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Published: January 16th 2016
Blue waters tumble down the jungle
But before you do look at the pretty pictures of Moramo Waterfall, because it was a hell of a trek to get there. Located in Southeast Sulawesi, not far from Kendari it is not easy to reach without your own transport. Like everything else in this part of Sulawesi information is thin on the ground. Eventually, after asking around, I ended up on a shared Kijang which dropped me off at a village with the simple instruction of getting an ojek (motorcycle taxi) the rest of the way. So I stood for a while in the shade of a big tree waiting for this mystical ojek to pop-up. And so it did. A kindly old man asked me where I wanted to go and half an hour later I had arrived at my waterfall.
The waterfall is somewhat of a local attraction and I gather it must get quite busy in the weekend. I gather this because of the trash scattered around the falls. Unfortunately cleaning up after yourself seems to be somewhat of an alien concept in these parts. The site looked like a garbage heap! Plastic bottles, half empty Styrofoam food packages, diapers, cans, and plastic bags were
Cascading from pool to pool
strewn all over the place. But, being a weekday, at least I had the place to myself, and with a bit of climbing towards the further reaches of the falls the amount of rubbish diminished, and I finally found myself a clear blue pool of water in which to cool down my overheated body.
Two hours later I returned to the entrance and my ojek driver took me back to the village. Instead of under a tree, he offered me to wait on the veranda of his small house for my Kijang ride back to Kendari. It was a long wait. As always getting there was easier than getting back. It gave us time for a chat, in which I learned that he used to be a lorry driver but had retired early because of the heavy nature of his work. Long hours on bad roads had worn him down.
So much for my ojek driver, back to the road. After three hours I finally got a ride back to Kendari and just because I love travelling I went straight on to Kolaka. Kolaka, as you might remember, is where I started my Southeast Sulawesi adventure, arriving by
Many pools to choose from
ferry. Instead of taking a ferry back, I decided to try my hand at overlanding it to Rantepao, my next destination. Only problem, you guessed it, no information! I knew there was a road, well not according to the Lonely Planet, but on the internet I could see there was one. Going up to the north and connecting to the Trans-Sulawesi Highway. Where there is a road there must be transport. And so there was. Kijangs, and as I later discovered, direct buses from Kendari, via Kolaka all the way to Rantepao. But I didn’t know about the buses, hell, I didn’t know about the Kijangs either. But I found out. At the terminal. About Kijangs going to Lasusua, which is north of Kolaka, and I figured from there I might be able to find further transport.
And so my ride started. It was a beautiful road, along white sandy beaches, up craggy bluffs affording amazing views over the blue sea below. If I had been able to I would have taken some pictures, but as it was I was in a cramped car, going at breakneck speed. From the first Kijang I was put in a second one,
The main chunk of the waterfall
which was even more cramped and went at warp-speed. This one took me all the way up to the Trans-Sulawesi Highway, where I caught a bus going to Rantepao, where I found out that I could have taken a direct bus! So I hereby offer the, seemingly, first information on the internet or anywhere else about transport to and from South Sulawesi to Southeast Sulawesi by bus. They exist! You may thank me later.
Rantepao is in Tana Toraja, and it is here where vegetarians need to avert their eyes. In Tana Toraja buffaloes have a good life. That is, until the funeral. Not their funeral, but the Torajan’s funeral. As it happens, the Torajan funeral is also theirs, not by choice obviously. The sacrificing of buffaloes is an integral part of the Torajan funeral ceremony, and the higher up the caste system you are, the more buffaloes need to be sliced and diced. Buffaloes which don’t come cheap. Especially when you not only have to kill a load of them, but also very specific ones, like albino’s, long horned ones, and whatever else you can think off. Those buffaloes range from 10000 euros to 70000 euros! And that
View towards Padamarang Island from Kolaka
is just for one. An upper class funeral ceremony becomes a rather expensive affair in that way. Say around 200000 euros for a simple one.
It is better to come from the lower caste, they only need to sacrifice three buffaloes and they can be the normal mundane ones, costing only a thousand or so euros. On top of the buffaloes, a lot of pigs lose their lives as well, to feed the guests. It isn’t a good day for the animals, even if it is for the visitors.
Yes, Torajan funerals are big events, involving the building of complete houses specifically to accommodate the guests. And as they are so expensive, it can take years between somebody dying and the actual funeral. After all gathering that kind of money takes time. The funerals themselves last between three and six days. Being what they are, they are also the main tourist attraction in Toraja Land. And so it happened that I found myself watching a bloody spectacle. As revenge for the impertinence of taking pictures of the dying beasts, one of them squirted blood over me. In their death struggle some of the buffaloes, though tied to a
pole in the ground, manage to break free and run into the watching crowd, the blood spraying from their severed arteries. It is gruesome. And it isn’t pretty. It is what happened to me. And it served me right.
Watching an animal die isn’t nice. Perhaps it was why I took my pictures. The viewfinder puts a distance between me and the hapless buffalo. But getting bloodied reminded me that what was happening was real. I abruptly stopped. Nothing changed, more buffaloes died, whether I photographed them or not. When I left, the grounds were soaked in blood.
Now, this is just one part of the ceremony. It isn’t all so gory. A much more sedate part of it is the welcoming of the guests, and the arrival of the coffin. Accompanied by a certain pomp and splendour. As always, the higher up in the caste, the more splendiferous it is. And for entertainment there is buffalo fighting. Dorje from Rantepao is the ‘Rocky’ of the region. The most famousest buffalo of them all, with over 20 wins to his name. His owner only allows him to fight for the right price. Obviously.
If you aren’t in
Prized albino buffalo, this one was worth 160 million rupiahs
for all this deathly grim stuff. If it makes you depressed, or makes you queasy, don’t worry there is plenty more to see. Beautiful scenery for hiking, interesting architecture, wooden effigies staring out from the cliffs or in caves, old coffins, stone tombs hewn into the rocks, you name it Toraja has got it. Or alternatively you can get yourself invited to a wedding, it is a far less grisly celebration.
I for one am leaving this world of death. I am leaving Sulawesi. I am leaving Indonesia. Not to worry, I will be back in October. For now my trip is taking me elsewhere. Towards the setting sun.
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