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: 

Toraja country has to be earned! From Manado (North Sulawesi), you must first fly to Makassar in the south, a one-and-a-half-hour flight. From there, it's an 8-10 hour bus ride to Rantepao.

Litha & Co

Bad luck: unlike my trip three years ago, I didn't manage to catch the morning bus. At the Litha terminal, I'm told that there are only places left on the night bus...

The terminal of the company Litha, in Makassar, from where the buses leave for the country Toraja.

Ah! The joys of night bus... You come out with a worm-eaten back, a stiff neck, bad knees, a foggy mind and tired eyes, after long hours of sleeplessness.

There are the bumps in the road, full of potholes. The daring maneuvers of the driver, who has mastered Indonesian-style driving (I honk and overtake). The sudden burst of bright light at bathroom stops. The loud snoring of a belly-flapping neighbor just behind. Not forgetting the delicious melodies of syrupy Indonesian songs that the bus's loudspeakers suddenly start spewing out for no reason, in the wee hours of the night...

Saya orang perancis

All right, then. The nice thing, though, is that you can practice your Bahasa Indonesia with the other travelers. A little lady pushes herself onto a bench and beckons me to come and sit next to her. Here I go again in the inevitable exchange of courtesies, punctuated by big smiles...

Dari mana? Where are you from? Saya orang perancis, I am French. Yes, I travel alone. Yes, I speak a little Indonesian... But just a little, eh? setikit setikitI've already used up my meagre vocabulary! What's more, I've forgotten my Small Indonesian pocket at home.

The other nice thing is that you meet new people. Three years ago, I made friends with a Dutch family on the Litha bus (which was far more comfortable than the ones I took this year). Afterwards, I even continued my journey as far as the Togian Islands with them. This time it's a young Norwegian, Sebastian, who lands in the seat next to mine.

He also travels alone. He's been around Africa and India. But this is his first time in Indonesia.

Like me, he has his little tricks for coping with long bus journeys: an iPhone full of music, an airplane pillow to support the back of the neck, and a little wool to combat the polar cold of the air-conditioning that's systematically cranked up to the max. We burst out laughing when we realize how ridiculous we are, trying in vain to optimize the narrow comfort of our barely reclining seats, with our little inflatable bladders wedged around our necks.

At dawn, we arrive in Rantepao. Here, I'll be the guide.

I haven't forgotten anything, I recognize everything. I make the bus stop in front of the restaurant Rimannorth of the city. I need a coffee. A good kopi black and fragrant, as they know so well how to do it here in Toraja country. Despite my fatigue, I'm so, so happy to be here!

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010