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Caught between a tsunami and a boa in Indonesia - now what?

All sorts of animals become meals in this jungle market.

Dominick Merle

Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

Shortly after dawn our snorkelling adventure in the Sulawesi Sea came to an abrupt end when a tsunami alert was sounded from the nearby Philippines. We speed-swam to shore, shed our goggles and fins on the beach, and headed for the nearest hills.

The jungle hills, that is. But by dusk we were heading back down just as fast when someone spotted a boa constrictor slithering our way in the nearby brush.

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Caught between a tsunami and a boa – this definitely wasn't Kansas. Welcome to the exotic and sometimes "too exciting" island chain of Indonesia.

We had arrived the previous night in the city of Manado at the northernmost point of the vast Indonesian island chain, and were greeted by our guide, Lexi, a look-alike for the late actor Yul Brynner.

There were five of us on the tour and after the tsunami alert Lexi hired a van and driver to take us a safe 800 metres above sea level into the jungle hills.

"Very few tourists come here," Lexi said. "I will take you to typical jungle market."

We drove 20 minutes on a dirt road to a village called Tomahan. Basically, the village was the market, the main food supply for people living in the scattered jungle communities.

The market entrance seemed typical – fruits, vegetables, herbs – but suddenly morphed into a scene from a horror movie. Butchers were chopping up cats, rats, bats, dogs, snakes, the occasional chicken or goat and some creatures I truly did not recognize.

I ask Lexi if there were any culinary taboos. "We don't eat owl," he said. I asked why. "Many believe the big eyes will haunt you," he explained, "and they don't taste good either."

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Lexi then picked up a couple of barbecued fruit bat skewers. "But these," he said, "are delicious with sticky rice and curry sauce."

But we didn't have time for snacks. "Now we search for the world's tiniest monkey," Lexi said as we headed for the Tangkoko jungle reserve. It's one of the few places in the world where the tarsier monkeys can be found in the wild.

But shortly after entering the jungle on foot our hunt ended as abruptly as our snorkelling escapade when a wild-eyed guide came sprinting our way, shouting with each stride.

Lexi shouted the translation even louder: "BIG BOA!!!"

We ran out of the jungle, hopped in the van and roared back down to sea level, where we'd started so many hours earlier.

"Museum, anyone?" Lexi asked with a grin

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Sometimes what's not on the agenda is often more memorable than what is.

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