Indonesia : Sulawesi + Raja Ampat – July 2017
Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Ah, Indonesia!!! My favorite destination for scuba diving! But before being able to make bubbles with the fishes, you sometimes have to face the dreaded jam karet, the "elastic time"...
A long trip to Indonesia
Yep! In this month of July 2017, I flew to Indonesia (again)! 😎 Getting to Jakarta, the capital, on the island of Java, is easy. It's after that that it gets tricky....
Nothing is ever certain when traveling in the immense Indonesian archipelago. A volcano can wake up (like the Sinabung, at the moment when I publish this post, at the beginning of August 2017). Or the weather to make his. In Indonesia, late flights are the norm and, on many bad roads, you never exceed 50 km/h. There, you never count in kilometers, but in hours. You are never sure when you will leave or when you will arrive. When you travel in Indonesia, the only sensible thing to do is to put yourself in "patience and zenitude" mode. And to tame the jam karet, the "elastic time"...
Any journey, any transport is potentially synonymous with hazards, delays, unforeseen events. You have to deal with it. And tell yourself that it doesn't matter. Because at the end of the day, you always arrive at your destination. Wonderful Indonesia, as the tourist office says.
For the first step of this new diving trip in Indonesia, I chose a remote area, quite far from the usual tourist routes. I've already done more twisted as a route, so I'm reasonably optimistic.
I booked in a tiny diving structure (only three bungalows for the moment, soon five), the nice Tompotika Dive Lodgelocated in Kampanar, a small Muslim fishing village on the eastern peninsula of Central Sulawesi. It is here:
It is far from everything and very nice. With, as often in the small Indonesian villages, the typical sound environment that goes well... 😂 Shrill cries of children playing, unexpected choir of dogs barking, backfiring of motorcycles and boat engines, hoarse cock-a-doodle-doo contest between roosters and very very morning calls of mosques...
I love to be in this kind of atmosphere and not much wakes me up at night. At the risk of sounding like a lecturer, I'll leave a little warning here for travelers who love "authentic": in Indonesia, the peaceful atmosphere of a village is not necessarily synonymous with silence and tranquility... 😉 I'm delighted with my stay in Kampanar. I will tell you about it in a future post.
So here it is. I arrived in Jakarta on July 1st at 7am, after a 15 hours flight from France. At the end of the morning, I took a domestic flight to the city of Luwuk, in Sulawesi, with the Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air and its subsidiary Wings Air.
I am supposed to land in Luwuk at 4:50 pm. I will then have only two-three hours of road to Kampanar. A driver sent by the Tompotika is supposed to pick me up at the Luwuk airport in the late afternoon. (Yes, long trips don't scare me, when it is to go diving... 😆)
But this Jakarta-Luwuk flight is not direct. There is a stopover and change of aircraft in Makassar, the big city of South Sulawesi. And it is there that the jam karetthe famous "elastic time", takes its rights...
At the Makassar airport, at the boarding counter for the connection, the young woman in charge of receiving the passengers tells me to sit down and wait. The flight will be delayed.
Good. Nothing more normal, in Indonesia. In fact, I was rather surprised by the punctuality of the first plane between Jakarta and Makassar...
30 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and a half pass. I come to ask again at regular intervals if we always leave from the same gate, the 5th one (because I've already had the unexpected change of gate, at the airport of Makassar). Yes, yes, they reassure me. And they reconfirm the delay.
I am coolitude and zenitude embodied. Jam karet ...
Late afternoon. Of course, by being late, the flight ends up being cancelled!
"Bad weather in Luwuk", an employee of the airport explains me. An Indonesian with whom I chat tells me that he called a friend in Luwuk, and that it is the deluge, there! A huge storm, with waterspouts. 😱
The small crowd of passengers who had been waiting patiently in front of gate 5 then followed an airport attendant in an orange vest, who led us through the corridors to the entrance of the terminal, where we were all ushered into the lobby of the Ibis Budget hotel. I remembered that I had already slept here, between two planes, during previous trips to Raja Ampat. We can hear the airport announcements in the rooms!
Everyone has to hand in their ID and boarding pass at the reception. We are lodged there for the night. It's a bit of a mess, I almost ended up in an Indian businessman's room (we were the only two passengers with foreign passports, we thought we were traveling together 😂).
But in the end, everything is not so bad. We just have to wait. The time stretches again, endlessly. Jam karet ...
Three guys from the airport come and go, collecting the checked luggage of those who ask for it. I am soon reassured to see that my bag followed me to Makassar.
The flight is postponed to the next morning, at 6 am. All you have to do is present the same boarding pass and leave the tags on your luggage. I get the information repeated three times to be sure of the time. By the guy at the airport. By the Lion Air office employee. By an Indonesian passenger speaking good English.
I did well to buy a local SIM card at an airport store when I arrived in Jakarta. I was able to keep my contact for Tompotika up to date as I went along.
In the evening, two employees of Lion Air come to knock at my door. They confirm me again the flight of 6h and ceremoniously give me 300.000 Roupies (about 20€, it's huge for there, I ate for 30.000 Rp) of compensation in bills of 50.000, against the signature of a receipt and the photocopy of my passport and my boarding pass. I am pleasantly surprised, finally the company manages the situation rather well, I think.
At dawn, I meet again in the lobby of the Ibis Budget the guy speaking good English with whom I had talked the day before. I'm a bit undecided: should we wait here for the airport employees? He tells me that we can go there directly. Other passengers whose faces I recognize are there. A woman with her daughter, and another guy. We decide to go all together.
Here we are again, waiting in front of the famous gate 5. There is no sign, no screen, no announcement concerning our flight. We have to wait, that's all. Yeah, it feels like jam karet, That... My Indonesian companions don't seem more worried than that. The young woman bought buns, she offers us one to each. We chat, we joke. But I am much less relaxed than them.
Finally, shortly before 6am, we are signalled to board! Phew, no jam karet About an hour later, here I am on the tarmac still shining with rain of the airport of Luwuk.
A young man wearing the Tompotika T-shirt is there to welcome me. He takes care to get my bag and to carry it to the car where the driver is waiting for us. And here we go all three for Kampanar!
Flooding on the road
Very happy to be finally in Sulawesi, I am in a good mood despite the rotten road (jalan rusak) and gray weather. I jibe everything I know about Bahasa IndonesiaI'm doing selfies with both guys, who are thrilled. It's still raining a little at times.
And then at the end of one hour and half of road, after a fork, we must turn back. I learn a new word: Banjir. Flood.
We can not go through there, the road is impassable. We will try another route. Jam karet ...
But via the alternate route, it's the same. We soon find ourselves immobilized behind a long line of vehicles. The river of the corner and the rice fields overflowed on the road. Then we wait. The driver and the guy of Tompotika leave to the news. Not serious, I have water, cookies. The time lengthens still. Jam karet ...
It will be necessary that a car, stuck in front, decides to try the crossing and succeeds, so that the other drivers, including mine, are emboldened and imitate it.
I let you appreciate the atmosphere, with the little video shot with the iPhone below... 😉
Finally, we will take more than five hours, instead of the estimated three hours, to reach Kampanar. Coolness and Zenitude, I am. Wonderful Indonesia. Jam karet ... 😂