BootsnAll Travel Network

Palu to Poso

Rant warning; the following (backdated) entries up to January 20th are a largely uncensored account of my experiences in Indonesia. Solo travel in Sulawesi drove me to the verge of a nervous breakdown (yes, really) and isn’t recommended for the feint-hearted. There have been many downs, but also some spectacular ups. This, my second day off the Pelni ship, was one of my lowest points until I got to Makassar:

It’s nearly Christmas and I considered going to Manado in order to spend it in civilisation. However, Manado is the gateway to the Moluccas and it is too early for me to go there—I’d miss all of Sulawesi. The Bunaken Marine Park is no longer worth a visit if I am to believe the officer I spoke to on the Tidar. In short, there is nothing that should draw me to Manado right now.

On the other hand, looking at the map, Poso seems to be a better option. From there it is easy to get to the Togean islands (via Ampana) and to Tana Toraja. So after a good night’s sleep (and being woken up by a pesky child banging at the door with a cup of tea at bloody 6:30 am) I changed my plans and decided to head to Poso to resume my adventure. So what if the town is a backwater—it can hardly be much worse than Palu. Supermarkets, washing machines, internet access and (sadly) restaurants—let alone those that serve beer—are a thing of the past: from now on, my social life will resolve around wooden sheds which sell soft drinks and shampoo in one-portion sachets, screaming children (and sometimes adults) and honking horns from every car or scooter that passes me.

Might as well dive straight in.

We’re back in sweety country. In my opinion, getting candy instead of coins as change is a pretty good indicator of the developmental state of a nation. Of course I can’t use them for payment, so they just accumulate in my bag where they eventually dissolve and get sticky. Giving them to the kids is not an option if I want to avoid drawing any more attention than absolutely necessary. Even Peter Moore’s goat index is holding up: goats were nibbling at the shrubs by the wayside. Chickens scratched in the dirt next to an oversized and freshly painted municipal building. And walking on the crumbling side walks was like trekking on a rocky trail.

Eventually I got to a bus station overlooking a muddy parking place and a cattle enclosure. I could not help thinking that Palu is the most buccolic city I have ever seen. It made me wonder whether I have made the right decision with regard to my intinerary.

I bought a soft drink and sat down on a rocky bench, still reeling at the guys cackling at my attempts to communicate in Bahasa—none of them ever had to learn a foreign language. This isn’t going to be easy; but I wanted to travel in Indonesia so I had better get on with it.

I won’t be sad to leave Palu. One hour to go. There was no place to hide around here. Taking out a book or writing in my journal served as an invitation for everybody to sit down next to me, peek over my shoulders or grab at my book/journal as if they were curious monkeys. The best option was just to sit still and stare vacantly ahead.

I had gotten of the local bus and walked the last bit to escape he attention of two conductors who were making ‘kissy-kissy’ noises at me and rubbing their fingers together. I had only walked a short distance, stopping in a Warung for some Nasi Kunning for breakfast, but I was already exhausted. yesterday it had taken me three hours to find an internet café (probably the only one in Palu). There are plenty of computer shops around here, but they exist to print out letters—the twenty-first century version of men sitting at roadside tables with typewriters. This morning, the internet café was still closed so I could not email John to tell him where I was headed.

I must be a mad-woman to leave this local hub of civilisation behind.

Christmas in Poso should be interesting (I have no hope in hell to make it to an idyllic island getaway on time). According to the Lonely Planet, Poso is the centre of religious violence in Sulawesi, but that is about all that the guide has to say about it.


The bus arrived long after dark with the rain lashing down almost horizontally, but the driver kindly stopped in front of a Losmen with clean, reasonably priced rooms.

After the long drive, all I needed was a beer and some food. There were plenty of Warungs, but none that sold alcohol. After half an hour of fruitless searching, soaked through to the bone, I gave up and walked back to the Losmen, having lost my appetite. Later I would find out that, with regard to beer, Poso is completely dry.

Just before I got back, the electricity failed and the already bleak town was plunged into complete darkness. Feeling my way across the corner to the Losmen, I promptly fell into a ditch, screaming with frustration. Luckily I hadn’t injure myself but in the darkness I could hear more cackles.

I’m not enjoying this.

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