So we have spent 3 months in Indonesia already. After crowded Java where we tested our physical condition by climbing several volcanoes, we continues to touristic Bali and Lombok. It was more relaxing time there, but we had to be constantly on watch not to be ripped off by everpresent tourist sharks. So when it came to decision if we should continue island hopping to the direction of Komodo islands – one of the most touristic places of Indonesia – we were bit in struggle.
That moment we receive invitation from total strangers in Bau-Bau to visit and explore their homeland. We have to google where the city of Bau-Bau actually lies first. It is capital city of Button island – part of south Sulawesi – totally unknown for most of the travelers. We take spontaneous decision and buy tickets to Makassar having no idea what is ahead of us.
Our first Pelni ship experience
Bau-Bau is connected with Makassar by plane route, but because we are on the budget (and Katya is not so fond of flying with Asian lowcost airlines) we decide to travel there from Makassar by Pelni ship. Pelni is a governmental company which runs about dozens of huge ships crossing the waters of whole Indonesia. The deck of ships is divided into the big halls full of mattresses one next to another. The ships can take about 1000 – 1500 passengers and are usually terribly overbooked, so there is not enough mattresses for everyone. People are sleeping on the floor, stairs or anywhere where is enough of space to lie down. You won’t find any foreigner there – only locals use it.
Luckily when we enter our ship we find 2 empty mattresses in the corner of lower deck, where we happily spend following 16 hours of our voyage despite it is incredibly hot there and infested with cockroaches. A young christian guy, who studies to be an english teacher, travels next to us. He tells us he has met 3 foreigners already in his life and he prays a lot to find a good job after the studies.
Bau-Bau and first impressions
Upon arrival we receive usual storm of “Hello, mister” and “Taxi, taxi” from surrounding crowds. Bau-Bau is that part of Indonesia where people are not used to see foreigners and without any shyness they wave, shout and point fingers at them. With so much attention, some might feel like celebrity, some might be bit irritated. We went through both.
Luckily our hosts Mario and Petra pick us up straight away from the port and after we change our sweaty clothes we go to enjoy sunset to one of the Bau-Bau viewpoints. We end our first day there drinking ginger tea mixed with coconut milk and snacking our first fried breadfruit.
Beauties of Bau-Bau
Let’s have a small appetizer of what Bau-Bau can offer you:
In following days guys take us to their natural playgrounds around. We hike through the jungle, swim in ponds and waterfalls there, explore cave with thousands of bats.
One day we go by boat to uninhabitat islands around with unspoiled beaches where we cook fresh fish on fire, drink juice of just collected coconut and snorkel in crystal clear waters.
Guys are such a pleasant company. All of them so different, but together creating great team. And they know their homeland very well, so we get to see hidden paradises we would never find by ourselves, because these are not the places you can find in any guidebook. Even most of the locals have no idea such places exist here.
It feels great to experience local way of life. Mario and his relatives takes us as their family and we quickly become close to them. Their kids are shy at first but soon become friendly and despite they speak English as much as we speak Indonesian (close to zero) we really enjoy our time with them.
After few days we are offered to give an English lessons in local high school. We never did it before, but it sounds interesting and also we feel we can help local community in return this way.
Teaching at local high school
7am and the first lesson starts. Back to the school years. Kids are totally amazed to see us and they cannot hide the excitement. Celebrity feeling comes again.
Here we have to mention that most of the local English teachers have not even intermediate level of English. The result is that kids can say few basic phrases, but often incapable to response to anything beyond that.
We don’t know what to expect from the lessons and when we are divided to 2 different classes and teacher leaves immediately after beginning of the lesson we become bit nervous. It turns out there is no reason for that. Kids are genuinely curious and absorb everything we say. Older ones even initiate interesting discussions and when one of the youngsters ask “Why UN doesn’t do anything to solve problem in Eastern Ukraine” we stare at him with an amazement.
We use the opportunity to educate them about environment awareness because nobody else will. In the end of every lesson the most brave kid of the class ask for a picture with us and when we agree the whole class jump at us and everyone wants a selfie. We wonder on how many facebook and instagram accounts we appeared that day.
When we finish 4th lesson in a row the feelings of empathy and respect towards a teachers come. It was valuable experience for us as well as kids.
Time to say goodbye
After 2 great weeks it’s time to move on. Bau-Bau is still to be found destination where you can feel like explorer who discovers unknown places and maybe step where no tourist ever stepped before. And with famous snorkel and dive islands of Wakatobi just few hours away by boat, it has it all what nature lover might be looking for.
It is not easy to leave especially when we became part of the family. Piece of our heart stays in Bau-Bau, but the Pelni ship already wait for us. This time it will be 50 hours long voyage and cultural experience till our next destination and the furthest point of our journey – Kei islands.