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EINDHOVEN (THE NETHERLANDS) - Just outside Sengkang we brought a visit to some houses with traditional weaving installations under their house. In this way they are protected from the sunís direct heat and they are working close to home. Itís nice to see the fabrics being produced in front of your nose, too bad itís nothing for me to buy something like it. If you ever want to buy something like it, you can choose from all kinds of natural dyes. If you which they can put real gold in it as well. Everything is for sale, however the people producing it, do wear it themselves as well.
It would be quite a long day again, but if we were lucky we would not encounter heavy rains in Tana Toraja. I will have to see what happens, because after travelling around for several days on a row, I would like to slow down for some time as well. The trip started driving fast, roads are good though we were not on the Trans-Sulawesi Highway, because that was on the other side of the peninsula. People who told me the roads were far worse in South Sulawesi compared to Jawa probably were stuck in the 1980ís, because things looked good up to now.
Soon we would see the first of the high mountains which had protected the Torajan people from being invaded by others, first the local warriors and later the Western expeditions as well. All of that is mostly broken down now, since roads have made access to the area quite simple for those who can afford to drive a car. Buses also ply many routes from and to places inside and outside Tana Toraja, so the non-connection which has preserved Torajan identity for hundreds of years is now in fact gone. Good to know that many people in Tana Toraja, and slowly the Indonesian government as well, seem to acknowledge that Ďoddí is not always bad or dangerous.

The mountains here seemed even more green than those on Jawa and Bali. Maybe this was caused by the fact that people always told me that Sulawesi was much more green and natural than the overcrowded islands of Jawa and Bali. Anyway, I could enjoy the wonderful big trees, not much primary forest here by the way. All of the forests here, well almost all, has been cultivated in one way or another. For me, that didnít make it less green for sure. As the road started to ascend into the foothills of the Torajan mountains we slowed down, so I could see the details in the green vegetation, villages and animals. The concrete blocks indicating vast distances could use some fresh paint, but were still readable from the driving minibus.
More green and less cars was what I noticed. I was getting back to sleeping again. See what I did, I was about to get back to sleep on one of my first days in Sulawesi, ever. I should at least be awake to absorb the environment, mountains, people and all, but no, I could not live up to my own expectations. That was not what I expected. To my luck the landscape was changing rapidly and the sun was burning on the windows of the minibus. It was my stimulus not to take another nap, but to enjoy the day, the sitting down in the car, seeing things that are different.
Later that day the mountains seemed to be more green than earlier that day. The sun high in the bright blue sky and almost no clouds to be seen. We were slowed down, because we had approached the higher mountains that surround Tana Toraja. Ascending these mountains with a minibus was more difficult than a car of course. Yusri however, was a skilled driver which has done this route several times in the last two years, so he knows where to be and where to watch out for.

After a while the sun disappeared behind some clouds, dark clouds when I looked up. Tana Toraja was near now, the highest mountains were nowhere to be seen anymore because we were right between them. It would only be several kilometres before we had reached the highest point of the road. There we should have a nice view towards Teluk Bone, the open sea in fact. Then it started to rain a little. I feared for the view because we would not go back here again.
Time to enter the real Tana Toraja, but first we took a rest at one of the highest points in the area. We had a view over the Torajan mountains at one side and the lowlands and sea at the other side. A drink and some minutes later, we got back in the car again to continue the trip to the Toraja Prince Hotel, in the heart of Tana Toraja, near Rantepao. It would still be quite some time before we would get there. The weather was still good, according to Yusri. Normally there is more rain, but the weather is very local here, so we both didnít know what to expect ahead.

Not too much later it started to rain again, just a little bit. If this was a welcome gift for what was ahead in Tana Toraja, then I didnít really like this. Rain is good, but I prefer it at night or at days that Iím not travelling of course. But for now I was still in the van, no problems yet. As we came out of the highest mountains, villages and houses started to appear, together with wet rice fields and small gardens along the road. Itís just good that there isnít too much traffic here, otherwise the cabbages would all be black when harvested.
Upon arrival at a restaurant, rain really started to pour down. One of the staff of the restaurant, with big umbrella, guided me from the minibus to the nicely decorated restaurant. Power was out due to heavy rain across the mountains I had a view on. I guess I was lucky then. I sat down and ordered a kopi Toraja, it should be a fresh Arabica coffee that is grown here locally and sold across the archipelago. I want to buy some beans later, supposing I could take a bag with me.

Freshly burned Toraja coffee beans (arabica)
Freshly burned Toraja coffee beans (arabica)

A hot cup of coffee together with a Sampoerna cigarette (just the scent, I canít really inhale or I will choke myself) and I spent some time watching the heavy rains, which had apparently made it over or around the mountains, fill the fields with fresh and cold water. Power was still out, but that could hardly spoil my stay here. Maybe it was too quiet, Iím not the person which should be left alone, because I tend to wander around then. Some people behind the desk were being lazy, which is quite easy with only a few paying customers a day. I just hoped it was much better during the peak season.
A few minutes ahead, around another hill virtually, was the Toraja Prince Hotel. The hotel seems way too big for the region, with itís several towns and not too much people spending the night here. Most of the people entering Tana Toraja for more than one day, those are generally only tourists, will probably stay in Makale, which is (much) bigger than Rantepao, which is the capital of Tana Toraja.
The Toraja Prince Hotel was even bigger than it looked when arriving through the main gate. The main building is nothing more than the reception hall with some rooms on the upper floor. Walking to the other rooms, using an umbrella is no luxury in the heavy rain, is walking through a nice garden which is maintained properly. You will see some staff. I noticed the power was out here as well. Ooh well, should be the same outage as a little earlier. Nothing to worry about. When we arrived at my room, the power was on again, and I was showed my Ė big Ė room. My view was a garden view. Directly behind the garden was a kampong, with itís little houses.
Finally I had made it to Tana Toraja. My promises dating back to January 2002 was finally coming true, I was on Sulawesi. In a few days more I was back in Makassar again, meeting with the guy I made the promises with such a long time ago. Anyway, that old promises whould not spoil my stay here for sure. Tana Toraja is green, quiet, friendly, sometimes wet, so there will be quite some stuff for me to explore.

Tana Toraja photobook
Caraka Travelindo



Posted in Travel @ 13 November 2004 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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