Trip report for Raja Ampat and Sulawesi
1. Raja Ampat
Left home saturday morning, took the train to Frankfurt from where I was supposed to fly to Singapore and then connect to Jacarta. The 11 hours flight to Singapore was loooong... I wasn't able to sleep so I cursed myself for always booking those damned long distance flights... We arrived in Singapoe a little bit later than planned but that was not a problem since I had enough time. Bought wound disinfectant that I had forgotten and walked over to the gate. We boarded the plane and then I was out.... tired to the bone. I know that we had heavy turbulences but my mind was too foggy from sleep that I didn't care.
Let me tell you something about Singapore Airlines. Back in the days when I had to go to New York a lot I always tried to fly SA. Their business class is a dream but so far I had never flown economy. And I have to say that their service is really, really good. After take-off I treated myself to a Singapore Sling a cocktail that has been invented in Singapore and they gave it for free. It is good too...
When we arrived in Jacarta I was quicker at the 'Visum fee' counter than most others so I had my fee paid in a heartbeat. Immigration was fast as well, my luggage arrived and outside someone from the hotel was already waiting for me. My flight from Germany arrived around 8:30 AM but the one to Papua leaves at 5 AM. So I had one day to 'kill' in Jakarta.
On the way from the airport to the hotel I could see the bottles with gas at the edge of the road (I knew what it was because I had seen that in Sulawesi last year). There are a few canals around the airport and I saw people washing in them. Themselves and clothes. Once checked in I directly went to sleep some more.
At 1 PM I was finally able to drag myself out of the bed again and took the hotel shuttle to the airport again. When we passed a church a young guy sat under an umbrella in the middle of the road and what made it so remarkable for me was that the taxi driver in front of us held a hand out of the window and the guy had a fishernet that he held over. So it looks like he was collecting donations in this fishernet. Shortly after that we came at a big crossing and I saw the boys running after a truck. The biggest (10 years max) was able to get on the truck and get a ride while the two smaller ones didn't make it.
At the airport I was looking for SIM cards. The guy from the travel agency had told me that he has a small mobile WLAN modem and that it works fine in Raja Ampat. I knew my hotel there had satellite internet but the SIM Card doesn't cost anything so I didn't want to spend a lot of money if I could easily save it. At the airport I found a shop that had the SIM cards but I didn't see any employee in there. After I had glanced around I suddenly saw a woman raising her head (she was hidden before), she looked at me, head went down again and I was dismissed. I was about to laugh... So I continued looking and found another shop with a guy who spoke english and he sold me my internet SIM card and then (as safety) I wanted to have another one for my phone too. Spent too much money on text messages when I was in Mexico... Didn't take any pics that day and when I was at the airport I regretted not having brought my cam. Often I take pics just to remind me of certain situations so I don't forget. I would have loved a pic of the guy with the fihernet collecting donations in the middle of the road.
Forgot to tell a few things: when I arrived in Jakarta I went back into the airport while waiting for the shuttle because I wanted to use an ATM. There seem to be lots of muslims here (lots of women with their hair covered) and when I walked by I saw one with a luggage card. She had a protection over her mouth and when she saw me coming she moved backwards. This struck me as odd as I wasn't going to embrace her... But I made sure to stay away from her since that was obviously what she wanted. The entire airport smelled of this stinking sticks but I guess that was to keep the moscitos away.
When I had dinner at the hotel restaurant that night I saw on the menue that the only beer they had besides two local ones was Corona... I had very good food and I guess it was the start of my '4 weeks rice diet'....
The flight over to Papua was a little bit chaotic. I arrived at the airport very early and was really astonished that at the check in counter people were stepping back so I could check in first. When I went up to the gate a woman started to talk to me and with hands and feet we established that she didn't speak english, I didn't speak indonesian, that I was going diving and that we were both flying to Sorong... :D Another older couple came by and greeted me with a friendly 'hello'. I was really positively surprised how nice people are even in Jakarta. The flight itself was the problem. I didn't know that this was not a direct flight and it was hard to understand the english of the flight attendants. When we landed in Makassar I understood that we had to take all our personal belongings with us. When I re-entered the plane I saw that I had been the only idiot who actually had done that.... ;)
When I arrived at the airport in Sorong I saw that children were playing close to the runway. It is a small airport and definitely not in line with european security standards... on the flight someone who looked like Edy Murphy's father in 'The prince of Zamunda' sat close to me. The guy with him nearly shoved me aside when we arrived and when I stepped out of the plane I saw that a photographer was taking pics and he was being brought away by two smaller cars. Looks like I was sitting close to a VIP! Wasn't the king of Zamunda though.
When I stepped into the terminal area Romy was already waiting for me. Since there were only two non-indonesian persons on the flight it was not really hard for him to find me. While we waited for my two suitcases I saw this:
Romy explained to me that indonesians love soccer and the german flag on the airport bus was in honour fo the german national team. Then the luggage arrived and it was not hard to find my suitcases because indonesians LOVE to travel with cardboard boxes. So there were more boxes than suitcases.
The boat to the resort goes only once per week so they need to wait till all guests have arrived. Romy brought me to a hotel close to the airport where I had a late lunch and could wait. There I met Shani and Chris from Australia who were two of my buddies for the week to come. When the last flight was about to arrive Romy came to get us and bring us to the harbour where we were waiting for the other guests.
The last group (from Australia as well) had difficulties with their luggage at the airport so when we were finally ready to leave it was already pitch dark. We had another 2.5 hours boat ride and during that ride I promised myself that I would never ever travel again in my life. I had left home saturday morning and by then it was monday evening...
We arrived at the resort shortly after 10 PM where we were greated by Mel and Dex, the managers. We just had a short look at the bungalows and then we had dinner. First glimpse on my bed for the next two weeks... I probably don't have to mention that I went to sleep shortly after dinner.
The next morning I woke up to the sun shining and saw the view from my bungalow for the first time:
And yes, I DID spend a lot of time in that hammock... LOVED it!
When I walked over to the jetty for the first dive I saw my first and only epaulette shark (he is being called 'walking shark' as well since he walks on the ground)
That batfish followed us most of the time during the first dive.
Giant clams ARE giant in Raja Ampat...
Lots of fish in Raja Ampat
And here are the bungalows... mine was the fourth from the right
And my travel companion....
Day 6 started again with two dives in the morning. Here are some impressions...
The black thing is the biggest nudibranch I have ever seen
One of the most beautiful scorpion fish I have ever seen
The afternoon once again did not follow plan A... That day we went birdwatching. First in the jungle and then on the boat. On our way to the birds....
Banana plantage.... I was surprised that the trees can survive with the other plants covering them completely
On our way up the hill....
That was still the easy part. It got much steaper than that and with my slippery dive boots I was afraid that on the way back I would go down on my butt... But it was easier to go down - to my big surprise.
This is where we were looking for the red birds of paradise
We saw one...
This is some of Joe's very delicious cake... *yum*
Then we went to see the cassuaries (I think...)
It was quiet and peaceful on the lake...
And there they were...
And once again the sky in flames...