NO WEDDINGS, JUST FUNERALS...


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Asia » Indonesia » Sulawesi » Tana Toraja
April 30th 2010
Published: May 11th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

5 hour boat ride from Wakai to Ampana. It was uncomfortable on the wooden boat, not much place to sit so you can have a lie down on a matt in the lower level but the locals already congregated there, so we just hung around wherever there is space. The locals gave us some corn to eat later and as we approached the main island of Sulawesi we saw a curtain of dark ominous clouds ahead of us which we hit in no time and rained heavily, luckily our packs were safe, it was dripping everywhere in the lower level but we stayed dry. At the port it was not raining and Ampana welcomed us warmly, a woman from the tourist office herded us to their office about 100 meters from the boat on the left side, she told us we can take the bus to Palopo tonight which runs at 9m arriving at 9am in Palopo then connect to Rantepau a 3 hour drive, problem is there is not one running tonight, a Tuesday, she later told us it runs every other day and that for now we can go to Poso, she sorted out transport for us 60,000 rupiahs each then connect to Palopo the next day.

We were only 5 in the van so plenty of space, the city of Ampana doesn't look bad, mosques and churches intermingle. The road to Poso follows the coastline, mostly good paved roads, occasional gravel roads but not too bad. We stopped for dinner at a restaurant near the beach, fish is the order of the day, delicious grilled. We arrived in Poso 5 hours later in the pouring rain, we got dropped off at Lalanga Jaya near the waterfront. We got shown a couple of rooms but we chose a 2 bed room for 100,000 total, I ended up sleeping on the floor with my sleep matt as there was 3 of us. Tomas and Alex took the beds. I slept ok, but there were mozzies biting and the rain is torrential we hear it making horrible noise on the tin roof.

Sunshine the next day, the owner of the Lalanga Jaya dropped us off at the Litha bus station, we paid 100,000 rupiahs each, 13 hour horrible bus ride, horrible not because of the road which is mostly paved apart from occasional dirt roads and not because of the winding zig zaggy roads, it's the fact that we stopped almost every 10 minutes to get fare or to do something else was quite annoying, a stop for water, snacks, or the driver buying his "arak", like anywhere in Indonesia the bus also served as a package delivery service, stopping at people's houses. The bus was good nice seats, but the locals start to vomit when we get to curvy roads and they puke on the floor, I just about saved my backpack when this woman in front of us started getting sick. We stopped in Tentena and a few more towns, lunch and dinner stops too, dinner stop was the longest as the driver have to take a shower and then his leisure meal, we are totally at the mercy of the driver, we go when he is ready, no timetable to follow at all. Most of the time they stopped and not telling us why. The longest we went without stopping was 30 minutes, amazing!

Arriving 9pm in Palopo, we got dropped off in an alleyway next to the trash bins. In as small convenient store we sorted out transport for Rantepau as we did not want to spend the night here, 350,000 rupiahs for a hired van between 3 people but the driver took some passengers along the way, grrr.. Windy roads, a mix of paved and gravel roads, not too bad but lots of winding zigzaggy roads that can make you dizzy at times. 11pm we arrive at Rantepau, rain just finished and the driver don't have a clue where the Emmanuel hostel is, we found it and knocked on the door, rang the bell but no answer, just when we were about to leave a guy came up to open the doors for us, Rich the care taker is so nice, we could not find an open restaurant to eat so we came back with noodles and he helped us to boil water in the kitchen. The place is so nice with gardens and feels like you are at a homestay. 100,000 rupiahs per room, Tomas and I shared and Alex took a room for himself. Slept well until the cocks started crowing at 4am!

Started out cloudy but blue skies came out and then got hot and humid at midday. We went for a walk on the main street trying to find bus companies for Makassar, 9pm and 7:30am departures is all we could find, my flight out from Makassar is 5:30pm so really needed to leave on the night bus the day before, 7:30am bus arrives in Makassar at 5pm, the Night bus stops at the airport at 6am but not the day bus. We parted ways, me and Alex sort out our plane tickets at the internet place while Tomas went to look for the tourist office. When I sorted by stuff, I went for a walk around town, found the local market selling fruits and souvenir items, the fish market etc. the locals are so friendly and helpful, I was able to take lots of photos, the vendors selling betel nuts, coffees, fruits etc. It got hot midday so I decided to sit in this restaurant to have some cold beer, and I found Alex there, soon Tomas arrived with stories of having been to a funeral ceremony, with animal sacrifices and all, Alex and I were jealous so we went to a travel agent to book some trips with them and see the attractions in town, we both decided we don't want to rent a bike which
RentepauRentepauRentepau

pot holes
is cheaper but we both don't feel comfortable riding in the hilly terrain and rains a lot and they drive on the right side. 450,000 rupiahs for a 2 day package to see places, good deal, with a car driver and a guide. Spent most of the time drinking beer and it poured down rain from 3 pm on non stop, typical Toraja weather we were told. After dinner we came back to Emmanuel's to chill and get ready for tomorrow's excursion.

Rained all night, woke up and the sky was starting to clear up we got picked up at the hotel around 7am and Nathan our guide took us to Pangranti just 10 minutes out of the downtown Rentepau and where they hold the funeral ceremonies. They keep their dead here with them in the house until such time they are ready to give them proper burial which is a bit extravagant, killing animals and such. Buffaloes are sacrificed, pigs and chickens I think, each buffaloes according to our guide costs around $1,700! and they are killing 4 today! We got led in to the ceremonial hall, we gave some gifts, cigarettes and sugar and coffee. The wife of the deceased welcomed us and served us some tea and cake. There was a lot of waiting for the killing to commence, we saw the poor innocent buffaloes being cleaned out back, rinsing the mud away. They all got hauled in at the center of the gathering, it's all muddy and smelly and blood in some spots, you need a strong stomach to endure this, there were 6 buffaloes and 4 are getting sacrificed. The guy just tied up one animal on a flimsy wooden stake in the center, grabs his knife and slit the animal's throat, the buffalo started jumping off and blood oozes out from the neck, my stomach started to churn and am normally tough with this things, then another animal gets slit in the throat, then a third one and a fourth one all in consecutive order, you can hear the animals struggling to breathe, my knees felt wobbly, shaky seeing this event, though I never stopped taking photos I can feel my tummy heaving the goryness was just too much for me, one animal got loose after they slit the throat and headed towards the crowd, so they have to give it another blow.

When all is said an done, 4 poor buffaloes lie on the muddy ground, they started collecting banana and palm leaves to lay on the mud, this will contain the animal parts as they butcher the carcasses,first they skin them, then cut off or hack them until they got all the animals cut up into pieces. We spent maybe 3 hours there then we moved on to visit Lemo a place where there are graves on an imposing granite rock facing a beautiful ricefield. Scenery is spectacular, a bit touristy though lots of souvenir stalls even on the ricefields. The have effigies or mannequins to represent the dead, they call it statues but they're really not. Then off to Kambira to visit a tall old tree called Tarra where babies less than 6 months old are buried on the living tree trunk, it's an ancient belief and people here still do that. lots of bamboo trees around the area and some more of the traditional houses that are shaped like a boat. There have rice barns too that are of similar shape only smaller and you see them dotting the countryside everywhere you go. Our next stop is Tampangallo where we went to a cave that has coffins in the cave, it's very interesting, skulls all over the place and more "sculptures" representing the deceased, we were told to offer cigarettes to the skulls if you take their fotos. The coffins have intricate carvings.

Suaya, the royal burial site, a king was buried here about a decade or less ago, not that interesting, from here we had lunch at a Torajan restaurant, actually it's a tourist trap, a restaurant catering to tourists that serve "torajan cuisine" fried shrimps and sambal among other things, not authentic, they served us a pork dish akin to dinuguan from the Philippines, Tomas and Alex weren't happy about the fact he(our guide) took us to this place cause he gets commission. From here we visited a "village" with traditional houses, Keruaya is the name. From there we were taken back to Emmanuel's our hotel and we told Nathan the guide we can't do tomorrow's excursion to the north as we are short of money, we have seen all the highlights already so we decided to just chill tomorrow. Nathan was a bit disappointed of course. Nice guy though but we felt a little bit overcharged, Tomas joined us at the last minute so it was cheaper but next day he does not want to come so we cancelled it. Walked around town and looked for souvenirs which were crap, the souvenirs in the places we went to were better but we have no time to shop.

Over breakfast the next morning the rain from last night stopped and the sky is clearing up again, it rains here every eve and that's normal. An American English teacher from Makassar is also staying here in the hotel with some local students, we got to chatting he was a Peace Corps volunteer for 2 years in Kyrgyzstan, he gave me some tips on where to go next time, anyway the 3 of us, Tomas and Alex went to the Bolu Saturday market, we hired bintor, the roads are crappy, lot of potholes, over the bridge we have to walk to the market because it was hectic traffic, we found the veggie and fish market and eventually yo the buffalo market, thousands of buffaloes here with their handler just queueing up for we don't know what, some are within the main square, others on the street, a guy came to us with tickets saying we have to pay 10,000 rupiahs for the privilege of having a walk around the market and possibly get mangled and stepped on by this huge buffaloes, I complained to no avail, money goes to the local government, he saYs, yeah sure.

We walked around taking heaps of fotos, the locals are nice and does not speak much, we felt a bit uneasy as these massive beasts of burden moves around, they get fed constantly, some are albinos some have spots, a few huge bulls and some have large horns, all sorts even babies are here. And when you have lots of buffaloes, lots of crap all over so watch your step. These animals can fetch from $1500 to $5,000 I kid you not or even more. We thought of buying one then selling for later when it get big so we have funding for our travels. Come funeral season they fetch a hefty price, around June to August when it happens everyday, after seeing the gorey rites the day before we are relieved to see no bloodshed in the market apart from possibly us being stepped on by these humble creatures. We kept walking and accidentally found the pig market, some are loose and then put on a sack others are tied up in this bamboo contraptions, poor things. After seeing enough we bought some balok a local wine from palm its murky white and is semi sweet, we also saw tuwak in jugs and they are nicer and sweeter but we can't understand how to bargain and buy them, it seems you buy them wholesale. We bought some balok in the market served on bamboo wood. I looked for a barber shop in the market to shave my head but no one can understand me but finally I was led to a place but it's not a proper shop, very rudimentary, just a few chairs on a nook and a guy barber set up next to each other, I did not feel like going to get a shave here so I left. We found one in town later but they are all salons, we can't find a barber and the woman who shaved me does not know what to do so I took the shaver from her and did it myself!

Rich from the hotel bought balok for us and we had a few drinks in the garden while killing time on our last day here, I will miss this place, the friendliest people in all of Sulawesi are here, very down to earth people and even if they scream Hello Mister to you many times I never get annoyed, to them it's a greeting for gringos, all smiling, well never mind the stares but they leave you alone in peace after the salutation. If you come here do stay at Emmanuel's, the staff is fantastic, Rich and the crew made my stay here memorable. We had our last dinner at Rimiko restaurant our favorite here we pre ordered the bamboo dish with pork, Alex and i had the same and it was delicious, they cook it on fire and with coconut milk sauce, excellent send off for us. And topped off with mangosteen fruit as dessert, I buy 2 kgs a day, it's so cheap here, 10,000 a kilo and it's in season so sweet and luscious, I converted Alex he and I gobble up these fruits like nothing, Tomas is fuzzy, only tries a little bit, good, more for me! One incident that happened is I
Bolu marketBolu marketBolu market

lime for betel nuts
stubbed my little pinkie toe on my right foot and it's sore and I am in pain walking, limping, good thing we are on a night bus. Bintang Prima picked us up at the hotel Emmanuel, but we picked up more people along the way, the bus is the nicest I've had in Asia, lots of space, comfy, reclining seats, a/c you just have to put up with pop videos and occasional Bryan Adams collection, but with ear plugs you are set to sleep well, and they turned it off after an hour or 2. We arrived in Makassar early, around 5am, the bus stopped at the airport but it's too early for me to hang about so I went to town with my friends, we went to New Legend hostel, 65,000 rupiahs for a dorm bed but they only have 4 beds, the rest is private,we woke up the reception staff, Henry, he speaks excellent English and very helpful, let us leave our backpacks while looking for breakfast which we found next door, no one speaks English and they run away from us! Good thing a local helped us out, breakfast was crap though. The boys Alex and Tomas left for this place along the beach 5 hour bus ride I think it's called Bira. I chilled in the hotel for a bit killing time before the flight to KL.


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