The trip to the north from Makassar takes you along a small, fertile coastal area, dominated by spectacular mountain ranges and shadowy, cool lagunes and inlets. Most travellers take this route to Parepare, and then inland towards the mountains. The western coast is the place of origin for several of the earliest known kingdoms in South-Sulawesi and several of the oldest traditiona. Segeri, halfway from Makassar to Parepare is known for it's holy plowing rituals and it's seminar for transvestite priests.
From Makassar the road goes north through ricefields, which are controlled by a limestone chain with beehive-like labyrynth of steep rising earth-layers, decorated with tropical flowers. It is said that this are the remains of coral reefs from the Tertiary.
Pangkajene, 53 km along the coast north of Makassar, is on the border of the Buginese and Makassarese regions. This area was part of the Siang kingdom, which was the most important trade centers before the 16th century and before the development of Makassar. A lot of Chinese porcelain has been found in this district, as well as several golden objects. Several are on display in the cultural center (kantor kebudayaan), together with musical instrument, weapons, modelf of ships and so on. Ask in the closed area if you can see the golden mask. It probably is a bural mask of a type that doesn't exist elsewhere in Indonesia. It is dated somewhere between the 14th and 16th century and was found in a grave tomb in 1967 among many other golden objects.
A few kilometers beyong Pangkajene are the natural sources of Bungaro. A pond has formed from the source in the limestone, but this isn't very attractive. There are caves in the rock wall where the local people guide the visitors with flashlights. Just after Bungaro is a nice road to the concrete factory Tonasa II, which shows you limestone rock formations with caves. Stalactites and stalagmites give a surreal view to the area.
Segeri, 74 km further along the road towards the north, is a city with special, but bad maintained houses. The former greatness is only shown by the remaining seminair of the bissu. These transvestite priests performed palace rituals and guarded the holy arajang (regalia) of each Buginese kingdom. Segeri is the most northern center of the region, which was governed directly by the Makassarese sultans in the 17th century. After that is was annexated by the Dutch as the Northern Districts of Makassar. Just like the Dutch which occupied this rich, rice-growing area between Segeri and Maros, Bone did the same at the end of the 18th century, and the area only came under colonial government in 1824.
The meaning of bissu dates back to 1776, when a prince from Luwu' settled in Segiri and was accepted as ruler. He brought several bissu, which only appeared in the more powerfull courts of Bone, Wajo and Luwu' itself. Their guarding of the arajang was a magic plow in Segiri which was supposed to be used during the mapalili-ceremony which is held in the second half of November to start the plowing season.
The bissu were sjamans which were able to communicate with the gods directly in their special language, the basa bissu. In trance they can stab themselves without pain. Since the fall of the raja's the bissu have lost most of their functions. It's characteristic that their leader, the puang matoa, has become an islamic haji. Only at the mapalili-ceremony the role of the bissu is seen as important.
In Balusu, 119 km from Makassar, a detour just after the bridge takes you to one of the few remaining examples of an aristocratic architecture, dating from the 19th century. Just after Balusu the road runs along the coast again. The rest of the trip is beautiful with good beaches on about 12 km before Parepare. About two kilometers before Parepare, in the village of Bangange, you can visit an 'ethnologic museum'. There is a collection of traditional costumes and gold ornaments which are used in royal ceremonies, as well as ceramics, copper, instruments and several traditional tools.
Parepare has a relatively short history. The city was part of the Suppa kingdom, which has played an important role in the history of this area. The Portugese said that the raja of Suppa and several of his aristocracy were converted to christianity in 1543, sixty years before Makassar became islamic. Parepare, the biggest seaport in South-Sulawesi after Makassar, is now mainly known for the center of trade. It's the most important seaport for export of animals and has a scheduled ferry service to Donggala, Kalimantan and Surabaya. In the harbor the ships are build and repaired; you can see the bago, and local prahu Nice views over the city and the bay are available from the hills north and from the boulevard; beautiful sunsets and a lively evening market.