Hello Mister! Hello Mister! Hello Mister!
And so it goes from dawn till dusk. The attention never lets up. Gangs of teenage girls on motorbikes screech to a halt and demand a photo shoot with the odd foreigners. Shy kids sneak a peek as we set up camp in their elementary school. Bold young men surround us at markets and hurl question after question as to what we’re up to in their seldom visited corner of Indonesia.
Not since the remotest corners of Africa have we caused such a stir.
To be honest, it’s a bit baffling. I mean, these people all have television and mobile phones. They’re in no way cut off from the rest of the world. Why on earth are they so damn curious about two smelly tourists on beat up bikes?
I suppose we ought to just be grateful for all the undeserved adoration. A far warmer welcome than the showers of stones we received from some Ethiopian youngsters.
If your idea of paradise is a sandy beach all to yourself then by all means come to Sulawesi. And bring along your bicycle if you don’t mind risking cardiac arrest on the steepest climbs in Southeast Asia. Yes, STEEPER than Borneo. Just goes to show that there’s always greater suffering somewhere down the road.
But of course we love it at the same time. Why else we keep slogging away for almost eight years? Even after so many countries and kilometers I never tire of the excitement of hitting the road at daybreak. I love the cool and calm of the tropics just before sunrise.
Within an hour or two the roads are bustling with kids hustling to school, men roaring by on motorbikes and arrogant drivers of fancy SUVs blasting their horns in an attempt to bully everybody off the road.
By 10 AM we’re drenched in sweat and when the sun hits its zenith and we’re struggling on a 20% grade,
Just then, nothing sounds sweeter than being confined to a climate controlled office block.
4 PM and the heat slowly dissipates, the sky turns lovely pastel hues and finally it’s time to call it a day. Rest, recuperate and repeat.