Les tombes suspendues anciennes en bois, rongées par l’humidité, laissent voir les ossements qu’elles contiennent. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
The ancient hanging wooden tombs, eaten away by humidity, show the bones they contain. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

Skulls, caves and a swimming pool

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2007

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'll take you back to Sulawesi, in Toraja country, where I spent a few days in the summer of 2007. On the program: a scooter ride from Rantepao, to discover the sites of Ket'e Kesu, Londa and Tilanga.

Wisma Monton, my little hotel in Rantepao

Thursday, July 12, 2007, Rantepao. That day, I decided to explore the villages south of the city. I rent a motorcycle (in fact, the equivalent of a scooter), 40 000 Rp the day (less than 3 €) in the main street. For locating, I got a map of the area at the hotel.

The hotel in question, I landed on the advice of other travelers crossed en route: it is the Wisma Monton. I recommend the place, it's central and quiet, clean and cheap, the rooms are spacious, spread out over balconies around a garden.

Night negotiated 90 000 Rp (about 6-7 €), with hot water and breakfast included, no surprise supplement, and charming welcome. Below, the interior of Wisma Monton and the view from the balconies of the hotel.

I go on my motorcycle with a light heart, nose in the wind, without fear. Motorbikes, as everywhere in South-East Asia, are in fact scooter mopeds with left-foot gear shifts. No need to be a biker (e) to control these machines.

Once crossed the limits of Rantepao, the roads and paths are very quiet. Just roll at a low speed, keeping your thumb on the horn and an eye on dogs, chickens, children crossing ...

Ket'e Kesu: traditional rice granaries and hanging tombs

First step, well-known tourist circuits of the area: Ket'e Kesu. I'm there early in the morning, there is not a cat. And the light is beautiful.

There are pretty traditional houses and rice granaries tongkonan, tau-tau (the statues of the deceased) locked behind a gate, recent graves and ancient tombs suspended, with gnawed wood and bones scattered at the foot of the cliff behind the village.

Le village de Ket'e Kesu, en plein pays Toraja, au sud de Rantepao. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2017)
The village of Ket'e Kesu, in the Toraja country, south of Rantepao. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Les tombes suspendues anciennes en bois, rongées par l’humidité, laissent voir les ossements qu’elles contiennent. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
The ancient hanging wooden tombs, eaten away by humidity, show the bones they contain. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

Peaceful atmosphere, again, as in Lemo. Curiously, the neighborhood of death does not frighten, in these countries, but rather inspires serenity.

Londa: Toraja tomb caves and tau-tau

Then head for Londa, another famous burial site. Here too, tau-tau watch visitors from the top of a balcony. But we come mostly to Londa for the "Caves", caves full of skulls. Not very ragoûtant. "Offerings" in cigarettes, silver, sweets are left loose near the bones.

L'entrée des grottes, avec les "tau-tau" qui surveillent les visiteurs, depuis leur balcon... (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
The entrance of the caves, with the "tau-tau" that watch the visitors, from their balcony ... (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Les "tau-tau" de Londa. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
The tau-tau of Londa. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Les grottes de Londa sont des tombeaux ouverts au public, qui renferment des crânes et des cercueils. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
The caves of Londa are tombs open to the public, which contain skulls and coffins. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Cigarettes et piécettes s'entassent sur ce qu'il reste de ce défunt. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
Cigarettes and coins are piled on what remains of this deceased. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

I also risked myself in the tiny wet casing linking the two main caves, led by a guide who praises his services at the entrance with a powerful lamp. The lamp is indispensable, but the casing without interest. It just allowed me to check that I have good resistance to claustrophobia ... Both caves are actually accessible from the outside.

The site, outside, is beautiful. Abrupt setting of cliffs surrounding a rice field. I give the promised rupees to the guy with his lamp, then go back to my bike.

Swimming at the natural swimming pool of Tilanga

Direction the natural pool of Tilanga. The walk from one site to another is very pleasant. We pass by country roads little frequented, where people greet you cheerfully, along rice fields, fields, bits of forest.

Paysages de rizières, entre Londa et Tilanga. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
Landscapes of rice fields, between Londa and Tilanga. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

Tilanga is a kind of bowl in the rock. The water is very cold, very clear. We are under the trees, it's good. It's a place where young people, local families, holidays or weekends meet.

I hardly arrived when a group of young girls spotted me and waved at me. I join them trying not to break my face on the irregular rocks that line the body of water. Boys of the same age, a little further, watch me approach.

Tilanga est une vraie piscine naturelle. On s'y retrouve pour pique-niquer ou se baigner, en famille ou entre amis. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
Tilanga is a real natural pool. We meet there for picnics or swimming, with family or friends. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Dans l’eau vive de la “piscine”, petits et grands se laissent porter par de grosses chambres à air en guise de bouées. (Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
In the whitewater of the "swimming pool", young and old can be carried by large air chambers as buoys. (Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

I make friends at the pool. Uny, 21, who is studying English to become a teacher, is happy to make the conversation. She is there with Veronika and Lina, I do not know which of them is his cousin, and a whole flop of kids and teens of different ages, brothers and sisters of each other ... We chat, we sympathize, obligatory photos and exchange of email addresses.

The group of boys passes us, calls the girls in a slightly mocking tone, and walks away by the way. Some dare to wave a little goodbye to me, others shyly turn their heads when I meet their eyes.

Sur le pont, les garçons rient entre eux en regardant les filles qui jouent dans l'eau. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
On the deck, the boys laugh at each other as they watch the girls playing in the water. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

I'll catch them a little further on the road, with my bike. They beat each other on the way back to the first stop bemos (local minibuses). I stop at their height and do a little chat.

I begin by responding to their "Dari mana? " (where are you from?) and the usual questions with the little Bahasa Indonesia I know, but the rest is in English. They are doing well. They are hallucinating to see a tourist, a girl moreover, to walk like that, without guide or chaperone, and motorcycle. But they think I'm right.

We leave with great joyful greetings and I take the path of Rantepao.

Back to Rantepao

Before returning, I push myself by curiosity to the market of Bolu, near Rantepao, where I offer myself a mie goreng (sauteed noodles) quite average, too fat, in a boui-boui. Another market where we sell everything and lots of odorous foods more or less identifiable.

AT Rantepao, I find my Dutch friends, Suzanna and Johan, who want to rent a car with driver two days later, to go up to Poso lake. They offer me to share the car with them. They are looking for a "family" model, comfortable, with air conditioning, for their three children: two girls, Ronja and Silke, and a boy, Jelle (the J of the Dutch names are pronounced Y). There will be room. The ride tempts me and I accept willingly.

Le centre de Rantepao, avec un rond-point “tongkonan”, histoire de vous rappeler que vous êtes bien en pays Toraja. (Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
The center of Rantepao, with a roundabout "tongkonan", just to remind you that you are well in Toraja country. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

So I decide to change my plans. Initially, I thought to save myself fatigue and hassle down in the South to Makassar, to take a flight to Luwuk. And Luwuk, win Ampana by road, from where we embark for the Togian Islands. Instead, I will travel by the inner road.

»See the route map

I'm really pleased with the offer of Suzanna and Johan, because I wanted to make this trip, but I hesitated to do it alone. The region of Poso lake Was considered unsafe for solo travelers according to the travel guides I consulted (it is apparently very exaggerated, the situation has calmed down since). Renting a car with driver for me alone was not within my means. And I did not feel the bravery of an endless and uncomfortable local bus ride without air conditioning on broken roads.

I manage somehow to cancel my Makassar-Luwuk flight on the Merpati, booked a few days earlier to Manado. The people of the travel agency Toraja Permai, at RantepaoIn the main street (Jalan Mapanyukki), are very friendly, very helpful. They make all the calls for me, set my story. The refund of the ticket will be recovered, minus some expenses, to the agency where I bought it in Manado.

The Mambo, haunt of local guides

I'm going to dinner at the restaurant Mambo, along with my other roommate neighbors at Wisma Monton, a couple of Spaniards, Joseba and Anna, with whom I sympathized. The Mambo is the haunt of local guides and we're having a good time listening to them singing, in all languages, to distract the handful of tourists seated there.

They are very nice, all these guys, incredibly multilingual. The Guide to the Routard criticizes their aggressive behavior, but I did not observe anything like it.

On the contrary. They tell us lots of interesting things, they are funny, open. And dismayed to learn that we prefer to go without them to visit the country. But as they are paid a few beers to comfort them, they do not hold us to them. We drink, we laugh.

Au Mambo, les guides adorent s'inviter à la table des touristes. L'ambiance est bonne ! (Rantepao, Sulawesi, Indonésie, juillet 2007)
At Mambo, guides love to invite themselves to the table of tourists. The ambiance is good ! (Rantepao, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

Anyway, they already have customers this week. Groups on tour are in Rantepao for a few days. Among them, many French.

The next day we are planning, Joseba, Ana and I, to go on a motorcycle ride together in the North, around Batutumonga.

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2007