Jim Harrison

Joined February 2017
  • Day22

    Santa's Village

    March 8, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Here are a few more pictures, this from the village about 20 min. walk from our villa. The name is one we gave it because of the numerous boxes hanging about with red, green and an evergreen tree silouhette. Perhaps it was a school craft project? At any rate, all were very friendly, both adults and children. A few of the children (Michelle, Raphael, Emanuel and ?) gave me a bicycle escort through the village and what could be more welcoming to this bicyclist than that? Frequent calls of "Hey Meester, good morning!" Even the cars and motorbikes on the walk tooted and greeted. It all seemed so genuinely cheerful. More like a homecoming than a touristic amble.

    Also in the village was my first sight of nutmeg and cloves drying. They were the chief spices of the Spice Islands (along with mace) and so it touched my historical interest for coming here: the desire for these and pepper really changed the course of humanity. The cloves when fresh (pic below) are colorful red and yellow before drying into the coffee-brown we see back home. There also was corn growing at just above the high tide line (pic below) and why it can be so salt tolerant is beyond me. Here, like other villages we have seen, the speed bumps are small coconut trunks halved lengthwise and laid across the road.

    Lastly, dear reader, is pictured a typical scooter hawking stuff. Note the Lucky Strike banner in the background.

    Selamat siang! (Good day!)
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  • Day22

    Villa Manare

    March 8, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Our last stop before beginning the trip back home was a villa we rented overlooking the Celebes Sea east of Manado. When we chose it we anticipated some serious levels of inactivity and indeed we were successful. So, dear reader, this post is one of indulgence such as we have never done before. If you're not in the mood for reading about near-shameless self gratification, stop reading now and wait for the next post.

    Villa Manare is the future retirement home of a French diplomat. Very tastefully decorated 3000 sq. ft. on a high bluff, it came with infinity pool and a staff that prepared very tasty breakfasts and dinners in Indonesian style. And all very cheap at about$120/ night that included the 90 minute each way airport trips. So lots of reading, lounging and dips in the pool while watching the fishing boats and tropical clouds. Definitely a new style and luxury that had just enough spicing with guilt to make it even more special. We did do a little kayaking and snorkelling from the beach below, did have exert ourselves getting the binoculars to our eyes for the various birds alighting nearby.

    The master bedroom was at bluffs edge and provided a 140 degree view from the bed, even better from the deck. Temps of 75-85, light winds and no bugs allowed all doors to be always open to sounds of the seashore and birds. Also the occasional gecko screech.

    The food was a variety of vegetable dishes with pleasant light spicing, fresh fish twice, some fried corn/ pepper cakes and desserts of fresh fruits. Breakfasts of fried rice, eggs and fruit unless we preferred a more American bacon, eggs, toast and fruit. Espresso anytime. Fortunately no weight scales anywhere.

    I suppose I should mention our walks to a nearby village, but that will be the subject of a second post and pics.

    At any rate, it was a great choice (thanks Lauren!) for our last stop. Here are some pictures of villa and views. Enjoy, I need to rest now after all this writing.....
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  • Day18

    More Tangkoko pictures

    March 4, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Here are a few more photos. A troop of macaques with Lauren and I behind, A nightime photo of a Sulawesian nightjar called in by Alfretz. A female macaque. A closing the road through the village for a wedding. Our cook getting some supplies out front in a model of home delivery unmatched by Amazon.

  • Day18

    Tarsiers in the Tangkoko

    March 4, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Welcome dear reader to the forest-tour section of our journey for a short stay at the Tangoko Ranger Home Stay and a look in the Tangoko National Park. This area has a high number of unique species as befits its location where Australia tectonically met Asia millions of years ago. Most come here to see the tarsiers, the smallest primates in the world, able to fit in the palm of a hand. They come out of tree hollows at dusk so a guide to find them and one's way home is essential. In addition we saw troops of black macaques, huge and brilliant crested hornbills, a variety of kingfishers, hair crested drongos, a type of dollar bird and other crazy stuff. The other notable critter was a cuscus. They are a marsupial like kangaroos, moving slowly in trees like sloths.

    Part of what makes this area interesting is that there is a distinct boundary in animal types based upon the geologic origin of the particular island: from the Australian or Asian tectonic plates. A naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace collected many species throughout this region over a period of years. He is credited with having independently derived the notion of natural selection but returned to publish his idea just shortly after Darwin published The Origin of Species and fame for "discovering evolution". But Wallace described the clear line through Indonesia separating Asian and Australian types and it is known today as the Wallace Line"

    The guide we hired is the son of a park ranger who helped coordinate NAT Geo, BBC, Animal Planet, etc. filming here. He named his son, our guide, Alfritz Russel Masala in honor of Alfred Wallace mentioned above. He was a great guide, able to spot unmoving birds in the forest canopy, others hopping along the forest floor, calling in some. It was amazing to find out how much one could see in a slow saunter in the forest. It was our mistake not to have booked another day or two with him to see other upland parts of the park.

    We were shuttled the two hour trips to and from Manado by Alfretz's brother, Frankie. Also named for a conservationist, he also helped explain local life there. The village we were in is historically a fishing village and he helped us to see that, some coconut processing, and an unusual old cemetery where people are buried upright in the fetal position (knees to face) and facing north. It is called Wagoro, I think.

    Frankie also explained the bottles of blue and yellow Coca Cola we see being sold at lots of roadside stands. They are actually reused bottles of benzene or another fuel but look kind of refreshing on the shelf..... Picture below.

    Driving here, on the left with torrents of motorbikes and the apparent absence of rules is best delegated, even for those of us with control issues. Driving seems to be one of setting a determined direction, honking to help others echolocate you, making no sudden moves and not worrying until something (moving or not) is less than 6 inches away. Yes, I meant 6 inches.......Really. ... Repeatedly ...for hours. Delegation is good.

    Virtually nobody on bicycles, but three people or crates on a motorbike is common. I would be too frightened to bike here and success/ non fatality would require constant high alertness. If this is what Laos, Thailand and Malaysia are like I will stop eyeing a guided bike tour to I have been considering.

    Food and accommodations at the Tangoko Ranger Home Stay were basic but nice. We were glad to have upgraded to air conditioning. The fried rice, local fish and probably even more local chicken was tasty.

    Now off to a home rental SW of Manado, overlooking the coast, for our last stop. Sister Susan and husband Howard returned home after the diving in Raja Ampat. We learned that their trip home went well. It was really nice being with them.
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  • Day15

    Gam over

    March 1, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Greetings dear reader. We have left the diving/ snorkelling resort on the island of Gam and currently are awaiting a flight to Manado on the larger island of Sulawesi. The resort turned out to exceed all reasonable expectations. A typical day was a waterside buffet breakfast, then off to two snorkelling reefs and back by a late lunch. Then an afternoon lazing about, cruising the reef at the resort or some minor expedition. The staff was really helpful everywhere including guiding the snorkelling. The resort, Papua Explorers, hosts some manta ray and other research efforts and does some local community building and marine preservation work. So it felt better spending the money here knowing some of it goes for good things. Accommodations were traditionally built individual "pandoks" over the water with sunset and sunrise views. The dive master, Hakim, has an interest in bicycle touring and may visit as part of a US trip.

    One rest day included some shoreline kayaking and then a hike to see some local birds of paradise display. After a long wait, three appeared high in a tree. Found only in these nearby islands, they have chicken-sized bodies, red feathers with a long tail. To top it off they have long trailing plumes about 3 times their length. When in the mood they dance by turning and twisting which we were also able to witness.

    Lots of water critters as I mentioned in an earlier posting. To add to that list are 4 foot long clams, bamboo sharks, huge bumphead parrotfish all served on beds of colorful corals.

    Attached are some pictures of the scene, including beach break coffee service and a sample of some of the great cloud formations here.

    On the last night the staff surprised me with a birthday celebration including song, cake with one candle for every 21 years. Included here is a photo of singers, their beers and the cake. Lots of fun.
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  • Day11

    Resort On the Reservation

    February 25, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

    Here's a few pics, including Howard being abducted by Mantas. Also a giant clams ("100 years old") and a "corals and fish" pic. The underwater shots are courtesy of sister Susan's small Canon camera in a waterproof case.

  • Day10

    Triggerfish, Lionfish and Beers, Oh my!!

    February 24, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ 🌫 5 °C

    Greetings dear reader to the next post. Much of what has been best has been underwater where this camera doesn't go. I may try to get some shots from the boat but even it is often a fairly wet experience.

    Twice daily snorkeling on various reefs has been astoundingly beautiful. More varieties of soft and hard corals than I have ever had hair on my head. Riotous colors from jet black fans to purple swaths to red and yellow eruptions. The size and shape variety is more than impressive. Fan corals (like a sillouhetted oak tree branches) eight feet across, mushroom shaped corals over 10 feet, all filled in with finer varieties down to matchbox sized.

    Then there are the creatures. Even for us snorkelers the non-threatening 5 foot blacktip sharks are on every venture, reef fish in almost every color and pattern imaginable so that even the "Nemo" orange and white are the more mundane. Try googling clown triggerfish or spotted sweet lips (no relation) for examples. The emperor angelfish is just a wannabe if you ask any of the predators.

    One excursion brought us to a reef manta (12-15 foot span) though the divers got closer, even underneath them. A future trip should take us to the larger oceanic mantas, though I might need to premedicate with some Valium.

    And then there are the occasional Hawksbill turtles cruising open blue at 10-30 feet deep like sages of the sea.

    Overall no regrets from us with sticking with the simpler snorkelling. While the divers see more, we still see too much to take in. But we did note that the punishment here for misbehaving divers is to be restricted to snorkelling.

    And for the next post, description of the resort itself. Barring disease outbreak or a tsunami, it will be happy one. Meanwhile, a few pics.
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  • Day6

    Snorkel 2

    February 20, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Here are a few more pictures of karsts, fun signage and stuff.

  • Day6

    Snorkel 1

    February 20, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Singapore to Makassar to Sorong to the snorkeling resort

    Greetings dear reader to the second blog instalment of a trip to Indonesia. The first stop was Singapore for a couple of days en route to Indonesia. A city founded about 200 years ago as a British Colony at the gateway between India and China and access to the Spice Islands. It was a delightful, colorful and tasty stay. It has undergone extensive urbanization and growth especially in the last 20-30 years. The street food vendors have been concentrated into food courts of great variety. The Hainan chicken and rice is the signature dish but Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern were the most common.  

    Other highlights were tours of Little India and Chinatown, the fabulous botanical gardens and the city center waterfront. Navigation via the subway was cheap and easy. Lots of casual courtesy including a high schooler who gave up her subway seat to the elder, me, to my mixture of gratitude, resignation and grief. 

    The Singapore reputation for order and cleanliness are well deserved. Over half their water is recycled and initially much of it comes from capturing rainwater from roofs and streets. It is a very colorful city with brilliant splashes here and there, Hindu and Buddhist decorations of yellow, red and black at several visited temples and an multi acre orchid garden of impressive shapes, sizes and colors.

    We then met sister Sue and her husband, Buck, at the Singapore airport and all flew to Makassar on the island of Sulawesi. We stayed at the home of our guide Dodo. He took us to see some beautiful limestone karst formations at the head of a small river. With the bottom lands used for fish farming and rice up to the edge of vertical 1000' cliffs it was quite beautiful and very different than anything we've ever seen.

    Then off to some 5000 year old pictographs of hand prints followed by a visit to the old Dutch Fort Rotterdam. Historically Makassar has been and important center for trade within what is now Indonesia so the Dutch found it useful to fortify it back in the 1500s.

    To our surprise, we closed out the day by attending a wedding. Dodo knew the couple and weddings here are big, communal events. So dinner, loud music, most in their dress clothes and finally a karaoke from Dodo dedicated to us. Very friendly greetings to us strangers throughout.

    In Makassar it was common to have others want to have pictures taken with us. Altogether we posed at least 25 times including with a local police squad, the wedding party and school children. All very endearing.

    The next morning we flew to Sorong on the western end of New Guinea (Papua) and them a two hour boat ride to our island resort for a week of diving for Sue and Buck, snorkelling for Lauren and I. The story will pick up the story from there but first, I hope, a few postings of pictures.
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  • Day1


    February 15, 2017 in Indonesia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    After a long travel including a 17 hr, 10,000 mile flight, we made it to Singapore. With a goal of eating and trying to stay awake until evening here, we wandered a bit, enjoyed the dim sum and the food courts. Here for a few days before heading to Makassar.

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