The steep hills of Makale, governmental center of Tana Toraja, are crowned with peaks of churches, while the valley is dominated by government buildings, of which many have motives that originate from the traditional Toraja architecture. Makale is expanding to the north for years, along the the road towards Rantepao, 17 km ahead. The city has seen the construction of several government buildings, a hospital and a number of hotels. Fears that these new buildings would scare tourists, the bupati has ordered all new buildings to be build along the main road, should be decorated with Toraja motives. The results is a mess of styles, which caused antropologists and architects to writing several articles.
On market days, every sixth day, when people arrive from remote villages with products, cattle, handmade mats, baskets and knives, the city is the clean and pleasant city in the center. Still, only few tourists stay here, however the big Marannu Hotel is located here. The environment offers good hiking possibilies. When you follow the road uphill directly behind the market, a path to the left brings you to a number of very old limestone graves. However many of these graves have been robbed by looters over time, there are still some skulls and bones to be seen, and sometimes a coffin. Makale is a good starting point for a visit to West Toraja and the nearby Tondon, Suaya and Sanggala'.
Rantepao is a dusty, lively town, which in the first place looks more like an American wild west town with it's wide streets and plastic bags blown around. Inhabitants of the mountain villages with carry bamboo with palmwine (tuak), walk into the city with a good walk, while bemo, loaded with plastic buckets, sacks o rice and petrol go in the opposite direction.
The main crossroads is branded by a miniature tongkonan which seems to be on top of a pink glass; in reality this is a serving dish for ceremonies. Really old dishes can be bought in the antique shops near the tongkonan. From this place the (mini)buses start their long and heavy trip to Palopo, Saroako, Poso and Palu. On market days the crossing is verybusy when trucks with passengers, becak, jeeps, cars with tourists and motorcycles cross the city. Around this central place is a foreign exchange office, bank, postoffice and the biggest department store of Rantepao.
On market days, bemo loaded with pigs, bags of coffee beans, rice and sago, bumb over the bad roads of Rantepao. Women carry baskets with fruits and vegetables on their back, men carry bundles of woodcarvings and handmade knives. Piles of woven hats, often made in the leprosis-colony just outside the city) are on the heads of the village women, while men hold their roosters or wave with wooden baskets with little pigs. Fish traders transport their fish on their bikes, while men from remote villages bring big buffalos to the market on foot, stopping for a short stop at the river before putting them on sale.
The entrance to the buffalo market is a muddy field full with men and buffalos. On market days you can see hundreds of animals tied up on the field. Bemo find their way over the unpaved path that runs across the field and the market. The market is loosely separated in several sectors: an important place is the pig department. Potential buyers walk across loads of male and female pigs, while they talk about the benefits and bad sides of the animal. When a sale is agreed upon, the porters grab the animal and put it on bamboo transport for loading it into a bemo; smaller pigs are often carried like they are handbags. Packed meals, consisting of rice, vegetables, eal from the ricefields and pork, is sold to those who are too tired to cook after their big day on the market.