A trip to Tomohon, Tondano highlands
TONGKAINA, Molas, North Sulawesi (JP): In addition to its long coastal lines, Sulawesi is hilly and mountainous, hence its peculiar shape; some say it looks like a disheveled starfish. It also has 17 volcanoes, 13 of which are active.
The distance between an urban center and a mountainous region is usually short.For example, a 20-minute drive from Manado will bring one to Air Madidi (which literally means boiling water), in the Minahasa highland area which enjoys a cool climate.
Our trip to Tomohon and Tondano highlands, which are near Manado, was accomplished in an easy one-day trip.
We started in the morning from Santika Manado Hotel, circumventing the outskirts of Manado and heading toward Tomohon, but not before stopping at Waruga in Sawangan village which is in the Air Madidi district. This is where the famous ancient stone tombs are found.
The weather was excellent. Unlike the scorching heat of Manado, here you can feel the fresh air.
The road was good and the traffic fairly busy since it is the main connecting road. Houses stand on both sides of the streets up through Tomohon and Tondano.
Most of them have open spaces with greeneries and flowering plants. The houses look beautiful and cozy, especially the traditional wooden Minahasan houses.
Very rarely one gets a glimpse of a warung ( food stall), shop or restaurant. The food stalls usually sell nagasari (banana cooked inside rice flour) or salak (bananas and mangoes).
After Waruga, we arrived at Rurukan, a village which is about 1,000 meters above sea level. It is popular for its vegetables and spices. The scenery is captivating and at night the temperature can drop to 15 degrees centigrade.
The traffic from Waruga to Tomohon is very light. In some places we felt that we were only motorists. Some roads were so narrow that one has to stop by the shoulder to give way to oncoming vehicles.
Coconut trees are ubiquitous in North Sulawesi. They are everywhere from the coastal areas to the mountains. It is said that the province has 40 million coconut trees.
This is being put into good use in Kaaten, a village in Tomohon where a vocational school specializing in coconut wood furniture runs. Orders pour in from places as far as Java. Coconut wood, which is considerably heavier then most wood, make very strong furniture.
We stopped at Kasuang village for lunch. There were ikan bakar rica (grilled fish dipped in chilli), sop asam (sour soup), fried fish and kangkung (stir-fried vegetables). These local delicacies were excellent.
By afternoon we reached the famous Tondano lake. The wind was strong and the 5,000-hectare lake looked like a roaring sea. Tondano highland has numerous hot water springs.
On our way we stopped by at Woloan village, famed for their Minahasan elevated wooden houses. Orders come from far away places like Jakarta or even from abroad since these houses can be knock downed and reconstructed.
Hundreds of wooden houses are shipped out of the village which is only 30 kilometers from Manado and throughout the years the sales have steadily increased.
Producers now use e-mail and faxes so buyers do not have to personally come to the village.
Traveling through this North Sulawesi highland is a total escape from the modern world. When you encounter locals on the streets or in restaurants, they are often hospitable and their hospitality is genuine.(hbk)