Divers dig the un­der­wa­ter magic of Bu­naken's world class reef. The bio­di­ver­sity is un­matched, but even ex­pe­ri­enced divers needs 24 hours of de­com­pres­sion be­fore fly­ing out. Many won­ders lie above the wa­ter line in the coun­try­side sur­round­ing North Su­lawes

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY GAIL G. COLLINS Gail Collins writes in­ter­na­tion­ally for mag­a­zines and has co-writ­ten two books on ex­pat life with a solo pro­ject en­tail­ing the long-haul, oil-rich In­done­sia's Banyu Urip field in2015. She feels writ­ing is the per­fect ex­cuse to talk to

Be­yond Bu­naken: Tour­ing the Mi­na­hasa High­lands

The city it­self hosts a pub­lic mu­seum – filled with tra­di­tional cos­tumes, weapons, ce­ramic ware and in­de­pen­dence his­tory – plus a broad range of ho­tels and restau­rants.

Still, noth­ing can beat the lofty views three vol­ca­noes pro­vide of the old city and sap­phire sea. Only an hour's drive from the dock, the cooler climes of out­ly­ing vil­lages of­fer di­ver­sions rang­ing from wooden kit houses to a Bud­dhist tem­ple to fresh fish din­ners on the lake, and of course, mar­kets filled with lo­cal goods. The warm, wel­com­ing Mi­na­hasa peo­ple cre­ate an invit­ing place to lose one­self or to break away and linger longer.

Out­side Manado, a ver­dant land­scape awaits. Dot­ted with neat, framed houses and fenced gar­dens, the coun­try­side has a Euro­pean feel. De­spite the nu­mer­ous churches left over from colo­nial in­flu­ence, there is great re­spect for all be­liefs. Head south to Vi­hara Bud­dhayana in Kakaskasen, where a scar­let flame sculp­ture and a sev­en­storey pagoda dom­i­nate the com­plex. The climb re­wards with a spec­tac­u­lar sight, and as one quickly re­al­izes, vol­ca­noes are vis­i­ble from nearly ev­ery lo­ca­tion. The tem­ple grounds' en­try­way is stud­ded with golden Bud­dhist stat­ues and teach­ings.

Fur­ther on, stop for a pic­nic at Kali Wa­ter­fall to de­light in na­ture be­fore con­tin­u­ing south to To­mo­hon. Known lo­cally as the City of Flow­ers, the vil­lage sits in the sad­dle be­tween Mount Lokon and Mount Ma­hawu. Nei­ther of th­ese sleep­ing sis­ter vol­ca­noes has been ac­tive since the late 1700s, but pre­vi­ous ac­tiv­ity through­out the re­gion has blan­keted it with fer­tile soil. Abun­dant fruit and veg­eta­bles pro­vide self-suf­fi­ciency with a fo­cus on spices, such as clove, nut­meg and vanilla. Ara­bica coffee, which thrives in such moun­tain­ous con­di­tions, was in­tro­duced by the Span­ish and brews a fra­grant morn­ing cup. A ride in a bendi, a horse trap be­decked in vi­brant flags and tas­sels, makes for a fun tour of the flower street and his­toric Sa­cred Heart Church. Then, it's time for a steep, short walk up to a pleas­ant perch above it all. Look down on the To­mo­hon from Mount Ma­hawu from the rim of the 180-me­tre wide crater. From there, the vista of Mount Lokon, sym­bol of the High­lands, looms on the hori­zon.

Nearby Woloan boasts a main street of wooden houses for which the Mi­na­hasa are known. Sin­gle and multi-sto­ried raised houses – to counter the rains – boast many de­tails, like porches or sym­met­ri­cal stair­cases, so if the devil en­ters, he will have two ways out. The kit homes are not sam­ples, but avail­able for sale, af­ter which they are dis­sem­bled, trucked and re­built on­site. Go ahead and bar­gain with a builder.

From there, drive along­side rice pad­dies out­side Ru­rukan en route to Lake Ton­dano. The im­mense lake, nearly 4,300 hectares, is east of Mount Ton­dano and sur­rounded by hills. Many fish­eries line the shore, some with restau­rants at­tached. A fish din­ner doesn't get any fresher, and a fresh­wa­ter catch is touted to be sweeter than their salty sea-go­ing rel­a­tives.

Al­ter­nately, Lake Li­now is a small, colour­ful, wa­ter-filled crater. Small vents punc­tu­ate the crater wall, emit­ting hot gases and fluid. The vac­il­lat­ing chem­i­cal mix­ture causes the lake to fluc­tu­ate from red to green or blue. Watch your foot­ing, re­gard­less of the con­crete-like ap­pear­ance of the wa­ter's edge.

Pu­lu­tan af­fords the chance to pur­chase pot­tery. The cot­tage in­dus­try uti­lizes self­made, sim­ple equip­ment to shape the clay by hand. A na­tive pot, used to slowly cook a stew over wood fires, could be a use­ful re­minder of those emer­ald hills. Not for the faint of heart, Bukit Kasih, or Hill of Love, rises with a 1,000-step stair­case, com­plete with balustrades. Near Kawangkoan, the mon­u­ment rep­re­sents the five re­li­gions of In­done­sia, but sul­phur's cor­ro­sive char­ac­ter­is­tics have left the spot less than lovely.

Com­plet­ing a loop back to Manado, stop into Gar­de­nia Coun­try Inn. The re­sort can pro­vide an overnight stay, and the restau­rant, sup­plied by its lush gar­dens, can pro­vide a sam­pling of lo­cal cui­sine. Mi­na­hasans en­joy their dishes with lib­eral chilli, so be fore­warned. The bubur, or por­ridge, is a favourite. A grand­son to Sam Rat­u­langi, who was an in­de­pen­dence hero and lo­cal ed­u­ca­tor and for whom the in­ter­na­tional air­port is named, owns the es­tab­lish­ment. Leonard's wife, Ber­nadette, is a hob­by­ist cook and gar­dener, and the restau­rant be­came an out­let for her pas­sions.

If days al­low, travel east from Manado to Tangkoko Bat­uan­gus Na­ture Re­serve. The park cov­ers three moun­tains and 8,700 hectares. Rain­for­est con­ser­va­tion be­gan in 1919, but habi­tat dev­as­ta­tion and hunt­ing still threaten many species. It is pos­si­ble to see a va­ri­ety of wildlife, in­clud­ing tar­siers; a tiny, in­dige­nous pri­mate; cus­cus, the Su­lawesi bear; and birds, such a macaques and horn­bills. Raft­ing, trekking, dol­phin tours and many out­door ad­ven­tures also are avail­able.

The word Mi­na­hasa de­rives from the lo­cal lan­guage, mean­ing ‘ to be­come one', yet the di­ver­sity – from the sparkling seas to the panoramic vol­cano rims – of each won­der is unique to be­hold.

Sin­gle and multi-sto­ried raised houses – to counter the rains – boast many de­tails, like porches or sym­met­ri­cal stair­cases, so if the devil en­ters, he will have two ways out.

Vi­hara Bud­dhayana stat­ues

Lake Ton­dano

Kit houses

Mount Ma­hawu

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