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! Ideal base for shining in the villages and rice paddies of the country Toraja, 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! The only fact of revisiting the slender curve of the roofs 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 roof "tongkonan", typical of the country Toraja.
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 driver (pronounced "betchak") is waiting for the customer in 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. By renting a scooter, you can go alone like grown-ups. But Sebastian does not feel like driving a bike, and I'm used to these little ones 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 climb to the back of the bike of our guide, and I rent one of my side that I will keep several days to be able to walk as I wish. We will put our little things at the guesthouse Wisma Monton that I know, a few steps away (it was my starting point too, three years ago). Time for a shower, to change, and roll!

Ceremony in Bori

There is a crowd in Bori. Amazing detail, in this village: there are ... menhirs! Finally, erected stones, in the local style.

It is a big ceremony, which lasts several days. The deceased is someone important and the family is visibly rich: twenty buffaloes and more than a hundred pigs will be slaughtered and cut up during the festivities.

It smells like grease, burnt flesh ... Grilled pig atmosphere, Toraja fashion! The meat is then served to the guests. What remains is distributed or preserved.

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

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 read again what I already wrote on the subject, three years ago, and to watch my little video of the time (while waiting to discover the new images which I shot in Bori):
→ Tana Toraja, it's stronger than you

Update of November 28, 2010: That's it, the video made to Bori is online! It gives a good idea of the atmosphere that reigns during these traditional burial 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.

Fallen down

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 are now lying on the ground, offering to the eyes the bones of the deceased. Indonesian tourists, who love to take pictures of each other, smile at the lens in front of the skulls. We even take the opportunity to make a group portrait with the French tourist passing through!

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 in all that. In any case, that's how I felt it. The burial sites around Rantepao are part of the landscape. These are not sad and closed places like our cemeteries. At the bend of a road, of a road, at the entrance of a village, in the middle of a rice field, one can fall on a big round rock, pierced with tombs. Some are decorated with a buffalo head, the Christian cross, a Tongkonan roof.

This is how. Death is not hidden. She is part of life.

Falls. Toraja Country, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Tombs at the edge of the road, in the countryside toraja.

Return

My first day in Toraja country, with this spectacular funeral ceremony, and then visiting Ket'e Kesu and Londa sites, is very similar to the one I had three years ago. A "classic" touristic circuit.

But this feeling of "déjà vu" I like. Revisit, rediscover, relive ... Returning to places I have loved is also part of the joys of travel. It's a bit like taking over 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 is 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.

: roll:

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

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