One wedding, one funeral and lots of diving

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Makassar is the biggest city in Sulawesi but you wouldn't know it.. despite the big hotels and traffic it has a small town feel and the side streets are like little village communities. We had a couple of relaxing days here staying at the Surya Inn hotel (140,000rp / US$14 night) with luxuries such as air-con, satelite tv and a balcony overlooking the city. One night we were even lucky enough to share a bottle of red wine and some brie and emmental cheese with Annie and Martin on our balcony. Feeling refreshed we headed north to Rantepao, a town in the region of Tana Toraja. This is a beautiful area of mountains, rice terraces and a distinctive culture - there are lots of traditional houses with big sloping roofs. We spent two days walking around some small villages in the area. The first place we visited was Lemo where we saw the traditional Tongkonan houses (these are houses which are very special and used for ceremonies and are a reminder of the authority of the nobility - only descendants of the nobility are allowed to build such houses). The large poles infront of the Tongkonan are decorated with buffalo horns from ceremonies - the more horns visible the higher the status of the family. In Lemo we also saw graves with TauTau outside. These are woodcarvings that are small (sometimes lifesize) replicas of people who have died and are buried in the caves. We walked to Tilanga (a village about 1 mile away) where we swam in a very cold swimming hole which was very refreshing on such a hot day. Paul and Martin were lucky enough to swim with the huge eel we saw in the water. As we walked back towards the main road we noticed some people gathered at the side of the road and wondered what was happening so we asked if we could look inside and we were welcomed in. We found out that the wedding ceremony was just finishing but fortunately the bridal party were still in their traditional dress and they wanted their picture taking with us and we felt privileged especially as we were in our scruffy travelling clothes!!! The family were kind enough to give us some of their special Torajan ceremony food (buffalo meat stuffed inside bamboo canes with vine leaves - bbq'd over hot coals). After the wedding ceremony we carried onto Londa wgere we saw some more caves and creepy spiders and skeletons inside them... Paul and Martin had a good look around but Annie and I got out a.s.a.p. The next day we visited the livestock market which was interesting - pigs tied to bamboo carriers, piglets in old rice sacks (it was about 13 pounds to buy a piglet), and buffaloes being fed on their leads. We then went to Lempo where we were told a 'pesta' was going on so we went to have a look and it turned out to be a funeral ceremony. This is a very important part of Torajan life so we were pleased that they had invited us in. They had sacrificed 8 buffaloes for the person who had died and were in the middle of distributing the buffaloes when we arrived (hence all the blood and gore). We didn't stay for long but was interesting to see a completely different culture and way of holding a funeral. We carried on walking through the countryside on small roads past gorgeous lush green rice fields and mountains. Tana Toraja area was really special and something that we will remember forever. The next part of our journey through Sulawesi took us through the centre and although there were direct buses these were infrequent so we decided to take local transport - this included taking a truck for 6 hours, the truck driver and his mate even stopped to take a 'mandi' (shower/wash) at the side of the road (naked!!) - the truck ride proved to be very interesting. In central Sulawesi we took a refreshing dip at the beautiful waterfall just outside Tentena. Finally (after 4 days of travelling by car, bus, truck and boat) we arrived at Pulau Kadidiri on the Togean Islands. These islands are renowned for their diving and rightly so. The diving was great, especially at Una Una where we saw schools of great barracudas swimming in tornado formations. The snorkelling was excellent as well, Paul and I saw lobsters, moray eels, snakes, eagle rays and all sorts of other exciting sea life. With perfect white sand beaches and turquoise crystal clear waters it was hard to drag ourselves away but as our Indonesian visa was about to expire we had to leave. We left Sulawesi on a Pelni ship which took 24 hours to reach Nunukan (small fishing village) in Kalimantan. We hopped on a fast ferry across the border to Tawau in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and are now in our 21st country of our trip so far.
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