Wild Tana Toraja
Trip Start Oct 06, 2010
56Trip End Ongoing
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When my plane landed i immediately took a 13 hours air conditioned bus to Rantepao, the main city of central Sulawesi. It shouldn't be such a long way, just 250 km, but streets are literally falling apart or missing completely..ahaha!Journey not reccomended for those who suffer from motion sickness!
Once arrived in Rantepao, i decided to stay for about 5 days trekking up mountains, trying to go out of beaten track, and through rice fields. As the area is pretty wild and there are some dangerous insects species i decided to hire a guide, and actually it was quite a wise decision...
What surprised me the most of this region are the people...as there are not many tourist out here, they are really genuine and authentic, with good heart and always smiling to you...big difference with Bali, where they try to rip you off all the time
Something more about this region of Indonesia, apart of course from its crazy shape!
Life for the Torajans revolves around death and their days are spent earning the money to send away their dead properly. In Toraja people generally have 2 funerals, one immediately after death, and a second one, way more elaborated,four day ceremony after enough cash has been raised. I had the opportunity to take part to the second part of the funeral, the most elaborated one..and i have to say it was quite an experience..especially for my stomach experiencing the sour and pungent smell of buffalo blood.
Between the two ceremonies the dead live at home in the best room of the house and visitors are obliged to sit,chat, eat and have a coffee with them. This all ends when buffalo are sacrified ( at least one for people belonging to lower society class, as many as 24 for high-ranking figures..and these animals aren't cheap: a medium sized buffalo can cost several millions rupiah). Buffalo are chosen as it is believed that they are the right medium that helps the spirit of the dead to soar to the afterlife...My guide, told me that he is trying to enlarge his family (he already has 4 kids), so that the chance of having a decent funeral will raise together with the amount of kids he has (he hopes that one of kids can have one day a "good business" and pay for his funeral..)
To deter the plundering of generous burials offering, the Torajan started to hide-smartly-their dead in caves or on rocky cliff faces (see pics). In Toraja i have also seen Tau-tau, life-size, carved wooden effiges of the dead, sitting in balconies of rock faces, guarding the coffins. Descendents are obliged to change and update their fake deceased relatives clothing regularly!
What also grabbed my attention are the "Tongkonan", exquisite traditional houses, shaped like boats or buffalo horns, with the roof raring up to the front and back, the same way people first arrived by boat in this wild region. I have seen entire villages still composed entirely of these traditional houses, even though mostly now have corrugated-iron roof. The houses are painted and carved with animal motifs, and buffalo skulls very often decorate the front, symbolising wealth and prestige.
The remaining days i was proposed the guide to take part of a third funeral but i rather went trekking in the mountains as i couldn't stand any more buffalo, pigs and other animals massacre. Trekking in these region is quite tough as it was very muddy and slippery everywhere, not considering of course the heat and high humidity level which are constant day and night..But anyway, i enjoyed very much the lovely landscape and all the nice torajans i met along my way. The last night i was supposed to go back in town for a rest before the long trip of the day after, but actually both me and my guide were lost in the mountains. Luckely we found a nice family that hosted us for the night and offered their best food...so..i had to eat dog meat!!! terrible experience but the guide told me they would have been very offended by my refuse..
The day after, without fog, we climbed the mountain down towards the city, where i took again the bus heading to south of Sulawesi.