Sulawesi and the Tana Toraja. If there is a really different place in Indonesia and of ancient customs many will think of Papua, but who has known the inside of Sulawesi You can see how its people maintain one of the most chilling rituals on the planet, rituals that can only be seen in Tana Toraja, where their funeral rites sacrifice and slaughter pigs and buffalo in honor of the deceased.
Two day visit to Tana Toraja
We take a flight from Sent to Makassar once we spent 3 days diving inPulau Bunaken. Indonesia has several low cost companies that make moving around this great archipelago really affordable.
From Makassar there is the possibility of taking a bus or hiring a shuttle. To get to Tana Toraja you have to travel about 300km north through highways in constant works. An uncomfortable trip but with a rewarding ending.
Once in Rantepao, the tourist center of Tana Toraja, we looked for a hotel and decided to hire a guide to take us some ritual of the area and especially to see the caves where their ancestors reside, the Tau Tau and the Toraja architecture.
Amazing funeral ritess
In the face of the funeral rites they last several days depending on the social class of the deceased and can be anywhere in the area, so it is not easy to know where they will be done, anyway for that there is the guide and his contacts It has in the nearby villages.
Normally, the first day of the ritual is the sacrifice of buffalo, the most important and chilling, as it may be the case to see a multitude of them slaughtered with an exercise of simplicity worthy of the middle ages. The experience of seeing an animal that exceeds 400kg being slaughtered is not an act for anyone because of the amount of blood that can be seen.
On the second day the guests arrive to offer pigs that will also be slaughtered, another show that makes Spain's pig slaughter barely shade it. On the third day, once all the animal sacrifice is finished, the funeral is celebrated, with music and dancing.
Traditionally the upper class was buried accompanied by their belongings in caves, except when they were at war with the surrounding tribes, since in this case the graves were excavated in the rock to prevent their plundering. Nowadays people are still buried in family caves along with belongings that make them be remembered as an ashtray, a bicycle, etc ...
Besides, it is curious to see the Tau Tau, replicas of deceased carved in wood whose mission is to protect the dead on their way to new life by guarding the graves. They look like dolls, and the truth is they are macabre.
The Toraja architecture has a small similarity to the orreos of Galicia as it is a tall structure to prevent animals and water from entering the heavy rains. On the first floor are the main rooms, all of them normally decorated with photos and antique furniture. These houses, called Tongkonan, they have dead buffalo antlers on the front and are made of carved wood with beautiful colors, although some have sheet to give them consistency. Today they are still used as usual housing and in some cases another, very incipient, are rented for tourists.
One of the villages to see the traditional architecture isKete Kesu, since they allow you to see the houses both inside and out, yes, nobody lives here, even if they try to sell you ... The traditional houses where people live are outside the area of influence of Rantepao.
His ancestors remembered forever
Regarding the graves, they can be in the rock as inSuaya, where the royal tombs are located orLemo, which is possibly one of the best locations to see a multitude ofTau Tau Many of them are inside large holes in the rock or in huge caves where a multitude of coffins are stored, and the truth, you do not stop seeing a lot of bones, so gloomy it is.
Trekking in Tana Toraja
In Rantepao we decided to hire a guide for a 2-day trek through the surrounding villages, a route that is essential if you really want to know the area and thus be able to sleep in a house Tongkonan. The route, of little difficulty, passes through several farms and villages where people live without light and with hardly any drinking water. In these villages, most of them of Toraja architecture, we share with people a multitude of experiences and even play sepak takraw with a cane ball, a brave game for foreigners not coming from Asia, since both the skill and the physical form of those who play here for leisure, make you go out under the beating they can give you. And if not, let's see how they fly ... we had nothing to do ...
Between village and village were the rice paddies, as in any point of Asia and a great stimulus of greenery to the area. Facing wildlife, we couldn't see monkeys or other wild animals, since most have been sheared giving way to domestic animals such as dogs and cats.
In the two days we were trekking we slept in aTongkonan With extra tenants, the rats. I don't know the truth, but at night they passed small rodents fleetingly under the bed, but how did they get up here? No idea, but there they were next to the photos of the ancestors of the people who left us the house. The truth, regardless of this, is worth it, and if it does not calm down, there is no other place to sleep except in the moonlight ...
Once enjoyed Tana Toraja we had to take the infernal car to get to Makassar, where we borrow some rickshaws to go around the city, and take a plane to Bali, our next destination, but this is another story and it's another trip.
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When to go?
According to tradition, two or three months have to pass since the death of the deceased for the funeral, so that all year it is possible to meet one. Looking ahead to the weather, the dry season runs from April to October, but the rest of the year Sulawesi suffers heavy rains.
How to get?
You can enter Sulawesi by plane from the north to Manado or from the south, Makassar, the capital of the island. There are more flights to Makassar from Jakarta as it is the departure point to Tana Toraja. Once in Makassar there is the possibility of taking a shared car or a bus to Rantepao.
What to wear
In August, which was when we were there, it barely rained, although it is advisable to always carry a good raincoat by hand. If you decide to do the trekking, do not leave your mountain shoes or small backpack at home.
Where to sleep?
If you visit Tana Toraja, a good base city is Rantepao, as it has several hotels, restaurants and shops. Besides, it is advisable to sleep some day in some houseTongkonan.
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