Sulawesi, meaning “iron island”, formerly known to Europeans as Celebes, occupying an areal of 174,600 km2, is the 4th largest island in Indonesia and the 11th in the world. It is situated right on the top of the equator and is mainly covered by vast jungly mountain ranges running out of energy and plunging into the ocean forming an extensive coastline hosting myriads of beaches of divine beauty. It is the 3rd most populous island of Indonesia, maintaining a population of about 17 million people, of whom the majority are Muslims cohabiting with a significant minority of Christians and Animists, who, all together, carry a great diversity of rich and unique cultures and traditions. This place has been exciting my imagination since I first got aware of it existing, and, after all, the time came for me to head thither in adventure-hunting…
My port of entry to this new magical world was to be Palu, the capital city of Central Sulawesi province. I flew from Kuala Lumpur via Jakarta, where I acquired a free visa valid for one month. The combined trip lasted for about 8 hours, and around 22 o’ clock we were landing at Palu’s airport. A friend of mine, who had already been there since some days ago, should have booked a room for me at the guesthouse he was staying at, so, sharing a taxi with two more of my plane co-passengers, I got to the place. It was a small family house with a little garden, which looked kinda gloomy lighten up in a few candlelights, as the power in the neighborhood was down at the time I arrived. There I found my friend and a few more tenants drinking beers in the garden and a while after the owner of the house appeared, whereat it turned out that there was no free room left. My friend had tried to book it, though unsuccessfully, as no person of the house could speak or understand any single word in English – Soon after I would realize that, in this land, English was not going to help me any more than Greek would have done, and that I should better start learning Indonesian immediately. Anyways, after all, things turned out quite favorably, as, after the necessary exercise of pantomime, we came to agree that I’d occupy the couch in the living-room for the two nights I was to stay there, for what I only paid voluntarily something scantily above nothing.
Later that very night, we went out for dinner. It was quite late already and the roads quiet and the stores closed. We found an open local restaurant where we got to have some rice and chicken and stuff, which was spicy to a degree equaling that one of vitriol, I imagine. After suffering all that burning and blushing and the shedding of many tears, I found that food very tasty, though. The owners of the place and all the other locals that were there, and more that came after we did – after being given a notice of the kind: “guys, come to see! foreigners!” by sms from the ones that were there already, I think – were very excited to see us there. They laughed a lot while we were struggling to eat the food and they kept us there for a good deal of time, taking a great number of pictures with us, afterwards.
They day after, I realized for good that for the inhabitants of that city it was an incidence of great importance and joy to see foreigners, as it’s not something one might see there every day, or often by any respect. And during those particular circumstances, of having so many visitors at once as they probably never before had, due to the solar eclipse and the associated festival that was to take place in a few days, all of them had gone crazy from enthusiasm. At that place, I came to understand how the life of a rock star is. Anywhere I’d walk at, I had people cheering for me, little children shouting “hello mister” from every yard, and people stopping me every few steps to take pictures with me. I, after all, stayed five days in total, before and after the festival, in that city, and I had an unforgettable time thanks to its so nice, happy, kind, generous, always-smiling, warm-hearted, amazing people.