Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text:
Batutumonga. This strange and beautiful name is synonymous, for me, of a fantastic scooter trip in the heart of the Toraja country, in the center of Sulawesi. Sublime rice fields... but rotten roads! I almost slept in the mountains, because of a flat tire.
The rice fields of Batutumonga
The area of Batutumonga is a mountainous zone covered with rice fields in levels. At each turn of the road offers a new stunning panorama. If there is a corner not to be missed, in the Toraja Country, it is this one!
During my previous stay in Sulawesi, three years agoI had already offered myself the ride. I wanted to do it again, last July.
It's easy. In my bag, before getting on the rental bike, I put some maps of the region, recovered from my previous trip.
Well... "maps" is a big word: simple A4 sheets photocopied and distributed to tourists. Between a continuous line and a dotted line, it is difficult to know which path is really practicable for a two-wheeler.
The pen-ball pen
So, I ask my motorcycle rental company: which is the best way to make a loop and come back to Rantepao without any trouble? Three years agothe return route had been difficult. Not want to redo this long and tortuous journey by broken roads.
On one of the maps I hand him, he indicates the "right" road with a blue line of ballpoint pen. He also scribbles the name of a village, if I have to ask for directions. With the tip of his finger, he also shows me the dotted lines of the "wrong" road... Very bad roadhe says.
Perfect. Thank you so much, terima kasih baniak…
The good road
I set off on the road to Bori. A small asphalt road, with some potholes and tarpaulins spread out where the rice dries in the sun. A nice picturesque road, taken the day before to go to the funeral ceremony. Moreover, the festival continues in Bori. On the spot, one continues to cut up the buffaloes.
This time, I cross the village without stopping and continue in the direction of the north. From time to time, I stop to photograph the work in the fields.
It climbs little by little. But the road is still a real road. It's the right road, no problem. Besides, I recognize everything.
I find this fabulous point of view, where everyone stops for a souvenir photo, where the eyes look far over the rice fields and the tiny villages, with their graceful roofs tongkonan curved. I stop again, a little further on, in such a beautiful valley, that I am so happy to see again... Rice fields, again, sown with big black and round rocks set in the tender green of the crops. Superb!
I have lunch up there, in Batutumonga itself, at the panoramic restaurant where all the tourists land. The walk is a classic of the circuits around Rantepao. But there are not many of us in the huge room. A young couple came with a scooter, like me. And two other young people with a local guide.
The wrong road
Now I still have the choice: to go back the way I came. Or go back to Rantepao following the blue line of the ballpoint pen.
Of course, it is the second option that tempts me. Inevitably, running with my nose to the wind, from village to village, stopping a little bit everywhere for new pictures, leaving without calculating the distances, I miss the junction where I should have turned.
I can see that the road is less and less a road and more and more full of stones, holes, muddy puddles. I can see the big grey cloud in my back, which is getting bigger and closer. I even recognize very well two-three villages and all these landscapes which had subjugated me, three years earlier, on this rotten road that I had sworn not to take again.
When I see a new handful of houses come up, I finally decide to ask my way to a young girl, who comes home hastily.
She points me in a vague way in the direction I am going. She speaks very bad English and my meager Bahasa is not enough. Of course, I left my little conversation book at the guesthouse.
Suddenly, it is dark and it starts to rain heavily. She invites me to come and shelter under the veranda. She makes me push my bike under the eaves. It's the deluge.
A smiling lady, who I assume is his mother, has already pulled out a chair and invites me to sit down. Kopi? Well, a little coffee is not a bad thing, considering what's coming down... Might as well wait for it to pass.
In the doorway, young children, two little boys and two little girls come to observe me, a little intimidated. As soon as I look at them, they take refuge inside, giggling.
My new friend, Omi
The girl's name is Omi. An angel. I thought I could leave, after the kopi, the short story of my life as a tourist in three words Bahasa, the photos with her nieces and her brother, the promise to become her friend on Facebook ...
I went 20 meters on the bike, with my rain poncho. And turned around right away. The rear tire was completely flat.
After inspecting the tire, Omi's brother shakes his head. She turns to me, speaks to me, I catch a few words: tinggal, tidur, di sini... Staying, sleeping, here. Obviously, I did not take the phone number of my renter. Obviously, the phone of my guesthouse does not answer.
Not possible. I have to take my bus ticket to Rantepao in the evening, if I want to be able to get back to Makassar in time for my flight back to the North, to Manado. I want to repair.
Omi takes back my bike, makes me sit behind her, and we drive, in the rocks and the holes, despite the flat tire, at a reduced speed, until the semblance of a village I had passed, a few kilometers earlier. For nothing.
Tutup! Closed! The repairman of the corner is closed.
She is peeved. And transie.
Omi takes me home. It's raining again a little. All shivering, she parked the bike in front of the house. His mother is waiting for a hypothetical ojek, a guy who rides a motorcycle taxi, who could take me back to Rantepao. Of course, the few who pass are already taken.
The clock is ticking. Almost 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I have roughly two hours of daylight left. It gets dark early here. As much as I know I can drive at slow speed on a crappy road, I don't feel like doing it in the dark.
So I make up my mind. If I'm going to move, I'm going to move now. I saw that we could ride, anyway, with this flat rear tire. Not fast, but it's moving.
I try to estimate the time needed to reach Rantepao. Omi is not sure, one hour, maybe two, maybe more... In Indonesia, time is elastic, always.
Pelan, pelan! they tell me when I finally leave, with my rain poncho and flat tire. Slowly, yes, yes. This, yes…
Two hours. It took me a little more than two hours to reach the outskirts of the city. I arrived at the rental store, in Rantepao, in the pouring rain. My back and arms were stiff and my buttocks were sore. I exchanged my broken down motorcycle for a brand new scooter.
Up there, in the mountains, I lived great moments of solitude, under the rain, in front of huge slushy pools, to determine which way to go: to the right, to the left, in the middle? I crossed them all, without any unfortunate skid, without falling in the yellow mud.
I also made a lot of villagers laugh, as they went up to the heights, going back home. They all started by greeting me cheerfully, a little surprised to see a white girl with a green hood lost on this small mountain road drowned in fog. Then they all exclaimed, pointing their fingers at my wheel.
Stoic, stubborn, I continued on my way at an ultra slow pace. Making me confirm the way, at each junction. What a relief, when I finally found a good hard road, not too bad, which went down in twists and turns towards the plain!
It gave me a good story to tell in the evening to Laurence and Eric, a couple from Lyon living in the same guesthouse as me, with their son Maxence.
They too had rented scooters during the day and they too had a flat tire! More lucky than me, they had easily found a small repairer nearby, who fixed the wheel for them... My story also made Sebastian, the Norwegian with whom I had sympathized, laugh. in the buswhen he returned the day after his trek in the rice fields.
I don't really like walking... I prefer to ride these little motorcycles, the equivalent of our scooters, that everyone in Asia uses. For the independence, the freedom that it gives. And then, with that you can go everywhere. Even with a flat tire.