In Tana Toraja they are on an old six-day calandar, so the market (Pasar Bolu) occurs once every six days. I took a bemo a couple of km out of town to a completely congested huge area—the biggest market that I’ve ever seen with the possible exception of the one in Kashgar, China.
Everything imaginable was for sale—vegetables, prepared food, clothing, shoes, household implements, local coffee, eggs (some were blue—they are duck eggs, I’m told!)—if you can think of it, it was there!
The most interesting, though, was the animal market. There were any number of men walking around with roosters—beautiful birds they were! Then there were the pigs—hundreds of them, all confined by bamboo poles and palm fronds, poor things. Every now and then somebody would buy one and load it onto his motorbike to take home. They screeched horribly, but I assume they wouldn’t permanently damage them or they would loose their value!
They were mostly full-grown males but there were some young females there, too.
The only other animals that I saw were three ponies—I’m not sure if they were for sale or not. What an extravaganza! It was very clean although it had rained the night before (first time since I arrived in Sulawesi) which did leave some puddles to dodge.
The evening before I finally met up with a British couple who had contacted me through the Lonely Planet and so we had a beer together. Another evening we had dinner together. It’s always fun to compare travel notes.
One day I got a bemo to go to Batutumonga, a village way up in the mountains. The ‘paved’ road was terrible, but the view was worth it. I had a nice chat with a young German couple and their guide in the bemo.
I walked along the road for awhile, enjoying the scenery and the quiet. After awhile I decided to get a bemo back to Rantepao, and came upon a little stand with a couple of young girls. I asked one of them if a bemo would come here to go to Rantepao, and she nodded, ‘yes.’ She indicated she was going to Rantepao, too. We waited for over an hour until the girls apparently gave up, and went on their way. Pretty soon I was tired of waiting, too, and waved down a motorbike man and asked if he would take me to Rantepao. We negotiated the price and we were off, over the bad, curvy road, but he seemed to be a skillful driver, and so eventually we made it back to Rantepao and to my hotel, in spite of great trepidation on my part.
Yesterday I hired a guide to tour me on his motorbike. He drove so conservatively that I finally relaxed and enjoyed it! First we went to Lemo, a village with amazing TauTau (effigies of important
So many of the tiny villages have these ‘tongkonan,’ traditional places where important funerals are held. In between, as always, Tana Toraja offers so many beautiful rural scenes that can really be appreciated on a motorbike, especially on a quiet Sunday morning as this was.
The second site was called Londo, which had a huge burial cave, as well as TauTau guarding it and coffins suspended on the cliff face. I did not choose to tour the cave (with locals carrying Coleman lanterns) as there was more than enough to interest me just at the cave entrance.
Some had many buffalo horns denoting supreme status (the more buffalo horns, the more buffalos slaughtered, the higher the status).
The final site was the village of Karasik, very near Rantepao, that had a forest of megaliths. I had seen a few at the tongkonan of the funeral that I attended several days ago, but this tongkonan had about 15! These each denote a noble funeral that was held here in times past. Nobody seems to know how old the oldest are.
Today I took a bemo to Mikale, the administrative town in Tana Toraja. It was their market day, and it rivaled Rantepao’s in size. However, there were no buffalo for sale, and I was referred to Rantepao when I asked. The pigs and chickens were there, as well as lots of eels and fish. I suppose I’ll have to try the eels before I leave Sulawesi. I think I draw the line at bats, though, although how much meat could there be on a bat anyway?!
-I did see a number of older women chewing betal nut. Rather than put the packet into their cheek as I’ve seen elsewhere, here they simply place this large wad of green and betal nut part way into their mouths, leaving it protruding. Ugh!
Before leaving Mikale, I walked to the center of town where there is a small artificial lake surrounded by flowers and centered with a statue of a fierce warrior. One can certainly see that the Dutch missionaries followed up on the Dutch conquest of the area in the late 1600s, as there is a Christian church here on every corner and atop every hill!
Tana Toraja has certainly been a wonderful place to visit. Now I have bought my onward bus ticket to Tentena and will leave in a couple of days.