Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
I continue the story of my journey to Sulawesi, trip dating from July 2007. I will take you back to the Toraja country, for a motorcycle ride through the splendid rice paddies around the village of Batutumonga, north of Rantepao.
Motorcycle ride in the rice fields of Batutumonga
Rantepao, Friday, July 13, 2007. Another fantastic day! Together with my new Spanish friends, Joseba and Ana, I'm off to explore the villages and rice fields of the North.
They have rented a motorcycle too and we take the road together in the direction of Batutumonga, with our small photocopied map provided by the hotel.
The road climbs. One rises little by little in a mountainous decoration, with rice plantations, of a breathtaking beauty.
The weather is a little gray and as we take of the altitude, it is definitely cooler. We do not delay to put on our jackets and rain clothes.
After having lunch and admired the view from a big tourist restaurant in Batutumonga itself, we take the road a little by chance and we stray in small stony paths, which pass between the rice fields and connect villages whose name we do not know.
Traditional villages of Toraja country
Everywhere, people are extremely hospitable. Big smiles and hand gestures to greet us. Our visit always fascinates the children.
The villages are cute, with their roofs tongkonan curved, and we stop from time to time, to photograph houses and granaries with rice particularly beautiful, finely carved and painted.
On some of them, the black and red decoration, with bull motifs, evokes Spain.
We stop for a while in a place whose name I do not know, but whose beauty scotches us on the spot. A small valley between two mountains, with rice fields on the level.
Shades of soft green, interspersed with large black rocks, like in a Zen garden. The place is of an absolute serenity.
A few meters further, we discover that the largest of these rocks also serve as tombs.
In a small village perched high in the mountains, we come across a small funeral ceremony. It is less sumptuous than that of Rembon which I attended two days earlier.
There, I feel more "voyeur", more embarrassed to take pictures than in Rembon, in spite of the insistence of many guests who absolutely want to pose with us. Because there are women in the procession who are crying and moaning.
This is strange, because in the rest of the group, other people are singing, laughing, and shouting, with the festive gaiety that I had observed in Rembon, typical of these Toraja funeral ceremonies. The deceased here has probably been dead for less time than the deceased in Rembon, which would explain the open sadness of these women.
We do not linger. We must return before the night. It falls early under these latitudes. And we absolutely do not know where we are. But people kindly indicate us the road. Anyway, as long as we go down, we are in the right direction!
On the way, we cross peasants and kids, a little shy, who carry the barbaque of the buffalo sacrificed in this ceremony. Other children, less shy, met in a village a little lower, confirm us that we are well on the good road to return to Rantepao.
Back to Rantepao
The air is getting warmer, we can finally take off our little wools. I think of buying before leaving a sarong like the mountain people wear here. The piece of fabric is sewn at the ends, and forms like a large tube, transformable at will into dress, skirt, scarf, hood, or shawl to wrap up.
We fall back to finish on the main road below. A happiness, this trip in the North. The best of all my walks in Toraja country. Once back in Rantepao, we celebrate this beautiful day around a San Miguel and a solid meal at the Mambo.
The next day I leave for Lake Poso with the Dutch. Johan found us and negotiated a big 4 × 4 car adapted to the rotten roads that await us, with a nice driver, Ynus. The trip must last a whole day.
The Spaniards, on the other hand, are going to play backpackers, with the local bus, which makes the connection. They took their tickets the day before. We went to examine the aforementioned bus, parked in front of the agency, in the main street of Rantepao. No air-conditioning, the machine looks tired, the seats are narrow. It promises! We joke about the afflictions of the long journey which awaits them. I confess that I am very happy to benefit from a more comfortable transport.