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 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.

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)

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  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

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  1. Hello Corinne,

    I just clicked on your blog.
    Beautiful photos!
    But for me, it's mainly to confirm that there's no better way to discover a region than on a scooter. I live in Thailand, but we move around a lot. I'm retired, so I've got time!
    Great distances by bus-train, or rare times by plane.
    That freedom you get on a scooter...

    Good continuation.
    JM

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

    And then, the journey and its encounters... an encounter that little Omi won't soon forget either!

  3. Your scooter adventure takes us through the green rice fields of Sulawesi and keeps us on our toes until the final denouement ❗ I love it ❗ Great moments of loneliness ... but also a beautiful encounter ... and in the end always beautiful memories 🙄

  4. Hi Corinne!

    Here is a nice ride on a scooter! The landscapes are very beautiful!
    I agree, the scooter for freedom, it's top! I see you're wearing sandals in one of the photos, but be careful, they cost me a few dives this summer because of my accident... 😉

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

    @Pac': Yes, Omi has become my friend on FB!!! It's crazy, over there, it's totally developed, with the explosion of cell phones. I couldn't believe that in this tiny village, deep in the mountains, people were talking to me about Facebook!!!!
    😀

    @auxBulles: Once again, Sulawesi has lived up to its name in terms of travel impressions and encounters. On land and underwater, this is one corner of Indonesia that really deserves a visit.
    8)

    @Fabrice: Yes, the scenery is sublime. As for scooters, I admit it's probably not the smartest thing to do, but I do it the local way: in flip-flops, like everyone else... But of course, I wouldn't recommend anyone to do what I do, especially if they're not used to riding a two-wheeler. If you fall, you have no protection. So it's forbidden to fall, to have the slightest accident. I always ride very, very slowly, at a very low speed, even when it's not on a flat tire. So far, it's worked for me... I'm going to keep it that way.
    🙂

  6. Another great trip with our globetrotter.
    Thanks for this information, which can be put in the "don'ts" category 😉

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

  7. hi, I love these landscapes!
    That's it, after 2 trips to the Red Sea this year (bof...I think I'm getting fussy...) I'm back to Asia, in April 2011 for 10 days in Malapascua and Dauin/Dumaguete.
    I do hope I'll be able to take a little ride on my motorcycle too...
    continue to put pictures, we are waiting for your photos of slugs !!

  8. @Fabrice: Asia, yes, probably... I love going back there! But for the time being, I still have no idea what my next free time slot will be, nor do I have any definite plans.
    🙄

    @Bizut: Exactly, but my example is not necessarily to be followed...
    😉

    @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: Yes, when I saw the Gucci towel hanging there, I couldn't resist. A picture had to be taken!
    😆

  9. Hi Corinne,

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

    Cho!

  10. Hello Corinne,

    I've been reading your blog for a few months now, and it was one of the blogs that made me want to visit Sulawesi. It's done, I went there for 3 weeks in September.
    So, I just saw this latest story, and drove the exact same route through the mountains with a photo of the young boy in yellow in front of the pink house. Place where I had to stop for lunch with the store's delicious noodle bags 🙂
    Congratulations on your blog.

    Nicolas

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

    @Gucco: Nothing makes me happier than to learn that I've succeeded in making others want to travel!!!! It's funny to think that we followed exactly the same route on these little mountain roads... Omi's family does indeed run a store next to the house. But at the time, I didn't care at all about buying noodles there !!!
    😀

  12. Scooters are innovative Honda 100s with big wheels and gearboxes?
    How many kilometers have you managed to drive with a flat tire?
    The tire didn't go crazy? It's extraordinary, with all those stones and holes it should have been cut between the rim and the road...
    How old is Omi? If I followed correctly, she managed to ride while you were behind her! Two of you on a flat tire, and she's probably too poor to have her own scooter? How did she do it?

  13. @Olivier S.: I don't know anything about motorcycles, scooters or mopeds... It's one of those two-wheelers you see everywhere in Asia, with left-foot gear changes.

    I don't know how many kilometers separated me from my goal. I rode very slowly, about two hours at a stretch... That seems like a long time.

    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.

    I don't remember Omi's age. I would have given her about 18. She was there with her family. I don't know if she lived there permanently or was just visiting her brother for a few days. In any case, her brother had a scooter. And everyone knows how to drive a scooter in Asia, from a very early age... I've seen kids as tall as three apples maneuvering them! Quite a few families own one, or have one lent to them. It's the main and most common vehicle. Especially on these mountain roads, it's the most practical way to get around.

    Anyway, as for riding on a flat tire, that's something everyone in the villages has had to do, on these rotten roads. There are two-wheeler repair shops everywhere... It's a very common incident, in fact.

    🙄

  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
    I have just one concern: mosquitoes. Are they as virulent as they say?

    1. @Pascale: thanks for the note!!! 🙂 Well, yes, there are mosquitoes in Asia, but not so much in the heights: in Rantepao and Batutumunga, I don't remember being bothered by them. Otherwise, a spritz of repellent on your arms and ankles at dusk is all you need!

    2. Thanks for your answer, I have allergies, so it worries me a bit!
      Otherwise, Bonsai !! lol
      Looking forward to it

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