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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tana Toraja: From Errie To Eccentric

Tana Toraja Day 2

As if nothing happened the day before, we continued to explore Toraja. Though my body was still a bit sore from the cuts and bruises caused by the accident, we went off again with the same motorbike. This time, much more careful. It didn't dampen my adventurous spirit. :)

it's always nice to be out!
Soon enough, we found ourselves enjoying the wind in our faces and the beautiful countryside again.


From Rantepao, we traveled 9 kilometers down south to Lemo. This is located north of Makale. Similar to Londa, this is another popular grave site. It is a short trek passing through some rice paddies which makes it more enjoyable.

not your ordinary grave yard, isn't it?

Up close, you can see the graves carved from the cliff face. Do you see those small square wooden doors? Those were the graves. And if you wonder what are those little statues, they are called Tau-tau. The Tau-taus are the wooden statues representing the dead people inside the grave and they believe it becomes the home of their spirit.

say hi to the people Lemo... i mean dead people

If you will look at them closely, they look real and alive because of their eyes! Some of them even have their hands reaching out which make it seem like they're inviting you to come with them. I admit, it felt a little creepy haha!

the Tau-taus are welcoming you :)
If you will hike up a bit from the cliff side, you will find more graves sans the tau-taus. I was more amazed by these graves though. The cliff in this side is much higher and I can't imagine how they make these holes out of a very hard rock. I guess Torajans have no fear of heights.

their graves literally rock!!!
Just by their grave sites, you can already tell how they value their dead and how unique their culture is.

awesome wood carvings to take home
Lemo has some souvenir shops near the entrance. This was were we bought some cute wooden stuff. You can haggle for a good price. We also enjoyed talking to them. ;)

Entrance Fee: IDR 10,000 for Local Tourist; IDR 20,000 for Foreign Tourist


Tana Toraja is divided into two regencies with Rantepao and Makale as their capitals respectively. Rantepao (where we are staying) is the cultural capital, while Makale is the seat of their local government.

it's always a scenic drive in Toraja
Lemo is the only tourist attraction we were interested to see in Makale but since we were already in the area, we decided to go see the town center.

Hello Makale!
After another 9 kilometers, we reached the center of Makale. It seemed to be a very peaceful town.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church
One thing that stood out was this church. At present, this part of Indonesia is predominantly Christian. Prior to colonization, they were known to be animist. The Dutch introduced Christianity to the animist highlanders because they feared the fast spreading of Islam in other parts of South Sulawesi.

beautiful town center of Makale
We didn't do anything much here and just drove around to sight see. When we were already pleased with what we saw, we headed back north to Rantepao.

Ke'te Kesu'

We drove back approximately 15 kilometers from the center of Makale to reach Ke'te Kesu'. The location of this site is really suburb. We passed by hectares of rice paddies and very traditional villages. There were hardly other vehicles passing by aside from the ojeks (motorbikes) of the local people.

the colors are unreal, but they are!
Among all the attractions, Ke'te Kesu' has it all - starting from the fantastic landscape surrounding it. While entering the village, you will be stunned by just looking around.

glimpse from the path to the tomb
Behind the village, you can find their own grave site. The more graves we see, the more we get used to it. It didn't feel weird anymore seeing remains of dead people after a while. I mean after seeing a lot of them.

It is not as well maintained as the other tombs. Piles of coffins and human skulls and bones can be seen at the cliff side.

They have their own ceremonial grounds (activity center) where traditional rituals and gatherings are being held too.

this my  friends, is Ke'te Kesu'
There are 12 granaries and 6 traditional houses (tongkonan) in this compound. We figured that one of them is actually a museum. Unfortunately, it is closed so we didn't get to see what's inside.

Much like those in Pallawa, the houses were adorned by buffalo horns signifying the social status of its owners. We were still enjoying our time here when it began to pour. We went to balcony of one the tongkonans thinking it'll just be a quick rain shower but we were wrong!

shelter from the rain!
We got stranded here for almost 2 hours along with another group of local tourists. We tried waiting it out but the rain seemed endless. It was already getting dark when we decided to go. It was one of the coldest days of my life! Imagine riding the motorbike while raining without a jacket or a raincoat! Brrrr...

Entrance Fee: IDR 10,000 for Local Tourist; IDR 20,000 for Foreign Tourist


Our Torajan adventure was full of action. Road accident on Day 1 then getting soaked in the rain on Day 2. That was epic! But let me tell you something. Though we saw majority of the tourist attractions, we missed one of the highlights of visiting Tana Toraja.

It is the attending of actual funeral rites for their dead. You can easily arrange this with a tour guide once you arrive in your hotel. We intentionally skipped this because I may not be able to take it. It involves sacrificing (slaughtering) buffalos and sometimes other animals too. I am very weak-hearted when it comes to animals, I can't bare to see them getting killed. :( But if you are a brave soul who wouldn't mind watching it as it happens, then go! It will surely add to your list of mind-boggling experiences. :)

"I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying." ~Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Redemption

This is Part 5 of my South Sulawesi travel series.

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