“Luck is when preparation ……… .” Manado, January 23rd, 2012

My entire life has been simply great, almost every day fun and its continuing that way. Family and friends call me the “lucky one”. I like that but never really believed it, searching for the right words to explain it. Then, 10 years ago, at a friends wedding I meet an American priest who simply says what will become my life motto:

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

You do not get the desired job unless you apply for it. The bargain on a new TV you do not find unless you serve the net, read the papers adds. That beautiful women you do not meet unless you ask her out. Once in a life time events you do not have unless you go for the adventure, do a world tour…………… . My Indonesian trip was to become a collection of proof.

Reading the Lonly Planet the Komodo Dragons jumped to my eyes, 4 hours of searching later I had a 50 Dollar flight from Bali to Labuanbajo in Flores (one of the many island of the so called “Nusa Tenggara’s) with a rough idea of wanting to get to Sulawesi from there. On the plane Sunny (Indonesian married to an Italian women) talked to me. I was open, flexible and not shy to ask – luck is……… -- so we stayed at the same hotel and shared a boat (and its costs) on the 2 day boat trip to the dragons.

Its rainy season but Sunny, almost more energetic than me, and I decided to take the longer trek on Rinca island, through the river, the mod and high jungle crass. Luck is……………..while most see the lazy “zoo” dragons that hang around the rangers kitchen we got a few real wild ones, on the move, chasing one for 5 minutes and having a “wow” experience. Elegant creatures, truly deserving to be one of the an ancient species and easy to believe how water buffalos make it into their stomachs. A bit cruel though, they bite the buffalo injecting a bacteria, then hang around them till they slowly die within a week or though and then having a feast.

Snorkelling here was almost more exciting than diving in the Philippines and in term of riffs even better than Galapagos. After talking to a tourist who had done the trip already I was pushy to do the traditional village still the first day. Normally the tour guide only allow 10 minutes the morning of the second day as they need to get on. Luck is……………..we had over an hour before darkness set it, talked to the locals, got a tour, saw the one TV they have and I even played football with the boys. Great.

Only Sunny got me a bit upset. I always and everywhere refuse to give to children. Sunny, thinking he is doing good, bought a whole can of candy. The following video is the perfect example of what happens. Instead of being interested in us, our cameras, our clothes, our white skin, our language (as they where up to that point) the entire attention switches to candy. Even worse the learning effect, these children will start to ask for it next time. I have seen that and all who have been in Tunisia for example will agree.

The second day we spotted one big great manta but basically just went back to Labuanbajo and it was time to ask around how I get from here to Makassar. “It’s a long journey, first to this island, then a bus and then a ferry again …” and so on I got to here. I kept asking for various reasons. I did not really wanted to do the long trip, there is always other options and from experience the more you ask the more accurate the information becomes. Luck is……………….”well, once a month there is a big ferry going direct to Makassar” (which is where I wanted to go) à “When is it this month?” I asked à “tomorrow”. The chaos at a the ticket counter I avoided by starring at the guy behind the window who finally gives me his number and says come to the boat the next morning. I trusted him. The even bigger chaos at the boat I avoided by just sitting at the harbour watching it, believing things will fall into place as they always have on this trip. Finally I got on board, meet the ticket guy and get a first class cabin, riding in style. Having air con, a private shower, a big bed and 3 meals included makes you feel bad. The following video shows why, it’s the way from the cabin to the “dining room”.

I felt better after giving my water to a father and his crying child and enjoyed the dinner with the other backpackers. A Danish and Finish couple, 2 young Sweds and another Dutch guy where so much fun that I changed my plans, stayed with them in Makassar for a night (enjoying western infrastructure like Starbucks, a cinema (Mission Impossible 4) and a food courts including frozen yoghurt) and then taking the long overnight bus ride to the famous Toraja region.

This area is famous for its houses built in buffalo horn or ship shape (being discussed), its funeral customs and its traditional ceremonies. The first is a given, the second very likely as people die every day but the last is rather rare and has its seasons. It was very interesting to see this group acting together. They had a clear leader, all accepted that and everyone got along, had a good time. It was also interesting to perceive myself in this, taking a step back, not trying to run the show. It worked, I must have matured on this trip, smile. Nevertheless I was pushy on a couple of things, renting a bike and going to the tourist office for some more info beyond the lonely planet. Luck is……………..the lady tells me there is a traditional bull fight today starting a ceremony process just north of town.

The video is more exciting than it was. Most of the time the bulls where hanging around preferring to eat grass. But maybe its also our western attitude, our culture of having 30 second clips of all Messi goals of the season. The locals totally enjoyed themselves, got loud and excited when a bull was just looking into the other bulls direction. They did not let a lazy bull mess up there once or twice in a year festival.

For our taste the bull killing (as kick off of a funeral ceremony) the next day was exciting and for some a bit too much so. It’s really just a slaughtering. Depending on the status and wealth of the deceased up to 100 bulls get killed and, eaten and sold (revenues for the family). Its bloody, it stinks but I respect it as a tradition. Only when the guy started to take the brain out of an open head as a speciality for his family dinner I had to hold my breath for a moment.

The famous cave graves and other ways of burying people in this region did not impress us too much as trash was laying around everywhere or the Lonely planet description was raising to high expectation which happens now and then.

It was time to move on and it was time to listen to my gut. Its been a few days in this group, I liked it, I enjoyed it but I did not wanted to disturb the perfect team harmony they had. Turns out the Finish couple moves on as well so we shared the ride to a small town called Ampana from where we took the ferry to Togean Islands, a little divers and relaxers paradise. No electricity (generator form 5 to 11pm), not internet, no menu. “Only” set meals, water, beach and hammocks. I followed Michael and Eline to their chosen island, I pushed them to shop around for a better resort and I talked them into a long swim adventure to a smaller island 1km out into the water (see in picture back ground). Luck is……..it turned out to be 3 wonderful relaxing days full of fun (Michael has great humour), adventure (the swim and a 18m deep dive), card games, reading and good sleep. Even more important I had really nice conversations with Micheal and Eline, almost scary how Michael analyzed my weak spots and knew how to push my buttons, smile. . It clicked as I like to put it and I really hope they do send me an email so we can stay in touch someday.

Paradies is great but after 3 days I need to go on. Also my ferry onwards only goes twice a weak. For some reason, experience I guess, instead of waiting this time I made sure to be first on that ferry to be pushy. Luck is……………..I get the captains cabin and sharing it with a wonderful Canadian couple the costs where even lower than other options. The 3 of us also managed the 9 hour journey to Manado and again shared a hotel room. It was my lap top they used to skype with their parents about him proposing in paradise and the upcoming wedding this summer, yes.

Do not watch this video…………

unless you have a strong stomach.  It’s the traditional Tomohon food market in north Sulawesi and I visited on Saturday when everything is sold and eaten,  everything on 4 legs with the exception of tables and chairs. Ready?

Do not click on these fotos………….. unless you where ok with the video and eager for more. Especially the dogs are tough to handle. They steal them from the street. After a customer has chosen one out of the way to full cage, the guy kills them by hitting a metal bar on the head. After a few minutes of draining (urine mostly) they burn off the hair (that is why they are so black) and take out the intestines. Then its ready for Saturday dinner, yummy.

Sunday, the 22nd of January I fly from Manado via Jakarta and Singapore to Bangkok in order to get my Myanmar Visa. “A little optimistic” the other tourists reply in the long queue at the embassy as I tell them I need the visa today because my flight is booked for the next day. Five hours later I hold it in my hands, ready to go to an exciting country this afternoon. I had red online that it is possible to get a visa the same day, I had followed the news hat the political tensions are loosening up with recent visits of Hillary Clinton and the British prime minister. I thought that increasing tourism has poured money into a poor country and that there should not be a reason why the Myanmar government would want that to stop. I also had my back up plans going back to the Philippines in case of a denied visa. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

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  • gabor says:

    Jungle camp for experts – great!

  • JBiggs says:

    i thought is was Oprah who coined “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” haha… great pics man… you continue to impress!

    • frank4444 says:

      maybe it was her and the priest made it his. being in germany he thought noone notice. took 10 years but we learn the truth always wins. or oprah is the evil here, lets bring it on to people’s magazin, smile

  • thorsten says:

    hi franki,

    on my roots, haha. but as usual, frank the fast traveller, no real time on these spots, which are paradies. but we have different ways of travelling. but good, as it seems u liked indonesia a lot. wish u a good time in myanmar and wait for ur email answer.
    all the best.

    • frank4444 says:

      yes, we have very different styles of travelling I think. Never felt anywhere that I am leaving too early. That is what counts. Exceptions are the Phillipines and now Myanmar and I already have plans to come back here. Will answer your email when my internet is better. Next week maybe. FRANK

  • Stephen says:

    Oh man, this brings back good memories. I hit up all those spots in Sulawesi a few years ago and loved the place. This makes me really want to get back to Indonesia!

    Happy trails, bud.

    • frank4444 says:

      nice to hear from you and yes, Sulawesi is kind of special. I will answer your after turkey plans email once i have internet again in decent quality too look at pics you recommended. but chances are rather low, cost and time wise. on the other hand, you are right on the adventure and you pushed my buttons. Smile. FRANK

  • Juliet Wakelam says:

    Hi Frank, so you made it to Silawesi & the dreaded Makassar. Read the text but need more courage to look at the photos! Which Togean Island were you on?

  • goody kenia says:

    Hey is that the best stuff around there as butcher’s best offer? Had a taste?
    Frank. Take care!

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