Another pleasant Indonesian town, with a good collection of Dutch colonial houses and even a Portugese fort.
The ferry crossing from the Togians to Gorontalo in the north of Sulawesi passed uneventful, except that the boat left on time – highly unusual in our Indonesia experience – and that by 6 pm, two hours into a 12 hour journey, they ran out of beer. Missed opportunity, with so many foreigners on board trying to have a good time, and trying to postpone going to sleep in the Bisnis class reclining seats for as long as possible.
What about Gorontalo? Not a place most people would choose to stay for any length of time, I suppose. Unless you just had a 12 hour ferry journey in Bisnis class reclining seats behind you. And unless you had just spent six days on a paradise island in rather Spartan conditions. And unless you need to extend your Indonesian visa. Then Gorontalo turns out to be a surprisingly nice place. Hotel with AC and hot water. Tick. Mall with iced cappuchinos. Tick. Chinese restaurant with some of the best grilled octopus I ever had, and pizza restaurant with excellent variety of really-thin-crusted pizzas. It was almost a pity that our visa was renewed without hassle, within 24 hours.
To kill the time in between eating, cappuccinos and traveling up and down to the immigration office, we explored the Dutch colonial past of Gorontalo. Around the town centre are still many, often well maintained old houses, single story, large verandas, and series of wooden windows, some still with stained glass. In the middle of it all in the Governor’s mansion; they obviously don’t get a lot of tourists here, so when I asked if I could have a look inside, I was immediately assigned a special police man, to accompany me into the large reception room. All excitement, which of course ended with the inevitable photo session, but all very friendly.
Later, outside town, we even found something of the Portuguese past, in the form of a hillside fort, Benteng Otanaha, of which three turret towers remain, overlooking a shallow lake full of fishing traps and nets. Even though the fort and the lake are nothing special, just the drive out, in a bentor – the North Sulawesi version of the bemor, a motorbike with a two-seater upfront – is a pleasure in itself, definitely my favourite form of transport. Many of the bentors are carefully shaped by their proud owners, and equipped with special effects, like a series of bright lamps, or a powerful stereo.
As I said, almost a pity to leave, after two days and two-and-a-half nights. So we got up relatively early, packed ourselves and our suitcases in a bentor for the 20 minute ride to the bus station to catch the 7 am bus to Manado, as suggested by our friend Wahab, who has a travel agency in Gorontalo and thus knows these things, only to find no bus. The last bus, which was possibly also the first bus, had left at 6, or perhaps at 5 – you never know – and the next one would be tomorrow, at 6. Or at 5. But, of course there is a solution, Mister, you could take a Kijiang, a shared taxi, Mister? Let me just call my friend, really, this is the only possibility today, Mister. You never know.