19 August 2008 Tuesday
We had the opportunity to get some washing done, so we loaded up three large bags with most of our mouldy clothes, towels and sheets and headed inshore to meet our 9am pickup. The bus stopped off at a laundry and the minders took our bags in leaving us on the bus, and then took us off on another tour – leaving Lex, Jim on Lothlorien, Steve on Serenity 2 and the two Waynes on Cruise Missile to carry out maintenance. Lex has been sick for two days now with high temperatures, racking cough, and heavy sweating. He’s picked up some kind of cold or flu I think, as he has a bad cough as well. Administering paracetamol and fluids, and trying to get him to take it easy. [Yeah right, but the last of the major maintenance issues are now sorted, antibiotics are underway and he may be able to resume a more normal state of being.- Lex].
We were given a fantastic tour of the outer parts of Manado – Minihasa area, Gunung Lokon, an active volcano (which last erupted ONLY two years ago…), a huge freshwater lake, and some wonderful villages full of typical Minihasa design houses. Lunch was excellent (fish again, but in a few different ways) at a private art gallery set in amongst rice paddies and market gardens. I was really quite relieved to see fish on the table, as the guide sitting near me had been explaining the finer points of Minihasan traditional food, and seemed to take exceptional delight in assuring me that the cooking and eating of dog and rat were an essential part of any Minihasan celebration. I’m sure he said that the restaurant we were headed for specialized in these meats, so I was a bit distracted for the rest of the trip before lunch, trying to choose between offending our hosts by refusing the specials, or offending my stomach by complying. Thankfully the lunch was all very kosher for an Aussie. The guide said that the rats are about 18 inches to 2 foot long, with white tails, and live underground in the forest. (rabbits, I told myself, maybe they’re just large underground rabbits) They use dogs to dig them out of their burrows. Hah – main course digs up the entrée.
In Ternate, our guide Kris told us with a shrug that there was a mosque every 25 metres. In Manado, it’s a church. Seriously, sometimes they were only 50 metres apart, and certainly at least every 200 metres in some places. Catholic and various Protestant churches make up over 80 percent of the religious beliefs, with the remaining 20 percent Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, according to our guide. Statues feature strongly, on rooftops, in streets, and alarmingly a giant Jesus flying out from the crest of a high hill overlooking Manado. It must have been 60 feet high, painted white. We passed through lots of fascinating villages but sadly didn’t get a chance to walk through any of these, instead stopping at a couple of tourist spots to sight-see. Once we left the outskirts of Manado city, the road climbed up through lush forests to 800 metres where we stopped at the gallery for lunch. Lush is the only word that adequately describes the growth here. The soil looks incredibly rich – and deep, judging by excavations we passed. The trees keep it on the hillsides. In Tomohon village a flower festival was underway. Every house had a maze of pot plants and nurseries were cheek by jowl down the main street. Every second vehicle sported a floral wreath on its grille.
It might have been better to stop in the villages and get out for a closer look, but one of the advantages of bus touring, I discovered, was the glimpses into local life that it offered. Tantalising vignettes that flash past but leave a lasting impression: a shabby little house with a garden of huge rampant orchids; a woman peering into a hand mirror in a window of a tiny roadside shop, touching her hair; a toddler throwing a tantrum on the footpath, its grim-faced grandfather looking the other way; a well-dressed young woman perched on a stone wall beside the road, waiting for a bus, and being passed by a man driving a pair of yoked oxen pulling a cart with wooden wheels; an open window at which a child peered out and a woman vigorously brushed her teeth, a man cross-legged on a stone wall right on the road verge, pulling a tiny fish out of the water with a bamboo pole and line and a satisfied smile on his face; women inside the kitchen of a tiny house on a corner where the bus was negotiating a three point turn, who stared for a moment, then burst into delighted laughter and waved madly. Every time we made eye contact with anyone outside the bus, which was often, they smiled and waved. One memorable occasion in Ternate, we were coming back from dinner and the bus was doing its breathtaking Harry Potteresque squeeze through the narrow streets. The houses open straight onto the streets – no front garden to separate the two. We pulled up for a few moments outside a house, and could see straight into the front room where a man and woman were sitting. They could see us inside the bus, and instead of hurrying to close the curtains, waved cheerfully and laughed, as we all waved and laughed back.