March 3rd, Thursday
The day begins with the mosque prayer sounds at sunrise. At 6:30 for breakfast we enjoy the local traditional dishes – rice and coconut mixture wrapped in banana leaf, discuss the details of the earthquake and impending tsunami in Indonesia. We are delighted that Indonesia is so big that we are not nearby this incident. Meanwhile, the local goat opposite the hotel feast on trash content.
The day is sunny, hot, +29 degrees. At 7:30 we go for a boat ride on the lake Tempe. We get in 3 kayak-type boats with our bums on the boat floor and with a good mood enjoy the sunny day and easily bracing breeze. Along river coasts on stilts built are not only houses but also a mosque. On the footbridges next to the river women are washing clothes and bathe themselves, and are preparing food. Flying are white and gray herons, kingfishers, terns and some birds of prey. We are going through the water hyacinths, some water cabbage, peppers and vine jungle into open lake. One can only imagine how beautiful the view would be if there was the hyacinths blooming time as now only a few flowers can be seen. Visible in the distance is a mountain range, white clouds the sky. There are a large number of bamboo poles sticked in the lake to regulate the spread of water hyacinths’ floating islands. Fishermen cast small-hole nets in the lake. We go to the point where a small village of houses has been built in the middle of the lake. It is fine to live like this, because here it is warm and life on the water could be even more refreshing than on the coast. Fish in one’s reach, the rest can be brought by a boat. On the way back we enjoy the relaxation and boats are competing by overtaking each other. When we have returned to the river, it is possible to see the fish offloading and reception place, which is located on stilts. Lake nourishes the locals and lets them profit, it at least one would like to think so. Two-hour trip on the lake goes very fast.
We go back to the hotel and at 9:30 we depart. 55 km straight stretch of road. Cars are already noticeably dusty and we ourselves are quite sweaty. Landscape with rice fields and traditional houses, built on stilts. Rice is sprayed with a hand sprayer. We see some villas with hedges of decorative shrubs and colorful ornaments. Satellite dishes are all sticked in the ground and pointed straight up to the sky. There are dried corn grains along the roadsides. Part of them get eaten by the roosters and chicken, which, like dogs, consider roadside their territory. Beautifully dressed children in school uniforms, different for each school, come along the road. They are going home from school. Before the second car in our regular column dogs keep dashing out, this time it is the white car, which them solemnly await. On the roadside there are silver domes for mosques sold. We suppose that a dome is a key element for a mosque since in several places visible are bright domes on unfinished buildings. We are talking about the possibility of putting a dome on the car as well, or on the summer cottage in Latvia.
Landscape is changed by coconut and banana gardens. Thanks to the air conditioner it is a pleasant coolness in the car. We notice red clusters of fruits in trees and realise that they are traded along the road; look appetizing, so we buy some. It turns out that they are rambutan – fluffy and delicious fruits with a seed in the middle. We continue moving along a winding mountain road with fabulous palm valleys, later it turns out that that all of the following road section is like this. We pause to photograph mountains and amazingly welcoming locals are offering us to use the toilet in their home.
Our path leads to Tana Toraja district, known for its unusual traditions for burial of the dead. There are peculiar-looking boat-shaped second floor and roof cottages appearing. As it turns out, there are a lot of them. We are visiting graves in cliffs with wooden dolls on balconies, which are clothed like the deceased. We are viewing an impressive cave with burials in old boat-shaped coffins and skulls arranged in rows. Next to several skulls there is a large number of cigarettes placed. Likely they are meant for the dead in the afterlife. It would be a good advertisement for cigarettes – Smoking – kills! Great, that in our group nobody smokes.
On the way to the burial cave we are surprised by unusually fat bamboo shoots and excited by the photogenic and noble misty colored bull. In the center of the village locals gather for rooster fights. Roosters are getting their feet, neck, back massaged and wings stretched. Two roosters start spontaneous unauthorized sample fight which Ilgonis is trying to perpetuate in a photo. The owners quickly stop this amateur activity as roosters can get injured before the ”official” matches (rooster fights, it seems, are officially banned).
Next, we look for the children’s burial tree. We find it only in heavy twilight already. Small children are buried in a many recesses cut in the tree, which are then covered with braided grass carpets attached with wooden pegs to prevent the small spirits from escaping. Tree is standing big, withered and without top in front us. Even spookier atmosphere is created by bright sparks – fireflies – which as the spirits of the children buried in the tree accompany us along the trail to the cars.
We get there at 18:50 when it is already completely dark, yet we decide to go to an evening swim in a lake with clean water. Then begins the great searching game. First we unsuccessfully look for the lake along different roads till it begins to rain and removes all the desire to swim. Then we try to find a petrol tank, but it turns out that so late (20:00) they are already closed. Gasoline can be bought only in bottles on the roadside. It is sufficient to the many motorists, but might not serve our cars. Not gotten any water, or gasoline, we focus on the search of accommodation. And then begins that what words cannot describe. The road along which we go uphill turns into something that can hardly be named road. If anyone would talk about it in a video recording, then all the words would need to be censored and replaced by beep… beep… beep…. Translated they would be 60% of steepness, sharp elbows, broken and collapsed asphalt, large stones and all of that with a solid additive of rain and black darkness. Was it not for our masterful drivers, probably we would get to sleep in the cars on some hillside. Occasionally jumping out and walking, or jumping with the cars through the rocks, in the end we happily reach 1,424 m of height, and are escorted to our accommodation by local boys.
Either because of the nervous tension or it really was so nice, the overnight stay in a mountain hut gave everyone a great joy. Eating the tasty Indonesian rural style food that our hosts had arranged, consisting of noodle soup, crispy chicken pieces, warm eggs and bananas, listening Ilgonis playing harmonica, we dined with fun in the ship-form house and went to sleep with the chicken and other animals emitting a variety of sounds to rise up in the morning together with the roosters and enjoy the first rays of sunshine in the mountains. Only the drivers still could not settle and loudly discussed dark astray experiences. – Then I dove to the right, then left, then pressed on the gas, then on the brakes, then the car went bang on its belly! Beep… beep… beep… – The first and the last beep… are a little exaggerated to magnificate the narration. In the Indonesian tour everything is good, that finishes in the night!
We saw the dolls tau-tau in the royal burial site of Suaya, the cave with the many bones in Tampangallo which is in a short walk’s distance from Suaya. The children’s burial tree in Kambira. In each of both places it was required to pay 20’000 IDR to the local cashier (in exchange for official entry tickets) for each person
We went up the hill to reach a place called Batutumonga and stayed at Mama Yo’s homestay