From Toraja country to Poso lake

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2007

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: 

The continuation of my journey to Sulawesi!!!! It is Saturday, July 14, 2007. Departure from Rantepaoin the heart of Toraja country at 7am under a bright sun. Arrived twelve hours later, at night, in a pouring rain, at Siuri Beach Cottageson the western shore of the immense Poso lake.

Lake Poso, at last!

We can't believe our eyes when, after hours and hours of driving, the huge Poso Lake finally appears at the end of the road.


The Siuri Beach Cottages, where we spend the night, on the western shore of the lake, are about twenty kilometers from Tentena and 75 km from the city of Poso, further north.

The real reward will be for the next day, when, waking up, by opening the door of our respective bungalows, we discover a splendid beach of blond, deserted sand, and transparent water, tempting, irresistible ...

Quick, a direct splash before breakfast to check! A happiness, this bath at the jump of the bed. You can really swim, the water is delicious, not cold at all and the weather is nice.

Siriu Beach, on the west shore of Poso Lake. Blonde sand and transparent water.

But be careful, a morning bath in the Poso lake has to be earned. The least we can say is that it is not easy to reach...

The road ... a whole poem

To get there, we endured hours and hours of rotten road, where we rarely exceeded 50km/h, because of damaged road, potholes, ruts, rocks, trunks and branches fallen on the road, stony passages, muddy sections...

Not to mention all the living obstacles to be avoided: herds of indolent cows, intrepid dogs and children, families on motorcycles, women bending over under bundles, farmers' carts pulled by buffaloes, overloaded trucks or buses, spitting black smoke...

But I really don't regret having cancelled my Makassar-Luwuk flight! This change of program allows me to discover Central Sulawesi, of which I would have seen nothing otherwise.

Joining the small family of Dutch people (met a few days earlier in the bus between Makassar and Rantepao), I have the pleasure to benefit from the comfortable and robust 4×4 style car, with air conditioning, that they rented to go up to the north. And frankly, it's not a luxury, considering the state of the road in the area.

Our driver, Ynus, in addition to being a charming guy, is a good driver. He knows the roads by heart, he drives carefully (something rare enough in these regions to be noted), he stops as soon as he sees that the kids of my new Dutch friends are nauseous, in the beautiful winding roads of the mountains.

The crocodile farm

And it gives us all the tourist and scenic breaks required along the way ... Including a sad crocodile farm, near Rantepao, halt accepted by Johan, the father, with my assent, during the haggling of the trip.

On the program: skinning under our not very enthusiastic eyes of big snakes, brought by some farmers. The guy from the farm keeps the skin preciously to sell it. Then, the snakes' flesh is chopped into pieces. And it is a kid as tall as three apples who handles the machete, not a little proud to show us how he does it!

The sections are then thrown into pasture crocos that rust behind high walls in a gurgling pond.

The large gray crocodiles are languishing in a sluggish pond where they are thrown into pieces of snake.
The large gray crocodiles are languishing in a sluggish pond where they are thrown into pieces of snake.

The animals are impressive. Real lizards of prehistory. But we are happy to leave.

It is a scorching heat. After the first fascination, we feel a little uncomfortable. The atmosphere is vaguely sinister, heavy.

The butterfly waterfall

The most pleasant "tourist" stop will be the famous butterfly waterfall, a little further north, a few hours drive from Rantepao. It is an astonishing spectacle, which delights young and old alike.

At the foot of a waterfall, buried in the vegetation, there is a bridge. And near the roadway around the bridge, where all vehicles stop, the ground is littered with trash. But not only.

Above the colored plastic debris, dozens of wings flutter, here and there. The little ones get excited and run after them with the digital camera. The break a little further under the trees, near the white water, in the middle of the butterflies, is refreshing and very pleasant to stretch the legs a little.

Military checkpoints

Everywhere, the blondness of these children with a very Nordic type fascinates people. The three kids are a little tired of being pawed, cuddled, and had their picture taken every time they stop in a café to get water or cookies.

The only visible trace for us of the violence that had occurred a few years earlier between Muslims and Christians was the two or three military checkpoints.

Clashes in 2000 in the Lake Poso region left nearly a thousand people dead. In May 2005, an attack in the market of Tentena, a city with a Christian majority, killed about twenty people... Ynus willingly answers our questions. The situation is in principle calmed down, and the journey now presents little risk for the rare travelers passing through. The roads are controlled. But people like him, who work in tourism, have a hard time finding customers now.

When the passports are presented, the officials obviously ask to see the three blond children. Ronja, Jelle and Silke (the J of the Dutch first names are pronounced Y) get out of the car, and lend themselves nicely to the parade. Our driver drops a few rupees to the guy in front of the car, just to speed up the formalities... A common practice, which suits everyone.

Arrival at Poso Lake at dusk

We arrive at Poso Lake at dusk. I open my eyes with amazement as we pass through a village full of Balinese style buildings. Each house has a small entrance that looks like a temple.

Ynus explains that the Indonesian government, for demographic and economic reasons, "encouraged" the population to migrate from one island to another, with the promise of a piece of land and help to build the house. Here, people from Bali have been transplanted.

The night falls, a heavy rain falls on the road. We have no idea where we will end up. We keep driving along the Poso lake, through villages without light, looking at the narrow road behind the dripping windshield. Our relief is great when we arrive at the Siuri Beach Cottages.

Of course, it's difficult to bargain, as we don't have much other solution for the night. But the bungalows are not so bad and we haven't seen the beautiful beach around us yet... The family who runs the place is busy in the kitchen, with the little they have, and runs to make the beds. We are the only guests.

We're all tired, so we'll see tomorrow. A plate of mie goreng (fried noodles) and zoo, beddy-bye!

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2007