Tana Toraja and its interesting funeral ceremonies

Wednesday 26th April Sorong (West Papua, Indonesia) – Makassar (Sulawesi, Indonesia)

When we were planning our Indonesian trip, we asked Amanda from Indonesian Island Sail if she knew of any snorkeling boats in Raja Ampat. She said she didn’t, but instead recommended that we should hire a car and driver and go to Tana Toraja in Sulawesi. We had never heard of it, so did some research. About the same time came across a list of 10 best walks in the World, and Tana (meaning country) Toraja was listed at No. 6, so decided we’d definitely put it on the itinerary. Lonely Planet recommended Dodo Mursalim in Makassar for arranging transport and tours there so sent him an email (donow77@hotmail.com) and he came back with a great deal for the six of us (US$55 per person for pick-up and drop-off at airport, travel to and from Toraja, and three days sightseeing around Toraja, and US$95 each for six nights accommodation with breakfast (2 Makassar, 4 Toraja), guide for 3 days in Toraja, entrance fees and donations. Only extras were lunch, dinner and tips.

So, today we’re flying to Makassar, which has a population of 1.7 million. We have an 8AM pickup, so are down for breakfast at seven. Murray has a short walk to the right of our hotel, finds an ATM but the machine refuses the card, then thanks him for banking with them.

We have to wait for a second car to fit us and our luggage, and get to the airport in plenty of time. Dianne can now walk reasonably short distances, but doesn’t fancy handling steps or long waits standing up, so we go to the desk and ask if a wheel chair is available. She flashes her swollen and discoloured ankle, and the full force of Garuda customer care swings into action. We get our own customer care person, who gets us to fill in a disclaimer, and wait for the wheel chair to become available. With Dianne in the wheel chair, we proceed through the arrivals baggage area to the quarantine and medical room, which has a woman doctor and several other health workers. The leg is inspected and re-wrapped, temperature and blood pressure taken, a full fit-to-fly document completed, a card of anti-inflammatories produced, and we were asked to pay 25. Dianne asked Murray for 25 dollars, and all the staff had a good laugh, protesting that this was Indonesia, and the bill was 25 THOUSAND RUPEES, or $2.50.P1050436

We were then asked to wait in the baggage claim area until we were collected and taken to the plane. We were a bit worried about being left behind, so Murray made frequent checks on the status, while Dianne transferred from the wheelchair with an uncomfortable sloping seat to the row of steel seats.

When the flight was called, our personal chair pusher turned up several times before pushing Dianne out the arriving passenger door, and onto the Tarmac, where a van was waiting to take the two of us the fifty metres to the short set of steps attached to the plane.

After we settled in, Dianne asked if they had spare seats so she could have a double and keep her leg up, but was taken forward to first class, which only had a spare single. She asked if she could go back to economy, to the back of the plane where there were spare doubles. Suspect it will be the only time we’ll every knock back a first class seat!

The flight was smooth, with plenty of islands, reefs and indented coastline on view, OK full meal of chicken and rice, with a lychee jelly dessert. Near Makassar, we flew over the same karst limestone country we passed on the way out, then took a long leg down the coast before coming back over the city to the airport. On the tarmac we landed a long way from the terminal. We were met by support staff, and taken by van while the others went in the bus. Dianne was able to stay in a wheelchair and pusher all the way through baggage pickup, meeting Dodo, and walking down a pedestrian tunnel and out to where a 9-seater Mitsubishi Colt van was waiting, with our driver, Mr Pandu. Very glad didn’t have to do this long walk.

Dodo had recovered from his illness (told to us in an email) and was full of beans. He is definitely a real character. He tore up his “Welcome Dianne and Party” notice, handed a piece to everyone and several bystanders. We put our pieces in a bag with a handle like a church collection bag, and he pulled out of it wrapped sweets for everyone. After a few other magic tricks, we were on our way.

During the 20 km drive into the heart of the city which was on good, but congested highway, Dodo gave us a typed programme of our itinerary. We passed a massive industrial and port area on the way in, including a very large flour mill which processes Australian wheat. Our hotel, Legenda Beril Hostel, is right in the CBD, in a back street which is reached by several one-way streets. We all checked in, and went our separate ways. We decided to head out for a look at the city before dark, crossing the busy street to get to the port in the lee of a local man with a push cart loaded with cartons.

The main port is quite industrial, with no public access, but further along towards Fort Rotterdam, we find a parking area which leads to a backwater behind the main port which has anchorage for boats, and views out to sea. Further along near the fort, we run into Jerry and Sharon, who are coming back from visiting the museum in the fort. We are a bit late to see the fort, which is one of the best preserved examples of Dutch architecture in Indonesia, so have another look at the port from the waterfront dining area of a large food complex. We decide against going to the Tea Garden where Jerry and Sharon are headed, and take a look inside the fort. Staff invite us in, even though it is about to close, but we walk on for a few blocks more, finding a bird market area, with native birds, canaries, budgies and other small parrots, and a butcher bird. Could explain why we don’t see a lot of birds in the wild.

We find our way back to the hotel, helped by maps.me. This is the first long walk Dianne has done, and seems to have survived it.

Back at the hotel, after a lot of discussion with staff, we all decide on the recommended Lae Lae seafood restaurant, even though it is too far to walk. Mme from the hotel calls two cabs. There is some confusion when three turn up, but sort it and take the surprisingly long drive through crowded streets to the very large, semi-outdoor restaurant where you choose your own dish (squid, prawns, fish etc) to be cooked for you, and sit to order side dishes to go with them. Murray and Dianne have bream style grilled fish, quite good, plus a coconut milk and swede turnip soup dish which Dianne finds inedible. Some of the other meals were less successful. We have fruit juice as usual, with medium success, about 100,000Rp each including tip. We caught taxis back, again on the meter, for less than 15,000 a trip. Good night’s sleep, with a top sheet, and AC which wasn’t too cold.

Thursday 27th April Makassar, Sulawesi to Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

We’re awake by 6am, have 7am breakfast of surprisingly good egg jaffle, and are away just before 8am with Mr Pandu driving and Dodo accompanying us. Head off through the narrow streets to the fish market.P1050470

We have to walk through a sea of parked motor bikes to get to the market which is right on the edge of the wharf, with fishing boats pulled up and unloading. We walk around the periphery, next to the water, where the smell isn’t too bad, and see a wide variety of fish, both reef and open ocean. Bit sad seeing a lot of the fish we were admiring when snorkeling in Raja Ampat. The stack of small, spotted rays was also a bit confronting. The vendors were friendly, and were pleased to get their photos taken with the catch. Notable were nearly metre-long mullet types, only with finer scales, lots of sweetlip, easier to photograph up close here than on the reef, small and large tuna types, large trevally, barracudas and lots of squid, prawns and shrimp.

Around the back of the market was a canal with the unloaded fishing boats tied up, with a market area next to it with fisherman’s essentials. Took photos from the bridge over the canal, and Dodo organised a motorbike rickshaw for Dianne for the walk to Pelabuhan Paotere, the traditional large boat harbour, where Bugis’ sailing ships, the traditional wooden two-masted schooners (called pinisi) were angle parked, bowsprits towering over the wharf, and the line of elderly trucks loaded with what we kept seeing advertised as semen (later find is name for cement) in 40 kg bags for the construction industry. P1050491

Jerry had recently seen this type of ships in the Fort Museum, and is intrigued to see the same sort of outboard mounted rudder system still used. The Bugis are Indonesia’s best-known sailors, and carry and trade goods throughout Indonesia, and they have a 500-year history of trading and cultural links with indigenous Australians, and their ships are featured in pre-European Aboriginal cave art in northern Australia, and Matthew Flinders encountered 60 Indonesian schooners at Melville Bay in 1803.

We leave Dodo near the port, and carry on with Mr Pandu at the wheel, along the same divided highway which takes us past the port, the flour mill, and the industrial area. We’re told it is a 9-hour drive to Rantepao which is 324 kms away, so we know it is going to be a slow trip.

Surprisingly, this divided highway continues all the way up the coast. There is plenty of interest along the way, with the highway almost continuously urbanised with typical third world shopfronts, workshops and small restaurants. Not far behind the roadside it gets very rural, with rice paddies, some just water and mud, others green, some being planted out by groups of people in conical hats, some being harvested by modern machines. To the east, we can see the karst limestone mountains rising, and take photos on-the-run where we can. We organise some photo stops but it is difficult on the divided highway, but we do a very interesting U-turn onto the opposite side, and back track to find a narrow side road which leads into the rice paddies. Mr Pandu has obviously been here before, and stops at a tiny village right in the heart of the paddies, and we are able to walk around and rubberneck and take photos.P1050547

The setting is fabulous, with green paddies in the foreground, sharply eroded remnants of limestone behind, and the major karst landscape towering over. The houses, some more colourful than others, are built on islands not much bigger than the house. All the houses are raised, with storage for farm equipment, animals and motor bikes below. We get some close-ups of rice planting, and no-one objects to us taking photos.P1050537

Parked on the road is a small truck with an engine driven rice husker mounted on it. The operator is happy to demonstrate by putting a large sack of dried rice into the hopper at the top, and husked and polished rice spits out a spout into a plastic dish on the ground. There is a surprising amount of spillage onto the ground beyond the cloth placed below the dish. There is no indication of where the rice husks end up. Back in the van, we do another interesting U-turn on the highway, and head north again. We stop for coffee and some interesting local sweets, then continue north until we hit the coast.P1050575

The sea is very shallow, reasonably clean, but not particular interesting to us after our recent live-aboard experience. There are some interesting variations on fishing boat design, more in the style of the Filipino trimarans, possibly because the Philippines are just up the road. Pare-Pare is a very large town with an extensive harbour, a large Mosque, and a traffic problem.P1050629

We turn off the main road, towards Tana Toraja, and follow a ridge over the main town to a restaurant for lunch. As Dianne had predicted, from experience, all tourists will eat at the same restaurant at the same time. There were two large tour buses there before us, so service was very slow, and we ended up being there for an hour and a half, which upset our schedule for the day.

The restaurant had a pretty good view over the city and harbour, but the food was pretty ordinary. We still had a long way to go, so back on our way on a narrow but well surfaced road. We passed through a demonstration of students who seem to be mainly collecting donations.

As we got out of the city, the road climbed through jungle clad mountains, with a lot of large bamboo. We get glimpses of a major river, wide and fast, stained an orange-brown, but never get a good photo of it, even though we cross a few bridges. By the time we get to Makale, at the southern end of Tana Toraja, it is 7pm and quite dark. Murray notices a brilliantly lit statue on a peak before we arrive, but this is nothing compared with the brilliantly lit hotels, flashing lights in trees, and the monster purple statue in the middle of the lake in the heart of Makale. Immediate impressions range from Las Vegas, Disneyland, or Playa de las Americas in the Canary Islands – not exactly the remote, ethnic area we were expecting. We were starting to question the reviews we’d read about the area. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop for photos, as no-one asked, and Mr Pandu had been driving for eleven hours by now, under trying circumstances, and heavy traffic and rain were not making it any easier.

As we approached Rantepao, Mr Pandu told us we would need to stop at a restaurant if we wanted a meal, as the home stay had no restaurant facilities. We all said yes, but the restaurant he was planning on was open, but not serving food, so we continued on past our homestay into the city proper, which was very busy in the rain. Prospects did not look good, as the restaurants that had lights on had no customers. We eventually found Café Aras, a fairly flash restaurant, with ethnic decorations, and an extensive menu, including a lot of Western food, but the food and fruit juice were only fair. It was nearly 9pm by the time we arrived at the Rosalina Homestay to meet Mr Enos, the owner, and our Toraja guide for the next three days. Get our rooms, and confirm our program for the next day, then retire to bed exhausted after a very long day.

Friday 28th April Rantepao, Sulawesi – exploring Tana Toraja

The Toraja inhabit the rugged highlands of South Sulawesi. For centuries their culture survived the constant threat posed by the Bugis, but in 1905 the Dutch began a bloody campaign to bring the area under their control, then the missionaries moved in, and by the time of World War 2 many of the great Torajan ceremonies (with the exception of funeral celebrations) had disappeared.

Buffalo are a status symbol for the Toraja and are of paramount importance in various religious ceremonies. The buffalo has traditionally been a symbol of wealth and power. Sought-after albino buffalo can cost up to $40,000. Despite the strength of traditional beliefs, Christianity in Toraja is a very active force. Today we are going to visit various sites, and attend a traditional funeral out in the bush somewhere, which we are told is the highlight of any visit here.

We breakfast at 8am – banana pancakes and coffee or tea, and out on the road by 9am. Drive down the main road then off on narrow concrete roads to Lemo, the best-known burial area, 10km south of Rantepao. We stop at an organised parking area surrounded by traditional Torajan houses (called tongkonan). These are the place for family gatherings and may not be bought or sold. The towering roof, which rears up at either end, is the most striking aspect of a tongkonan. Some believe the roof represents the horns of a buffalo; others think it represents the bow and stern of a boat. The more buffalo horns visible arranged vertically by size at the front of the house the higher the household’s status. These buffalo horns can only come from a buffalo sacrificed at a funeral.

These are overlooking rice paddies and a valley with a limestone outcrop on the far side. The sheer rock face has a whole series of balconies for tau tau (life-sized carved wooden effigies of the dead). The biggest balcony has a dozen figures with white eyes and black pupils. Traditionally the effigies, which are placed in niches near the man-made caves where the coffins are placed, were just manikins, noticeably male and female with white painted eyes, and no particular resemblance to the dead person, but recently the effigies are realistic impressions of the dead, clothed and painted. One of the woman effigies on display has a pair of ray-ban sunnies on. P1050707

We walk down steps past vendors selling souvenirs, and a professional carver of tau tau on the job.

Our guide runs through a description of the funeral process. There are two ceremonies – a very small one when the person dies and a much larger one later. Until the time of the second funeral, the deceased person remains in the family house. The dead person is embalmed so that the funeral, which takes a lot of arranging, can be organised, and the money required for building the reception centre, buying buffaloes and pigs for slaughter during the multi-day ceremony, and reimbursing providers of refreshments for the guests and the guests of guests, can be collected. This seems to take the form of a whip-around among the family. It is important that the protocols are maintained for a suitable celebration of the dead, because without proper funeral rites the soul of the deceased will cause misfortune to its family.

When the body is taken to the burial site, it is carried in a small replica of the boat-roofed grain stores, which are adjacent to every one of the boat-roofed traditional houses. The carrier structure is quite substantial, and requires a lot of men to lift it. It is left permanently on the burial site until it rots away, together with any wreaths, commemorative plaques, etc.P1050721

Some of our group buy souvenirs, and we take photos of the traditional houses on the wide podium, then get back in the van for the long trek to the funeral site. We are told that it brings good luck to have foreigners at funerals, so we are welcome.

The site is well off the beaten track, ending up on a narrow, steep concrete road which climbs the steep side of the mountain through dense jungle. On the way we pass a tourist bus, probably the same one which crowded out the restaurant in Pare-Pare. We were being followed closely by a truck full of guests, which we assumed would be the whole crowd. Nearing the site, we came upon a holdup on a steep section, with a truck stalled and a car queued up behind it. Our hand brake held, just, on the steep road and our guide couldn’t find a suitable rock. It looked for a while that we would have to walk, but the show finally got under way, and Mr Pandu managed a hill start without doing the clutch in, and we made it up to a small village where, presumably, the clan lived. We found a surprising number of vehicles parked at the main house, descended and walked up the road to where a track led down to the ceremony site.P1050727

It had rained heavily the night before, and the track had been heavily cut up by foot traffic of the hundreds of guests and the workers who had prepared the elaborate accommodation for guests, cooks, pig wranglers and slaughtermen. Dianne felt up to some hard walking, but was blindsided by getting tangled in sweet potato vines with her crook foot before the real hardship began. The track down to the site was only as steep as a steep road, but was very muddy and slippery. With Murray on one side, and Mr Enos on the other, we managed to keep her vertical on the upper section, which was just a road, and the steeper section which had steps sort-of cut into the clay. Mike had decided the track was too much of a risk, and opted for the bush on the downhill side, but managed to slip on his backside, to the great amusement of the locals who saw him.P1050745

At the ceremonial site, Mr Enos presented the representative of the family with a large pack of cigarettes, and we were shown to a platform next to the boat-roofed rice store where the family and honoured guests were sitting. Dianne and Mr Enos took off their shoes and found places on the floor, while the rest of us circulated, checking out the heads, a skin and some of the remains of at least four buffaloes which had been slaughtered earlier.P1050737

We had been told that it was a small funeral (four buffalo), but since arriving had found out it was a medium-sized one, with eight buffalo. Four have already been slaughtered, and there would be another four tomorrow. We were pleased that the buffalo were slaughtered before we arrived – it was bad enough seeing the decapitated heads and watching the bodies being cut into small sections for later distribution to the guests. Numerous pigs were lying on the grass, still alive but strapped to bamboo carrying poles with rattan or commercial tape.P1050733

Typically pigs were killed with a single thrust of a panga to the heart, and died quickly and surprisingly quietly, although one went through a series of spasms before dying – definitely not for the faint-hearted. The pigs, now carcasses, were carried on the bamboo down a track to a lower level where they were de-haired by a man wielding a massive and very noisy propane torch, before being brought back up to the ceremonial area for gutting and collection of the blood and various giblets for cooking in a bamboo tube for distribution to the guests (we declined the offer to try this). The pig was then cut up into about three pieces and taken away to the kitchen.P1050748

We took a lot of photos of the guests and official party, and some children in traditional costume acting as a guard of honour at the entrance to the seating area. This was a bamboo structure, purpose built in bamboo supported on posts from the steep bank, and divided by cloth draped bamboos into different sections some five metres square. We were surprised by how many people there were, and very few other tourists. We were told that if someone from a village was invited, they would then invite their friends, so that a lot of people at the funeral would not even know the deceased. It seemed that the more people there were, the more successful the funeral was. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and we talked to a number of people who spoke English, and had as many photos taken of us as we took of others.

After a number of pigs had been killed, cooked and eaten, we took our leave, and struggled back up the muddy track, which had dried a bit to make climbing possible, but not easy. Our van was parked in at least three deep, so we opted to walk down the road through jungle, coffee and cacao plants checking for non-existent wild life. Dianne decided to sit and wait for the van after a couple of hundred metres, and the others carried on for varying distances before being picked up by the van. Apparently they had to lift one car to get out as they couldn’t find the owner.P1050811

After the funeral we went to the Kambira Baby Graves. Torajans traditionally bury babies in trees and this is one of the biggest of such graves in the region, holding around 20 deceased infants. A baby is recognized as a child who hasn’t yet grown teeth. The babies are bodies are buried upright and the belief is that they will continue to grow with the tree. The practice has been generally discontinued, but the baby graves figure heavily on the tourist circuit. At the baby grave site, Murray walks down the road for a photo of a buffalo covered with mud, enjoying a wallow. On the way, he has to contend with barking dogs, but manages to bluff them. There is also a new boat roofed house being built, with a big team of workers, some standing on the top level, totally without any sort of safety gear or scaffolding, using levers to slide the horizontal members into slots in the verticals. They are a bit ambivalent, but stand for a photo.P1050937

After, we have a look inside one of the boat roofed houses, then go to a restaurant at a group of boat roofed rice stores. P1050821The restaurant is right beside a rice paddy, and there are humming birds in the bushes. Finish lunch about 2pm, then go to a weaving village for a short while. The weaving is on primitive looms, with the seated women tensioning the warp by pushing against a plank with their extended legs, and taking the tension with a brace around the small of their back. Not very comfortable or productive This is not on the tourist route, but the villagers are related to Mr Enos. Also have a short stop to look at a traditional village on the roadside, and take even more photos.P1050826

After lunch we visited Ke’te Kesu which is renowned for its traditional tongkonan and rice barns, behind a large lake. There were some men fishing in the lake, but without luck. It’s a site used for full (24 buffalo) funeral services, which you can tell from the stone pillars set into the slope. We walked around the site, passing rice storage houses which were being re-roofed using traditional bamboo thatch, with bamboo sections about a metre long, which accounts for the apparent unnecessary width of the roofs.P1050859

There is a limestone cliff face behind the village, with cave graves cut into the rock, and suspended wooden coffins with skulls and bones spilling out of the rotted wood. We climb about a hundred steps along the slope down from the escarpment, looking at graves, coffins and loose bones and skulls along the way. It was definitely an interesting spot.P1050869

One of the graves was fairly new, in the form of a rice storage house with a massive concrete replica of the traditional coffin, which is round at the base and peaked at the top – not so interesting!P1050874

It was now 4pm, and we headed back to the homestay just ahead of the afternoon rains. We try a different restaurant, the Rimiko, which was a lot further down market, but considerably better than the Aras the night before. Dianne has definitely overdone it with the walking today (though she would do it all again, as it was such an interesting day), and her ankle is aching, so about 11pm she takes a sleeping tablet to get to sleep. It rained quite heavily in the night, good background noise against the roosters, dogs and motorbikes.

Saturday 29th April Rantepao, Sulawesi – exploring Tana Toraja

While we are having breakfast, there is a disturbance on the main road, which turns into our street beside the lake. There are policemen, a decorated truck with men in national dress, and a truck with woman drummers pounding bamboo poles into a wooden trough, probably a ritual rice husking operation. We’re told they are part of a wedding group going to pick up the bride.P1050891

After breakfast we drive through the streets to the buffalo market. We walk through the streets and into a large open area, dominated by a circular compound for the buffalo which are on sale.P1050893

In the ring, there is a network of ropes stretched horizontally, to which were attached drop ropes connected to the nose ropes of more than 100 buffalo, all very calm and patient. In the covered area surrounding the compound, the higher quality partially white buffalos are kept in better conditions, but face the same prospect in the funeral season. Outside the compound, there were a lot of buffalo and men inspecting them.P1050906

Next we moved on to the pig market, with rows of squealing pigs strapped to the bamboo carrying frames, ready for transport to funerals or other celebrations. Outside were a number of men holding roosters, obviously game roosters even though cock fighting is banned in Indonesia. They were exercising them and promoting aggression between them. It was interesting to see how the roosters reacted, with raised ruffs of feathers around the necks, and leaping high for advantage.P1050909 We got some good photos of trussed-up pigs strapped to motor bikes, and good crowd shots.

From here we moved on to the main market, finding some interesting fresh water fish, including catfish, eels and carp. Further on, we came to the dried whitebait and larger fish, then into the vegetable section, including a banana-leaf wrapped 25 kilo pack of sago flour, tomatoes, chillies and onions. The basket ware section included the rooster cages we had seen in front of a lot of houses, conical rice workers hats and floor or mattress matting.P1060102

From the market we moved on to rice paddies,P1050931

more rante, and to Bori, the site of an impressive rante (ceremonial ground) and some towering megaliths, and rice storages on the flat.P1060012

The tombs were cut into large boulders, with one boulder, a long way up the hill on steps, being worked on by a team of stonemasons.P1050944

We take photos around the area, particularly of a house under construction, then head up the mountain, climbing up through jungle and rice paddies to a lookout for fantastic views of the valley and the rice paddies, then further to pass an accident site where an excavator on a truck has fallen into a ravine from a collapsed road.P1050976

For the last couple of kilometres Jerry, Murray and Sharon walk with Mr Enos, checking out the village on the way, and the trees which look very Australian, but have fine leaves more like a pine.

The restaurant at the top of the mountain (Mentirotiku at Batutumanga) is very well built, decorated and landscaped, and has views all down the mountain toward Rantepao. We have a good meal, head down the mountain via narrow roads as the accident vehicles are being recovered. Stop to have a look at a special boat roofed house with a very large buffalo carved from a single block of basalt, which is a new variation, and a very large collection of the buffalo horns, arranged vertically, large to small.P1060009

After a long day, we are back at the homestay at 4pm, before the afternoon rains. We return to the same restaurant for the evening meal. It rains very heavily in the night, keeping the background noise down to an acceptable level.

Sunday 30th April Rantepao, Sulawesi – exploring Tana Toraja

There is an incredible racket while we are having breakfast, as an ambulance, followed by dozens of motorbikes, goes up the highway. We are told that probably someone has just died, and this is a normal practice.

Today we return south to visit Makale, the scene of our Las Vegas experience. The heavy rain last night has caused an mud slide on the main road, but the traffic is light and we pass easily. We can’t believe how different Makale looks in the day – not at all Las Vegas. We stop at the artificial lake for some pictures, including the statue in the lake of Lakipadada, who tried to find eternal life, as well as the distant statue of Jesus on Buntu Burake Hill, which we can now see, in daylight, as similar to the Christ the Redeemer figure in Rio de Janeiro. We then headed straight up the mountain towards the Jesus statue, up an incredibly steep road made especially for tourism. The road is rather rough, and ends well below the peak, but a new road is being built almost right to the top. Jerry, Sharon and Murray went all the way up the flights of steps to the podium of the statue, the others various distances. The base of the statue is curved concrete in several levels, looks like at some future stage it will have observation galleries, with a prefabricated statue above, also in concrete, with visible ridges at the joints. It is about 40 metres high. We take photos all round, endure a lot of group selfie shots by the local tourists, check out what will be the new concession stalls when the road to the top is finished. There are views of the centre of Makale and the lake of the Lakipadada statue, and up and down the valley.

Our next stop is Suaya another burial site for a royal family, not as touristy as some, and a bit run-down. This is a fair way out in the countryside, and we have a pleasant walk to get to it. It has the graves buried in a high rock face, with quite a few tau tau, similar to Lemo.P1060068

Those who are not suffering from an injury walk past the forest and rice paddies, while Dianne gets a ride, about a kilometer to Tampangallo, a very interesting cave system down by a small river, with ancient coffins and skulls and tau tau effigies. It is much more intimate than the other caves, and you can walk in one side and out another. This is not on the main tourist route, and looks really old and authentic, and is one of our favourite sites.P1060087

We then stop for lunch at Open Air Panorama restaurant, overlooking some very pretty rice paddies, where we look out on a fish pond with very large carp sticking their tails out of the water Takes forever for our lunch to come, but not all bad as it had a pleasant view. We spent an hour and a half here, probably because we’re starting to run out of different things to see, as this is our third day of sightseeing in the area.

From here we moved on to Londa, another burial site, this one much more of a tourist attraction, where we walked around a sink hole on a higher level, then descended to a cave where there are burials within the cave as well as in niches cut high into the massive cliff face, in places seemingly impossible to get to. There is also a balcony of tau tau here. There are lamp bearers who lead tourists into the cave, which is pretty crowded, and slippery under foot. Dianne manages on her gammy leg, but it is a bit risky. Inside there’s a collection of coffins, many of them rotted away, and bones lying either scattered or heaped in piles. We have to go out the way we came in, then visit a smaller cave, which does connect to the first, but only by a narrow passage.

We then declare an early finish, and are back at the homestay by 3pm, on a fine afternoon with no sign of rain. We order in takeaway from Saruran Restaurant, having been told about it by another couple staying at the homestay. It is red rice Nasi goreng, pretty dry and bland, but has a plastic bag of savage chili which Dianne donates to the Austrian couple to give some sting to their guacamole. Also have some fruit juice drinks in sealed containers – the local version of McDonalds. Later find it is from the same restaurant as the one Jerry and Sharon go out to with Mr Pandu.

We are leaving early in the morning, so organise our gear and have a reasonably early night.

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