Traveling in Sulawesi is far from easy. Arriving at the bus station (or something like that anyway) of the city of Poso the other day at about 7 am, I was mentally well prepared for the long day awaiting me. To cover the 310 km from Poso, in the central Sulawesi region, to Palopo, in the south one, would, according to the bus people, require about 12-14 hours of driving. Does it sound a lot? Well… it may sound to one accustomed to count distances in an autostrada or an autobahn, in this land there is no such a thing though. So, the time afore-said sounded to me reasonable and still quite optimistic, as, for it to happen, would still require that everything goes well, and in such a place it’s not the majority of times when things go well…
At 8 am, after all the passengers, together with lots of parcels, a couple of motorcycles, chicken and stuff, we were boarded, we started out trip. Making all the necessary, or not (it depends on what one deems necessary), stops, it took about an hour to drive outside the city. The first part of the trip went on fairly smoothly. The cloudy morning sky helped to evade the inconveniences, which traveling in a bus without AC in an equatorial country may often cause. The seats were also more than averagely comfortable, and furthermore smoking inside the bus was allowed, a thing which – quite egoistically I am obliged to admit – bothered me quite a lot having everybody around me smoking the whole time, but still I found it handy being able to smoke myself. It was a couple of hours after we left Poso when things started to gradually get harder. The imposing bulk of the mountains of Central Sulawesi was now standing in front of as, and the higher they were getting, the narrower and coarser the road was getting. However, although slowly, we kept moving ahead steadily for some time, without any serious encumbrance occurring. The first longer standstill we were obliged to make happened when a poor motorcycle driver, in front of our sight luckily for him, drove straight over the crash bar and down the cliff in a sharp turn. Fortunately he did not get any seriously injured and he could perfectly shout from down there that he was not able to clamber up. Actually nothing bad happened to him apart a few scratches on his knees, so after we helped him to come up by throwing a rope to him he drove away like nothing had happened.
We continued our way up the mountains, slowly-slowly, it started to rain, the road started to turn into mud, our average speed steadily being reduced, till it reached zero when we encountered in front of us a long queue – how long I could not say as it was reaching far ahead visibility’s range – of immobilized cars, trucks and buses. After we already had waited there for some twenty minuets without moving any centimeter ahead, it became obvious that we were not going to leave from there any time soon. I then left the bus and started to walk forwards so to find out the cause of the obstruction. A truck was stuck in the mud at a strait passage of the road in such a way that no positive thought could possibly make one judge the situation in any other scope than a highly pessimistic one. About an hour later, another truck, summoned from the nearest village, had made it to the spot carrying a chain so attempt to tow the stuck truck out, though every effort proved to be futile. And even if they were to make it at some point by the assistance of any chance or concoction, numerous other trucks and buses, not to mention the great number of the private cars, from both directions, would need to pass from the same spot. Upon the occurrence of this thought I deemed the situation as not liable to become any worse… but I was terribly wrong. A while after the sky opened clear and the forceful tropical sun started to hammer violently upon our heads, and right upon our heads it had necessarily to hammer as absolutely no source of shade was present, and sitting inside the bus was of course out of question. One, two, three hours had passed… It was not the fact that we were going to sleep there, but rather the one that we were going to starve that made me formulate the plan of taking my stuff off the bus and start walking to the first village I was to find on my way after the sun was going to lower down a bit. However my plan did not come to realization after all, as the things took another course, and a highly favorable one indeed.
A team of villagers appeared up at the spot carrying spades, pickaxes and thatch, and in the course of an admirably short duration of time had managed to lay anew a passage aside the stuck truck wide enough for every private car to pass by. Wasting no time, me and my two new Czech friends who were traveling by the same bus with me, we started asking around the drivers who were about to move. It didn’t take any long and Oji, a guy from Makassar, offered to take us all the way to Palopo on his 4-wheel drive. A short while after, having trans-loaded our stuff from the bus to Oji’s car, we were unstuck, driving full-speed to Palopo. Driving with Oji, the trip was not only by far faster and more comfortable, but we also did some sightseeing on top of that. At first we stopped to enter in an apparently recently excavated by accident beautiful stalactite-stalagmite cave by the side of the road. Later on we also stopped and did a short hike by the side of a frenzied waterfall. Some time after sunset we had after all made it to South Sulawesi where the terrain turned to be flat and the road of a much better condition, allowing to Oji, who was apparently in hurry to reach Makassar, to drive in crazy speed throughout all the rest of the way, overtaking boldly anything that was to concur on our way, so that about 9 pm we were dropped off right at the center of Palopo. That was how, in spite of every misadventure, we after all made it to our destination within the most optimistic length of time we could possibly have surmised when we we were starting our trip earlier that morning.