Following my sudden illness, I found myself with a bonus recuperation day. There were bananas, biscuits and conversations with a delightful Canadian couple who had moved into Rose's old room; I hadn't managed to say goodbye to my American friend, as she'd had to catch her bus while I writhed on the floor, which was a great shame. We'd meant to have a pizza in Ujung Pandang and to swap books when I'd finished the last few pages of mine on the bus – she had a John Irving book, A Prayer for Owen Meany, that I would have loved to read, especially after she described his other books to me – but I didn't even have an address. Such is life.
Still, I was just happy to be alive, and by the time the bus was ready to leave that evening, I almost felt better, if a little fragile. Jenny and Sarah were on the same bus south, and the journey passed pretty uneventfully, arriving at the bus station at some awful hour in the middle of the night, from where we shared a taxi into town, taking the girls to a dodgy hotel, and me to the docks. I had a boat to catch.
Pelni. Ah, how I missed you! I had no ticket and no idea where to go, but I eventually found a company representative who told me the boat left at 7am, and the Pelni office opened at 8am.
Hang on, run that past me again...
'So I can't buy a ticket, then?' I ventured.
Oh yes I could, from the ticket touts, who are technically illegal, but who work in collaboration with Pelni. I got a ticket for 73,000rp, only 3000rp over the odds, and bustled onto the KM Tidar, bound for the port of Surabaya on the island of Java. I couldn't believe how easy it was, but then again, the efficient connections you get with Indonesian transport never cease to amaze me, even if the transport itself often leaves something to be desired.
I wasn't the only one to catch the boat from Sulawesi to Java. Apart from the people – not as many as on the Flores-Sulawesi ferry, I was pleased to find, meaning the toilets worked and there were plenty of free beds – there was half the cockroach population of Indonesia, who decided to settle down in the same corner as me. Every time I rolled over I heard the familiar crunch of cockroach shell, and opening my packet of biscuits1, I had to shoo the hordes out before they had me out of house and home. I don't mind cockroaches that much – they die, eventually, just like other insects, and at least they don't bite – but I'm less keen when they turn up in numbers. And they tickle, which isn't much fun.
I also found A Prayer for Owen Meany tucked away in my backpack, put there by Rose as she caught her bus south. It brought a tear to my eye, and gave me something good to read as we sailed south. What a kind thought; such are the good parts of solo travel.
1 After my previous Pelni trip, I took my own food and ate Pop Mie (Pot Noodle to you and me) in the cafeteria. Those biscuits saved my life... eating Pelni food after my last batch of food poisoning would have been fatal.