A SCARY RIDE IN TANA TORAJA | GRACE FILLED TRAVEL JUNKIE

A SCARY RIDE IN TANA TORAJA

The journey starts from Terminal Daya in Makassar. There a few options you need to choose to go to Makassar, day trip or night trip, big bus or small bus and the brand of the bus provider itself. The prices between the two differ by Rp 20.000,00 to Rp 30.000,00, but the experience difference was huge. The small bus was a regular bus with AC and reclining seats which costs Rp 120.000,00, while the big bus has AC, reclining seats, wifi internet connection, an electric socket for you to charge your phone, your very own blanket, pillow and foot rest with a bigger seat compared to the small one which costs Rp 150.000,00 and I managed to bargain it down to Rp 140.000,00. It is really a battle of comfort and saving money, but after trying both options, I would never go with the small bus ever again. 

I took the big bus; any brand of the bus doesn't really matter as long as you check the condition of the bus first, which they will allow you to do. Make sure the seat recliner, wifi, electric socket and everything else promised by the sales guy works. 
Very comfortable indeed.



Along the way, the bus will stop at some restaurant a few times for the driver and the passenger to rest, eat or go to the toilet. With all of that rests included, the trip to Tana Toraja takes about 8 hours. The night trip usually leaves at 8 PM and arrives at 6 AM the next morning. The day trip will give you a lot of amazing views, but the night trip will save you time and accommodation money.


Tana Toraja is a higher area compared to Makassar, be sure to pack yourself with warm clothes. It was 6 AM when I arrived in Tana Toraja, I got off the bus shivering trying to walk to the entrance of Hotel Pison. I booked a room that cost me Rp 150.000,00 also a local guide with motorcycle rent for one and a half days that cost me Rp 450.000,00 (a fellow Rantepao couchsurfer promised to take me on a half day tour).  Interestingly, the initial offer from the guide was Rp 1.100.000,00 for the whole 2 days. I was quite shocked with my bargaining ability. The guide then arranged everything and promised to pick me up at around 08.30 PM.


Our first stop was Prainding Graveyard. It is said to be the scariest graveyard in Rantepao because its location is hidden in the forest and a lot of tourist were possessed and disturb at night after this visit. Although I didn't sense anything weird after this visit, it was still a memorable experience as I touched one of the skulls and examined it closely.

A normal view in Tana Toraja touristic sites.

Bori Graveyard was our second stop where it is filled with a lot of menhirs. Menhirs are rocks you can find in the story of Obelix and Asterix. They are put in the village to represent the preceding ancestors. The height of the menhir shows the status of the ancestor represented. Therefore the higher the status, the taller the menhir.
Posing with some menhirs in Bori graveyard.
After two graveyards, we took it easy and visited Palawa Traditional House Village. Nothing really significant here except that it is a nice spot to take pictures. Traditional houses are visible all around Rantepao, however it is hard to find them all collected together in one place without the visibility of modern buildings, unlike in Palawa. 
Beautiful place to be!
Those 3 sites required me to pay Rp 10.000,00 each to enter. However, the next 2 sites I visited with a fellow Couchsurfer was for free. He took me to his nephew’s after baptism party, which served us pork and dog meat for lunch. I know what you dog lovers think, I kind of regretted tasting it as well.  In Rantepao you would notice that the population of Christians are a lot more than the Muslims. It didn't feel like it was a fasting season and people are so used to eating pork almost all the time. Churches are everywhere and baptism is a big thing needed to be celebrated. It took me some time to adjust to this culture as I was already adjusted to Makassar who has a strong Muslim culture.

After lunch we rode a motorcycle to Batutumonga. The view was incredible but the ride was long. You can enjoy the whole sight of Rantepao from the top. If you want to enjoy it more, there are a few inns located in Batutumonga with incredible view. Not long after that, we embark to the place I was curious about the most, bullfight site!


The hype was incredible. As we were walking on the farm sides approaching the bullfight arena, we can hear the roaring thunder of thousands of people supporting their choice of bulls. Gamblers were in the zone, whether it was hundreds of thousands rupiah stakes or even millions of rupiahs stakes. The locals sit around the arena, while the VIP guests with high status and money sits on top of a viewing tower set up just for them. Each bulls have their name painted on their body so the gamblers can see the name of the strong bulls they are willing to place their bets on. 


Crowds, bets, bull fights.
The commentators built up the crowd as each of the bulls come inside the fighting arena. Each sudden unexpected movement from the bull caused the audience to shout even more! One fight I remembered the most took place for 20 minutes involved a lot of blood drippings and skin tearing. It is not a sight for the kids and the weak heart. Finally one of the bulls named Mansyur won the long endured fight leaving the arena and the crowd crazy.

Bullfights don’t take place everyday. I was so lucky to arrive when a lot of things are taking place. As I head back to the hotel, I was dreading for two things to be done: a long shower and a deep sleep. 


The next day started with a visit to Bolu Market. The way there was crowded as it only happened every 6 days. Everyone came down there to shop for groceries, spices, pigs and bulls. The animals were alive and tied down as the transaction happened. You can hear the pigs screamed uneasily everywhere; it was not a good sight to see. The bulls were treated a lot better as there was no way to tie a big bull other than getting stomped. Bolu Market was also the place to be if you wish to buy some Toraja Coffee for gifts. They cost half the price you can find in the center of the town. Other than all those things, there was nothing much to do and see. You can easily spot the sickened face of the foreigners who are not familiar with a market condition worsen by a lot of pigs ear-piercing cries. 
Bull market section of the entire Bolu Market.

After Bolu Market, the guide took me on a short visit to a funeral party. It was just starting, and that is actually the best time to take pictures with the girls in traditional clothes as they are welcoming the guests. After a few Christian customs such as singing songs and listening to a preacher, the dead’s body will be paraded through town to the gravesite. Unfortunately we didn't have time for this as we still have 2 graves to visit.


The most famous grave among them all was the Londa. Indonesia’s former president was reportedly very curious about this one. Once I entered the site, I was asked to pay another Rp 10.000,00. I was also offered a tour inside the cave, which would require me another Rp 30.000,00 for a lantern rent, excluding the fee I need to give for the lantern keeper which I can give up to my willingness. I gave him Rp 20.000,00 after we venture through a very small and dark cave. We had to crawl inside just to get to the end, or else the less adventurous can reroute back to the cave’s entry point. Inside the cave were coffins with bones inside added with cigarettes as gifts from the family left behind. People in Toraja apparently believe the afterlife would be merrier with smoking and worldly assets.


More bones in Londa and Kete Kesu graveyard.
Nothing much is different with Kete Kesu Graveyard, except for the cave tour fee. Instead of a lantern, they charge Rp 20.000,00 for a flashlight rent and a kid will guide you inside the cave requiring you to give him some tips. The cave is less challenging than Londa’s cave as it was bigger with no crawling necessary. I was short on cash so I decided to venture inside with my smartphone’s torchlight with the kid’s guidance. Turns out the torch were enough even though we had to be more careful because it didn't give a wide range of brightness. We made it out alive, but you might want to consider renting their flashlight or even bringing your own to save some money instead of using your smartphone.

As you can read, it was a very packed tour. The next day I found myself yawning my whole two and a half hour flight back to Jakarta, couldn't wait anymore to find my rest at home where my comfortable bed awaits to embrace me in its warm blanket again.



Thank you for the good times South Sulawesi!

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