During our 4 days in Tana Toraja, we spent two days trekking in the mountains to get an idea of the rural life of some isolated villages and one day on a scooter to visit some of the best places that Tana Toraja can offer around Rantepao.
With us is Johnny, our guide, that Caroline met at Rantepao three years ago. He guided us during the funeral ceremonies and will do the same during the next three days.
After an hour at the back of scooter jumping around the bad road looking like more a trail, we arrived at our trek start point. Just to note that my driver punctured his back tyre, probably because I am heavier than the “normal” indonesian guy. Also, he asked me to pay for it doing some signs with his hands. I replied the same way that he had to talk with our guide who was a bit further away. On the left picture, we can see him smoking his cigarette. He is not really willing to help or fix his bike.. There is not many people on this “road” so I think the only way for him to get it fix is to push it back to the town… Indonesian way… Take it easy man..
Here we go, we have started our trek. The weather is pretty hot and our motivation (mine especially) is not high… We are trying to follow our guide who is running naked feet in front of us. Caroline is behind me. It is her first trek since we left australia, she needs some time to get into it. And I keep calling Johnny to slown down .
We stop, we strech.. The start is not so easy, even harder for me.
We are going through thousand of rice fields, going up and down in the warm and humid jungle but end up at some breath taking outlooks.
We are meeting some many people during these two days. They always welcome us with a big smile on their face. We are visiting their home, taking pictures with them, running after theirs ducks or rooster. The big smile is still here. We stroke their buffalos, eat fruits from their garden (unknown fruits..), observe them, walk around their village, take photos after photos (we are sometimes worst than some specific tourists who take pictures of everything…). But they still have a big smile, trying to tell us with signs that they are very happy to have us in their village…
We are arriving with the rain at the village we will spend the night. It is 4pm, like a clock, the rain starts. Quick, let’s get some pictures.
We arrive within the village and we discover with some big eyes the Tana Toraja house we will sleep in tonight. We have seen so many, but it will be the first time we sleep in. It is almost brand new. It is a family of 5 who is living inside plus the grand-mother. As well some roosters, cats and dogs.Not sure what belongs to who.
The bathroom is behind.. Not a bathroom like you know with tiles, shower, toilet, etc… Not hot water, no shower but a mandi.. A large bucket full of water (that people brings from the town) along with a small bucket to have your “shower”. We are really in… My feeling is that the bathroom (so luxurions for the village) is almost used by the entire village. (not confirmed…)
Just arrived, but the familly welcomes us and offers us tea and coffee. We start then playing Uno (Caroline favorite game) with some of the kids. 15 minutes later, all the kids of the village were around us watching the game. We won’t stop playing with them until dinner time.
The kids taught us the color in Indonesian: blue, red, yellow and green : Biru, Merah, Kuning et Hijau. This helps a lot so we can get everyone to understand the game rules.
We will offer the game to the familly the next morning before we leave. The kids were so keen and enjoyed so much.
For dinner, the family cooked for us the traditional Tana Toraja dishes: Pa’piong which is made of chicken and local vegetables steamed into a large bambo stick and directly served in your plate as below:
We sleep on the first floor of the house. The whole family is sleeping in the living room to free some space for us.
Next morning, we are served a big breakfast composed of tea, coffee, home made pancakes and jam, plenty enough to hold you over until lunch time.
We learn how to recognise suitable roosters for fights. This not authorised also everyone has a rooster and get him into the fights in order to make some money.
Before leaving, we offer the Uno game to the family. Below, Caro with the father.
We have offered to the little girl a pack of colour pencils, she has already put in her shirt pocket. (Caroline’s bag is getting lighter, yeah). Before leaving we are taking some pictures with them.
The father and his daughter are looking pretty good on the above picture.
Some photos of the village:
On this second day, we are crossing again thousand of rice fields, going up and down in the warm and humid jungle. We meet some new people still happy to take pictures with us.
Caro gots very close to the buffalo baby and managed to stroke him under the surveillance of the mother (we cannot see it on the photo) It is very cute. But we can’t forget that when baby buffalo will be big buffalo, he will be sacrificed at one of these funeral ceremonies.
We have a really special and good time when we are crossing one of the school in the mountain. We are welcomed by thousand of kids singing and yelling…
Our mate the pig…
We are running after the ducklings and manage to catch one for the picture.
Overthere, what ever your age, you need to help your family and the community. The little girl helping to mill for diner.
The father looking after the buffalo. It needs to eat a lot to become fat. His value will increase and it will represent a lot of money at its sacrifice.
In the afternoon, we stop at a cascade for a clean up… We don’t smell good… We will have to get use to “stink” especially in Nepal where we won’t have the chance to shower everyday.
Next day, we are spending the day with Johnny on a scooter to visit around Rantepao and the main cultural attractions.
We are visiting the royal graves where all the locals asked us to take picture with us….
It looks like we are famous stars… Every where in the Sulawesi, people look at you like if you were someone famous. They talk to you “Hello Mister” and want a picture with you. I guess there is not many white people in the area.
In the grave, the coffins are placed either inside the rock or outside hold by two wood sticks. Sometimes, everything falls down… They do clean up making some bone pile on the floor. So it looks clean. Ok, but who is who? All the bones are mixed.
Please note that the organisation of the royal tomb is much better than the tomb for lower social classes. It is not lean but indeed less messy.
On the picture below we can see the Tau Tau. They are small wood figurines which represents the dead and keeps his soul. They are placed overthere once the dead is “burried”.
When we are arrive at the “public” tomb, we understand what “less organized” means. There is coffins everywhere, some of them balancing above two others. There is much more coffins, outisde, inside, on the left, right, above, underneath. Some of them are sitting on skulls. A big mess.
We are visiting the cave where we need to crawl to get in. We are meeting some coffins everywhere along with massive spiders bigger than my hand.
Below is one of the spide we met:
We wanted to watch a rooster fight, but this is not the right time. We just can see outside some of the owners throwing them against each other. It is only training time.
We go next to the baby grave tree. This is where they used to burry less than 6 months old dead babies.
Behind this is the fact, that the tree growing with the baby inside the trunk, the dead baby is getting closer to the sky.
We continue our visit with a stop at a farmer house to check out his two massive buffalos.
The first one, an albino buffalo, is worth a lot of money and will be sacrificed one day.
The second, will not be sacrificed but will be used for buffalo fights. Again, this is a different way to make money. They place it under the sun so his level of testosterone increases and it become more agressive.
We are ending our visit with the last outlook from a rice field (one out of so many)
This is it. It was our last day at Rantepao, so we take our last picture with the man we have followed everywhere during these four days.
Tomorrow, we will travel two days to reach the Toggian Island (another heaven on earth)
The itinerary is quite simple but long and there is no shortcut, which makes the Toggian Island a very exclusive spot. You won’t find there expensive resorts full of tourists.
- 13 hours of bus from Rantepao to Tentena
- One night in Tentena, where there is really nothing to do
- 3 hours of public van to reach Poso. Very small van….
- Another 7 hours of public van to reach Ampana on the coast.
- One night in Ampana.
- The next morning, we take a 3 hours local boat to reach Bomba Island (part of the Toggian) and Poyalisa resort where we will spend 7 days. Is it worth it ? We will tell you in the next posts.
A sneak preview of the Toggian…