Thursday, 25 April 2013

Togean Islands (1) - Bomba - Seclusion and Isolation

Our hut
From the moment we arrived on the beach at Island Retreat we started to relax after our long three day journey from Pulau Derawan.  It was going to be lovely to be able to stay in one place for a week.

We were shown to our bungalow with a large veranda which had a huge hammock, strong enough to hold Paul so he claimed it as his own, a small table and a bench with cushions.   We were served a little lunch in the restaurant and proceeded to spend the rest of the day doing what we planned to do a lot of.  Absolutely nothing was on the agenda except to stare out to sea blankly and maybe wander down the pier to watch the sunset.

Paul would think about booking some dives the following day but first we needed to recover from our 3 day trip.
It was a lovely place to recharge our batteries.  The gardens were beautiful and green, and our bungalow was spacious and quite cool.  Breakfast was brought to our balcony every morning, lunch was served in the restaurant between noon and 1.00pm and dinner was around 7.30pm.

Sunset from the pier
Although Island Retreat is quite expensive and the huts are lovely, the facilities are limited to say the least.  In the bathroom there is no shower or basin, just an Indonesian bath which is a large tub of water next to the toilet with a scoop bucket which you use to shower with (and also to flush the loo).  It’s not the best option and actually quite difficult to have a proper wash and rinse so after 7 days we were both yearning for a shower.

Electricity was provided by a generator and was turned on for about 4 hours a night which meant that any nocturnal trips to the loo were by torchlight only. 

For the first few days the only guests were us and an older (older even than us) German couple who couldn’t speak very much English and seemed rather shy and we can’t speak German so mealtimes were fairly quiet.  Carlos, the dive master, and Mark ,the masseur, were both Spanish and although Carlos could speak English well Mark was just learning and also very shy.  It was left to Carlos to try and make a bit of conversation but otherwise we ate in companionable silence.

Barracuda for
The food was excellent.  We were served a combination of Indonesian dishes (a lot of rice and fish!) and western food.  The soups in particular were really tasty.  We had pizza twice and pasta twice which was a nice change from a constant diet of rice and noodles which we were beginning to tire of.

Paul did 6 dives on two days which he enjoyed but it was a he found it a little disconcerting that Carlos did not have a dive computer to either tell them how deep they were going or how long they had been submerged for.  Quite important details when you’re diving but they managed to survive to tell the tale.    

I spent most of my time reading and we also did a bit of snorkelling off the end of the pier but visibility wasn’t great so the photographs didn’t come out very well but we saw lots of different fish, some I hadn’t seen before, some I recognised from Derawan.  Again it was like swimming in an aquarium.

I also saw a blue spotted sting ray in the shallows which was beautiful if not a little weird looking.  I have never seen a ray before and this was a juvenile I think because it was just the size of a dinner plate and looked a bit like a pancake with eyes and a tail.  When it saw me, it swam under the pier and proceeded to bury itself in the sand until it was hidden from sight.  That meant that I wouldn’t go near the shallows for a while because once he was buried you couldn’t spot him at all.  One more thing to add the list of things in the ocean that terrify me.

Sunset over the rickety pier
One day we attempted to walk to Bomba village in order to stock up on cigarettes which weren’t available at the resort.  We were advised that at the far end of the beach there was a path through the jungle which led over the headland to the village.  We started out with good intentions but it had rained the night before and it was very slippery, particularly trying to walk up a steep hill on an uneven path of sorts on fallen twigs and leaves.  It was also extremely humid and overgrown and full of insects and who knows what other critters were lurking in the undergrowth.

We followed a vague path but when we reached the top of the hill the path seemed to run out.  We were both wearing shorts and neither of us had boots on so it was a little hard going.  We decided to turn back and then Paul went off to investigate another path but returned after 10 minutes to say that the same thing happened in that the path suddenly stopped and there was no clear way through the forest.

Chilling on the
In the end cigarettes were brought in on Sylvie’s supply boat and all our good intentions to hike through the jungle were abandoned.

Towards the end of our stay 3 more people joined us;  a German girl called Judy and a Swiss couple who have a cheese business back in Europe.  We soon established that before we left London, while on a trip to Borough Market we had bought some (very expensive) cheese from their stall.  We marvelled at how small the world is!  The cheese itself was a strong tasting hard cheese about the size and shape of a golf ball and rolled in pepper and it cost £8.00 (very extravagant).  However it really was very good cheese and just the memory of this strong tasting stuff that we would sparingly grate on vegetable gratin or pizza back when we had easy access to cheese (i.e. when we didn’t know we were born) meant that it was worth every penny.

Sylvie had several dogs and cats, and a family of chickens (which we suspect doubled up as the larder).  The dogs made a habit of sneaking in through the front door of our beach hut appearing miraculously by the side of the hammock on the veranda looking longingly at any leftovers from breakfast.  If you turned your back for a minute they’d make off with whatever you had left (there was always too much) and jump over the veranda and take it somewhere secret to eat it away from the other dogs. 

Another stunning sunset
We were also visited by “mice” during the night.  These “mice” were about 6 inches long and looked remarkably like rats and much to Paul’s irritation they gnawed through a slab of Marlboros.  Other than that they were harmless and trying to control rats in that kind of environment is fighting a losing battle.

On two occasions we had nocturnal visitors that we weren’t able to identify but they made one hell of a racket.  The first time they visited, they were so loud it sounded as though the roof had collapsed.  On the second occasion they were not quite so loud but we never figured out what or who it was.   Needless to say I tucked our mosquito nets in quite tightly every evening to keep everything out from mosquitoes to rats (and to prevent gecko shit landing on you in the night) but Paul always managed to tangle himself up in it and so it was amazing I wasn’t bitten more (by mosquitoes not rats).

Trekking through the jungle
Sylvie later told us that pythons were known to visit and she had lost lots of kittens and chickens (and on one occasion, nearly a whole dog) to these massive snakes.  This was after our attempt to find our way through the jungle to Bomba village as I would not have set foot in the tangled undergrowth had I known pythons were known to lurk there.

One evening just after sunset but before dinner we spent about an hour watching a gang of geckos devour a swarm of crane flies.  There were dozens of crane flies buzzing about the light and I counted at least 8 geckos on the veranda positioned around the window and the light which were attracting the flies.  We have never seen geckos move quite so much or so quickly as we have in Indonesia and neither did we know that geckos had such voracious appetites.   We weren’t sure whether we were imagining it but they seemed to be getting quite chubby right before our eyes.  By the time we left for dinner there was not a single crane fly left and a few moths had succumbed to the geckos too.
The gardens at Island Retreat

We certainly have noticed that the geckos in Indonesia are energetic little critters.  Unlike geckos we've seen elsewhere in the world (the type that cling to the wall, motionless until you glance away for a fraction of a second) Indonesian geckos are positive whirlwinds of activity.  And they enjoy a bit of a scrap too.  Many of the geckos were minus a tail (or their tale was in the processing of growing back) and looking at them attacking each other, it's easy to understand how they lose this appendage on such a regular basis.

The only insect which the geckos seemed a little reluctant to tackle was a praying mantis (although some were clearly thinking about it!).  She was absolutely beautiful, a vivid green colour with orangey red coloured eyes and when we approached you could actually see her head swivel to look at you head on.  When we returned to our room later after dinner, she had found her way inside our bungalow but she soon wandered back out again.
Praying mantis

Although we enjoyed our time at Island Retreat, Paul enjoyed his diving and we spent much of the time recuperating from our arduous trip to reach here, by the end of the week we were looking forward to heading somewhere with a bit of life.  Island Retreat is very secluded but cabin fever can set in and we did start to feel a bit isolated.

Next on our itinerary was to head up to Kadidiri which is a small island with 3 resorts on the same small stretch of beach.  After that we were originally planning to head to Malenge further east for a few days before heading back to Ampana and then Palu before catching our flight to Bali.

Paul relaxing with a friend
However, that plan changed when Paul spoke to Judy the German who recommended Donggala, a resort and an hour’s drive west of Palu.  We decided that we would make our way back in that general direction and being closer to Palu would mean we could avoid staying overnight there as there is nothing to do.

So plans were revised slightly to fit in with our ever tightening schedule making the most of the diminishing time we had left.


Lots of fish nibbling the coral

Stripey again
A clouded moray hiding

Yet another weird fish

Anemone fish
Another weirdo
Yellow fish and spikey starfish
Strange looking fish
More fish we don't know

Strange spotty specimen
Blue spotted sting ray

A barracuda on the hunt

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