It’s an area that not too many people know about but is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
What area am I talking about?
When I signed up to volunteer at Tasikoki Animal Rescue, I had no idea exactly where I was going except that it was somewhere in SE Asia. I figured it would be beautiful because lets be honest, SE Asia is stunning.
But I had no idea what was in store for me.
I also didn’t know I would be able to experience as much as I did while volunteering. Normally programs give the volunteers 1 day off every week, but Tasikoki wanted to make sure we got enough rest, so they gave us all 2 days off each week to do as we pleased.
Of course a couple of those days were spent sleeping in and relaxing at the center…..hey, a girl needs her beauty rest!
But I did use the other days to get a more personal view of North Sulawesi and really see all the beauty it encompasses.
Tasikoki had quite a few different tours for the volunteers to choose from. They made everything very easy for us by organizing the tours. All we had to do was let them know what day and how many people were joining.
A few of the girls (yes, the same group that I went to Tasik Ria with. This was our first group outing together) and I wanted to see what was beyond the rescue center walls, so we booked a day tour of the Minahasa highlands.
Minahasa is an area that spans over almost half of the regions in North Sulawesi, and it has it all! Mountains, volcanos, top diving destinations, hot springs…..the list goes on and on.
We were given about a dozen options of places to visit, but we decided to leave it up to our driver, who was native to the area, and told him to show us what he thought were the best spots in Minahasa.
He did not disappoint!
Our first stop was to learn a little bit about the history and culture of the Minahasan people at the Waruga cemetery. For having almost 150 graves, this cemetery did not take up very much room since they buried their deceased in a very peculiar way.
The Minahasan people believed that humans should leave this world the same way they came into it, so the bodies were placed curled in the fetal position in a small stone box. The box was then covered with an ornately carved headstone that depicted what the deceased’s hobbies, job, and character were like. If there was more than one person in that stone box i.e wife and children, their characters would also be added to the carved lid and notches would be made along the side of the box to show how many people were buried within.
The next stop was to explore caves that were built by the Japanese military during WWII.
Although I love being scared, these caves were eerie to say the least. Maybe it was because of the them being built for the war, or maybe it was because I have watched the movie The Decent one too many times, but I just had a feeling like the next time I turned on my light on something creepy would be standing right next to me.
After spending some time walking around the caves, we headed up to the top of Mt Mahawu, an active volcano!
Mt Mahawu is one of 2 active volcanos in the region. The other is Mt Lokon (pictured above with the buddha statue).
Since I had never been that close to a volcano before, I figured I would make the most of it and walk around the mouth. It didn’t seem all that big from the viewing platform. I soon learned the error of my way.
What first started as a leisurely walk, ended in a dead sprint back to the group since it would have taken me more than an hour to just walk the whole thing. I guess I need to work on my skills of sizing up a challenge before I partake, but I am still glad I did it.
After running around the volcano, I needed some nourishment, so we headed over to the Tomohon Market.
I would recommend everyone visit this market but with a word of caution.
DO NOT venture beyond the first couple rows of produce stands!
There is nothing for you to see beyond that, and if you mistakingly do find yourself in the back region of the market, you cannot unsee what you have witnessed. This is the area of the market where they sell different kinds of meat, and I’m not talking about beef and poultry. Things we in the western world find barbaric are a way of life here, so it’s best to just stay away from that area.
That having been said……please do enjoy all the fresh produce in the front part of the market. We all rehydrated with some young coconuts, and I was able to find my all time favorite fruit the cherimoya (also know as the soursop) at one of the stands and for a good price too! In the states a small cherimoya would cost me an upwards of $5, but at the Tomohon Market I was able to get 2 fruits for less than a dollar!!!
That made my day!
By the afternoon, we were all a bit tired and wanted to take things a little easy for the rest of the tour.
We stopped at a huge sulfur lake and grabbed some desert after lunch. I know what you are thinking, but we were upwind of the lake and couldn’t smell the rotten egg smell while we were eating our decadent chocolate fried bananas.
The last stop of the day was what Anthony claimed to be the best spot to watch the sunset.
We followed a winding road all along lake until we reached a spot where we could get some good pics of the sunsetting behind the mountains. Not only was the view gorgeous, but I also found my dream house here. I will own this house in the future……or own one similar. Either way this will be happening!
So as you can see, North Sulawesi is definitely a place worth visiting. Now that you know about North Sulawesi I would strongly recommend adding it to your list of future vacation destinations.