2010-06-05

From Tawau to Pulau Derawan

03.06.2010 Pulau Derawan

Route so far with Simone;
Tawau (boat, 130 riggit) →
Tarakan (speed boat, 80 000 IDR) →
Tanjung Selor (kijang, shared 70 000 IDR) →
Berau (kijang, 50 000 IDR) →
Tanjung Batu (speed boat, shared 50 000 IDR) →
Pulau Derawan

The route less traveled, not anyway to the direction we are on our way. I feel it harder to trust people after Malaysia where a traveler was only a dollar sign on locals eyes. The trip went fine, and people are more trustworthy and in Berau we really felt like home. The town was very well coming, people as sunny as the weather and helpful even without a common language. We were able to find a nice net place (NetBoyz) where I sent my last blog entries. When we got back from our mission to find working fast internet we found a karaoke place that sold beer. There we went. The beer was warm, of course, cost us 35 000 rupees a bottle and the place was dark, of course on that as well, and the people were singing well. And of course the karaoke videos were the same awful as in every country, cheesy with all effects you can get from the editing program. The karaoke lady had an extremely tight outfit for her age but she was nice to ask if we wanted to sing. We did not. Later the singing turned to a disc with some ok electronic music and strobe lights. A young female approached us and asked us to dance. We did not do that either and soon it was the time to go because it was closing time at midnight.

The next morning we had good luck. We were standing with our equipment outside and trying to decide the direction to walk. A car stopped, a man rolled the window open and asked where we were heading to. He took us to the kijang stop without taking money from us and organized us a ride with some locals. The kijangs in Berau leave from the same spot as they used to, in front of the Hotel Central Graha that was at the time under construction. The trip this time was cheaper than noted in LP.

The kijang ride to Tanjung Selor was a long one. It felt like being back home a driving through the rough hilly and curvy roads in Eastern Finland country side! Only the trees were bigger and the jungle was taking over the road where it could. In Tanjung Selor our driver and the locals arranged us in the same speed boat with them.

In Derawan we first met a guy, John, we met on the boat from Tarakan. John got us to stay 3 nights (50 000Rs per person, per night with breakfast) in a home stay at his sisters house. The reason for this was the long weekend holiday, and the 200 people visiting from Tarakan. The house was nice, our host an d her kids friendly, and in the toilet (in here, toilet with a pool of water is called mandi) pool they had fish to keep it clean.

Derawan is a small island and one can walk around in less than in a hour. The electricity runs only from 18.00 to 06.00 and mostly people hang out on their porches before the tv´s are switched on. The local spare time event for women is volleyball (on main street there´s one field) and the guys play soccer. Kids seems to be very hooked on colorful plastic hula-hoops and running around greeting the visitors (Hello Mister). Atmosphere is totally laid back, palm trees, giant bats, turtles (Hawkbill) in the water, full moon etc. A little paradise. And the ice cream man driving around with his scooter and sound system. There is a small amount of trash in the water, but in basic the water is very clean.

We also wanted to see some other islands and do some good snorkeling, and when I met and American couple, we came up with a plan and John helped us out. We paid 450 000Rs per head on a trip of 3 days on a fishing boat. Normally a speed boat for a day would be something like 800 000Rs..so we got a good deal for that one. Douglas was speaking Indonesian and we rolled up the anchor.

Even though we did not get too friendly with the Americans we had an excellent trip! Our first stop was Pulau Sangalagi. We stopped twice to snorkel and the second time was a dream come true - we swam with Manta Rays!! Not with one or two, but there were tens of them! Flying easily through the blue, right next to us and then diving again. Our captain and his son were good in spotting interesting things and tell us about islands (through Douglas). In Sangalagi we confronted THE LOST. There has once been a fine dive resort, but for some official hassle with permissions and money the place was closed down, but it was like a ghost town. The only occupants were lizards and insects, as well as hawkbill turtles that arrive every night to lay their eggs on the island. There is a hand full of inhabitants taking care of the turtle nests and the hatchlings and to keep eye on the visitors. It is not allowed to sleep on the island, but somehow we got the permission (thanks John!) and we slept on the jetty, under the milky way and full moon, and under us on the water was some glittering shining plankton as if the stardust had fallen from the skies. Big small things. I was happy. And Simone smoking a cigarette in the night next to me was happy too.

Our next day started early around seven o´clock. Anchor up, and to see some more islands. Kakaban was our destination. An island with a lake inside that hosts millions of non-stingy jellyfish. An adventure, a weird little ecosystem. It felt like floating in outer space, the skin colored jellyfish all around, big and small making their way up and down and all the directions and the sun rays making lines between them. Snorkeling through the mangrove roots is another story to tell. We were lucky to reach this destination before the Chinese divers who were loud. Later we docked on Maratua island for the night and some more snorkeling. This time we swam with green turtles and slept on a jetty again, without the plankton but with some local youngsters playing guitar next to us, and one eagle ray swimming by our boat. That evening we had a good night story together with the Americans by discussing the cultural differences.

Back in Derawan we changed our home stay to a guesthouse on the water. A bunch of colorful little huts on stilts (shared room with own toilet with shower 150 000Rs per room). Daily sights on turtles, grabs, trumpet fish, juvenile bat fish, lion fish under our housing and not to mention the most romantic sunsets, while we are washing our laundry... On our first night though the laundry was not so easy task, since the house keepers are renovation for the high season and the water was off due to some plumbing experiments.

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