Manado to Makassar, and the HELL inbetween...

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Asia » Indonesia » Sulawesi » Tana Toraja
August 6th 2011
Published: August 25th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Sulawesi route

We arrive in Manado in the North, went to an island off the coast called Bunaken, then flew to Luwuk and traveled for 4 days to Ampana, Poso, Tentena, Palopo and finally to Rantepao (Tana Toraja), after that it was an overnight bus to Makassar.

This may be the longest blog posted on Travelblog and we tried every way possible to break it up but it just wasn’t going to happen. So we apologize ahead of time…make sure you use the bathroom and grab a cup of coffee before reading this.
The video and photos included in this blog show some extremely graphic images of animals being slaughtered. If you have a weak stomach DO NOT watch the video. We will try to keep the more graphic photos towards the end.

Well, even though Nate was sick and we didn’t get to go diving in the place we were looking forward to most, we still really enjoyed Bunaken. We really felt like we were off to a pretty good start in Sulawesi, but we knew it might not last for very long. We had booked ourselves a flight to Luwuk on a very small, puddle jumper of a plane with Merpati. Of course it wasn’t until we landed safely that Jessie informed Nate about this airline was experiencing more crashes than the others, even recently. When we got off of the plane in Luwuk, we were a little confused to tell you the truth. Even as we were walking down the tarmac, we could see the “terminal” we had to walk to outside of the plane. Now, the word terminal is not an accurate word for the building. It was literally, LITERALLY falling apart and crumbling all over the place. Our bags came down a little conveyer belt from outside as they were delivered from a small pickup truck. We waited inside patiently with the locals staring at the white people as if we had just landed from outer space. Once we grabbed our bags, we quickly realized we were going to have very few options for taxis…more like only one…the lone man standing outside with his kijang ready to grab his fare. Needless to say, we were only able to negotiate a small amount since we didn’t have any other choice. We had originally planned on going to the Togean Islands, but we just weren’t going to have enough time, especially with how long the overland travel was going to take us…2 or 3 days on islands that are a pain in the ass to get to just wasn’t worth it to us.

Since we didn’t have a place to stay, we pretty much just gave the guy a name of a place we thought might be ok to check out and had him drop us off there. We have to say, we had very mixed feeling as soon as we got into town, wondering if we even wanted to stay or just head out right away. Through a mixture of charades and terrible Indonesian, we managed to communicate that we wanted a bus to take us to Poso. The bus was going to be leaving late that same night, so we thought maybe we would save ourselves a little bit of time by traveling overnight instead of wasting a day in a place we didn’t really want to be. With HOURS of time to kill, we decided to go for a little walk around town to see what we could find. Within about 10 minutes, we had to say hello to so many people that it was almost wearing us out. Everywhere we turned someone else wanted our attention. Most were pretty nice for the most part, but of course there are also plenty who love to talk about you when you’re walking past. How do we know when this happens you might ask? Well, when someone says something to all of their friends as we walk past and they all turn, look at us and start laughing, it’s fairly obvious. Haha. After all the attention we attracted, we decided just to chill at the hotel we bought the tickets from until our ride arrived.

Now, we were told that we’d be picked up at 8pm, so naturally we were expecting to actually be picked UP at 8pm. When it got to be almost 9pm, we started asking the lady where the bus was until she finally starting calling for us to find out what was going on. After another 10 minutes or so, a man showed up in a kijang, ready to take us to the bus. However, when we got to where the “bus” was picking us up, we found out that we had been booked for an overnight car ride instead of a bus. Ok, maybe it will be ok. We’ll just suck it up for the…12 HOURS in the car? As we got into the car, one of the assholes working at the little “station” was trying to force us to sit 3 people in a back seat that was barely ok for TWO with the overflow of bags in the car. We told him there was no way we were sitting back there for 12 hours, crammed in like sardines. Of course, he didn’t give a rat’s ass what we thought or how comfy we were, he was going to put as many people as possible into this car. Jessie: “Ok, then we’re not going.” She pushed the seat up in front of her and we got out of the car, made them take our big bags out, and went to get our money back. The problem was, we were STILL in Luwuk, it was 10:00 at night, and we were starting to run out of options. Another man working at the stand offered us a ride to Ampana for almost as much as we were paying to go twice as far originally, but this was because we were “chartering” our own car. Word to the wise, don’t EVER use the word “charter” in Indo, prices pretty much double and you could very well end up getting the exact same ride you would’ve gotten in the first place. Once 11 pm rolled around, they pretty much had us by the balls. By this point we were so irritated that we said screw it and took the ride to Ampana.

Our driver excitedly hopped into the car and we were off…to his friend’s house? What the hell? He disappeared into a buddy’s house where we could hear them all laughing, most likely at our expense after the 4 of them came out to roll our windows down so they could stare at us for a while. Before we knew it, there was some different guy who hopped into the car instead and started to drive us. We looked at each other and knew exactly what the other was thinking. Should we get out? Is this a bad idea? Sometimes, it’s just really hard to tell and you have to go with your gut. The other problem on Suluwesi is that transportation is just a bitch no matter WHAT you do, so you’re trying to decide what is the lesser of 2 evils. It’s kind of like trying to choose between smelling a rotten dog fart or eating dirt. What’s worse? Anyways, we stayed in the car and as soon as we were out of town a little bit, the music went up to a level not even a whacked out teenager could handle and the pedal was to the floor! Nate caught a few glimpses of the man’s eyes as he moved around restlessly in his seat, sweating profusely and needing to take off his shirt while itching all over the place. His eyes looked like they could’ve bulged right out of his head, and judging by how antsy he was in his seat, it was pretty easy to tell that he was blasted on who knows what. Within the first 10 minutes of the ride, we already knew this was going to be a LONG, scary night.

This guy was flying at well over 120K per hour through herds of cows, narrowly missing them and dodging the stray dogs that love to lay in the street at night for some reason. The music got turned up to an absolutely painful level, and we actually had to ask him to turn it down. Of course, this didn’t last long and he cranked it right back up in about 5 minutes. Nate was tempted to say something, but after seeing the man struggling to keep his bloodshot eyes open and putting his head out the window to keep himself awake, he figured it was better the guy just do what he needed to do in order to get us there ok. There were MORE than a few times where Jessie literally closed her eyes and squeezed Nate’s hand to avoid screaming as the car slid around breakneck turns, skidding on the gravel…not to mention, most of the time the road was running along the water! No joke, some of these close calls were enough to make you piss your pants and scream like a 4 year old who just had a nightmare! Please God, don’t let us die tonight! The entire night was spent holding onto our “oh shit” handle grips on the ceiling of the car and praying that we would make it safely to Ampana. Obviously since we’re posting this blog we DIDN’T die, but it was without a doubt the scariest car ride either of us have ever been on. It was the kind of ride where you wanted to get out of the car, pull the psychotic driver out, and slap the taste out of his mouth for being such an IDIOT! It probably didn’t help that we had been through the ringer the day before and hadn’t slept all night, getting into Ampana at 5am with black bags under our eyes as we got dropped off at the one hotel that was already open… thank you for being Muslim and up for prayers. It was a good thing he knew about this place because we would have never guessed it was even a hotel. It just looked like a pink house from the outside with no signs on it. We opened our room door, literally thanked God for making it safely, and fell down on the bed. Our plan had backfired on us BIG time, and we didn’t save any time at all, because we couldn’t even get up until noon that day…it was a total waste of a day.

We could hardly wait to see what round 2 was going to be like as we were trying to make our way down to Tana Toraja. There was a proper minibus/minivan station we found and booked a couple of tickets to get to Poso. We were more than grateful to be traveling during the day and with a driver who didn’t look like he just snorted a zip lock bag full of coke in 5 minutes. Once we arrived in Poso, it was time to get a bus to Tentena so we could finally get to Rantepao, a town inside the area of Tana Toraja. We waited in the terminal as the “nice” police officers told us they had seen a record 4 white people that day. Fingers crossed there would be some open seats on the bus headed to Tentena so we could keep pushing forward. Of course there was a kijang driver who said something to the man working at the station, which in turn caused the guy to tell us, “The buses for the rest of the day are full. You won’t be able to get on, so you’ll have to take a car instead.” Hmmm, soooo you just called all of the buses traveling through town in between your conversation with the crooked ass kijang driver and found out they were all full? The best part of this was that we had already paid for the ticket for the bus. We just looked at him as if to say, “That was the WORST attempt at lying and trying to screw us over we have EVER encountered. Do we really look like dumb asses?” Nate: “Ah, yeah…no thanks. We’ll wait for the bus anyways.” Judging by the look on the man’s face, he knew we were aware of exactly what was going on. Thankfully a bus pulled in and we hopped on after only an hour wait. This bus was headed directly to Tana Toraja and was a painful 12 hour ride due to arrive at 4 or 5am. We couldn’t bear another overnight ride so we opted to jump off in Tentena and stayed the night. We had heard good things about the small lakeside town but were not expecting what we saw when we arrived. Small lakeside town was right with a whole lot of NOTHING going on. We were going to stay a day or so but decided to head out the next day. Our options for getting to Toraja were to wait until 3pm and catch the same bus we came on overnight direct to Rantepao or catch a 9am bus to Palopo and get a bemo from there. With the recent events of our overnight ride still haunting us we got the 9am bus.

We had lucked out and booked ourselves on a bus with very comfortable seats for the 10 hour ride to Palopo, thankful to be able to lay back a little and chill out on the way. There was however, a scary part to this ride. As we were making our way up the winding mountain side, we came up to a part of the road they were working on where it had washed away. This section was literally only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, with a big enough drop off the edge of the cliff to make the river below look like a worm on the ground. We didn’t know what was the scariest part…the huge drop, the fact that the road looked like it was going to landslide right down the mountain at any given second, or the fact that we had to drive through a section that looked like only a 4 wheel drive should be going through. If you would have taken a picture of us right then, you might have been thinking to yourself, “They look like their faces are frozen.” Well, that would be because we were holding our breath through this stretch until we rounded the next corner of the mountain. Whew! Originally, we were making pretty good time until we stopped for the “dinner” break. It’s pretty typical that all buses, no matter what country you’re in, stop every few hours or so to get something to eat around the normal time or maybe just a little pit stop. We figured we would be there the usual 45 minutes, but this would be the longest stop we had ever made. The guys on our bus decided that it was more important to watch some retarded ass cartoon on TV for TWO HOURS while we all just sat there and had to wait for them to decide it was time to go. Our patience was wearing thinner and thinner by the day, by the hour…by the minute! Nate: “I swear, I’m so tempted to walk behind this house and cut their cable line. I’m not even joking.” Obviously he didn’t, but we couldn’t believe we just had to sit there for that long while our driver and his little companions on the bus were glued to the TV. Maybe the worst part was that they weren’t even watching an actual program…it was some lame ass cartoon type show that the kids were watching at the same time. What the hell? We don’t mean to make you miss the latest version of Looney Tunes, but can we maybe, I don’t know, get back on the bus and keep going???

The other thing that really sucked about this was that we had NO chance of catching a bus to Rantepao when we got to Palopo, and had to get dropped off at a station full of…oh shiiiit…kijang drivers! After the past few days and the more we travel by road in Indo, we’re realizing that the guys who work in the transportation industry all have brown eyes for a reason, and not just because they’re Indonesian. It’s because they’re so full of SHIT that their eyes turned brown. For us, these guys fall somewhere between a crooked politician and a dirty car salesman. They knew damn well that we didn’t have any other choice but to pay for a car instead of taking a bus or a local bemo to get there, and the insane price they quoted us proved it. With more and more dirty men coming over to eye Jessie up from head to toe and everyone talking in Indonesian and laughing at us for a good 30 minutes, Nate was DONE. There was the breaking point. “FU** these guys!” Whether you understand English or not, that’s pretty much a universal word that everyone knows and they KNEW they had pushed his buttons. We started off down the street, eventually walking about 4K before finding a cheap hotel for the night, trying our best to chill out. It’s no wonder why you don’t see any white people in Sulawesi (which is good and bad at the same time).

Jessie had eventually communicated to the lady working at the hotel that we wanted to take a public bemo from the station in town to Rantepao and that we didn’t want a kijang or ojek (motorbike). Somehow, this translated into a man knocking on our door at about 5:30 in the morning and waking us up out of a dead sleep. Nate stumbled to the door, opening it as he struggled to open his eyes, standing in the doorway in his boxers. “Yeah?” “I here to pick you up. Go to Rantepao now.” Nate gave him a “you’ve got to be shittin’ me” look as he looked at the guys kijang that the lady knew we didn’t want in the first place. Nate kept his answer short and sweet, “No”, and closed the door on the guy. Jessie, “Are you kidding me? Did they just wake us up this early to try to get us to take a kijang instead of the public bemo?” Nate, “Uh, yeah…they did. I’m having flashbacks of Vietnam here. I feel like everyone is trying to screw us every time we travel in this country.” Since we were already awake now, we packed up our things and checked out with the guy who had arranged the transportation for us without telling us as he gave us a disappointed look. We dragged our butts into town and eventually to the main terminal after saying “no” to about 20 more kijangs all trying to screw the lone white people.

At least when we got to the station, it was easy enough to find a guy who was willing to take us for the same price as the locals pay. All we had to do was wait for a full load, which we completely understood. With a little time to kill, we pulled out our water and the cookies we had bought the night before. Nate was pretty hungry and quickly scarfed down about 4 cookies. But then, he felt something crawling on his hands. He looked down to see that his hands were completely COVERED with tiny little red ants, along with the cookies inside the package. Guess that’s one way to get your protein! “Aw man. I just ate like 4 mouthfuls of red ants!” He brushed the rest of the ants off of his arms, and walked over to the garbage all nonchalant. Jessie, “Ya know what I think is funny? At the beginning of our trip we would have freaked out about something like that, but now it’s just like…eh, whatever. It happens sometimes. Haha!” This was so true. Our level of cleanliness has gone down drastically since being in Asia, but even more so after getting into Indo. Our bemo ride was as easy as it should’ve been and we made it to Rantepao without any issues and quickly met a guide at one of the hotels we were looking at. The only reason people come to Tana Taraja is to see a funeral ceremony and the traditional style houses, and you have to hire a guide to get you there. Good luck trying to find it on your own in the little villages and through miscellaneous rice fields in the back of someone’s property. We figured we would give him a shot and told him to meet us a 8 the next morning since he knew of a funeral the next day where they would be sacrificing water buffalo, which was something we really wanted to see. As we were walking through town, we were approached by a random guy named John who wanted to practice his English with us, and actually asked us if it would be ok to do so. We did our best to use all of the typical conversational questions and answers to help him out and had a good time talking with him for a bit.

Our first day was pretty much spent doing a little exploring, being gawked at all day long, and finding a place to rent a motorbike at. There are plenty of guides who are willing to take you to one of the funerals, and after talking to a few of them, it sounded like we were about to go with the one guide who’s the laughing stock of the town. We hoped we hadn’t made a mistake. Maybe that was why he wanted a deposit up front, not necessarily so we didn’t stand him up because we didn’t want to go, but because of us finding out about his reputation. Nevertheless, we had already told him to meet us. Nate went to pick up our motorbike bright and early in the morning to find out that we were being given quite possibly the biggest piece of crap bike in the entire area…broken mirrors, issues shifting, not the best breaks, super loud exhaust (and not because it was high performance we promise!) Unfortunately, with little time to spare, it was either this or not having a bike for the day and having to hire a care for about 4 times the price of the bike. We were going to give it a shot. One thing we DIDN’T realize was that we had to buy some gifts for the family, so we spent some money getting coffee, tea, sugar, and about 4 packs of cigarettes which our guide, Emanuel, told us we should get even though we thought it was a little much for just the 2 of us…but then again, what do we know? After he stopped about 10 times to get directions to the funeral since he had no clue where we were going, we finally arrived at the place where they were holding the ceremony. He took us down into the rice fields we had to walk through while we asked a few questions about the ceremony and how things worked. “You sure ask a lot of questions”, he said. Um, isn’t that what we’re paying you for? He then looked over at a tree and said, “Oh, jackfruit tree. Almost ripe.” We looked over to see a half rotten jackfruit about to fall off of the tree and finish rotting on the ground. We looked at each other as he started to walk ahead, “Is he serious? Does he think we’re morons?” Oh yeah, and then there was the dog eating comment he made. He thought the idea of him chowing down some dog day after day would gross us out and was thoroughly disappointed when we didn’t offer the “Ewww gross” he was looking for. Along the way he also was chatting to a villager and told us they had already sacrificed the buffalo. Jessie was getting irritated by this point and almost turned around to tell the guy where he could go. We stuck it out though being hopeful things would work out.

Once we got through the fields and walked past the 4 huge hogs laying on top of the fire, we got to the main part of the ceremony where we were seated by the village chief and given coffee and some bread after we handed him our gifts. Right away Emanuel started trying to get us to buy things for the kids that were playing and running around. If this was normal, maybe it wouldn’t be too big of a deal, but we watched a group of 8 people next to us (who had a great guide by the way) give less than what we had brought, so we were already feeling like we had spent enough. We tried to get some clarification on a few details about the ceremony, but after getting a political type answer that was absolutely no help or completely made up, we pretty much gave up. It went a little something like this, “What do the numbers mean on the different bamboo huts and stands that are built?” Emanuel: “Well, you know, families come from all over to be at the ceremonies.” Huh? Jessie: “Do you know if the ceremony is for a man or a woman?” Emanuel: “Yeah, it’s for a person.” Good thing he clarified that for us! I mean, all along we were under the impression that everyone was gathering to honor the families pet rat and what an impressive life he had lived. Duuuhhh, no kidding! Before we knew it, it was time for the buffalo sacrifice. A large bull was brought out to the middle of the open area as everyone gathered around for the ritual, but to our surprise, there were 7 more lined up right behind him. “Are they sacrificing ALL of them?” One of the men tied a rope around the buffalo’s leg and attached it to the bamboo stake in the ground before grabbing it by the rope attached to the ring in its’ snout, lifting the head up high and…quickly slitting it throat! Nate’s eyes opened wide, “OH DAMN!” The buffalo jumped and kicked and freaked out immediately as we watched blood squirting out everywhere from its’ throat until it finally collapsed. The more they fought to stay on their feet, the more the men in the crowd would hoot and holler like Native Americans in and old western. EVERYONE was into it, even the women and children. Jessie was in the back behind all of the people for this one…Nate was going to have to be in charge of taking the pictures here.

One by one they would all go through the same fate, some taking longer to die than others, and some fighting harder than others. At one point, when 4 buffalo were convulsing on the ground (one slamming its’ head on the ground again and again as blood splattered all over), the more recent victim looked right at us with a gaping hole in his neck, groaning through the hole as he struggled to breath as his blood squirted onto the feet of the people in front of Nate. The only way you can possibly describe the smell here, was death. You could literally smell warm blood and death everywhere. In fact, the smell was even soaked into our clothes, especially Nate’s since he was so close. Not to mention, we have never seen so many flies in our lives! Anyone that was close to the buffalos had their entire back covered in flies, at least 40-50 on each person. We had been absolutely scarred for life and will never look at a buffalo the same. We’ve never seen so much blood in our lives. One thing you have to give them credit for is how fast they had the buffalo cut up and cleaned. Every single one of them was completely cut up and ready for the fire in an hour. These guys were like professional butchers!

Jessie was an absolute HIT at the ceremony as she was playing with the some of the kids and trying to talk to some of the men and women around them, drawing quite a bit of attention to herself. She soon realized that she was mingling with the chief’s family as everyone was taking turns taking pictures with her and with their kids. Chief, “You know, I looking for wife for my son.” Her eyes opened wide, “Oh I’m so sorry, I’m already married,” holding up the ring she wears for instances like this. Haha. Honestly, I know they don’t know any better, but what western girl in their right mind could ever live in this kind of environment every day…working in rice fields, pounding the rice husks off, eating rice every day, using the dodgiest squatty toilets, and on and on. The family was hoping we would stay for some food, but after seeing the meat being cut up and thrown onto the ground on top of the buffalo excrements as they disemboweled themselves while bleeding to death (not to mention having just watched a massacre), we weren’t feeling too hungry. Instead, we thanked them for everything and did our best to show our appreciation before making our way back to our motorbikes and heading onto some other sights to see.

Within about 10 minutes of being on the road, we heard our chain come off of our bike and we had to pull over. Emanuel turned around to check on us, as did one of the locals who was passing by. Nate could tell right away that the chain needed to be tightened in order for it to actually stay on and so we could continue our right, but Emanuel tried to tell us that it was broken…”broken on inside here, motor no good. You leave the bike here and pay for this man to take one of you for the day and I take the other one on my bike.” Dude, are you kidding me? Maybe he really did think we were stupid. Nate, “There is NO way I’m going to just leave this bike here. It’s my responsibility if it gets stolen and I don’t even know where we are.” We must have gone back and forth with him for a good 20 minutes before he finally gave up. Once he saw that we weren’t going for it, the guy put the chain back on and went about his day. “Oh there we go. It fixed now.” Yeah, no shit Sherlock. Wait, maybe Nate had “dipshit” written on his forehead and Jessie had “DUH” written on hers. Oh Emanuel, you get better and better…shady ass. We stopped at one other stop as our bike was starting to shift even worse…we could tell it wasn’t running very well at all by this point. We decided that instead of a full day, we were only doing a half day and taking the bike back before something else went wrong. Even though we paid our guide for more than a half day, he was still upset that we weren’t doing the full day, thinking we were making up the fact that we were nervous about the bike. In the end, after he tried to screw us, we really didn’t feel all that guilty. If only he could have seen us when we broke down 2 more times trying to make it back because of the chain…bet he’d believe us then! Oh well.

The next day we would take out the motorbike ourselves, but from a different place to ensure we weren’t driving a piece of crap all day. The ride was pretty nice for the most part other than some of the side roads being completely washed out, making going up or down steep hills over potholes and through loose graven and rocks a bit tricky. We would get to see many different traditional houses in the various villages, along with hanging graves and baby graves. The hanging graves are built right into the cliff face with bamboo. Many are rotting and made it easy to see the remains of the people resting inside. The baby graves were pretty interesting. When an upper class family had lost a baby due to premature birth, they burrowed out a hole in a tree and “buried” the baby in the tree so the souls of the babies would grow with the tree.

We were glad to have seen what we were there to see, even though it had been a LOT more gruesome and graphic that we had anticipated. It’s always interesting to learn about new cultures and what they believe in, and even though tourists come to see these funerals, we thought it was pretty awesome that their traditions of hundreds of years are still pretty much in place yet. Sulawesi had given us some unforgettable experiences, some good, some bad, and some just plain scary. It also gave us the chance to practice our Indonesian which we are getting pretty good at! We were definitely ready to keep moving and get off of this island though. We were off to Makassar on an overnight bus, where the only thing we really accomplished was tearing up some McDonald’s. Yes, we know McD’s again but it’s the only safe place to eat meat in Sulawesi, after all dog is on the menu every day! Plus, after living off of so much rice that we just wanted a different flavor in our mouths! Our next flight will take us to Bali…

Traveler Tips
Getting There
Luwuk- You can find pretty good deals on flights to Luwuk from Manado. Otherwise traveling over land will take at least 2-3 days or by boat is an easy day long venture.
From Luwuk to Ampana- If you don’t mind being crammed into a car for 12 hours, you CAN get all the way to Poso from Luwuk for about IDR 125,000. However, if you just want to get to Ampana, chartering your own car if you have nobody to split it with will cost 250,000 IDR for the trip.
From Ampana to Poso- It’s pretty easy to get the local minibus/minivan at the terminal on the opposite side of the bridge as you head out of town. You’ll pay 60,000 IDR each.
From Poso toTentenna- Public bemo will run you 40,000 IDR.
From Tentenna to Palopo- We recommend going with Bintan Timur despite the insanely long dinner stop we had. The seats are comfortable, recline back far, and the buses are in good shape. It’ll cost you 110,000 IDR per person.
From Palopo to Rantepao- The cheapest way is to head to the main bemo/bus station in town and get a local bemo heading to Randepau for IDR 60,000.
From Rantepao to Makassar- Take the overnight bus and pay the extra for the legroom. We chose Bintang Timur again paying IDR 90,000 each.

Luwuk- not much help here as we decided to blow right through this town.
Ampana- We stayed at the pink hotel near the bridge at the end of town. The price was right IDR 70,000 with breakfast.
Tentenna- Head to the far end of town for Hotel Pamona Indah Permai. It’s quite a walk but the room is super cheap. There was breakfast included for IDR 80,000 but beware it was the nastiest room so far in Indo.
Palopo- If you get stuck here the trusty LP isn’t going to help at all. We asked for Wisma and found one called Wisma Paldar for IDR 100,000.
Rantepao- There are many options. We liked the place we stayed called Wisma Irama which is near the market. The price was right at IDR 150,000 with hot water and a very filling breakfast.
Makassar- We stayed at Wisma Jampeao because they said they had wifi and lied. We payed IDR 160,000. The room was decent and pretty clean so we couldn’t complain too much.

No matter where you are, you can find cheap street food pretty easily and for about the same prices as well. You can get most meals for around 12,000-15,000 IDR, but western food is MUCH more expensive. Note to those of you scared to eat between the sheet of a makeshift warung…we have eaten mainly street food our entire trip and have yet to be sick from the food. Even the produce has been ok but we credit that to our rock hard stomachs.

Manado- We took a blue bird cab (cheapest with a meter) to the airport just to save some time and hassle and paid IDR 80,000.
Luwuk- From the airport, you literally have no option but to take a kijang into town. The ride in will cost you IDR 50,000 if you barter. Once in Luwuk have your hotel organize onward transport, the town is VERY spreadout and not walkable.
Ampana, Tentena and Palopo- All very walkable towns, it’s just finding what you are looking for that is the hard part.
Rantepao- Rent a motorbike for around IDR 70,000 and do some exploring on your own. The area is just beautiful.
Makassar- We spent some time walking around but it was HOT. Again, very walkable if you can manage the heat.

Additional photos below
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25th August 2011

great blog about a fascinating area, thanks! It's not the longest on Travel Blog though - I have a couple almost twice as long :)
6th December 2012

good review
First, let me say thanks to you guys for taking the time to write a review on the towns you visited, I just arrived at luwuk the day before yesterday and find myself at loss about how BORING this town is. Good thing you didn't stay too long. I am excited about your review regarding tana toraja and their cultures, wondering how much you paid for the guides and all the groceries you presented to the grieving family?
9th January 2013

Hi William!
Sorry if this gets to you too late, we've been a bit lazy with the blog lately. We're pretty sure we bought a couple packs of cigarettes and a couple pounds of sugar for the family. We didn't spend as much as our guide told us we should but we also had an "interesting" guide for that day. Let's just say we wouldn't recommend him. :) Hope things went well with you if you're past Tana Toraja and enjoy the rest of Indo!
16th January 2013

The inbetween Manado to Makassar is like the Midwest USA NYC-LA. Best to fly over it. Thx for the blog. My traveling partner wanted to go overland on the trip you blog about. Not anymore. Now it is Manado, Bunaken, Tongean and back to Manado to fly to Lombok

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