Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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 ...