We decided to extend our day in Makassar by another day so that we could visit a nearby national park which featured the Air Terjum Bantimurung (Bantimurung waterfall). We’d heard that it was a pretty decent waterfall, and a great way to escape the heat and noise of the city.
Rather than take a taxi for the 42 kms, we decided to jump on to local transport, using pete-pete’s. These are like bemos in Bali (and known by other names in other parts of Indonesia – essentially small vans with two rows of seats running along either side. You can flag them down from anywhere and are dirt cheap. In our case, we needed to take 3 of them to get to the waterfall. I had read it would take about an hour.
It was a long hot ride there, but the waterfall was going to be worth it. Peaceful, clean – a nice respite from the city.
Once we arrived, the warning signs were ominous. The carpark was full of motorbikes.
There were crowds of people walking towards the entrance. But how bad could it be?
Not only was it a Sunday (a popular day for Indonesians to head out for a day of fun) it was also the end of Idul Fitri (the end of the Ramadaan fasting period) – so it was a big holiday all round.
I think of all Makassar was here. Thousands of people. Families with kids, groups of friends, young and old – they were all here. There was hardly a vacant spot to sit down.
Not that we would have been given the chance as we were continually stopped to have our photos taken. Not only the kids, but mothers, fathers and grandmothers wanting us to pose with their kids, or with them. Afterwards, they always shook our hand and thanked us. Ever so polite, and honoured to talk to us.
It was almost embarrassingly – it really felt like we were walking around like royalty, and were hardly deserving of the accolades. I had one women have her toddler child shake then kiss my hand (a sign of respect). They would often shake our hands, then place their hand on their heart, another sign of respect. And the staring! Now I have sympathy for the monkeys in a zoo!
I needed to go to the bathroom at one point and I knew that this would not be the place to want to use a public toilet, but I really had no choice. So I held my breath, walked in and expected to find the usual squat toilet where it’s a mission to hold your trouser legs up off the floor as you do your business while keeping balance. But no, there wasn’t a squat toilet to be seen. It was simply a tile floor with a small drain in the corner. Afterwards, you just hose it away. Interesting, to be polite about it.
We went up the walkway beside the waterfall and headed along a path where the crowds thinned out to our relief. But it was still slow going due to the photo opps. At the end of the walk we ended up at a cave, which goes in for about 100m or so. Excellent – maybe they wouldn’t notice us here in the pitch black. But no – they spotted us. So we had more photos taken in the dark!
Cow crashes, volcanoes and earthquakes
For an area that many people at home have never heard of, it sure has been featuring a bit in the local papers lately – and not for the right reasons!
First there was the cow v-s plane crash on Sulawesi where a plane hit a cow on the runway as it came in to land. . This was followed by a volcano eruption on a tiny island south of Sulawesi which killed 5-6 people and then an earthquake hit in the Maluku Islands. We didn’t feel it, and weren’t even aware of it until friends in NZ told us about it.
We weren’t anywhere near the cow crash, but a friend who we to catch up with in Makassar was due to leave the Gorontalo airport immediately after the accident – and got stranded there for days due to cancelled flights along with his wife and two young kids. And this was during Idul Fitri – the end of Ramadan celebration where almost the entire Muslim Indonesian population is on the move. The cow crash caused chaos disrupting many flights – just as thousands of Indonesians were flying home at the end of the holiday. Who would have thought a cow could cause so much disruption? Apparently it took 2-3 days to get the plane moved off the runway. In the end, they hired a driver for the 10 hour drive to Manado from where they could eventually fly back to Makassar. He just about fell to his feet with exhaustion when he finally arrived at our hotel. We bought him a very big, very cold beer – he needed it. There is now apparently some question over whether the cow was on the runway, or whether the plane skidded off the runway and hit the cow – but I guess we won’t be reading much about this in the local papers as it gets swept under the carpet.
Whilst none of these events impacted us directly, it’s a good reminder of how interesting things can get in the area!
Extended stay in Makassar
It was our intention to leave Makassar ad head down to Bira Beach for a few days – but once we realised the realities of getting there (5-7 hours each way by private driver, depending on who you believe) and that the beach may not be all that we desired, we decided to bunker down in Makassar for another few days. But we treated ourselves to a hotel upgrade, and found one on the waterfront, with a pool.
The new hotel (Makassar Golden Hotel) is actually pretty good and gives us a nice retreat from the busy-ness of the city. It’s amazing what a pool can do to restore you after a hot day of slogging it around town.
One quirky thing at the hotel is that they have the national anthem and other national songs playing in the corridors of the hotel. Loudly. Over and over. Each time we leave the room we can’t help but march in time to the music. I’m not sure if the music selection is normal, or just for the upcoming Independence Day celebrations. Either way, anyone watching the CTV camera will be entertained with our marching step antics. The only problem with the music is that it’s played all night long. Loudly. Fortunately, the walls are thick and we’re usually too exhausted at night for it to be a problem. I’d hate to be a light sleeper here!
At dinner tonight at local-style pub kind of place, they also played national music. I recognised one song from a school trip I did in 1979 – ‘’Halo Halo Bandung’” and could actually remember some of the words. (Thinking of you, Anita!) Two days later and it’s still stuck in my head.
Overall, I had low expectations of Makassar, thinking it was just another busy city. But it actually kind of grew on me. And this was primarily due to the welcoming and friendly nature of everybody we came across. I always worry about wanting to take photos of locals when travelling – but had no qualms about it here. They took more photos of us than we did of them!
We visited a beautiful mosque and again we were made to feel very welcome, with people encouraging us to go in, to take photos and wanting to chat. I spoke to one chap who was a university lecturer and was the same age as my dad. I told him this, and declared him to be my father when I’m in Indonesia. He had a good laugh at this and enthusiastically agreed.
The captions on all the other photos in the slideshow below will give you an idea of what else we got up to here. We only intended on being here for 2-3 days at the most, but stayed for 6. I have no regrets about that – Makassar is one of the friendliest places I have ever been.
Slideshow: you wanted photos, you get photos!