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Poso and Tentena
Magical nephew of Loch Ness

Danau Poso, right in the center of Sulawesi, looks like the center of a cosmic axis, of which its arms are turning around the center. It seems that they are moved by the biggest forces. According to local legends this is indeed the location where heaven and earth meet. A long time ago rope was found near the highland lake which was connected to heaven.

The residents of the hills and mountains near Poso - earlier known as Bare'e or eastern Toraja - once were known for their looting and headhunting trips between different tribes. Once united under a mighty raja, they decided to separate when he was captured by Buginese warriors, which were sent by the mighty ruler of Luwu'. They symbolized their demand for separation by putting a huge pillar in the ground on Pamona, a hill above the shores of Danau Poso. This pillar is still there.

The Pamona population, as they are named nowadays, is seen as the bug story of success of the Christian missions in Indonesia. From his settlement in Gorontalo, Kruyt started to work in the city of Poso from 1892. He spread a tremendous amount of patience and tolerance, remarking all kinds of local habits, which would eventually disappear because of this. Kruyt had to wait for 17 years until he could hold his first baptism. After that however, a school for missionaries was founded in Pendolo - south of Danau Poso, followed by an independent church in 1947. Nowadays most of the Pamona in the highlands are Christian.

The highland area around Danau Poso and the town of Tentana form a very good resting location for a trip along the Trans-Sulawesi highway. Tentana is also a good starting point for a visit to the surrounding area and also the Bada valley with it's mysterious megaliths. The road with connects Tentena to the north with Poso and Palu is good enough.

Shadowy Poso

The modern capital of the district, Poso, is a clean and shadowy place which exhausts an atmosphere of efficiency with it's Dutch inspired churches and government buildings. Most big hotels and restaurants are located in a two-block radius from Sungai Poso, which mouths in Teluk Tomini. They are located on the eastern side of the city, in the neighborhood of the harbor from which the boat to Gorontalo departs. At the western side is the central market, to be reaches with small boats which cross the river as much as possible when full.

Unfortunately the beaches of Poso are completely spoiled by pollution from the city. You can still have a swim at the fishing village of Kayamana, northwest of the pasar, and near Polande, two hours to the west by car.

About seven kilometers south of Poso is the village of Tagolu, the dedicated place for buying woodcarvings; in the shops you will find products from the province. Everywhere in the province - even on Mutiara Airport in Palu - you will find shops selling these products, but if you look for a workshop which produces it, you will get it for cheaper, don't forget to negotiate your price.

Rock graves in Tentana

The little church town of Tentana, 57 kilometers south of Poso, along the northern side of the beautiful Danau Poso, offers breathtaking views over this huge lake from where refreshing winds blow through the city. There are who good enough - not luxury - hotels directly at the banks of the lake. Where Sungai Poso starts, the two parts of Tentana are connected by a strange bridge. Most facilities, like the harbor of the lake, are located on the eastern side of the town. The landing strip, however, is located on the left side.

The Saluopa fall, close to Tentana, consists of small and big falls surrounded by jungle. The biggest form natural lakes, ideal for a refreshing dive. A path to the falls starts just beyond Kampung Bali, several kilometers outside Tonusu on the road to the Bada valley. Three and a half kilometers of flat road - and crossing five small rivers - bring you to the first basin of the falls. A wooden house along the road, half a kilometer before the first fall, offer a place to sleep on the floor and simple meals.

In Tentana itself you will find several caves filled with human remains and roughly cut mini-coffins, which are named peti mayat. The best accessible cave is a five minute walk from the building of the regional headquarters of the Protestant church. This is more an inlet than a cave; bones and coffins are scattered, the skulls are on top of each other on two straight lines.

It takes a little longer to reach the caves near Latea; the road towards is it muddy and slippery and you have to cross the Latea creek twice. Here are two caves. The lowest contains several earthen pots with bones and coffins; the highest is full with coffins which are mostly decayed. Don't exhaust yourself by entering the caves, there is nothing more than some bats flying around.

The well-known caves of Pamona are to be found on the other side of Poso, close to the school for theology. Nine rooms, but no human remains. There are several places nearby where you can have a rest and watch the little canoes which float around at the mouth of Sungai Poso.

The lake: big, clean and deep

Danau Poso, about 37 kilometers long and 13 kilometers at it's widest point, has a surface of about 32.000 hectares. The 400-meter-deep water is located at an altitude of 515 meters and is bordered by steep mountains at the western side and green hills on the eastern side.

Different shades of green cover the different banks. Dense rainforest and wealthy coffee- and tea plantations, just as much in line as 18th century European armies, are only stopped by 12 villages with rice fields. The green of the terraces is replaced by yellow when the fields are ready to be harvested.

The residents cite a foreign expert to proudly declare that Danau Poso is the second clearest lake in the world. Whether this is true or not, the water is very clear for sure, from light colors near the banks, to deep blue in the depths of the lake.

From the five local species of fish, two are about to extinct because of the introduction of carps and lele, from Jawa. The most impressive of the local species are the huge eels, which can grow to a length of over two meters and weight up to 20 kilo. They are caught just downstream of the strange bridge in Tentana, in the rapid flowing Sungai Poso. Maybe they are the fundaments of periodic rumors about a giant dragon eel with a length of over 30 meters. The monster of Loch Ness seems to have a cousin in Danau Poso.

Picture: Danau Poso

For a trip over the lake, you can charter several different vessels: small boats, canoes or motorized boats. The views on the lake are splendid. An advice: depart early and bring your lunch. You can best return halfway the afternoon; the water gets more rough and the wild waves can topple a small boat. When it's too bad, it's smart to moor at the closest village to spend the night there.

A boat trip along the edges of the lake takes about four to five hours. You can stop to watch fishermen or to swim a little. You can see exotic shells here.

The village of Taipa, along the western shore, is a three-kilometer walk to a steep cliff, which hangs over the lake a little, is a perfect location for taking some pictures. It's also possible to climb the hill from the shore to a viewpoint, but it's a slippery and hard climb. Seven kilometers ahead along the western shore, near Bancea, a seven hectare orchid-reserve houses 45 kinds of flowers which flower in January, May and August.

The main road to the east and south takes you through the mountains, which are inhabited by Mori. In pre-colonial times, this population was always at war with the Pamona and with the sultanate of Bungku along the eastern coast. Mountains obstruct the view on the lake; it will only reappear near Pendolo at the most southern tip. There is also a shorter road - 12 kilometers - along the eastern shore of Tentana to the village of Peura. After a steep climb with nice views it continues through a series of rice fields.

Along the western shore there is a path to Pendolo, which goes uphill shortly beyond Taipa. This road confronts the traveler often with bridges washed away.

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