TENTENA, Central Sulawesi – The Surprises Kept Adding Up!
Tentena was a very nice surprise for me. I underestimated this unheard-of town, and agreed to spend some nights there only because Lake Poso is there, and because it made most sense to leave for Lore Lindu National Park from there. Turns out, they have the best waterfalls I’ve seen in Indonesia so far, and the ride around town by motorbike was great to unwind.
Photo courtesy of Reno
Tante (Aunt) Doris, the owner of Victory Hotel, told us that we should see the waterfalls. If not, it couldn’t be really said that we’ve been to Tentena. That’s how iconic the waterfall is to the people of Tentena. I have to admit that I wasn’t interested at all at first. I never really found waterfalls amazing (except the Niagara Falls because it’s so vast). But we still had time before leaving south for Toraja, so I thought, why not. There’s not much to see in the town anyways.
We hired an ojeg and its driver and rented a motorbike at the corner of the Pelabuhan street, to a warung (a little shop) owner. I rode with the ojeg, Reno drives the other motorbike with Mumun as his passenger.
It took us about half an hour to get to the Saluopa Waterfall, and the view right and left along the ride was a pleasure. Fresh green paddy fields, the dense cacao plantation, town houses and colorful churches, through a Balinese village, and the vast Lake Poso to our left.
A simple wooden ticket booth welcomed us at the mouth of the waterfall park. Each person had to pay about IDR 10,000 to get in. Cacao and some other kind of trees were planted to our left and right.
We could hear the sound of the waterfall, clearer as we got closer. And a cemented path took us right to the foot of waterfall. It was so refreshing to see the crystal clear water, and then we dipped our feet and.. oh it’s so cold!! So fresh!!
We went up the path and cement stairs and saw more and more amazing sight. Big rocks on top of each other and on different levels, the water fell through the levels and sprinkled as it hit the ground or rocks.
The waterfall consists of 12 levels. Mumun and Reno went up to the top, while I stopped halfway because I got starving, and when I starve, there’s no stopping me from finding food..! So I went back down to the entrance/exit, and munched on some snack available there. Ohhh such a relief, I got my sanity back!
Mumun here tells you what she saw up there:
While Vira went back to feed her inner being, Reno and I ventured up to the highest level that we could reach. I think we reached the 10th level. We met some fellow travelers from Togians, assuring this wasn’t off the beaten track, but sure is quite. We did meet a few locals but it was far from crowded.
Photo courtesy of Reno
From here, you could climb all the way up and enjoy canon ball jumps in to the small pools below. As I saw those climbing for the jump, I could see that it wasn’t a slippery climb. And from the feel of my dipped feet, the water as fresh as mint in your mouth! I hate being a girl when it comes to my period, the hassle was what kept me half dry that day
Photo courtesy of Reno
One thing I noticed was the butterflies bundled up in a few spots. They’re beautiful and extraordinary when it comes to details. I had to leave my bird-watching craving since we had such limited time. But the butterflies did help cure it.
Realizing we had to head to one more spot and have lunch before catching the afternoon bus, we didn’t stay too long drooling over those enjoying the waters. We headed back to the front gate to meet Vira and a little girl eating paper. How I envy her ignorance
This tectonic lake is said to be the 3rd deepest lake in Indonesia after Lake Toba in North Sumatera and Lake Matano in South Sulawesi. Tentena is on the north of Lake Poso, and there are many villages and towns along the shoreline.
Photo courtesy of Reno
We stopped by at this lake, entering the Siuri Cotteges area and played with the sand and water a little bit. It was funny that it looked like an ocean since the lake is soooo vast (the surface area is 323 km2 according to a Wikipedia page), but when you taste the water, it’s perfectly plain!
The sand is not like in any other beaches. It’s yellowish and bigger grains, more coarse, but so easy to shake off of your skin.
Ride around town
It’s common that travelers rent motorbikes to sight see, or if they’re adventurous enough, ride for 5 hours up to the Bada Valley through the hoarse route. The usual rate is IDR 50,000 per day per motorbike. If you’re only using it for a couple of hours, you might wanna haggle. If you don’t know how to ride a motorbike, then you can hire the driver as well.
Here are some ideas of what you can see around town..
Hehe.. this is actually something you can do anywhere. But I did mail some Kadidiri postcards from Tentena, since Kadidiri island doesn’t have a post service. The post office is near the market, only about 15 minutes walk from Victory Hotel. Too bad they don’t sell picturesque postcards.
One of the cards I sent to my friend Kiki in Australia, it cost IDR 4,000. It takes quite long to arrive because from Tentena, the mails will have to be picked up to Palu, the nearest city, and then flown to Jakarta, and then distributed to the destined countries.
As I remember, Tentena doesn’t really have a special local dish. But we did go out for binte. It’s actually known in the whole Sulawesi, if not the northern and central parts only.
Debby advised us which warung to go for a binte, and Panther the driver who was just hanging around at the lobby offered to take us there. Apparently he was quite impressed that Jakartans can be as friendly and as polite as us. (This is seriously a wake up call for Jakarta people. You’re actually considered rude and snobbish by your own people!)
Picture courtesy of Reno
So, honestly I forgot where the binte warung was, but I remember that it cost IDR 5,000 / portion. The soupy dish tasted fresh, and I’m a fan of corns.
We did peek in to the bowls of those sitting beside us in that small warung. And I swear it looked nothing like ours. The broth was red! And you know what that means? Chili. Mumun especially liked the taste of peanuts in the soup, giving it a crunch and rich taste.
In the last day, after our visit to Saluopa waterfall, we had lunch at “Mentari” eatery near the bridge and slum, in the direction to Pendolo town. It cost me IDR 18,000 for a huge piece of fried chicken. And I almost lost my appetite when I looked down to the side, there were trash everywhere on the river surface. Quite off-putting.
And to add to that, we were actually eating in the living room of the owner. Talk about a homey décor.
Just anywhere in Indonesia, you can find street foods on wagons. We bought some fried snacks (of tofu and banana), or in general known as gorengan for IDR 500 / piece. And also martabak (sort of like crepes) Terang Bulan for IDR 4,000 / piece.
Tentena gave me my first experience of seeing cacao trees and fruits, as I’ve written here .
I thought that the fruits would be sold at the market, but not according to Mr. Wilson my ojeg driver. That’s why he agreed to pick some for me from the plantation, so I could taste it. I asked if it’s ok to do that, I didn’t want him or us to be sued for stealing. But he said it’s fine, just one or two fruits from the whole plantation doesn’t matter, people are generous there. Okay, that’s good enough for me.
Before starting the whole trip, we had researched for some hotels via the Internet. It wasn’t easy, because most small hotels or hostels in Indonesia aren’t online. But we did find some references through the Lonely Planet, travelers’ blogs, and youtube videos. We didn’t make any final decision because we thought it’d be better to look at the hotels and rooms directly before picking one to sleep in.
Panther, our driver from Ampana, advised us to stay at Victory Hotel. I’m guessing that he had some sort of deal with the hotel, but if it’s a good hotel, then why not.
We arrived at Victory Hotel at about 12.30 am. It’s more of a Losmen (hostel / lodge) actually, the standard class of accommodation in a small town. At that night, we couldn’t really go around the hotels because it was too late and we just wanted to doze off right away, so we just took what Victory had to offer. Turns out, we loved it!
Photo courtesy of Reno
Debby, the girl at the front desk, was very kind and took care of everything. And in the following days, we found that the family who owns the hotel and all the staff were very nice, friendly, and helpful.
We got the 3-bed room with a private bathroom. The room was spacious, clean, and tidy. The rate was IDR 175,000 / room (excl. tax) with complimentary breakfast (pancakes, bread+jam, or fried rice, plus tea, coffee, or water).
I don’t think the room had air conditioner, but Tentena is pretty cool, we didn’t need any cooler.
Photo courtesy of Reno
Victory hotel also provides travel services for those in need. They can provide you with information about the surrounding areas, contacts to drivers and travels, also info that can take you to Ampana, Pendolo, Palu, Poso, Rantepao, Makassar, or where ever you need to go. Debby was a great help. She even drew a map of Saluopa and Siuri beach for us or for whoever needs one. We’ve heard she’s getting married soon but maybe she would choose to stay in Tentena in the future. She is the girl you’re looking for. And she speaks great English too… we heart her!
Jalan Pelabuhan 16, Tentena, Sulawesi Tengah
And here are our research results of accommodations in Tentena:
- Pamona Indah Hotel (Jl. Kom. Yos Sudarso, Tentena. Phone: +62-452-21245)
- Homestay (Jl. Trans Sulawesi, Tentena. Phone: +62-452-21247)
- Losmen Moroseneng (Jl. Kom L Yos Sudarso 2, Tentena. Phone: +62-452-21165)
- Hotel Intim Danau Poso (Jl. Kom. L. Yos Sudarso 22, Tentena. Phone: +62-452-21345, 21489)
- Hotel Panorama (Jl. TVRI, Tentena. Phone: +62-452-21412, 21240)
From Palu or the south
You could reach Tentena from Palu, the capital city of Central Sulawesi which has an airport. I think it only takes several hours of driving from Palu. But the most cases in Sulawesi is travelers go up from the South Sulawesi by bus or shuttle (travel) car, about 9 hours from Rantepao, the nearest big city.
From the north, through Ampana
Or, just like what my friends and I did, you could have your water adventures first in the Togian Islands, then down southward by ferry to Ampana town. The ferry ride was about 6 hours long. You could make an appointment in advance for a shuttle car pick up and or accommodation in Ampana. Better yet, make friends with someone who have made appointment, and then ride with them. Hee hee.
From Ampana, if you haven’t booked a shuttle car to go to Tentena, you can take the bus. The people at the Tourist Information Service (TIS) can take care of that.
But what we experienced was as follows:
- we did make friends with Marlies and Jaap from Holland on the ferry, and they offered if we wanted to go along with their booked pick-up car to the town from the port. Of course we accepted!
- we were flexible, we could either take the bus or share a ride with them to Tentena. Turns out, they chose sharing a ride with us for IDR 450,000 / car and returned their booked bus tickets to the lady at TIC with a little cancel fee. But the tricky part is, beware of frauds! We were promised by Mr. Coral (a travel guide whom we’d met in Togians) at Oasis Hotel that his car would come at about 5 pm to take us to Tentena. But it never came and Mr. Coral tried to bluff his way to get us wait until god-knows-when. We finally got another ride though, from Panther, a driver that was standing by at Oasis Hotel as well.
Panther was a nice driver. Got to Tentena relatively fast, friendly, and polite. He knows a fair bit of English, which could be your entertainment during your ride At about 7.30 pm we started our 5 hours journey through the woods, cliffs, and dark roads.. in a comfortable well air-conned car.
If you wanna book Panther for his travel service, you could text him to his mobile, +62 813 411 90215. Hopefully he doesn’t change numbers.
A note from Mumun:
The road was pretty bad. There were a lot of holes in the road and the cherry on top was the fact that many roads have become so narrow due to landslides. It’s a common thing around these areas and not to worry, the drivers are used to it. The racers… I mean drivers are trained to drive fast through these roads. It makes the journey worse than what we expected. If you’re a snoozer like me, then you probably can sleep through some parts of the trip, but it would take a lot to meet my state of ‘trance’.
A note to all passengers, drivers in Indonesia are hardcore, raw, and ridiculous drivers that can get you to places in the nick of time if necessary. The thing is, if you are in a hurry and skipping the sight seeing, you might want to cut some slack for the drivers. Smoking, turning off the AC, and putting on really annoying remixed folk music is a few of the things they need to do to stay awake. So, please be advised that sometimes they do it because they have to and not because they don’t care about service.
The one big problem of this city is obtaining money. You can withdraw money during the day through the BRI bank in the middle of the city. But when the night crawls in, so would your chances to get any cash. The only ATM is open at night up to 10 pm only if there is a security guard on duty. And if he happens to be peeing or strolling around looking for munchies, then your money can wait until he comes back.
Photo courtesy of Reno
This is more or less what I spent for Tentena trip
- Ferry ticket (economy class) Wakai – Ampana = IDR 30,500
- Meal at Mekar eatery, Ampana (across Oasis Hotel) = IDR 17,000
- Travel car Ampana – Tentena = IDR 450,000 / car (not a fix price, can be more)
- Binte = IDR 5,000 / portion
- Victory Hotel = IDR 175,000 / night / 3-bed room
- Meal at Mentari eatery, Tentena = IDR 18,000
- Ojeg from Victory Hotel – bus terminal = IDR 5,000
- Ojeg (motorbike + driver) plus 1 motorbike rental for Saluopa trip = IDR 60,000 (haggling is required to get this price)