08 Sep - 23 Sep 2010 Rantepao

Republic of Indonesia
Hotel Wisma Monton +6242321675
Spacious and clean double room, with filling breakfast for two and great mountain views, for IDR 120,000.- or US$ 13.50 per night. Awesome and most helpful staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Wisma Monton in Rantepao, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the secrets of Rantepao’s busy and muddy 6th-day main market aka Pasar Bolu (admission: IDR 10,000.- or US$ 1.10 per innocent abroad, free for locals), a very big social occasion that draws crowds from all over Tana Toraja and which consists of two main sections: (i) a lively livestock market, where the leading lights from the buffalo community are on parade (up to IDR 200,000,000.- or c. US$ 20,000.- for highly-prized albino exemplars), with a few squeaking pigs thrown in for good measure, and (ii) a whole section devoted to the tax-free sale of cloudy toddy (the alcoholic balok aka tuak - local palm wine which comes in a variety of strengths [c. 3 - 8 % alc./vol.], colours [the darker the stronger] and interesting flavours [from soured milk to dirty underwear]) for IDR 8,000.- or c. US$ 0.90 per litre, cheers!

Hiking through Tana Toraja’s stunning scenery of cascading rice fields, precipitous cliffs and soaring tongkonan houses thus visiting unique and awesome places: (i) the quaint village Ke’te Kesu, renowned for its wood carving and stocked with several traditional, distinguishing boat-shaped tongkonan houses, hidden cave tombs and old-as-dirt "hanging graves" (rotting coffins suspended on wooden beams under a rock overhang), (ii) the mountainous countryside between Batutumonga, Pana and Tikala with spectacular panoramas, lush coffee/cocoa/clove plantations and ancient burial sites hewn into rocky outcrops, (iii) the village Lemo with its sheer rock face which has a whole series of balconies for the tau-tau, the life-sized wooden effigies of the deceased, (iv) the pastoral countryside east of Makale, between Tampangallo and Suaya, with ancient baby graves in an old tree, dozens of tau-tau in a cliff overlooking the beautiful green valleys of the Toraja homeland and a large cave burial site which contains a collection of carved coffins, many of them rotted away, with bones scattered and heaped in piles, as well as ca. 30 expressive tau-tau in various galleries, and (v) Londa, an extensive and still active burial cave at the base of a massive cliff face with umpteen effigies of noblemen and high-ranking community leaders that stare out from their suspended balcony like guards.

Experiencing life after death in the mountain village Deri (shared minibus aka bemo from Rantepao’s Terminal Bolu to Deri: c. 20 km of scenic mountain road, 1 hour, IDR 7,000.- or c. US$ -.80 per person) by joining one of Tana Toraja’s elaborate and colourful tomate ceremonies (animist/Christian multi-day funerals with hundreds of guests); during this big and expensive social event, which includes (i) the parading of the oval coffin, (ii) plenty of ritual dancing and chanting, (iii) many very exciting buffalo fights, (iv) generous donations of fresh meat, fresh palm wine and fresh money, as well as (v) the display of nubile debutants to eligible bachelors and their families, as many as nine big buffaloes and innumerable pigs are sacrificed/slaughtered to ferry the souls of the two deceased, Maria Bu’tu and Samuel Sattu, to the afterlife before they are finally buried in the family’s east-oriented rock grave near the village.

“I have from an early age abjured the use of meat,
and the time will come
when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals
as they now look upon the murder of men.”


Taking a public minibus aka bemo from Rantepao’s Terminal Bolu to Palopo (c. 70 winding km, 2 1/4 hours, IDR 30,000.- or US$ 3.40 per person), an Islamic port on the east cost of the southern peninsula of Sulawesi, and thereafter another bemo from Palopo to the small riverside town of Sengkang (c. 190 km, 6 3/4 hours, IDR 40,000.- or US$ 4.50 per person), the gate to Danau Tempe.

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