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Sulawesi Expedition

By Snablet

A Brief summary of events in Phase I.     Oct 14 - Nov 20 1994.

The 'A' Team: Rob & Helen Harper, Tony Boycott, Peter McNab.

We hired a Kjang from Ramayana tours 75000 rp with driver (Anton) and fuel all in.  It was a full days drive from UIP to Masawa, at the base of the gorge/valley. We found accommodation at Pastor Willem's school & church.  Lokko Ledo was visited and surveyed.  We got lost on the way to the cave & spent a couple of hours hacking our way through virgin jungle.  A hard days work for 193m of cave, but it was in limestone.

The area seems to be mainly igneous rock, possibly basalt, with a few limestone caps on top of the hills leaving remnants of old river systems.

The rest of our foray into the Mamasa river area failed to turn up any limestone caves.  A lot of rock shelters and waterfall undercuts as well as granite boulder piles were visited, leading to much disappointment. One of these involved a 36km walk in through dense primary forest, the cave was a measly 5m long!  But the walk was cracking, Cobras crossing our path - monkeys could be heard howling in the trees.  We stayed at the remote village of Mattanguga - an excellent place.  We also tried chickens foot whisky at our guide Fido's house - he was the local English teacher ... there was no school the next day!!!  We also noticed that we could cut a third of the time off that the locals quoted for walking distances as we weren't herding livestock to market!

Note .. .! don't like granite boulder caves, they are loose and don't go anywhere.

We had an interesting stay at a village near Mambi.  We had not mastered much in the way of Indonesian and none in the village spoke 'Ingress' (no surprises there) but we managed to get by.  The whole village came to watch us, my bivvi bag seemed to cause great hilarity whenever I got into it.

After a week or so we abandoned the Mamasa river area our conclusions were that there is very little limestone in the area.  We followed up all our leads of rivers flowing from underground ... they all flowed from underneath large granite boulders.  It was a dirty job but somebody had to do it.

We journeyed to Rantapo next & great excitement overcame the team at our first glimpses of hanging limestone cliffs and massive limestone tower karst, which could be seen from just before Enrekang up to Rantapo.  This called for a celebration, a local Bintang hostelry was located & we proceeded to drink the fridge dry.  Rob & Snablet decided to check out the local disco for a late one.  With about 8 other clientele in the joint Rob & I were the only ones pissed enough to partake in dancing (Involving cossack dancing, morris dancing, somersaults etc.) & we earn ourselves the nickname of ‘Crazy Ingress Men’ ... all this to the Reggee 3, the Indonesian version of Ging Gang Goolie!

Sullukan ... a taste of things to come. (Hopefully.)

20m from the road at Makula, park next to the bar with the swimming pools.  A large impressive entrance 5 x 4m with a reasonable stream flowing into it.  A large gour could just be seen in the gloom ahead.  YES ... here we go!  Unfortunately only 200m to a sump.  The gour is worth a look if you are ever passing by and there is still a going lead in the cave, reminiscent of compost corner, only a bit tighter & with Kamikaze bats flying through it.  Whoever pushes it best keep their mouth shut!

Next stop Lokko Ponte, a bit more like what we were looking for.  Large passage cuts through the remains of the limestone.  It’s well decorated with large dead stal. a bit like a railway tunnel in dimensions, linking two depressions.  A closer examination whilst surveying revealed a lower series.  The cave has the strange phenomena of having two downstreams & we have yet to find any upstream. I suspect it is through a sump somewhere around the first duck. Rob got something of a start when one of his survey stations turned out to be an orange snake!  Passage dimensions are a bit vague at that particular station.  Tony made a sterling effort at diving the 2nd downstream duck/sump through to another surface depression.  Total length of cave 1.5km.

Another cave entrance was noticed across the depression (Tete - Batu).  A quick investigation proved that we would be back the following day.

Tete-Batu, Lokko Nippon/Kandi api system was explored (we boldly went where several hundred Indonesians had been before) and surveyed.   It’s an impressive system with two active streams.  Where they join a 150m swimming canal was followed by Rob & Tony to a sump.  5 other sumps were also found in the system.  There are two high level routes.  On the left by climbing over a large stal boss into an extremely well decorated (for Sulawesi) series to another entrance (We don't know its name).  On the right just inside Tete-Batu entrance, up a steep mud slope is a series going to Lokko Nippon entrance then onwards to Kandi api entrance, this route is used as a short cut by the locals.  (Lots of graffiti in this series).  The total cave length is about 2km.  Apparently the cave is not very distinct as Tony B returned to the cave with J-Rat & Mac and resurveyed from Kandi api entrance through to Tete-Batu approx 300m before he noticed it was the same cave that only ten days previously we had spent 6 hours surveying and photographing!  The graves in the entrance didn't give you any clues, not even the skull with the BEC sticker on its forehead!!!

A word of advice ... don't try to ascend a rope using kevlar shock cord prusik loops, it may be nice and light for the walk in therefore saving you a bit of energy.  This however is totally wasted in the struggle to get out of the shaft, the kevlar cord may as well be super glued to the SRT rope. Great for stopping you from slipping, nine tenths of fuck all use for going up!!  We visited a cave "Sarambo" currently being used to supply the local villages with water, we were allowed in.  It’s a nice cave with two ways on.  One down the main streamway where we stopped at a duck and the other, possibly the flood bypass or an inlet, where we also stopped at a duck approx 160m of passage.  Unfortunately the cave turned into Manor Farm overnight with the local farmer demanding an extortionate amount of money for his favourite charity.  He did however look a bit bemused when he was told where to go!!

The area around Kalosi was our next destination.  We visited four largish caves only to find out on our exit from each that other foreigners had already visited.  We also found evidence that they had already been surveyed, topofoil cotton, stations marked on walls and gardened pitches.  Oh well, they were worth the visit, shame none had published their findings. We moved out of that area.  We decided to wait until the Speleo Sportif guide book comes out about the area so we know what’s been done.

Pasang - definitely no tourists armed with a compass, clino & tape have been here!  We only had time for a flying visit.  We took a short stroll around the area, 22km, taking in four caving trips.  We decided to return to the area at a later date.

Back to U/P to meet the reinforcements.  Liz Price was first to arrive, closely followed by J. Rat & Mac. Chris York caught us up in Rantapo a week later.

Tony B, Liz P & Snablet visited the showcaves at Bantimurung -Maros.  They are quite impressive; if you visit them take your own lamp.

"The Night of The Big Drink."

We were back in Non - Muslim country with beer on sale & Mac & J-Rat had arrived and if we needed an excuse it was my birthday.  Pissed??? -I should say so!!!  I can't really remember much about it- best ask the others, Mac carried me home about oneish, Rob was last in about sixish.  The following day was cancelled!

Returned to Pasang and spent 2 days surveying Lokko Lambale.  The SRT equipment was brought into action, four pitches rigged and descended and a rope climb.  We discovered some nice passage.  The Kepala Desa thinks we're mad "2 days in Lambale” total cave length 880m.  My biwi bag is causing a storm 'all day in Lokko - then sleep in lokko sarong!' they all come in especially to watch me get into it...who cares, at least it keeps the mosquitoes away.

Gua Possoloa: two caves with the same name.  One's above the other by about 4m.  Big dry passages, lots of bats and spiders, we even saw a shrew in the cave.  Cave length 500m & 250m.  We had an overnight stay at Limbuang.  Rob & Helen were given the guest room (because they were married) I had to share a bed with the family & there were 6 of them (I think) the oldest abut 75 the youngest about 6. At least I managed to sleep through the morning prayers (at about 4.00 a.m.)

Tapaan: this cave is halfway between Limbuang and Gua Possollo.  The trail leads down through an eerie gorge - like something out of a sci-fi film.  The entrance is a resurgence.  The stream forks, to the left leads to an unclimbed waterfall in a large bat chamber, to the right is 80m of crawling leading to a duck then onto another entrance. total length 500m.  There are other caves in this gorge but we could not stay any longer - it would have been unfair on the local village.

Back to Rantapo to see the others, unfortunately they had exhausted the area.  Their conclusions were that there used to be massive cave systems but now the majority of the limestone has been washed away by the rivers leaving only tantalising glimpses of what might have been.  Lokko Nippon is still the largest system we visited.

Central Sulawesi.

Rob Helen Chris & Snablet - headed north to central Sulawesi.  It was a good full days drive over the mountain range into the central area.  You can almost see too much tropical rain forest around the hairpin bends and along the subsiding roads.  We stayed at Pendolo on the shore of Lake Poso, its a mellow place. Next stop Beteleme. This is the area which Colin Boothroyd & co visited briefly on their 1989 recce trip, they rated it as the best area they encountered & likely to reveal more subterranean delights. Our journey was ' Palan Palan' ­slowly slowly - first because of a bad road then because the river kept disappearing underground.  This river contained some impressive gour pools.  Beteleme is surrounded by limestone cliffs and holes can be seen in them from the road.  The only problem for locating caves is that the hills are very steep & covered with dense primary forest.  Out of the three caves we visited, two had definitely been surveyed - Gua Tamaoa by Colin & co.  A very impressive cave 1.8km long, at one point the passage is 60m wide and 25m high, it ends in a boulder choke.  It is located at the head of a valley and disappears into the mountain.  There are many more valleys in the area maybe each of them has a cave at the head, only time will tell.  I have this area earmarked for a revisit with Annette & Jim when they arrive.  The other cave visited was Gua Dembiua, approx 100m and we found topofoil cotton running through it, possibly from a Spanish recce trip in '88.  The third cave we visited was near Denbiua.  A local bloke from the Garage popped up to see us while we were exploring and said in Indonesian "If you like that you will love this one."  He then showed us a longer cave nearby, approx 500m long with three entrances. We then ran into problems with the police (nothing new for Mr Harper - ed!) wanting us to make a donation to his favourite charity ... so we left!

Back to Pendolo ... a day relaxing and enjoying the luxury of a fridge in our Penginaden. (Guesthouse.)

The following day I headed north towards Manado, the others headed for New Zealand. Phase I of my trip drew to an end. My route started with a 4 hour boat ride across Lake Paso to Tentena where the boat has to anchor about 40m from the shore as the water is too shallow.  A bloke from the harbour paddles across in a large plastic fluorescent orange swan and then ferries all the passengers and goods ashore.  Its all very surreal.  A 2 hour Bemo ride to Poso harbour ready for the next crossing of Tomini bay.  To Minihasa peninsula via the Togian island.  I travelled economy class and slept in the lifeboat - it wouldn’t have been any -use in an emergency as the bottom had rusted out!  A very pleasant journey across the sea watching the dolphins diving out of the water by the bows of the ship.  I 'm now in Manado awaiting the arrival of Annette and Jim and the start of phase II of my trip.  The planned areas of attention are the rarely visited central eastern peninsula and the south east peninsula.  Then hopefully on to the eastern limestone mountain range on Kalimantan.  Phase III is of course speleo Philippines 1995.