After my delightful little rest at the Togean Islands, my journey continues into the north of Sulawesi, into the lands of the Minahasan people. The Minahasan were particularly close to their Dutch overlords during colonial times, so close in fact, that North Sulawesi was often referred to as the "16th province of the Netherlands". Minahasans were routinely used to quell uprisings elsewhere in the archipelago, and when independence came, they voted to become a province of the Netherlands instead. All that did not particularly endear them to the other Indonesians, who called them "Anjing Belanda", or Dutch dogs, in return.
Due to the close ties with the Europeans, the majority of inhabitants are Christian, and the region is doing economically well by Indonesian standards. Yet there is another difference that makes the Minahasan people famous in Indonesia: their lack of culinary selectiveness. A saying goes: "Minahasans will eat everything on legs, except the table, everything with wings except a plane, and everything in the water except a boat."
|Dogs waiting for their turn.|
|When prepared, they aren't skinned, but de-furred with a blowtorch.|
|Bats a-cooking. (Not taken by me.)|
|Forest rats on sticks. Not taken by me.|
I managed to try a few of the local delicacies, including dog (called "soft-fur" on the menu), bat, rat and snake, but they left me neither disgusted nor particularly amazed. To answer the inevitable chicken question: I find they taste all quite different, with rat being (surprisingly) the best, a bit like spare ribs. Snake is a bit too chewy. Since all the meat looks like any other once in a dish and is covered with spices, it might have well been the preparation that makes the difference, but to be honest: it's not better than anything you already regularly eat.
Truly amazing, however, were the live animals I encountered on my final (and successfull) wildlife search.
Not far from the Minahasan capital of Manado, the Tangkoko Nature Reserve is a (comparatively) easily accessible national park on the eastern tip of Sulawesi. I did night and day walks and managed to see Kuskuses, Tarsiers, Macaques,Tarantulas and several different bird species. Taking pictures of them, however, is an entirely different matter, and once again Wikipedia will have to provide where my limited skills fail. I met some guys from National Geographic there, shooting a tarsier documentary, they were staying there for six(!) months to get enough high quality picture material, so I only feel half as bad. At least you get a glimpse of what I saw, and it was amazing. Seeing animals in the wild is just simply an entirely different experience than in a zoo, and the excitement of the hunt certainly adds to the fun.
|A Kuskus. Maximal digital zoom...|
|Obscene foul-smelling plant attracts flies|
|The inside of a favourite tarsier tree.|
|A tarsier. (Not taken by me, I only managed to capture their escaping arses)|
To complete my trip, I went to the diver's paradise of Bunaken island, famed to be one of the best dive sites in the world. It's a pleasant little island, but after two dives I had to leave as I got ear problems...I did see many turtles as close as half a meter away, sharks, giant wrasses and groupers, rays and a plethora of crazy shrimps hidden away in the crevices of the amazing 30 meter reef walls. I will definitely return here again for more...
|Blue spotted ray|
|Pygmy Seahorses are the size of a fingernail!|
|Blacktip Reef Shark. Mine was only a meter or so.|
|A Banded Cleaner Shrimp. I saw many more, but hell knows what they are called.|