What is your worst travel experience

January 12, 2012Travel13 Comments 57,544 Views

My Most Memorable Travel Experience.

Since a lot of people keep asking me, what my most memorable travel moment was, I would like to use the opportunity to fill you all in. It’s a fantastic story of a little girl and her mum:

I have been travelling all my life. As you might already know, my first years were spent on the African continent and ever since then, the travel-fever struck me. Today I’m 25 years old and still trying to get around as much as possible. I have visited over 70 countries and I’m planning to see many more. In 1995 my mum decided to take me out of elementary school for a year to travel to Indonesia. She has always wanted to go there and decided that this was a good (and easy) time to take me out of school (since I was only in 3rd grade).

Our travels took us to Flores, Komodo & Timor before we decided to visit Sulawesi. My mum loved (and still does) travelling off the beaten path, so the Togian Islands where the right destination for us. Togian is situated right in the middle of the Sulawesi “mouth” and getting there was far from easy: First we had to fly to Mandao, then down to Gorontalo and from there we went on a 6-7 hours boat ride.

But it was all worth it! Togian is paradise as you know it: White sandy beaches, palm trees, crystal clean blue water and no tourist in sight. It’s also a real diver’s delight with some of the most amazing reefs. We’ve been to Togian three times, last in 1998 so I don’t know if this is still the case today. Anyway, we stayed for about three weeks and not only did I make friends for life but I also started my acting career ;) Some Indonesian movie was being filmed there and I guess the director quickly made a chance in the script … Quite an experience. But this was not my most memorable moment after all. It actually happened when we left the island.

There was no regular ferry to and from the Togian Islands, so we decided to set sail with a local fisherman. His medium-size boat looked sea-worthy and therefore nothing could stop us (yet). Turns out, the boat was fine but the captain seemed to have his first day on the job. As I said earlier, the trip usually takes about 6-7 hours. After the 9th hour, we started wondering and soon realized that we were lost at sea … After about 11 hours, land finally was in sight.

We steered into a cove and right after we did, a giant whale surfaced in front of our boat (and I really mean in front of our boat: maybe 2-4 meters at the max).  I’ve never seen a whale before, so you can imagine how exited this 9 year old girl must have been ;) Later we found out that it was a humpback whale … No, still not the most memorable moment.

After the excitement with the whale, land in sight and the obvious relief of the captain and crew, we came closer to the shore. A little (at least it looked little from the boat) village called “Tilamuta” was going to be out “docking station”. At first, all we could see were these huts made out of cardboard, wood and corrugated iron, when all over sudden heaps of canoes started coming our way (there must have been 50 – 60 of them). We had no clue what in the world was going on and were just told to get our belongings – and we did. One of the crew members (who spoke a bit of English) told us that we had to get onto the canoes, since the boat couldn’t go any further because the water was too shallow. Ulli wanted me to  go on land with one boat and she would take another (I think she didn’t trust the tiny little canoes to hold us both). I did as she said.

When arriving at the beach, I could already see hundreds of people waiting there. As soon as I lay a foot on land, everyone started touching me and my hair. I was used to people touching me and especially my blond hair but never ever like this … It seemed like there were a millions. Ulli came up behind me, took my hand and we started walking … with the entire village in tow, still touching us on every single body part. Later we found out, that we were the first white people to ever set foot here.

We walked for about 10 minutes until we arrived at the chief’s house. He invited us onto his patio, brought us tee and offered me the only white plastic chair there was. While Ulli was chatting with some of the guys, I sat down and started zapping through the Indonesian TV channels (If you have travelled to remote places you’ll know that there is one thing that cannot be missing: a TV and a gigantic satellite dish). So I was sitting in this white chair, with the only remote control in the entire village and hundreds of kids watching me. It all must sound really decadent but they actually wanted to me to do so.

Anyway, we would have liked Tilamuta to be our home for the next couple of days because we wanted to explore the area and watch the whales. But, we knew that there would be no such thing as a hotel … As soon as the chief realized that we were planning on staying, he offered us his house. Of course we couldn’t accept but he insisted. Before we could say anymore, his wife was already preparing dinner. So we accepted his generous offer and stayed for the next week or so…

This experience was the most memorable of all my travel moments until today. Thinking about it, makes me a little nostalgic because we never managed to go back there again…

What about you? I’d really love to hear about your memorable travel moments…

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This Story is Tagged With:

Adventure•Indonesia•Journal•Memory•Other•Photo•Sulawesi•Tilamuta•Togian Islands•Travel