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Travelling in Toraja
Hiking through nature and culture

Most places of interest of Rantepao which can be reached in half an hour by car or bemo, offer beautiful hikes through the environment. The most important places are located close to eachother, so more of them can be visited in one day. It's best to start early in the morning with a visit to the villages which are the most far away and to return to Rantepao for lunch. The morning gives some fresh air and the light is good to make pictures. Who isn't tired after lunch can visit the nearby villages in the afternoon.
For most objek wisata (official tourist sites) an entrance fee is asked, usually around Rp. 10.000 (1 euro). Sometimes there are extra costs like hiring a guide or renting a flashlight for caves. On several locations, own camera's should be paid for as well. During the peak season the visitor is constantly irritated by youngsters which are asking for money and candy. Children pose for photograph's for a euro each, and try to sell handycraft from Flores and Bali. Several villages construct walls to keep tourists out, which all think it's too expensife and take a look there without paying. It's no use to be angry about this; the traveller has already paid a lot of money go get here and the local population doesn't see why they can't claim some of it as well.
Visiting these places outside the tourist season is better. Often the villages are almost deserted and the tourist is already leaving before someone notices you. However more locations have 'toll booths' which are always staffed. People have some time to have a little conversation with and the youngsters are not as pushy.
Most of the times, you can't eat at these locations, however more warung and restaurants appear along the road. Of course you can bring some food along. To visit most interesting locations around Rantepao, you will need only a couple of days.

Karasik and Londa

Karasik is the first village south of Rantepao along the road to Makale. At the edge of the town is a road sign to Karasik, which indicates a track that goes uphill on the left side of the road. The village consists of several colorfull painted houses around a ritual field (rante) with several menhirs. The houses were originally built as temporary buildings for a big burial ceremony, which was held quite some time ago. Normally such buildings are removed when the funeral is held, but these houses were reinforced and used for coming funerals as well. Several of these buildings were decorated for permanent residence, but in 1986, several of these houses were destroyed by a powerfull storm. Nowadays Karasik looks like a ghosttown.
Five kilometers ahead along the main road is Londa, to be reached by bemo towards Makale, which stops at the village if you ask fopr it. After a kilometer you will find the most visited rock grave locations of Tana Toraja. The caves have balconies on which tau-tau are to be found which oversee a wealthy ricefield. The steep limestone wall above the statues is the graveyard of the numerous aristocrats. The Toraja which could pay for the most extensive burial ceremonies, are buried at the highest positions in the rock. It is said that two caves are two kilometers deep. Hoever all entrances of the caves are visible, they run into the rock in a network. The caves are filled with coffins and bones of Christians as well as supporters of aluk to dolo; the skulls and bones are displayed for visitors. Who wants to take a closer look at the caves can rent a flashlight and hire a guide. Drinks and souvenirs can be obtained here as well.

The path east of Londa leads to the village of Pabaisenan (Liang Pia). Here is an old tree that is used as burial site for deceased babies. The little bodies are placed in spaces the stem. They are closed off again, so the tree could close it of again. The tree has died already and has broken off at a few meters above the ground. Most of the holes are in the lower part however.
On the main road there is a turn to a lake near Tilanga'. You should turn left at the road sign and follow a bumpy road for five kilometers to this clear, natural swimming pond surrounded by bamboo. The water is cool and refreshing, but you can better stay away at Sundays, because it's then visited by crowds of local people. From here you can go further towards the south; it's a nice trip of over two hours through the ricefields of Lemo.

Lemo and Ke'te' Kesu'

Lemo, twelve kilometers south of Rantepao is one of the most impressive rock grave locations of the entire area. To get there, you should walk turn left onto a small road, the last few hundred meter should be done on foot.
Dozens of statues on balconies view over the valley. Nearby are the wooden doors behind which the deceased are buries ion tombs, excavated in the rock. Unfortunately only a few of these tau-tau on this many-visited location are real. Many of them were stolen in the 1980's. Only a handfull of statues on the upper balconies are original; the others are replacements which the government placed there in 1988. The visitor platforms, souvenir stalls and the parking look like the crowded places on Bali, but if you visit the place outside the tourist season, it's often very quiet with only a handfull of tourists.
Two kilometers south of Rantepao along the road to Makale is a turn towards the left, which brings you to a valley with many interesting villages and ritual locations. The turn is clearly marked with: To Ke'te Kesu'.
Buntupune, a kilometer after the split, has two traditional houses dating from around 1900 and six ricesheds. The tongkonan along the western side was built by Pong Maramba, a noble man which was the first colonial district head during the Dutch colonial period. When his plan to plot against the Dutch leaked, he was send into exile to Ambon. After his death his body was returned to Tana Toraja and buried in the mountain north of Buntupune. Two kilometers ahead is Ke'te' Kesu, one of the oldest 'traditional villages' in this area, located in a sea of ricefields.
On the hill near the turn to the village, you will find woodcarvers at work. The village itself has four well-maintained tongkonan and a long series of ricesheds. On the verandahs of these traditional houses the villagers sell woodcarvings.
The path at the other side of the village leads to several menhirs, withnesses of funerals of important aristocrats. To see the ancestral graves of the village, you have to take the path behind the museum. The big cement tomb, decorated with a remarkably real-looking tau-tau, belongs to T.K. Sarungallo, a charismatic tongkonan leader and politician, which died in 1986.
Just behind the grave of Sarungallo are the hanging graves and rockgraves with bones and coffins with woodcarvings. Once there were 27 tau-tau here, but on one night in 1984, 13 of them were stolen when the entire village went to visit a funeral ceremony. The villagers have rescued the others, but wonder whether the missing ones will ever be returned to their place.

Toraja don't live here anymore. In the summer months, it's not unusual that over ahundred tourists visit this place. Tickets can be bought at the entrance. When a group arrives, children from neighboring villages will shake hands with the tourists, sing songs and ask for 'bonbons'. However Ke'te' Kesu is very commercially exploited, it's still worth while a visit.
Beyond this place is Sullukang. Here are several big menhirs to be found on the rante. Once some tau-tau were placed here on the open field, but they have been replaced to a safer location.
Palatokke (also known as Mengke'pe') is a little visited village with a graveyard which can be reached via a nice path from Sullukang. Because the path runs along terraced ricefields and through quiet villages, you will have to ask for directions, but it's also possible to rent a guide. Besides the wonderful natural beauty, Palatokke is also the place to find more rock graves. Some Toraja say that 'Palatokke' is a hint to people that could also cling to rock walls, just like lizards can.

Metal workers and hot sources

The metal workers village of La'bo' can be reached from Palatokke to go further southeast or to return to the main road from Sullukang and then walk for three kilometers. From a small group of houses you will probably hear the sound of hitting on metal. The people here are working on the nice knives (parang, in Toraja la'bo').
When leaving La'bo' the road splits. To the right you will go to another metal workers village, Randabatu. Twelve kilometers ahead is Sangalla', where you can find a palace made from bamboo on the flattened hilltop. There are also a couple of graves.
It is possible to take a bemo from Rantepao to Sanggala' before walking through the forest for about two hours before reaching Buntao. From there a minibus will bring you back to town.
A shorter alternative: walk from Sangalla'to Suaya in the southwest and then four or five kilometers over a good path back to the main road between Makale and Rantepao. After about two kilometers you will arrive in Buntukalando. This village has a small museum, organised by local aristocracy, in which interesting royal and household objects are on display. A kilometer ahead if Suaya, one of the best places to see tau-tau: three galleries hold over 40 puppets. The village has a nice church. From the next turn to Suaya you will reach the hot sources of Makula after three kilometers. The rooms of the old government logement (government resthouse have big bathtubs with running water from the source. In front of the house is a small concrete swimming pool with (not always clear) water from the course behind the house. The rooms as well as the swimming pool can be used for low prices. Sometimes it's also possible to spend the night here.
The split near La'bo' to the left brings you to Buntao', 15 kilometers from Rantepao. It's an interesting village to visit on market days. Buntao' has a pantane (home grave) and there are old graves on the hill above the village. Tembamba, two kilometers ahead along the road, is a mountain road village with old graves and a very good panoramic view.

East of Rantepao

Marante and Nanggala are the two most important ritual locations along the main road east of Rantepao. Marante, about six kilometers from Rantepao, has several big Tongkonan and ricesheds. Walking over the path just past Marante, you can see a big rock with graves. Here too, many of the graves are looted. Several coffins, skulls and a cave remember of how it should be.
Nanggala is a traditional Toraja Village on 15 kilometers east of Rantepao. It can be reached to turn right on a small path, which runs towards the village. Here is a collosal row of 14 ricesheds with interesting woodcarvings, in which old and new motives are mixed.

North-northeast of Rantepao

North of Rantepao is a number of the most attractive and least visited objects in the entire area. The most easy way to get there is by bemo. The road isn't the best one, but it runs along Sungai Sa'dan. At the other side of the river are ricefields, which are dominated by shining tongkonan with tin roofs.
The first interesting village is Pangil, eight kilometers from Rantepao, where the grave of Pong Massangka can be seen. He fought against the first Dutch missionaried, but was later converted to Christianity. The grave is located 200 meters uphill, just above the new church at the right side. In front of it is a remarkable realistic stone statue of Pong Massangka.
From Rantepao you can go to Pangli on foot over a path. Take the road that leaves the city on the northern side, turn left after the bridge and right at the first crossing. After a nice and quiet walk of seven kilometers you arrive in Parinding, a traditional village with impressive tongkonan and ricesheds. Bori', one kilometer ahead, has a big rante. After a short walk you can turn right towards Pangli.
From Pangli the road runs towards Palawa' along the left side of Sungai Sa'dan. A riceshed and a number of fake tau-tau welcome the visitors of this village. Beautiful tongkonan are used as shops in which souvenirs from all over Indonesia are sold. Children ask for money and candy, as usual.
Another four kilometers ahead, a turn towards the left brings you to Sa'dan Sangkombung, a quiet and friendly village. Women weave traditional fabrics under their houses.
When you walk another 400 meters along the main road you will find Sa'dan To'barana. At the back of the village are four ricesheds on a nicely maintained fiels; a new shops sell fabrics. The village is worth while visiting because of the wonderfull view over the terraces ricefields with the western mountains at the horison.

To the southwest

A nice trip southwest of Rantepao, along the western bank of Sungai Sa'dan, takes you to Singki', built on a hill which offers a view over the city and the surrounding rural areas. From the center of Rantepao you go to the south over a road which runs along the river, and then right over the bridge. About 50 meters a turn to the right. From here it's a short walk to the top, but in the wet season the path of overgrown and slippery. Children from the neighborhoor show you the way with pleasure; they will probably follow the visitors all the way to the top, in the hope they will get something.
The road to Singki' continues to Sigunti', a traditional village five kilometers southwest of Rantepao. To reach it, you pas Singki', after which you follow a road to the right side, uphill. Siguntu' has three tongkonan with extensive woodcarvings, ricesheds and beautiful views over the valley: an ideal place for a sunset.

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