There’d always be some shitty cafes beside the dive shops serving bitter tasting mud that they’d try to pass as coffee accompanied with overpriced croissant that resembles the pastry by name only. By some shitty unwritten rule, they’d always have 2 tables on the side of the road exposed to the dust for you to sit and sip your cup of mud.
The reason why these coffee shops survives, and I am really guessing here, is because of all the early morning divers who have to show up at the dive shop at 6 am in the morning after a night of dancing and binge drinking. Divers are always tourists and tourists always party the night before. The tables outside is for divers to keep an eye out to see if their dive group is departing. Logistics and organizational skills are not the fortes of people living in the country side of Asia.
At dawn, I’d stumble back to our cabin with a bit of the ol’ sailor shuffle from a long day of diving. Swaying from side to side as I fight against the gravity called exhaustion. Everything felt heavier.
Alessia often tried to describe what it felt like seeing me hobble back like that and I’d always chuckle inside because what she experienced and what I was feeling at that time are as different as night and day. Laying in bed at night, she would tell how she’d catch herself holding her breath watching me appearing from the horizon, with my long dark hair flowing in the wind and my tanned body glistening from sweat. Such was our typical day on Poya Lisa island, a true Robinson Crusoe-esq existence, heavenly and harsh at the same time and I wouldn’t do it for longer than that. Our toilet paper would run out for example.
This happened several weeks later after I parted way with Alessia last in Labuan Bajo. I was investigating how to get on a boat to swim with the Whale sharks at Gorontalo, North Sulawesi and preparing for the final leg of my adventure in Indonesia when Alessia decided to join me after finishing her trip with her father. Alessia, it turns out, had two weeks before school starts in UK, but instead of spending the time moving in to her new apartment and getting oriented with the new environment, she wanted more adventure before getting back to the real world. So like this, our path crossed again.
The adventure through North Sulawesi was to finish a trip that I couldn’t finish from Ylva‘s recommendation. It took especially long to prepare as It is a Malaria infested region with real civil war still going on in central Sulawesi with some truly untouched jungles and still unique tribes unfazed by civilization: Tana Toraja (The mountain plateau people) and the Sama Bajau (Sea Gypsies).
Gorontalo, the place that we met for preparation is a frontier town, almost Indiana Jones-esq-ish. Imagine Indiana Jones style conditions with some modern cars thrown in and you get the idea. It has one special feature that most people don’t know of until you get there. Every year, the whale sharks (a holy grail that every diver chase after) would come around summer and feast on the fish trimmings from the sewage pipes of a fish cannery.
It was during this time when Alessia witnessed the power of the Chinese language at work and I have to admit, without Mandarin, I wouldn’t have been able to arrange the whole trip with basic official Indonesia (they speak a different dialect in North Sulawesi) and pointing at a map. Han Chinese lineage, it turns out, is everywhere in the world. “I feel so safe and protected when traveling with you, never had to think and worry about anything.” said Alessia as we retire back into our cabin on Poya Lisa 4 days later.
This final adventure turns out to be one of my more memorable ones along with that time Mark and I got in trouble in the souqs of Morocco. Particularly because it’s the first time I had an adventure like this with a women who is able to handle such discomfort. Another time perhaps, my coffee ran out.