Morgan Pettersson is an Australian travel and environmental journalist and development worker. Growing up on the isolated West Australian coast, Morgan always dreamt of lands far away and at the age of 18 packed her bags and started her world odyssey. After studying abroad twice in Ireland and Greece, interning in Jakarta, volunteering with wildlife conservation in Bolivia and travelling to every continent including the great southern icy continent as an Antarctic Youth Ambassador, she is now based on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, trying to combine her love of travel with her passion for protecting the environment. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Morgan in Sulawesi!
6am – Today starts nice and early as I am going on a day trip to a nearby island with some fellow expat friends. In true Indonesian style the car picking us up is an hour late, but soon we are on our way winding through jungle and along ocean roads for over an hour to reach our boat.
9am – Arriving at a small cluster of stilt houses, we have to walk out to the boat along a wooden jetty. This is more an exercise in walking the plank with most of the jetty just single boards to walk along for metres at a time. I try not to imagine falling in and try to keep my balance.
11am – We arrive after a two hour boat journey to Hari Island; a jungle island that we have to ourselves the entire day!
We spend the rest of the day snorkelling around the coral reefs, eating a kilo of rambutans, and enjoying life.
9am – I am woken by the sound of thunderous rain; it seems the tropical rains are back. Banging onto the tin roof of my small house it is a soothing sound to listen to whilst I get up and cook and eat a leisurely breakfast. When it rains like this you cant leave the house and just need to wait for it to stop.
2pm – The rains have finally stopped and in their place it is hot and sticky. Unfortunately I need food so I am off to the local markets. I jump onto my motorbike and try to avoid any potholes. At the markets I seek out the lady I normally purchase my vegetables from each week. For only two dollars I can purchase a week’s worth of vegetables. Hopping back on my bike I cruise past countless stalls selling all sorts of tropical fruits, but I am in search of the last of the season pineapples and finally spot a stall full of pineapples for only one dollar each! The rest of today will most certainly be spent eating as much pineapple as possible.
8am – I wake up naturally like I do every morning and the first thing I do is look outside my window to check the weather to see if it is raining. This morning it’s not, so I cook breakfast and enjoy eating it overlooking the papaya and banana trees in my garden.
10am – This morning I am off to cook up a lunch time feast with two of my local friends in Kendari. I jump onto my motorbike and start the sometimes crazy journey of navigating the streets here.
2pm – After cooking for two hours lunch is finally ready to eat! On today’s menu courtesy of my friend Midah who is such a good cook is nasi putih (white rice), tempeh cooked with garlic and tomatoes, potato leaves, beans, fried squid, fish and sweet mango for desert!
It starts to rain so we stretch out on the floor and watch tv.
5pm – I arrive home from lunch and nap for an hour.
7pm – I have been trying to cook at home as so much of the food here has msg in it. I cook a veggie pasta on my little portable camp cooker and stay in tonight watching a movie on my laptop.
9am – Today I am attending a two day conference at a local hotel. The great benefit about this is that there is a big buffet lunch! Let’s be honest; I am literally just in this for the food.
5pm – The conference has finished and I arrange to meet some friends along the ‘Kendari Beach’ to watch the sun set. I jump on my motorbike and head along the bypass road that runs parallel to the water. The word beach is not an accurate description of the place. It is simply where the sea meets the land and is quite polluted. But it is the best place in town to watch the sun setting and scattered along the water are small cafes on stilts where you can buy a coffee.
6pm – The sun starts to set and we have chosen the perfect day to come down to watch it. The sunsets in the tropics are mind-blowingly beautiful and today is no exception. I sip on a local drink called a ‘seraba’ which is a ginger drink served hot mixed with water or milk. It kind of tastes like a ginger nut biscuit.
8pm – Dinner is at a local warung (restaurant) tonight of barbequed fish and rice before home to bed.
9am – It is the second day of the conference and I spend most of the day at the hotel.
5pm – The conference finishes and I decide to check out the hotel pool for a nice way to cool down in the humidity.
7pm – I arrive home to my house and cook a quick dinner of vegetables and naan bread. I eat it on my balcony listening to the evening call to prayer playing from a nearby mosque.
9pm – Tonight is Reggae night and I meet my friends at a café down the road to drink ice teas and listen to the only reggae band in town.
7am – I am on my way to the airport this morning as I am travelling to the island chain of Wakatobi for a week of relaxing in a hammock. I walk to the end of my street and try to hail a taxi. This is a very easy task as tourism is nonexistent in this part of Sulawesi and a foreign girl standing on the side of the road attracts a lot of attention. I chat with my taxi driver who is very curious to find out all about me as we drive the one hour out of the city and into the jungle to reach the airport.
10am – My flight is called and I walk across the tarmac to our plane, a tiny 37-seater with propellers on each side. This could be a bumpy ride.
12:30pm – Flying over the islands of South East Sulawesi, the water here is so clear that I can see the offshore reef from the air. We land and the driver who was meant to pick me up has forgotten to come to the airport.
I get surrounded by taxi drivers telling me I need to hurry to make the boat so after a little bit of negotiation we are off racing down dirt roads.
It turns out the island is much bigger than I expected and it takes around 30 minutes to reach the port.
2pm – I board the boat that will take me to the island of Kaledupa. It is a small wooden boat that does not look too sturdy. The passengers all sit on top with a blue tarp acting as a sun protector. Sitting room only, and myself and 12 other passengers squeeze into the space for the two hour journey.
4pm – I arrive to the island of Kaledupa and am met by another smaller boat, more like a canoe, that will take me to Hoga Island. The engine cuts out half way and we are left floating in circles for 15 minutes before the captain can get it going again.
We are zooming over pristine blue water and I can see the reef below. The island appears to the right and looks like a tropical paradise of palm trees and white sandy beaches.
Arriving at the island I jump down into the water and am greeted by Wia who runs the hotel on the island that I am staying at. My cabin made from coconut tree wood with a hammock on the balcony is perfect.
6pm – I watch the sunset over the beach, play a game of soccer with the local kids who live on the island, and then eat a wonderful dinner of fish, rice, vegetables and tempeh before falling asleep.
8am – I am awoken by the sound of the waves washing up onto the beach. I look out from my wooden hut and can see that last night’s storm has evaporated leaving behind crystal clear water and bright blue skies. I am on Hoga Island in Wakatobi. This place is paradise! No internet or phone connection and just hammocks, palm trees, coconuts and snorkelling all day!
9am – After breakfast I am off to explore the island and trek down the beach as far as I can.
The tide is out and I find a lot of interesting shells and crabs everywhere. Groves of palm trees spill onto the sand and with no one else around I feel like a modern day Robinson Crusoe.
12pm – I eat lunch with two new guests on the island; we are the only people staying here currently, and they invite me to go snorkelling with them this afternoon.
1pm – We jump on board the same boat that picked me up yesterday and zoom out around 15 minutes to a reef to start snorkelling. It is the most amazing coral and marine life that I have ever seen! So bright and vivid and I swear the entire cast of ‘Finding Nemo’ seems to be present. I even swim along next to three sea turtles!
4pm – We arrive back at the island in time for an afternoon siesta in a hammock.
6pm – I sit in a hammock strung between two palm trees and watch the sun slowly setting behind the nearby island of Kaledupa. A few of the local kids are trying their hand at slack lining and I sip a beer and chat to the local dive instructor practicing my Indonesian.
9pm – After a delicious dinner of crab, fish, rice, and vegetables, I am reading a book by torchlight in the hammock on my deck before falling asleep after another day in tropical paradise.
Morgan volunteered in Kendari, South East Sulawesi for six months as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development. She is now leaving South East Asia behind and heading on a new journey to live in the Solomon Islands. She currently runs the travel and sustainability blog The Eco Backpacker. Connect with her on Facebook or on twitter: @morgan_petters.