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Sulawesi and Beyond!

INDONESIA | Monday, 28 February 2011 | Views [585]

Greetings everyone! It has been quite the exciting few days since I've last updated, so I'll take it from the top. Back in Bali, my friend Jeff contacted me and we arranged to meet here in Makassar and travel around Sulawesi. I flew out to Makassar on the 19th where Jeff and his local buddy Yudhi picked me up from the airport. From there we grabbed dinner and then found ourselves at a nightclub after where the Bintang Beer was flowing and the live band was covering every nineties song you can imagine! The following day, we pottered around Makassar. We went to the mall, the beach, and later that night went to a fish market where I got to pick out my own prawns to be grilled and the cook even let me take control of the tongs and cook my own prawns for a bit. After dinner, we were in the mood for a sing-a-long, so we found a karaoke room and I think we did ourselves proud with our horrible renditions of 'today's hits and yesterday's favourites"! 

The next morning, we decided to head to Southeastern Sulawesi to a placed called Bira Beach and Yudhi was our driver for the six (or was it seven?) hour sojourn. We ended up getting there at night, so all we could do was take a walk along the beach but it wasn't until the next morning that we could see the beautiful white and powdery sand. Bira Beach was lovely and we ended up having a great time, despite our room's random shortages of both water and electricity. We only ended up doing an overnight trip to Bira Beach since Jeff and I had previously decided to head north to a placed called Toraja, so on Tuesday afternoon, we left the beach and headed back to the city of Makassar. After getting back to town, Yudhi took us to dinner where we met some of his local friends and I ended up having a great chat with them!

The following morning, Jeff and I had to be up early as we had a morning bus to catch that would take 10+ hours to go up the countryside to the mountainous area of Toraja. The ride was bumpy but we got so see some amazing panoramic views and were more than happy to get off the bus at nearly nine o'clock that evening. Before leaving Makassar, we ran into a travel agent that gave us a package tour that included our hotel, driver, guide, breakfast, and funeral donation (I'll explain that later) for the two of us for four days/nights, which we thought was a great deal. The hotel was built in the the middle of the mountains and rice paddies, so we had extremely peaceful and beautiful surroundings. We also ended up getting the most amazing driver and guide in all of Toraja! Our guide's name was Amos and he made our time in Toraja so amazing and his knowledge of the surrounding people, culture, and environment was astonishing - and he was able to tell us all of this in English, even more amazing!

Our first morning in Toraja, we got ready to go to a local funeral ceremony. In Toraja, you must be officially invited to the event and bring a donation, so Amos was our invite and our donation was a giant carton of cigarettes that was used to suffice the needs of the men doing all of the heavy work that day. When we arrived to the funeral site, we were immediately offered snacks and cups of tea and it wasn't long before we realized that some animal sacrifices were about to begin. The funeral grounds were surrounded by buffaloes and pigs bound to bamboo sticks and after deciding which animals would be killed that particular day (as the funeral is spread out over three days), two buffaloes were brought front and center where the chosen man, with knife in hand, hit them across the neck. I won't go into too much detail, but it's safe to say that there was a good amount of blood and squealing that morning and I couldn't help but think of "Silence of the Lambs" the entire time. After a number of animals were given the kiss of death, we were offered pig meat cooked in bamboo sticks and apparently Jeff and I weren't traumatized by the killings at all because we were more than happy to find shelter in a hut and get our grub on!

After the funeral, Amos took us to see some traditional Torajan hanging graves. In Toraja, the deceased aren't placed in the ground, but hung from carved caves/cliffs. Since many of these burials are hundreds of years old, you can see where a lot of coffins have come crashing down and there are dozens of mismatched bones and skulls lying all over the place as the locals do not want to disturb the dead. We saw a few different caves like this and then went to visit a village where we could see traditional houses. The Torajan people were initially sea-fearing people, so their houses are designed to look like boats. The houses also have a number of buffalo horns hanging in the front that represent how many buffaloes they have sacrificed over the years. Needless to say, I don't think I'd want to be a buffalo in Toraja!! Later that night we ate some buffalo stuffed bamboo from the sacrifice we witnessed that morning and being that it was my first time trying that particular kind of meat, I thought it was really good. I honestly wouldn't think it was something other than regular beef if I hadn't of known.

The next few days were a whirlwind of touring around with Amos. We saw a number of natural and man-made caves, an area set up for children's graves, an animistic "living tree" that was full of deceased babies, and a number of panoramic views. Toraja is lush, fresh, and green and every picture I took felt like a postcard. Our last day, Amos took us to a some grounds that were covered in carved megalith stones (God only knows how they carried them up the mountain), and after that he took us trekking through some backwoods. The trek started off wonderfully but about half way through it started raining so we had to run to a nearby grouping of houses to find refuge under a rice hut. Once there, we saw a few children who were begging for candy, and sadly I only had a half roll of mentos. I thought I'd hand them out, but all of a sudden, a swarm of children came out from nowhere and I ended up feeling horrible that I didn't have enough for everyone. Seeing such poor children and not being able to provide any kind of sweet was difficult and although I apologized for only having enough for a handful of them, I felt like a total tool for giving false hope to the majority of them. After the rain let up and we could move on, we continued our trek and after that Amos took us to a place where the women still do traditional weaving and that was the end of our sightseeing. Jeff and I ran into a French Canadian guy at our hotel, so we ended up going swimming with him and then having our last supper with him later that night. The next morning, Jeff caught the bus up North to the village he's living with and I took another bumpy ten hour ride back here to Makassar.

Now it's Monday and I'm here at an internet cafe sorting through photos and TRYING to upload my videos from the trip to share with all of you. I'm headed back to Bali tonight and then it's only a few days until I head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Thanks again for following my trip and I'll get to the photos/videos as soon as I find internet fast enough to upload! : )



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