Kids scooter on the road in front of me. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Kids scooter on the road in front of me. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

Scooter in the rice fields

#Sulawesi # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

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: 

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.

A woman and a young boy getting ready to go winnow rice (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
A woman and a young boy getting ready to go winnow rice (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I stop every 5 minutes to take new photos ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I stop every 5 minutes to take new pictures... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
A buffalo head adorns this other grave dug into a volcanic rock. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
A buffalo head adorns this other grave dug into a volcanic rock. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

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

I do not get tired of this landscape of rice fields staggered on a hillside. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I do not get tired of this landscape of rice fields staggered on a hillside. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
An unusual counterfeit Gucci dries in the sun along the road, with the harvest ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
An unusual counterfeit Gucci dries in the sun along the road, with the harvest ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

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.

Fun look at this lady working in the sun in the middle of the rice field. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Fun look at this lady working in the sun in the middle of the rice field. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

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!

We do not know if the famous "tongkonan" curved roofs symbolize the hull of a boat or the horns of a buffalo. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
It is not known if the famous curved roofs "tongkonan" symbolize the hull of a boat or the horns of a buffalo (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Rice fields as far as the eye can see ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Rice fields as far as the eye can see ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I found the landscape that had remained engraved in my memory: rice terraces, big black rocks ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I find the landscape that had remained engraved in my memory: the rice terraces, the big black rocks ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

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.

The view goes far, below in the valley, as we take height. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The view goes far, below in the valley, as we take height. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The gray of the sky which announces the downpour makes even more the fluorescent green of the young shoots of rice. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The grey sky that announces the rainfall makes the fluorescent green of the young rice shoots stand out even more (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The shower will fall on me a few minutes after this photo ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The rain will fall on me a few minutes after this picture... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

The shower

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.

The sun is still shining on the almost fluorescent green of the young rice shoots, but the rain-soaked clouds are just waiting to burst ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The sun is still shining on the almost fluorescent green of the young rice shoots, but the rain-soaked clouds are just waiting to burst... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The girls, initially shy, gradually grow bolder ... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The girls, at first shy, are gradually emboldened... (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

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.

The adorable Omi poses for the souvenir photo. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The adorable Omi poses for the souvenir photo. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I am greeted by the children's astonished smiles. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
I am greeted by the children's astonished smiles. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Here I am adopted by the children of the family. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Here I am adopted by the children of the family. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

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.

return

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…

The huge black rock at the end of the road is the last home of many dead. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
The huge black rock at the end of the road is the last resting place of many dead people. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

Rantepao

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.

Whew!

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.

Kids scooter on the road in front of me. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)
Kids scooter on the road in front of me. (Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010)

????

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

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  1. Hello Corinne,

    I just clicked on your blog.
    Beautiful photos!
    Mais moi c’est surtout pour confirmer qu’il n’y a rien de tel pour découvrir une région, que le scooter. Je vis en Thaïlande, mais nous bougeons beaucoup. Retraite, donc j’ai le temps !
    Great distances by bus-train, or rare times by plane.
    Cette liberté que l’on a, en scooter…

    Good continuation.
    JM

  2. Excellent,
    So here you are, ready for the rally-cross!

    Et puis, le voyage et ses rencontres… une rencontre que n’est pas prête d’oublier cette petite Omi également !

  3. Ton aventure en scooter nous transporte dans les rizières verdoyantes de Sulawesi et nous tient en haleine jusqu’au dénouement final ❗ j’adore ❗ De grands moments de sollitude … mais également une belle rencontre … et au final toujours de beaux souvenirs 🙄

  4. Hi Corinne!

    Here is a nice ride on a scooter! The landscapes are very beautiful!
    Je suis bien d’accord, le scooter pour la liberté, c’est top! Je vois que tu es en sandales sur une des photos, attention, moi cet été, cela m’a coûté des plongées à cause de mon accident… 😉

  5. @Jeanmi: Sawatdi-kah! If you live in Thailand, you know exactly what I'm talking about ...
    😉

    @Pac’: Oui, Omi est devenue mon amie sur FB !!! C’est fou, là-bas, ça s’est carrément développé, avec l’explosion des téléphones portables. Je n’en revenais pas, que dans ce tout petit village, au fin fond des montagnes, on me parle de Facebook !!!
    😀

    @auxBulles: Encore une fois, Sulawesi s’est montré à la hauteur, question impressions de voyage et rencontres. Sur terre comme sous l’eau, c’est un coin d’Indonésie qui mérite vraiment qu’on s’y arrête.
    8)

    @Fabrice: Ça oui, des paysages sublimes. Pour ce qui est des scooters, j’avoue, ce n’est sans doute pas bien malin, mais je le fais à la locale : en tongs, comme tout le monde… Mais bien sûr, je ne recommande à personne de faire comme moi, surtout quand on n’a pas l’habitude de conduire un deux-roues. En cas de chute, on n’a aucune protection. Il est donc interdit de chuter, d’avoir le moindre accident. Je roule toujours très très lentement, à vitesse vraiment réduite, même quand ce n’est pas sur un pneu crevé. Jusqu’à présent, ça m’a réussi… Je vais faire en sorte que ça continue.
    🙂

  6. Encore un beau périple que l’on vit avec notre globetrotteuse.
    Merci pour ces renseignements que l’on peut mettre dans la catégorie “à ne pas faire” 😉

    PS: not bad the small inset in the diver.com the magazine 8)

  7. salut, j’adore ces paysages!!
    ça y est, après 2 séjours en mer rouge cette année (bof…je crois que je deviens difficile…)je renoue avec l’asie, en avril 2011 10 jours sur Malapascua et Dauin/Dumaguete.
    j’espère bien que je pourrai aussi faire un petit tour à moto…
    continue to put pictures, we are waiting for your photos of slugs !!

  8. @Fabrice: L’Asie, oui, vraisemblablement… J’adore y retourner ! Mais pour l’heure, je n’ai encore aucune visibilité sur mon prochain créneau de temps libre ni de projet arrêté.
    🙄

    @Bizut: Tout à fait, mon exemple n’est pas nécessairement à suivre…
    😉

    @Laurence: So like that, it becomes difficult! Hey, hey ... Good preparations for the next start. I will try to put my small slugs online this weekend.
    🙂

    @Ysbilia: Oui, quand j’ai vu la serviette Gucci accrochée là, je n’ai pas pu résister. Une image s’imposait !
    😆

  9. Hi Corinne,

    Congratulations for this very nice travel story and these beautiful pictures!

    Cho!

  10. Hello Corinne,

    Je parcours ton blog depuis qq mois, un de ceux qui m’a d’ailleurs donné l’envie de visiter le Sulawesi. C’est chose faite, j’y suis allé 3 semaines en Septembre.
    Alors, je viens de voir cette dernière histoire, et j’ai parcouru exactement la même route dans les montagnes avec une photo du jeune garçon en jaune devant la maison rose. Endroit ou j’ai dû m’arrêter pour déjeuner avec les délicieux sachets de nouilles du magasin 🙂
    Congratulations on your blog.

    Nicolas

  11. @David: Thank you so much for the nice note 🙂

    @Gucco: Rien ne me fait plus plaisir que d’apprendre que j’ai réussi à donner à d’autres des envies de voyage !!! C’est amusant de penser que nous avons suivi pile le même itinéraire sur ces petites routes montagneuses… La famille d’Omi tient en effet une boutique à côté de la maison. Mais sur le moment, je ne me suis pas souciée du tout d’y acheter des nouilles !!!
    😀

  12. Les scooters, c’est des Honda 100 innova avec des grandes roues et des boîtes de vitesse?
    How many kilometers have you managed to drive with a flat tire?
    Le pneu n’a pas déjanté? C’est extraordinaire, avec toutes ces pierres et ces trous il aurait dû être coupé entre la jante et la route…
    Omi a quel âge? Si j’ai bien suivi, elle a réussi l’exploit de rouler alors que vous étiez derrière elle! À deux sur un pneu crevé, alors qu’elle est sans doute trop pauvre pour avoir son scooter? Comment elle a fait?

  13. @Olivier S.: Je n’y connais rien en marque de motos, scooters, ou mobylettes… C’est un de ces deux-roues comme on en voit partout en Asie, avec changement de vitesses au pied gauche.

    Je ne sais pas combien de kilomètres me séparaient de mon but. J’ai roulé tout doucement, environ deux heures d’affilée… Ça paraît long.

    The tire was surely stuck, but it remained fixed to the wheel. All right, but always on it. It has probably been cut from everywhere.

    Je ne me rappelle pas l’âge d’Omi. Je lui aurais donné dans les 18 ans. Elle était là avec sa famille. Je ne sais pas si elle vivait là en permanence où était seulement en visite chez son frère pour quelques jours. En tout cas, son frère avait un scooter. Et tout le monde sait conduire un scooter en Asie, dès le plus jeune âge… J’ai vu des mômes hauts comme trois pommes en manœuvrer ! Pas mal de familles en possèdent un, ou se le font prêter. C’est le véhicule principal et le plus répandu. Surtout sur ces routes de montagne, c’est ce qu’il y a de plus pratique pour circuler.

    Enfin, quant à rouler sur un pneu crevé, c’est quelque chose que tout le monde dans les villages a dû déjà faire, sur ces routes pourries. Il y a des réparateurs de deux-roues partout… C’est un incident très banal, en fait.

    🙄

  14. Nice travel story !! very beautiful pictures
    After 3 stays in Bali, I leave in November in Sulawesi and also plan to rent a scooter
    J’ai une seule préoccupation : les moustiques: sont-ils aussi virulents qu’on le dit ?

    1. @Pascale: merci de ce petit mot !!! 🙂 Bah, oui, les moustiques, il y en a, en Asie, mais pas tellement dans les hauteurs : à Rantepao et Batutumunga, je n’ai pas le souvenir d’avoir été gênée par ça. Sinon, un coup de repellent à pschitter sur les bras et chevilles, à la tombée de la nuit, et c’est bon!

    2. Merci pour ta réponse, je fais des allergies, alors ça m’inquiète un peu !!
      Otherwise, Bonsai !! lol
      J’ai hâte d’y être

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