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During the preparation of our world trip we didn't have Sulawesi on our radar. But after reading the Lonely Planet we definitely wanted to go here. And we didn’t regret it, as it became one of our Indonesian highlights so far!
Also because we could share this experience with dutchies Sascha and Jan-Willem. We met them a couple of weeks ago on the Borobudur Temple in Java during sunrise. We had a click right from the beginning. After meeting again in Kuala Lumpur the idea of our trip to Sulawesi together was born.
Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi, was our meeting point. The first days we used to catch up with each other, arrange our trip, do some shopping and enjoy nice food!
Sulawesi has a strange shape and travelling the island takes a long time as the roads are windy and not always in a very good condition. The average speed limit was 35km/h... We were very happy we hired a van with driver with the 4 of us, which made the road trip a bit more comfortable.
The Karst Mountains of Rammang Rammang, close to Maros, were easy to reach from Makassar and suprisingly beautiful. There are almost no tourists what makes this place even more special.
The short, only 6 hours, drive to the most Southern point of Bira brought us beautiful white beaches and crazy diving with lots of sharks! Definitely worth the little detour.
Tana Toraja in the central part is what made the trip to Sulawesi so special for us. The culture of the Toraja’s is unique and also a little bizarre by our Western standards. They believe in reincarnation and they keep death relatives at home until they have enough money for the funeral ceremony. They ‘pretend’ the dead is still alive by bringing the body food and drinks every day. Sometimes this goes on for many years before they are buried.
The funeral ceremonies are impressive and can take up to 9 days. The buffalo plays an important role in Toraja as a status symbol and family investment. The buffalo is leading the way to heaven for the dead person. The buffalo's are a present from other families and villagers and slaughtered during the ceremony. The more buffalo's means a quicker way to their heaven.
Once the dead person is buried, the death ceremonies are not over yet. Most of the graves and burial caves are easy accessible and can be visited by families....and tourists. In the mountains the Toraja’s celebrate Ma'nene every 3 or 5 years. This festival means they open the graves of their family members, show their death relative to the public, put the body new clothes on, have a picnic lunch together next to the coffin and finally bring the body back to the grave.
After spending a couple of days in Toraja we think their way of dealing with the death is very social and even beautiful in a sort of way. It feels more like a celebration of life and death together. We have been very privileged to be part of this very intimate moment in these families lives.
Apart from their culture, the region of Tana Toraja is also beautiful because of the hills and rice fields with spectacular views. De traditional houses, Tongkonans, are real eyecatchers. You'll understand that hiking through the area for 2 days was a real pleasure, especially when you are able to spend the night in a beautiful traditional house.
Our stay in Tana Toraja was an amazing experience and we will remember it the rest of our lives. It was sad we had to say goodbye to Sas & JaWi when we left Toraja. They were heading ‘down under’ and we travelled further north in Sulawesi.
We relaxed for two nights at a very special place at the shores of lake Poso. Dolidi Ndano is not only a very nice accommodation to stay, it is also connected to the orphanage next door. The profit of the resort goes straight to housing, education and medical care of Indonesian children in need. The kids are doing well. Some of them are now able to study at universities and have a bright future ahead. Click for more info about the resort or the foundation.
We continued our journey further north and after a few days on the road we finally reached the most isolated island on the Togean’s: Una Una. This volcanic island is famous for its dive spots. With only 1 resort on the whole island we were literally disconnected! A good place to relax and enjoy some excellent diving.
After one hour by speedboat, 12 hours by ferry, one hour by car and a 1,5 hour flight with lots of waiting in between we were back where we started, Makassar. Ready to discover other parts of Indonesia...
We also have an awesome movie! click here to watch it!