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Published: October 16th 2009
The last five days or so have been an exercise in going with the flow, which was my goal from the beginning of this trip. I flew onto the island of Sulawesi at night, landing near the metropolis of Makassar. My initial plan was to go into the city and try to find a cheap motorbike to buy on which to tour the island. But as I was getting my luggage, I met a Canadian girl named Rachel who was getting a night bus up towards the center of the island to Tana Toraja. And so I went on a 12 hour night bus, getting no sleep, and wound up in that very culturally unique area. They still build their houses here to look like the boats that their ancestors sailed over on from mainland Asia. But the region is most famous for the elaborate burial rituals that occur when a person of any wealth dies. Wooden effigies that represent the deceased are placed high up on cliff balconies, and the bodies go inside the rocks. There are huge funeral... parties in which the number of buffaloes and pigs sacraficed is a show of wealth. The island has a very exotic
feel, very beautiful with mountains and rice paddies, and us few white people here are minor celebrities anywhere we walk. The people for the most part are just incredibly friendly, more so than anywhere else Ive been.
So anyways, we rolled into town all bleary-eyed one morning and stumbled off the bus. Its a cool mountain town, and just really really dead these days with the dive in tourism. After it pulled away, I realized that Id left my guitar on the bus. I ran out along the street, and the first guy I passed offered me a ride on his motorcycle to go get it. He happened to be a guide and told me that there was a large funeral that day, so we hired him as our guide and went to several burial sites, etc., and then up to the funeral. We parked the car and hiked up a road crowded with people, and cook fires, and squealing pigs on bamboo racks. As we came over the ridge, we were all stunned, even our guide, by the size of the event. The dead man has 105 grand children (he had 8 wives), and they were all their
with all of their families. Plus the thousand other people who knew him, putting the total at several thousand people. And hundreds of pigs and buffaloes. People spend their entire savings on their funerals. A huge temporary stadium was erected. We wandered around the madness as all sorts of parades and chanting circles and countless other mysterious rituals went on. There were buffalo heads scattered all around that had been sacraficed Apocalypse Now-style. Pigs squealed in agony from all directions and there was smoke and dust and it was hot. I made the mistake of eating a small piece of the holy meat, and am my stomach is still messed up from it. And this was all after having no sleep the night before.
So the next day we just got a ride up to the fanciest resort around and paid $1.50 to use their pool all day. And so thats all we did-lounge around and eat at the restaurant and eat and swim and it was glorious. Ive spent the last two days on incredibly hot, long bus rides, which is scary when the stomach is upset. We had a one night stop-over in Poso (travelling now with
a Spanish woman I met on the bus) in a room with no sink and now shower and a baaad little squat toilet, all of which was heartbreaking after the long bus ride. BUT we made it to the coast this evening, and head out to the Togean Islands tomorrow, where Im thinking about getting certified to dive. Its one of the better places in the world to do so, so I probably should. Can add pictures from here, so Ill try later!
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