Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tomohon Indonesia

I am writing this during a 4 day reprieve from traveling at a dive center where we snorkel and laze around, sitting on our balcony overlooking the Manado sea. As we stupidly burnt our skins to almost unbearable tenderness on the very first snorkeling trip, we are really just reading, writing and sleeping. So the below was concocted in 3 or 4 "stop start" attempts. And in the end I consider it mediocre in content. As always the pictures will have to save the show.

Well, here I am at long last, in the city my parents, brother and I left in 1950, as the transition to the new Indonesian government was complete. The country side of this 27,000 plus people town is lush, abound in flowers, because we are at 800 meter or 2500 ft plus elevation above sea level. We are almost on the equator and between rainy seasons, but at this height temperatures are cool.

(Mt Lokon towers above Tomohon at 5130 ft or 1500 plus meters)
(Original homes on "dutch hill" from when we lived there)
(Below another example from 1935)

We flew in late afternoon in Manado about an hour away from Tomohon on the island of formerly Celebes now renamed as Sulawesi. However the tribal lands here are still called the Minahasi.

(Amazing building erected to lure Swallows to build nests inside for the famous gelatinous bird nest soup - we were told inside is a pool for the swallows to frolick in)

This a very Christian world. Tomohon is 70% Protestant in all possible denominations and 25% Roman Catholic. The final 5% is Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu. Old writings about this area of former head hunters, states often, that one finds a church on every street or about every 100 meters. Slightly exaggerated but in essence true. Dutch missionaries during the 300 years of colonizing in Indonesia and especially in spice rich Minahasa did such a good job, that during the time of transition from dutch colony to independent nation, the Minahasa requested to become the 12th province of the Netherlands.


(100 ft tall - 30 meter statue of Christ the Redeemer in Manado, 2nd largest statue after the Rio de Janeiro statue)

We stay at Gardenia, aptly called so, as the creation of Mrs Ratulangi's gardens makes it a little Eden. Although, we only witnessed little land frogs hopping around, thus we never saw Eden's resident snake to seduce us into eating the apple (maybe since we don't qualify as Adam and Eve in so many ways)

(Above and below Gardenia pictures)

Dokter Ratulangi, a relative of the well known Minahasan, Dr Sam Ratulangi, who was the first post colonial Indonesian governor of Sulawesi (my father must have had multiple dealings with the new governor), the island that we are visiting here, welcomes us and lays out a program of things we need to see in my rediscovery of the town of my childhood. He has studied the pictures sent and warns me not much remains anymore of what he saw in the photos he received.

(Just one example of extraordinary flowers teeming here)

We travel the next three days with Henry our driver guide who learned English in school and improved on that by singing English songs. He was one of the best guides we have had so far on our trip and he always managed to explain things to us in such a way that we grasped the meaning of what he wanted to convey. And in those instances that he did not find the words, he would never give up trying to get his story across.

(Nutmeg tree above papaya tree below)

What we learned from him:

Indonesia has 250 million people, Minahasa has 1 and 1/4 million people on the island of Sulawesi where 15 million people live. So this is an outpost of the country, where by the way the central government is not much liked.

(Local taxi)
(Above and below two churches my parents must have frequented - above one in Neighbouring Tandano I saw in an old picture - below the remaining protestant church from the 1930's left in Tomohon)
(Below "the meisjes -girls - school" remains, I must have been in a building next to it in those days)

There was even an uprising in the 1950's that lasted several years, demanding more autonomy, as Minahasans felt they were taxed poor and paid bottom prices for their crops by the national government who controlled the local spice industry for years.

(Local "main" road, asphalt)
(50 year independence statue right across from Japanese cave - Japanese used caves to hide in, store munitions in and torture locals suspected of dutch loyalty)

About 90% of all children here complete a 12 year education.

( rice fields all around us)

Another Henry statement: "Bali is western,not indonesian"

(Local amphitheater 1970's and below view from amphitheater)

Because of its temperate climate many rich Indonesians (Henry says Chinese people too) buy land here to build vacation homes on land outside the city that they buy at $0.80 a sq ft. Downtown land prices are 10 fold.

Henry and his forefathers believe that for home construction one should cut the wood during a specific phase of the moon cycle for the wood to last and be insulated against termites.

(Henry explains old tribal graves from the year 900 or so, where the dead were buried sitting in a crouched position above ground)
(the Dutch forbade the practice because of health issues with dead people sitting above ground)
(The grave engraving indicates a midwife was buried here)

Mt Lokon the mountain that defines Tomohon's skyline has erupted tens of times since July 2011 and just last month showered volcanic ash all over town. The benefit of all of this is very fertile soil for the flower industry (we see nurseries everywhere) and for general farming here (A lot of spice farming, like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg). The other slightly lower mountain Mahawu is more docile in its behavior.

(Statue of head hunting warrior)

Gas is rationed here (we see lines and lines of cars at the gas stations everyday). All along the roads you will see coca cola liter bottles filled with gasoline at a price about 25% higher than the gas station prices.

(Gas by the bottle roadside sale)

Global warming has changed weather patterns here and this last January heavy rains swallowed several sections and a bridge of the highway between Tomohon and the larger coastal city of Manado with a death toll of 31 people, several swept away in their cars on their way to work on an early Monday morning.

(Tangkoko Forest tree embraced by lianes)
(Macaque monkies in Tangkoko at a few feet distance apparently used to human visitors - Sandee liked the baby)


(We were impressed by these root systems)

The next day we visited the Tangkoko rainforest, where we saw macaque apes and the rare tarsier, a 31/2 oz, 3 1/2 inch monkey that lives during the day in holes in trees awaiting dusk, when the cicadas, their food source come out. Our guide led us to such a tree, where we saw the monkey in its protective place, shielding him from big birds and pythons. (I had not told Sandee about the abundance of snakes in this forest ahead of time) We waited an hour for him to come out at the time the cicada started serenading the forest.

(Tarsier or tarsus spectrum or ghost animal - a nocturnal animal)
(Since 2011 the official mascot of the sulawesi province)
(The tarsier can turn its head 360 degrees on his body)

It was a real treat to see this endangered species in its natural habitat at less than a 3 foot distance.
(Birds and insects found on our way to the tarsier)
(What we did not spot, but clearly heard, was the redknobbed hornbill bird)

The one amazing other experience was Tomohon's "export" product: beautifully carved wooden houses, erected on the spot with nails driven in halfway for easy dismantling and shipment to locations as far as Bali, at the cost of 17 dollar per sq ft.

(Wooden houses production site also showroom)
(Every completed home is lightly nailed ready to be disassembled for shipment)
(Coconut furniture in a back ally factory showroom - could hardly lift the chairs, forget about the table)

Another interesting factoid was that dokter Ratulangi, who was the director of the local catholic hospital we visited, qualified the hospital first and foremost as "clean". If that is the outstanding feature, what then to think of all other hospitals in the region?

(Tomohon's Catholic hospital built in 1934 - spotless clean)
( startled cleaning lady and posing nurses)
(Flowers everywhere on the hospital grounds)

And yes staff was everywhere disinfecting walls and ceilings, so it was definitely clean.

(Holland bakery downtown Tomohon)

We never found wine in the Indonesia we visited so far, which for us is a reason to look for more civilization.

( Neighbouring lake between hot geysers, changing colors every few hours)
(Downtown Main Street in Tomohon) ( below a roadside sate griller)

We visited the large and very famous market in Tomohon, where we found beyond spices, all kind of unusual proteins consumed here. Sandee has requested to post pictures of them at the end of this blog, so that the more sensitive among you can skip looking at them. To paraphrase, you will find pets among them.

( above and below: Cock fighting is still a betting game near the market)
Dried fish above and fresh product below)
(Grilled fish above and fresh pork below)
(Lizard for sale for tonight's dinner, and domesticated pork below)
(Wild black pigs above and I don't know protein below)
(Bats and at wings for sale above and dogs below)

(Rats on a stick ready for grilling)