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Monday 1 Jun 2015
Tentena, Indonesia

Waiting in Tentena

We had planned to have a rest day near Lake Poso and now we had almost no choice. Tentena was a pleasant place to rest with relatively cool weather. We had a few jobs to do, but mainly sat around reading. My hand was still swollen and I couldn’t even do up buttons on my shirt. I called my travel insurance company and that was a piece of work, there were all kinds of things I had to do and tell them, even though there was no likelihood of a claim yet.

After the rest day, I decided to take at least one more day in Tentena to see if I would recover. Felix didn’t want to hang around in Tentena. There was nothing for him to do and there was no guarantee that I would ever be ready to ride again. So he kept on riding.

We agreed to meet in Rantepao, the main town in Tana Toraja far to the south. From there we could continue the tour, or if I absolutely couldn’t ride, I could do some touristy things and then get on another bus to Makassar.

The next day Felix left to keep cycling to the west. Climbing monumentally away from Lake Poso he reached Gintu, ready to travel west deep into the mountains in the middle of Sulawesi. Gazing at the map, this was the part of the plan that lifted off the page and took on a life of its own, swirling through mountains and forests and the complete unknown. Sadly there was no way I could attempt it with one hand.

That day I tried to get on my bike and I couldn’t. My wrist wouldn’t even support enough weight for me to balance the handlebars. Seeing this was hopeless, I found out how to get a bus towards Rantepao.

While I languished in tepid inactivity, not venturing outside the covers of the New Yorker, I later heard that Felix was confronting a fate of unconquerable hardship.

Felix’s chosen road from Gintu was being suppressed by the jungle and when he arrived its asphyxiation was almost complete. Already the nearby inhabitants had sensibly shut off their minds to any memory of its existence. Only our fanciful and inaccurate map was beyond reach of correction. With persistent questioning, it was enough to kindle a nearly-lost spark of recollection in the mind of an old man. Or perhaps it was more of a curse, a riddle that was the only answer to an unreasonable question. He agreed there was a road.

Felix tried this road, and it sucked him deep into the jungle where there was almost no way forward and he was always its captive. Swarms of butterflies clogged his wheels, spiders assailed him by the faceful, and plants clawed at him to slow his progress. There was enough suggestion of a path to trick him into pushing deeper in, without in any way contradicting the likelihood of despair.

Whether the road would branch off to the desired destination was unknown. The mountains swooned and crowded out any sense of direction. Strange and wonderful birds squawked and revealed nothing. Time and space fused in a stationary frenzy. Felix did not eat or rest, the claustrophobic hostility absorbing his unbreaking attention. The land slipped away beneath his feet and he had to haul his failing equipment over perilous cascades of what used to be the road. Confusing ruins melted out of the foliage to allude to an irrelevant history. Progress was unmeasurable. Felix’s persistence was spent, ground up into a mere rustling of leaves.

Sulawesi had spoken. Felix, defeated, arrived not in a village to the west but in Gimpu, to the north. He was not even on the way to the places further in the mountains, and not even our map knows whether those places are real or not. There was no way to go forward. To get out of Gimpu and back on track he had to get on a bus, a fate as boring as his previous adventure had been disastrous.

I also had to get on a bus. I managed to ride my bike a few hundred metres to the ticket office, which was quite hard to find. A lady from Toraja gave my injured hand a very firm massage - the only treatment I ever received for it. Then I slouched sweating on the bus for twelve hours and found a place to stay in Palopo, a large town in South Sulawesi. The next day, I would try to ride to Rantepao.

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Sulawesi Cycle Tour 2015

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