shower but not for drinking. Fresh water is brought over from Kaledupa and filtered on Hoga. Bottled water is an alternative.

Hoga has no shops, kiosks, warung, restaurants. Particularly outside the season when resorts are shut down and Wallacea operates with a minimum of staff, it's essential to plan ahead and bring enough supplies. It is still possible to get hot meals at the Wallacea center but should tell staff one day early.

Hoga is a small island with no cars, motorbikes, bicycles. There are foot paths in the south-western part of the island, but the rest of it can only be reached by walking along the beach (during low tide) or by boat.

There are about 150 huts on Hoga and these are mostly owned by Kaledupa people. Hut owners may rent out directly to visitors and provide water / food. Wallacea owns a few huts but may also rent out other huts and then compensate the owners.

Hoga is just 2 km from Ambeua / Kaledupa and half the distance is shallow water. Transport between the two islands is by small motorboat (called "Johnson"). The school boat goes at 6:00 am and 13:00 hours (returns rightaway, is based in Kaledupa) but there can be other boats going. The official fare for visitors is Rp 20,000 per head and trip.

The next morning (Mar-6), I get ready for the boat trip to Hoga. I bring some bottles of water, some fruits from the market and some bisquits for a 2-day stay. I plan on having 2 meals per day at the Wallacea center. Ola shows up and sends me to the harbour, where a Johnson with Ola's family soon arrives and picks me up. My bike goes on the boat, too. We stop over at Ola's house where we load fresh water and some tools, then head over to Hoga. Ola's hut is located a bit to the right (east) of the Wallacea headquarters and the official jetty. There's a small patch of sandy beach nearby for the boat to land. We unload everything and bring it to the hut, clean out the hut, fill the mandi with fresh water, and visit the Wallacea office to register me. At that time I'm not aware that I need a permit and that means a fast trip back to Kaledupa, a hop to the computer shop where I take a photocopy of my passport, then to the police office where I get the required paper rather quickly. The friendly police officer warns that there'd be a lot of theft now: In Kaledupa school children would be stealing comic books and sarongs, on Hoga valuables disappear while people are on the beach. Ola is not worried, because his hut has a cabinet that can be locked. We head back to the boat and back to Hoga, sort out the paperwork and I'm officially guest on Pulau Hoga.

Footpaths on Hoga Footpaths on Hoga

My hut is in the southern part of the island, not far from the Wallacea office. This area is cluttered with huts of similar style, spaced about 50m apart and connected by neat, narrow footpaths (sealed !). Finding back one's hut can be difficult, particularly at night.

The Marine Research Station / Wallacea HQ on Hoga Island Probably not many people will do it, but riding a bicycle on these narrow paths with tight turns is tricky. There's a strong incentive to stay on the paths and not drop onto sharp-edged coral ground or into water-filled holes. Nevertheless, I use the bike to explore a bit. The network of sealed footpaths doesn't take me very far, in the east it ends near two government buildings (construction almost completed at the time when I'm there). The western end of the nice footpaths is the Wallacea center. A few short trails and the beach are the only other places where one can ride a bike. During the two days of my stay on the island, I will ride a total of 25 km.

To me, Hoga appears pretty much de-populated. A few people are repairing huts, one man is working on the jetty and there's some staff at the Wallacea center. I'm told there'd be another two tourists on the island, but they are already on their way out. From this afternoon, I will be the only foreigner on the island. From the Wallacea staff I learn that this will all change in a few days when the first students of the season arrive. During the high season (Jul-Sep) the island would be really crowded with about 1000 people, there would then be electricity to all the huts, a computer room at the Marine Research Station would open to students.

Hoga's big attraction is the sea life, so I ask about snorkeling and diving. Right there at the center, there's a dive operation that partners with Wallacea. It's the only such operation on Hoga. I'm interested in renting snorkeling gear (Rp 60,000 /day) and with me being the only tourist around, no problem finding my size of fins. A good place for both snorkeling and diving is at the jetty of the Wallacea center, where there's a steep dropoff with lots to see just a few meters from the beach. This is what makes Hoga so special.

Not being enough of an expert to compare the snorkeling experience at this site to other popular places around the world, I just say it is impressive (please refer to other people's underwater photos). After some time in the water, I go for a little walk along Hoga's west coast where I first find LaBaba Resort (none there) and then Island Garden Resort (I meet the caretaker).
The Island Garden Resort caretaker, the only person at the resort, tells me that he is slowly getting the resort in shape for the season and proudly advertises their kitchen which is so good that even Wallacea staff comes over in the evening. The resort belongs to a Dutch couple from Bau Bau / Buton, Hirte and Haji Kasim. Visitors who want to stay at the resort should contact Wolio Tour & Travel in Bau Bau, Jln Betombari 92 (fon +62-402-21189 or +62-402-24316 or +62-81-58195119). Just showing up at the resort is not recommended but will work out somehow if cell phone communication between Hoga and Bau Bau is possible.

Places of Interest on Pulau Hoga

Map of Pulau Hoga The places on the west coast of the island are accessible either by footpath or by walking along the beach. Going further north to the fishing village is only possible along the beach during low tide, with an occassional climb over rocks between two sand beaches. One can walk on past the village and reach more nice beaches until rocks block the way. The area from the Wallacea center past the many huts and on to the government houses is nicely done with sealed footpaths, beyond the government houses there's no way to continue. To fully go around the island, a boat is needed.

Back to the Wallacea center, I learn some more facts about the island and the way it is managed: Wallacea has worked out rules that make sure the activities in the area are a win-win situation for locals, for the government, for visitors, for the environment and for them.
For example, visitors have to respect certain rules (behaviour, dress) as not to do damage to the environment, offend locals or reflect badly on the organization - individuals that don't follow can be expelled / students sent back. Not as bad as you think - have a beer, but no excessive consumption of alcohol with noisy partying. As a female, no going topless.
Then, prices for a number of services have been fixed to avoid destructive competition.
As a compensation for the local communities' cooperation (a lot of student projects involve visits to villages and interaction with locals), a part of the income must be used to fund projects for the benefit of these communities.
From the many words of praise I've heard from various Indonesian people throughout the area, I believe Wallacea is doing a great job at whatever they do.

Prices on Pulau Hoga (Mar-2008)

The nearest ATM is at Bau Bau, bring enough cash ! When I ask about the two large wooden government buildings that I have spotted earlier, I'm told that these are meant to become tourist accommodation. They are not going to be luxury hotels, just a little more comfortable than the many huts that exist now. No AC rooms planned, possibly fan. The buildings have their own restaurant and generator. They will be managed by Wallacea in the same way everything else on Hoga is managed: Local people are strongly involved and great care is taken that it's a win-win situation for everyone.
I ask why tourism on an island organized so nicely has to be limited to the rather short student season, but there's no real answer. Actually, everyone would be happy to have visitors all year round, would be happy to build more huts for them, but they are not coming. Possibly a lack in advertising ? Or is it the remoteness of Hoga that keeps people away ? There's no plan of building luxury-facilities on the island, as this segment is already covered by Wakatobi Dive Resort on nearby Pulau Onemobaa. The typical Hoga visitor likes it simple and is a seasonal visitor.

Hut on the beach, Hoga So far, I have not met a single English speaking person on Hoga. I really wonder how the students get along, do they all speak Bahasa ? Well, it is the lecturers who have come to Hoga before and who all speak Bahasa. They communicate to their students in English. When a project involves visits to local communities, an interpreter accompanies a student.

I have ordered dinner and breakfast for the time of my stay (Rp 150,000 / 4 meals) earlier. In the evening I go (actually ride) to the Wallacea canteen to take my meal. There I get to know Hoga's mosquitos. It's lots of them and they quickly come to the point. I use repellent plentiful which brings a little improvement, not a lasting one though. Kitchen staff is joking: No mosquitos in the high season, as the many tourists drive them away. The Indonesia-style dinner is plentiful and tasty, surely beats anything I've had in the past days. It does include rice and fish (barracuda), what do you expect. To get out of the mosquitos' way, I take my plate and glass to a hut on the nearby beach. It seems to have been built for that purpose and I'm not the only one to have dinner there. Soon I discover the second purpose of this hut: My cell phone locks into the Wangiwangi network - all without an external aerial !

Due to the absence of electricity and the abundance of mosquitos, I don't stay up that very long. Luckily the bed in my hut is equipped with a mosquito net. I fall asleep to the distant sound of Kubota boat engines and a generator - and soon wake up again from the sound of a rodent that appears to be after my bisquits. The bag of bisquits is safely suspended from the roof timbers but that rodent keeps on coming back and trying for hours. I just wish there'd be more tourists to serve as alternative targets for rodents and mosquitos.

Next morning I enjoy a solid breakfast at the canteen, then cycle north along the west coast beach up to the small fishing village. There's a few thatched roof huts and some racks used for drying seaweed (to make agar agar). No kiosk there, but I believe if one were stranded on Hoga with all other places shut down, then one could find some basic food and a boat to Kaledupa in this village.
This day I do some snorkeling, explore the interior of Hoga (don't get very far), some more snorkeling, then some reading, until it's time for dinner. Three more visitors have arrived on Hoga and I meet them at the canteen. They have come from Pulau Weh / Aceh, a top diving site at the northern tip of Sumatera. They judge Hoga to be excellent and they plan to travel on to Bunaken to see if this could be even better.

For the non-diver that I am, activities are limited on Hoga. The next morning (Mar-8), Ola comes over with the boat as planned. By noon we've moved everything into the boat, completed the paperwork at the Wallacea center, sailed back to Kaledupa and had some rice and fish at Ola's house. The boat back to Wanci is leaving at 5:30 the next morning, I will spend the coming night at Wallacea's house in Ambeua.
The afternoon I'm crusing Kaledupa with the result that a mudgard bracket on my bike cracks. This way I get a chance to give business to an arc welding workshop. The boy comments "Oh, the bad roads". I remove the broken bracket from the bike and he starts a large Kubota engine that powers a large generator. This attracts quite a few spectators. Then he gets going on my bracket - barefoot as he is, wearing but shorts, no eye protection ! He does an excellent job, the bracket is not just restored but reinforced. It doesn't break again for the rest of my trip.
My dinner is again bakso at Kiosk Eva (have been looking forward to this, they are home made meat balls). Later I enjoy a rest on the balcony of the Wallacea building and listen to the sounds of the evening until Ola comes around and we chat for a while.

Back from Ambeua (Pulau Kaledupa) via Wanci (Pulau Wangiwangi) to Bau Bau (Pulau Buton)

Kids at Wanci harbour I'm at the Ambeua jetty early on Sunday morning Mar-9, in time for the 5:30 boat to Wanci. Ola shows up as well and I say goodbye and thank him for all the information and help. My bike goes on the boat, and this time the fare is Rp 25,000. They still call this size of boat a "Johnson". The trip that follows is smooth and the boat reaches Wanci at 7am.
With my connecting boat to Bau Bau leaving in the evening (the night boat with the many berths), I rent a room at the Penginapan Nirmala where I wash and rest. Later I ride around town, have something to eat.

At one of the Wanci shops, the owner tells me he would be going to Wanci this evening though not on the public boat - no, never ever. Hogo, that's his name, knows a cheaper, faster, safer and more comfortable vessel. It's a wooden ship by the name of Handayani. Beyond the cargo, it takes a limited number of passengers. The public boat is supposed to be fine in calm weather but really awkward when there's wind and waves. He'd rather trust the Handayani with its size and two large Mitsubishi engines. She leaves from the harbour (GPS WANCI) at 17:00 and it's best to be there at 16:00. I like the idea of this alternative transport option and check it out rightaway. Compared to the large Pelni ships, this one is closer to a boat. Yes, there's space for me and my bike and the fare is Rp 50,000 (vs Rp 80,000 for a berth on the public boat). The scheduled arrival time at Bau Bau is 5:00 am on the next day, Monday morning. I take note that the Handayani returns to Wanci on Monday evening, leaving Bau Bau (jembatan batu) at 17:00 (be there at 16:00).

Another 3 hours in and around Wanci, then I'm back to the jetty with all my stuff. Hogo is already there and the Handayani is still being loaded with all sorts of goods. My bicycle gets towed on deck and I get out of the way, onto the upper deck at the stern and from there onto the roof. This is a good place to take photos of the harbour life. I witness a group of children who play water games in the shallow harbour basin - according to one passenger it's a school class, using the harbour as a gym.
Meanwhile, more and more goods are being carried into the belly of the ship, men sit together and bargain about the freight charges until large stacks of money change the owner and we eventually get going.

It's just after 18:00 when we depart from Wanci. In order to save fuel and minimize engine wear, the captain runs the Handayani at a moderate 15 km/h - still fast enough to arrive in the early morning. The sun sets quickly - in an hour it's all dark. I continue to stay atop the roof with several other men. At times I find the ship is rolling quite a bit but I'm assured this is still considered a smooth ride. The starry sky looks great that night, haven't seen stars that bright and plentiful for a long time. Hands pass plates up to the men on the roof. One is for me, seems the fare includes dinner. I can't see much in the dark but I'm pretty sure there's rice, fish and some sambal on that plate. The other men start eating with their hands, so I also take the challenge. I manage to avoid most of the sambal and the fish bones. Due to the dark and the rolling of the ship, none can see / pays attention to the fact that I'm rather untrained in eating rice with hands. Looking back at 2008, this has been my most challenging dinner that year.

After dinner, the weather is going more windy and it's time to clear the roof. Most passengers are trying to sleep, ladies and children in the cabin behind the bridge, men on the upper deck, the fore deck, the lower deck. I catch some sleep on the fore deck, until rain starts and everyone moves either to the cabin or the lower deck. Soon rainwater washes over the floor so that most folks end up sitting on their sandals or some other object that keeps their back dry. When the rain stops, we have reached Buton island and follow along the shore. Sitting on deck around my GPS, the men discuss which places we are passing and what the various lights on the shore are. At 5am, we eventually pull into the Bau Bau harbour. Too early for any business, everyone enjoys another 2 hours of sleep.

Dragon at the Bau Bau waterfront recreational area

Bau Bau (Pulau Buton) again

It's 7:00 am on Monday, Mar-10. I walk into Bau Bau together with Hogo who has turned out as someone who never stops talking. His mission is finding new, exciting goods that he can sell in his shop im Wanci. He intends to stay at Losmen Wangi Wangi, the cheapest place in town. Staying at Penginapan Wolio looks like a good plan to get rid of him but he comes up with the idea of sharing one of the rooms there. We both go to the Wolio and check out my proposed accommodation. The place is booked out, though. Eventually Hogo stays at Losmen Wangi Wangi, we exchange cell phone numbers and separate. I'm right back to Penginapan Wolio and sure there's a room for me ;)

In the past days I have heard a lot of good things about a lady by the name of Hirte, a western lady who runs various tourist operations, together with her partner Haji Kasim. Their company is called Wolio Tour & Travel (details under Bau Bau Places of Interest). I want to get an update on anything tourism in the area, so I make an appointment and meet her at her office = home. I find out that she runs the Hillhouse Resort (Villa) and the Penginapan Wolio in Bau Bau plus the Island Garden Resort on Pulau Hoga. At this time, a new resort in Kg Bali is being built, "Bendungan Karin Karin". When completed in Jun 2009, it will have 10 houses and a swimming pool.

Food in Bau Bau is nice, particularly when having spent a few days in smaller places. I enjoy some bowls of my favourite food, Bakso.

Having limited time available for this trip, I have to slowly get moving into the direction of Manado. The closest airports are Bau Bau (Merpati on Sunday and Tuesday at 12:30 or Friday at 9:30 am, Rp 627,000) and Kendari. I hear that luggage the size of a mountainbike might not go on the small planes that fly out of Bau Bau, so I plan to return to Kendari by boat and bicycle. My intention is to cross from Bau Bau to southern Muna, cycle to Raha, then catch a boat to Kendari.

Pulau Muna, Raha

Floatsome on Madonka Beach Next morning, the ferry between Bau Bau and Waara takes me to Muna Island. It has its own jetty, less than 1 km east of the main harbour (GPS BATULO). On the ferry, a small kiosk is selling noodle soup and snacks. The lower deck is crowded with vehicles, the trip is short and unspectacluar.

From Waara on the south-eastern tip of Muna, I start riding at 8am. A good and hilly road takes me north. It passes near Pantai Madongka, a popular beach. From the mainroad to the beach and back it's a 10 km detour. Pantai Madongka has white sand and is real long and lazy. None there, except a few villagers and cows. Quite a bit of rubbish gets washed ashore, see the photo of the typical mix: Coconuts, plastic cups, plastic bags, worn-down flip-flops, pieces of flip flops (used to float fishing nets), pieces of styrofoam (also used to float fishing nets), dissolving sneakers, driftwood, ends of fishing line and string. There's a public mandi near the beach, very convenient after swimming in the sea.

It's fast riding as the road is mostly good. In Lakudo, there's a rumah makan. Next are Lombe (turn-off), Wakuru, Wakumoro, Kabawo (turn-off), Lailangga (turn-off), Lawa (turn-off), Lagadi (turn-off), Kontunaga (turn-off) until I reach Raha. There's few and misleading signs, I often ask for directions. This is not the road that I've planned to go - the 2008 Nelles map suggests that an alternative road further east is wider, but I'm told this is outdated. Indeed there is a road further east and it passes Napabale as shown on my map. But that road is in a rather bad condition and not used much now.
When I reach Raha at 5pm, I've done a total of 112 km (including the 10 km detour to Pantai Madongka). Overall it was a smooth ride: A few harmless hills and a good road, except for the last 20 km that were cracked asphalt with tons of potholes.

Having arrived at Raha, I rightaway check out the accommodation situation:

Raha Accommodation (Mar-2008)

  • Hotel Rambutan (GPS RAMBUT)
    7 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 110,000

  • Losmen Tani (GPS TANI)
    2 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 85,000
    9 fan rooms with attached mandi at Rp 50,000
    Spacious but could be a bit cleaner

  • Hotel Alia (GPS ALIA)
    15 AC + fan rooms with attached mandi and TV
    If AC and TV are unlocked, pay Rp 125,000. Without just Rp 65,000

  • Je'Ne Berang Hotel (GPS JENEBE)
    6 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 110,000
    2 fan rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 80,000
    Seafront loaction, new.

  • Hotel Tiga Dara (GPS 3DARA)
    11 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 150,000 or 130,000
    1 fan room with attached manid and TV at Rp 70,000
    Indonesian breakfast included

  • Hotel Berlia (GPS BERLIA)
    21 AC rooms with attached mandi in the range of Rp 150,000 .. 450,000
    Indonesian breakfast included

  • Hotel Adi (GPS ADI) - not yet open at the time of writing

  • Hotel Garuda (GPS GARUDA) - my choice
    7 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 130,000
    1 fan room with attached mandi and TV at Rp 70,000
    3 fan rooms with attached mandi at Rp 60,000
    Indonesian breakfast included, spacious layout, partially nicely decorated

  • Muna Indah (GPS MUNAIN)
    5 fan rooms with attached mandi at Rp 60,000
    Average, free tea, noisy music shop nearby (quiet from 11pm)

  • Hotel Napabale (GPS HOTNAP)
    3 AC rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 100,000
    6 fan rooms with attached mandi and TV at Rp 75,000
    6 fan rooms with shared mandi at Rp 65,000 (1 person) / 75,000 (2 pers) / 85,000 (3 pers)
    Breakfast (roti / bread) included. The place could be cleaner.

That was a bit of a survey job. When I retreat to my hotel room (Garuda) that night, I've cycled a total of 141 km and deserve some rest. Still, at 21:30, there's a knock at my door. It's the police (wearing plain clothes) and they ask for a copy of my visa. They apparently doubt that I'm a tourist. Or maybe they suspect something else ? Well, I'm alone in my room.

Breakfast in Raha I have to think about Raha. Somehow this place is different, the people too. I've noticed it on the road to Raha already, people are noisy and more often than elsewhere I hear the obligatory "hello mister" - "thank you" - "fuck you" - "how are you" - "what is your name". The drivers on the road are on the aggressive side, particularly those driving shiny new vehicles. Judging from the sports facilities available (stadiums and huge pools for rowing competition), the Rahans must exercise a lot. And they need space, a lot of it. The extremely spacious layout of Raha makes it necessary to have a vehicle for virtually any errand.

Raha Vicinity Places of Interest

Next day starts with a hotel breakfast, some trip planning, then lunch before I get going to Teluk Napabale / Pantai Napabale. This is a recreational area on the coast south of Raha. It's located 15 km from the center of Raha and the cracked asphalt road is hilly. On the way, I pass Lohia (GPS LOHIA, turn left there) and GPS 2NAPAB. The car park at Napabale (GPS NAPABA) is surrounded by warungs that are all closed. Apparently this is a weekend operation and today it's Wednesday. Apart from me there are just two local tourists, plus several workers. The workers deal with lots of rubbish and do various repairs. I explore a bit. The water right at the bottom of the stairs seems not to be connected to the sea and this is what the people say. No, this is not Teluk Napabale yet. To get there, I need a boat that takes me to the other side of that body of water, go ashore, follow a trail over a hill, until I finally reach Teluk Napabale (GPS NAPATK). I go there with another visitor and some local children. The swimming is indeed very good. The fare for the boat seems to be highly variable (I pay Rp 25,000).

Swimming at Teluk Napabale

At Napabale, I hear about a place called "Pantai Meleura". Not exactly a beach as we know it, because there is no beach. Still there is sand under the surface of the water and the bay makes for good swimming. The place is 8 km away, too close to miss it. Though not far, the hills on the last kilometer are steep and tough. When I arrive, it has gotten late so I rush to take photos while good daylight lasts. Near the water there's a large rock with stairs up to a viewpoint, just perfect for my photo session. Half the village's kids follow me up and down again.

A fast ride on the MV Sagori Ekspress from Raha to Bau Bau On my way out from Pantai Meleura, I do a little detour to a freshwater lake (GPS MANDI7, when coming from Meleura turn left at the junction after the steep hills). It's a scenic lake in the forest, well-visited by locals who do their washing and bathing. The rubbish top runners are washing powder and shampoo sachets, floating in the water. I enjoy my last swim of the day before I hit the road and pedal back to Raha.

As I'm coming into Raha from the south, I pass near "Tempat Mandi Jompi" (GPS JOMPI). It's at the end of a residential area and not far from Hotel Rambutan. The hydroelectric power plant has a little recreational area nearby and some place to swim or wash a motorbike. I reach there after nightfall, record a GPS waypoint, have a short rest and move on to Raha center. It was a 73 km day.

Dinner is warung food and Saraba, a hot drink made from tea, ginger, sugar and milk. At the warung I meet a group of Rahans who recommend I visit a place called "Pantai Bajala" in the west of Muna. This sand beach boasts three different colors of sand: Red, white and brown. Pantai Bajala is a 1.5h car trip from Raha. This time I'm not going to visit it, though.

From Raha to Kendari

My boat to Kendari is going at 9:00 am on Mar-13. This leaves some time for a visit to the market, where I find a cobbler to mend my bags and re-glue my Teva slippers (no chance to find size 43 quality replacements in Raha). I'm back to the harbour in time for the MV Sagori Ekspress. The ticket to Kendari is Rp 76,000.

Both the MV Super Jet and the MV Sagori Ekspress depart from Raha at 9:00 am. The Super Jet is sceduled to arrive at Kendari at 15:00, the Sagori Ekspress at 12:30 hours. Traveling on the Sagori Ekspres at 43 km/h + consistently, I see the Super Jet disappear on the horizon.

Kambu Waterfall near Kendari

Cycling to the Kendari University and Kambu Waterfall

Having reached Kendari and checked-in at Hotel Cendrawasih, I feel like cycling a bit. Kambu Waterfall looks like a good destination. I first ride south around the bay to the University of Kendari where I check out the nice university park and ask for directions to the waterfall.

Meanwhile I know it's not necessary to go to the university first, the direct way to Air Jatuh Kambu is this (16 km from the Cendrawasih Hotel):
Go around the bay anti-clockwise, past Kubra Hotel, left at the next roundabout, follow the road until "simpang tiga" where you turn right onto Jln Malakka. From "simpang tiga", follow Jln Malakka for 8 km straight (road becomes neglected after the police HQ, little traffic then). As you go, look out for a bridge with a mosque right after (left side of the road). Between the bridge and the mosque, turn left onto an unpaved, small road. This point is marked GPS 2WAFA8. Follow the road up to a dam (GPS DAM1) and from there to a man-made reservoir. There are stairs, go up (by now there are two local kids with me, showing me the way). Follow the trail / the water pipe until the path descents to the stream (left side). Walk upstream in the water until you reach the waterfall (GPS WAFA8). From the stairs, this is a 15 min walk.
Though it's the end of the rainy season, there is little water when I visit. My guides say it's a lot more when there's rain. Rain or no rain, Kambu waterfall is nothing spectacular: One tier, a small pool at the bottom, nice forest around it. Still a good destination for a half-day trip. As we return from the waterfall to the mainroad, I notice the kids' bicycles have working brakes and gears and when I mention it, they feel proud. Having arrived at the mainroad, we talk about playgrounds until dusk settles in.

The ride back to Kendari is smooth. Once back, I enjoy dinner in the area with all the seafood warung. At the hotel, I have the receptionist call me an airport taxi (Rp 90,000) for the next morning. Sleep, pack my stuff, check out, taxi is there, bike goes on the taxi, and I'm on my way to the Kendari airport. I keep an eye open for hotels on the road, not willing to believe there's nothing in the vicinity of the airport. I notice a hotel about 15 km from the airport and a resort about 10 km away. Next time I'm around, I will explore some more.
My taxi arrives at the airport well in time, virtually no traffic. Lion Air takes my bike without complaint and the flight to Manado feels exceptionally comfortable after all the land and sea transport of the past weeks. The air ticket is Rp 1,010,000 (KDI-UPG-MDC). The second leg of the journey is double safe with the safety card being supplemented by a prayer card (entering a Christian area).


I'm riding into Manado from the Airport on Friday, Mar-14. Feels that Manado has gone a lot more busy since my last visit, I ride through dense traffic. As I go, I survey the hotels that I come across:

Manado Accommodation (Mar-2008)

  • Hotel Vina Transit (GPS VINA) - the closest place to the airport, just 1.5 km from the terminal
    36 AC rooms ranging from Rp 160,000 to 205,000
    4 fan rooms at Rp 97,500
    Breakfast inclusive (nasi or roti)
  • Hotel Siladen (GPS SILADE) - 12 km from the airport
    7 VIP rooms: AC, attached bathroom, TV at Rp 70,000 to 100,000
    12 Standard rooms: Fan and attached bathroom at Rp 50,000
    No breakfast, facility is old and could need some paint, beds are clean. Not the best value.
  • Hotel Kawanua (Jln Sudirman 125, GPS KAWANU)
    25 AC rooms with attached bathroom, hot water, TV at Rp 120,000 to Rp 150,000
    Indonesian breakfast, Toyota Kijang for rent (Rp 450,000 per day, includes driver and gas)
    Airport drop is Rp 70,000 for guests and non-guests
  • Hotel Celebes (GPS CELEBE) - one of the top places in Manado
    A total of 75 rooms:
    Fan at Rp 60,000 to Rp 100,000
    Fan, attached bathroom at Rp 100,000 to 350,000
    AC, attached bathroom at Rp 125,000 to Rp 350,000
    Breakfast inclusive, add 10% tax
  • Hotel Minahasa (GPS MINAHA) - my choice because of the great pool
    5 Standard rooms: AC, attached bathroom, hot water at Rp 150,000 to Rp 181,500
    25 Superior rooms: AC, attached bathroom, hot water, TV at Rp 235,000
    Several new suites are being constructed on the very top
    Breakfast and coffee time inclusive, add 21% tax and service
    Swimming pool with a superb view of Manado, open from 6 am to 8 pm
    The pool is small but supplemented with a jacuzzi, a shallow pool for small kids, a bar
    A gym is just next to the pool
    If not staying at the hotel, it's possible to buy either a single entry to the pool (Rp 18,150)
    or a one-month membership (Rp 100,000)
    Van for rent (Rp 500,000 per day, includes driver and gas)
    From the hotel it is 17 km to the airport, takes 30..45 min depending on traffic
  • Galaxy Hotel (central location, GPS GALAXY, call 0431-863388)
    29 AC rooms with attached bathroom and hot water at Rp 150,000 to 350,000
    Indonesian breakfast inclusive, add 10% tax.
    The hotel is fairly new, has been opened in yr 2006
    The building also hosts a cafe and conference rooms
    Various cars are for rent, starting at Rp 350,000 inclusive driver and gas
Eventually I check into Hotel Minahasa - because I like the hillside location with a pool on top. It's not cheap but what the heck, these are my last two nights in Indonesia. Foodwise, Manado beats any other place I've been during this trip. I fill my stomach and eventually end the day with a night-swim in the hotel pool, enjoying the great view over Manado.

View of Manado from the Minahasa Hotel

The menu of the famous Mie Pangsit 99

Places of Interest in and around Manado

What's on my plate at the famous Mie Pangsit 99 Next day is shopping. In the morning, I ride south to Pasar Karambasan (GPS KARAMB) to find some spices. It's a big market and if it comes to food, the oddest things are for sale there. This makes it a great place for taking offending photos (not showing them here). Karambasan also has a large bus station.

My next target are the malls. Most of them are built along the sea and the gap between them is filled with smaller businesses. They are the typical Indonesian malls that host department stores, popular fast food chains, boutiques, consumer electronics & IT vendors, arcades and super markets. Several of the shops that exists in the business area between the malls do have branches inside one or more malls. These branches have not as much of a selection, so when I look for my size in slippers, I have to look outside the malls.

In the afternoon I visit Pantai Molas (GPS PMOLAS), the beach closest to Manado. It's roughly 10 km north of the city and the turnoff to the beach (GPS 2MOLAS) is hard to find. Pantai Molas is a small black sand beach that doesn't look too attractive and has no tourist facilities. Fishing villages are nearby. The water is shallow and I walk in far to be able to swim. The beach is surprisingly clean for being so close to Manado. Pantai Molas for sure can't compete with the beaches on the islands north of Manado.
Just south of Pantai Molas there are two dive operations, Nusantara Diving Center and the smaller Barracuda Diving Resort.

Another note on diving: During my stay in Manado, I hear of a dutch guy by the name of Max Ammer, the founder of Papua Diving. He operates in the Raja Ampat area (Pulau Gam, Waigeo, Batanta) where the world's best diving is said to be found. Max is a tough guy with excellent local relations, clearing any problem that competitors fail to overcome. His operation has been around for years and is going strong.

My flight out of Indonesia is next day. Again dense traffic on the road to the Manado airport. I make it just before a downpour starts. At the check-in, no problem with the bike an the excess baggage that I bring. Soon I'm sitting in the departure lounge waiting for the immigration counter to open. Meanwhile I have a go at the bag of rambutan that I have bought on the way to the airport. As I eat the fruits, ants start to appear and they seem to become more and more as I eat more fruits. Strange - when I bought them I had made sure there are no ants. I take the fruits into the washroom and carefully wash them. Back at the waiting hall, in spite of the wash, my snack turns into a little disaster with ants on the floor, over my hands and arms. Luckily, there's no people sitting around me and no cameras either. I speed up and try to contain the ants in the plastic bag with the fruits. When I'm through, I tie the bag close and dispose of it in the nearest bin, then hurry to the washroom. I return and take a seat at the other end of the hall, pretending to be busy with my cell phone. I think it all went unnoticed. Eventually the immigration officer opens the counter, clears the few passengers and I can proceed to my gate with a feeling of releave, leaving the ants behind. I imagine what would have happened if these ants had come aboard and made it into Singapore !

The open air swimming pool at Singapore Changi Airport

Singapore to Frankfurt

I arrive on MI273 in the evening of Mar-17. As always, Changi Airport appears to be clean, tidy and new. But is it really ? I check that my feet are clean, then walk barefoot from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 - and voila, no black feet, indeed a very clean place !

In order to kill the time until my flight to Frankfurt leaves, I seek out the open air swimming pool of the Ambassador Transit Hotel (Terminal 1). As a non-guest I'm allowed to use the facility for a fee of SGD 14, payable by cash or credit card. The fee covers a towel and a drink at the pool bar. I spend some relaxing hours, so much better than hanging around the terminals and shops.

Finally I leave on SQ26 and several hours later arrive in Frankfurt without any incident. Only as I pick up my bike, I notice that it has suffered again from the transport. Looks like they put bikes on conveyor belts instead of pushing them by hand. Well, it doesn't matter. I'm back to Germany where bicycle parts are widely available.


Cell phones in remote places of Indonesia

Some Indonesian words that were not in my dictionary

air manis = fresh water
bedak = traditional skin protection cosmetic, similar though not the same as Burmese Tanaka biawak = monitor lizard
dayung sampan = to row a boat
gelombang = wave
jembatan = bridge, jetty
johnson = prahu pakai mesin = small and medium-sized motor boat
kapal = ship
sampan = small boat without motor
sosis = sausage
tujuan = purpose, destination
menyelam = to dive, to snorkel
sumur (mandi) = well (for washing/bathing, not for drinking)

Stuff I should have left at home

Stuff I wished I had brought

Stuff that broke on my mountain bike

Checking-in a bicycle at Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport / Germany

Airlines strongly recommended bicycle boxes to avoid damage to bikes. These boxes are sold by FGS (Flughafen Gepaeck Service, +49-69-690-51211) in Terminal 1, Hall B, near conveyor belt 11 or you can bring your own. If bought at the airport, one box is EUR 30 and weighs around 5 kg. Bring your own adhesive tape to seal the box.

Reasons against using a bicycle box:

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