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:
I am not disappointed. I spent four fantastic days in Toraja country! Just seeing the slender curve of the roofs again tongkonan, typical of the region, made me warm to the heart.
Arrival in Rantepao
When I get off the night bus at around 6.30 am, I train Sebastian, the young Norwegian who was traveling in the seat next to mine, to the restaurant. Rimanat the north end of town for a well deserved breakfast.
Very good plan. While chatting with the patron of the place, we learn that a funeral ceremony takes place the same day, in Bori, a village located a few kilometers north of Rantepao. He offers us his services as a guide, of course.
It's not that we really need him, actually. If we rent a scooter, we can go on our own like adults. But Sebastian doesn't feel much like riding a bike, and I'm used to these little motorbikes local, I still prefer to be alone on it ... With a passenger in the back, I feel less assured.
The day is organized quickly and easily: Sebastian will ride on the back of our guide's bike, and I will rent one on my side that I will keep for several days to ride as I wish. We'll put our little things in the guesthouse... Wisma Monton that I know, a stone's throw away (it was my drop point too, three years ago). Time for a shower, to change, and drive!
Ceremony in Bori
It's crowded in Bori. Amazing detail, in this village: there are... menhirs! Finally, standing stones, in the local style.
It's a big ceremony, lasting several days. The deceased is someone important and the family is obviously rich: about twenty buffaloes and more than a hundred pigs will be slaughtered and butchered during the festivities.
It smells like gravel, burnt flesh... Roasted pig atmosphere, Toraja style! The meat is then served to the guests. What's left over is distributed or preserved.
In the Toraja country, the relationship to death is singular. The deceased is kept at home, embalmed, for long months if necessary (sometimes several years, it seems, time to raise enough money), until the day of the official funeral, which is always organized in July and August.
As long as the ceremony has not taken place, the dead continues to be part of the world of the living. A bit like a person in a coma.
I invite you to reread what I wrote in 2007 on the subject, three years ago, and to watch my little video of the time (while waiting to discover the new images I shot in Bori), by following the link below: → Tana Toraja, it's stronger than you
Updated on November 28, 2010 :That's it, the video made in Bori is online! It gives a good idea of the atmosphere that reigns during these traditional funeral ceremonies in Toraja country. To see it, just follow this link: → Funeral Toraja: the video
And then, we do not bury the dead among the Torajas.
The graves are dug in the rocks or in the cliffs. Or we put the coffins in natural caves. The highest possible. In some sites, such as those of Lemo or Londa, one can also see tau-tau, the statues representing the deceased. They watch the visitors from the top of their stone balcony.
In Ket'e Kesu, a traditional village near Rantepao, there is a funeral site with ancient tombs suspended. Worn away by weather and humidity, some wooden coffins have been unhooked.
They now lie on the ground, offering the bones of the deceased for viewing. Indonesian tourists, who love to take each other's pictures, smile at the lens in front of the skulls. We even take the opportunity to make a group portrait with the French tourist! Yes, the relationship of Indonesians to the photo-souvenir is really particular ...
Nothing morbid or sinister about it. At least, that's how I felt. The burial sites around Rantepao are part of the landscape. They are not sad, enclosed places like our cemeteries. At the bend of a road, a path, at the entrance of a village, in the middle of a rice field, one can come across a big round rock, pierced with graves. Some are decorated with a buffalo head, the Christian cross, topped with a tongkonan roof.
This is how. Death is not hidden. She is part of life.
My first day in Toraja country, with this spectacular funeral ceremony, followed by a visit to the sites of Ket'e Kesu and Londa, is very similar to the one I experienced three years ago. A "classic" of the sightseeing tours.
But I like this feeling of "déjà vu". Coming back, rediscovering, reliving... Coming back to places I loved is also part of the joys of travel. It's a bit like going back to the thread of the previous journey.
The visit of the sites is only a pretext to discover the surroundings. The walk in itself, in the middle of rice fields, is enough for my happiness. It's sunny in the early morning and I tell myself that I would not like to be in the place of these little laborious figures that I see bent in the mud rice paddy, in full sun.
Along the road, the peasants win the rice or spread it on tarpaulins to dry it. People greet us cheerfully, others look at us with astonished eyes, children make fun of us ...