Sulawesi, Indonesia (2006)

Cycling Indonesia's Best-kept Secret

          WHERE : Sulawesi, Indonesia             
           WHEN : September 2006 
      OBJECTIVE : Cycling a rarely visited Indonesian Treasure        
       DISTANCE : 400 kilometers (?) / 248 miles 


Beware the Random Impulse

So, I’m standing in a looooooong line at my Starbucks one day–Summer of ’06–waiting for my then-usual venti 5-shot Americano. This being the very Dark still-a-full-year-before-the-iPhone-was-released Ages, and not having been, personally, of the I’m-a-Blackberry-Toting-Douchebag persuasion, my time-passing options were limited. Should I converse with a fellow, proximate human (nah…they were all checking their Blackberrys), stare blankly into space, or be a good little consumer and read the various advertising placards lining the path to the counter? Dutifully, I followed the latter course. At that time, SBUX had a program called Black Apron Exclusives, and in June of 2006 they featured a coffee from “Kopi Kampung, Sulawesi, Indonesia.” I admit freely that I only vaguely knew where Indonesia could be found, and had no idea what a “Sulawesi” was. [Hint: it’s the large, tentacled island in the middle of the map.]



I don’t know what came over me at that moment, but I was unreasonably angry at my own ignorance and simultaneously excited by my spontaneous, random, and irrevocably chosen remedy thereto. I wrote down the name, went home, searched the internet for “Cycling Sulawesi,” and immediately shot off an email to some guy named Rich–who was listed prominently on the circa 1994-style website. Turns out that Rich was the gregarious and knowledgeable proprietor of Cycling Sulawesi and most excited to learn of my interest in cycling through the heart of some place I’d never heard of.

Within a week, I had scheduled the time off work, purchased tickets to Manado, arranged SCUBA classes to get my PADI rating (Bunaken anyone?), and had a full 21-day journey standing before me.

And so it came to pass, shortly before Ramadan in the Fall of 2006, that the Transglobalist travelled to the island of Sulawesi, in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim country, for 2 weeks of cycling, scuba diving, and the surgical removal of his own geographic ignorance.

Perhaps because of the spontaneity, I remain in some ways more proud of my trip to Indonesia than any other.

Salaam alaikum,
September 30, 2006

Always the Photographer
Ne'er the Groom?

Many years before I thought of purchasing a camera, and during my first real introduction to the world, I was invited–by the village chief, no less–to a wedding his family was celebrating. It was a huge Muslim affair, another first, with hundreds of people arriving from all over this part of the island.

The men and women sat on opposite sides of the aisle, under a giant tent constructed just for the event. You see some of the exceedingly friendly and happy–and flirtatious!–ladies in the teaser image above. (Whatever ideas I may have had about the unformity of Islam™ were obliterated on this day. And I’ve never made that mistake again.)

My equipment consisted of two disposable Fujifilm cameras, half-empty. The Chief was having none of it, and barked instructions at one of the local kids. Soon I was riding on the back of his scooter, through the rain, into the next village to buy more cameras. (Which, shockingly, they actually had on hand.) From then on, I was the official event photographer. I was allowed (nay, ushered) into the family room where the bride was being dressed, for photos with mom and dad; I was sent into the kitchen to see the women finishing up the feast; the bridesmaids dragged me by the hand into the room where they were putting finishing touches on outfits and hair and baskets of food.

The photo of the bridesmaids–at the top of this post–remains one of my favorite pictures ever, even though it is grainy and low-res and was basically taken by a cardboard box with a hole in it.


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