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To Mamasa
Trekking in remote highlands

The trip towards the west from Bittuang to Mamasa, via Ponding and Timbaan, takes about three days, in which you are walking for about 6 to 7 hours a day. Most hikers only explore the eastern part of Tana Toraja, but for those with time there is this trip as well. The view over the hills and the fierce rivers is breathtaking.
The course demands a good condition, however a smoking guy in his fifties managed to reach the final destination - with hurting legs however.
The route is a wide path, the future road between Makale and Mamasa, which causes the slopes to be moderate. The first piece and the last kilometers can be done by transport; the remaining 66 km however the road is not good enough. The path is clear of vegetation and every turn gives a new panoramic view. The route offers little shade, to take care of protection against the burning sun.

From Bittuang to Ponding

Take a bemo in Makale or rent a jeep for the two hour climb to Buttuang (1300 meters). A market is held here every six days; dates are related to the Torajan calender. Outside the market days there are at least several minibus to Makale.
The first leg of this three-day trip brings you to the village of Ponding in about 25 kilometers. The weekly market here takes place at Saturdays. Several jeeps are shuttling between Bittuang and Ponding, while only a handfull of trips is made outside the market days. The trip is cheap, but the jeeps are inevitably very full: 20 passengers with bags of coffee is quite common. A trip like this, clamped in a jeep, your ribs crushed is not much fun and doesn't give you the opportunity to have a look around. It's better to rent a jeep or walk to Ponding.

From Bittuang the road lingers around a mountain. Hikers can take a shorter path that descends into the valley about three kilometers outside Bittuang. You will encounger youngsters from a shool greeting you friendly and happy. When it's a nine kilometer gradual climb to Pasangtau, a little village just past the mountain road, at 1500 meters.
Here are several small shops, some sell beer, where you can also order a simple meal. You can spend the night here.
Beyond Pasangtau the path rapidly descends into a deep valley. The descend offers nice views as far as Belau. Along the road is losmen Pa'Arau with real beds and simple meals. Spend the night here or walk another six kilometers to Ponding, a quiet place except for Saturdays.

From Ponding to Timbaan

Ask, when departing without guide, the road to Mamasa in Ponding - this is the only place where the route is not the usual one. The parth runs across the scattered village and then descends to Sungai Masupu, to the bamboo bridge. This is the lowest point of the entire trip, just below 600 meters.
Sungai Masupu marks the border between two important ethnical groups in Toraja. Both speak a different dialect, but can understand eachother anyway. Both groups also have their own architecture and traditions. The beautiful tongkonan and decorated ricesheds are missing in the area of the Mamasa-Toraja, but there are houses with impressive woodcarvings and huge coffins in the shape of waterbuffalos. Traditional weaving is also performed here. The area is not much visited by tourists.
Across the bridge the wide path continues of the western side of the thinly vegetated mountains, which surround the rapids of Sungai Masupu. After a number of kilometers the river is gradually lost from sight when the path is climbing.
If you walk into a valley after a turn towards the north, the slopes will get steep and heavily vegetated. At some places, vegetation is cut short. You can hear the roar of Sungai Mawai, a contributor of Sungai Masupu. Several kilometers ahead is the village with the same name, Mawai, settled in a valley at an altitude of 850 meters.

Picture: Bamboo bridge

The first house along the path offers a bed for the night. When you don't spend the night here, you should at least stop here to drink a cup of coffee. Who stays here longer, can try the owners cigarettes, hand rolled in corn leaf with local tobacco and clove from the garden. There are long prayers before meals.
Beyond Mawai a wooden bridge crosses Sungai Mawai. The little lakes below the bridge are a nice place for a swim. The path then climbs over 200 meters to Timbaan, a place where people usually spend the night at the end of the second day of hiking. Before Timbaan there is a path left of the road which leads to Pokko, where the inhabitants still follow the ancestral traditional Toraja religion.
In Timbaan you will find a few places to spend the night. THey all take care of meals and a shop sells beer. Bathing can be done under the bamboo shower, surrounded by bamboo walls, which gives some privacy.

From Timbaan to Mamasa

The last day starts with the most difficult climb of this trip: from Timbaan, at 1075 meters, there is a five-kilometer mountain path to 1700 meters. The climb isn't really difficult, but it's long and exhausting.
Strategical bamboo pipes irrigate the sawah's in the valley. You can most likely drink this fresh mountain water. The path runs through steep valleys with coffee and cacao-trees. There are ricefields and several places are growing a cassave-like vegetable.
The mountain road runs over an open space: the perfect place for a rest. From here it's all downhill. In the beginning the path is wide and steep, while the vegetation and grass take over. Then you have to wade through a shallow river. Across the vegetation is thicker and there are few open spaces. In the afternoon the chance for shouwers is biggest; a house along the road in Lombonan, three km down the pass, offers protection. Past Lombonan the first ricefields appear and the road gets better.
There is little traffic on this road. Who is lucky will find a car to ride along to Pakassan or even Mamasa. From Pakassan it's ten kilometers over a flat road to Mamasa. On Monday's, market day in Mamasa, there is a minibus along this route. In Rantebuda, three kilometers before Mamasa is a beautiful traditional house loaded with woodcarvings. The house is located 50 meters from the road.

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