Rice granaries, with the roof "tongkonan", typical of the country Toraja. Sulawesi, July 2010.
Rice granaries, with the roof "tongkonan", typical of the country Toraja. Sulawesi, July 2010.

Tana Toraja, I'm back

  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: 


Rantepao, finally! The ideal place to visit for the villages and rice fields of the Toraja country, called here Tana Toraja. We are almost in the center of the island of Sulawesi.

Review the country Toraja

Since Makassar, it takes more eight hours by bus to arrive in Toraja country, called here Tana Toraja.

The area is so beautiful, and made me feel so strong when my first trip to Sulawesi in 2007Three years ago I decided to go back.

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.

Rice granaries, with the roof "tongkonan", typical of the country Toraja. Sulawesi, July 2010.
Rice granaries, with the "tongkonan" roof, typical of the Toraja country.
A buffalo in the rice fields of Toraja country. Sulawesi, July 2010.
A buffalo in the rice fields of Toraja country.
A becak driver (pronounced "betchak") is waiting for the customer in a street in Rantepao. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2010.
A becak (pronounced "betchak") driver is waiting for the customer on a street in Rantepao.

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.

Funeral ceremony in Bori. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, July 2010.
Funeral ceremony in Bori: it's roast pig day.

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 

Funeral ceremony in Bori. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, July 2010.
Funeral ceremony in Bori. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, July 2010.
Funeral ceremony in Bori. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, July 2010.
Funeral ceremony in Bori. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, July 2010.
Funeral ceremony in Bori. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, July 2010.

Graves

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 ...

Funeral site of Londa. The big game is to take a picture of yourself in front of the bones. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Funeral site of Londa. The "game" consists of taking a picture of yourself in front of the bones.
Look for the intruder ... Photo session with a group of Indonesian tourists at the Londa site. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Look for the intruder ... Photo session with a group of Indonesian tourists at the Londa site.
The tau-tau of Londa. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
The tau-tau of Londa.
The caves of Londa, which are also tombs, are visited. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
The caves of Londa, which are also tombs, are visited.
Ket'e Kesu. The hanging tombs on the ground reveal the bones they contain. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Ket'e Kesu. The hanging tombs on the ground reveal the bones they contain.

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.

Falls. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Tombs by the roadside, in the Toraja countryside.

Return

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 ...

I was right to come back. It's so beautiful.

Paddy fields. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Church in Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Paddy fields. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
The rice fields of Lemo. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

🙄

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

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