I have been hearing about Tana Toraja’s beauty and mystical land and finally got the chance to come visit especially upon hearing of a Torajan friend planning a burial ceremony at end year of 2013.
I went with my family and friends and was taken by the beauty of the land, the friendliness and honesty of the people and the tradition that these people are still holding fast despite many of its people having moved to more modern cities. During burial ceremonies, all Torajan family and friends would flock back to Tana Toraja to pay their respect and “debts”.
We started off from Jakarta, flew to Makassar and used a rented car that took us 8 hours to Toraja, high up in the mountains. We had opt on hiring a car from Makassar throughout the days in Toraja and back just in order to make it easier for us to travel around. There is no taxi in Toraja, just mini buses. The cost of car rental was relatively cheap considering the conveniency if provides.
Once in Toraja, aside from the beautiful panorama left and right, the places that usually are visited there are mostly consist of burial sites, e.g. Kete Kesu (tombs of the kings and is said to be the origins for Toraja people); Lemo (hanging graves); Londa (cliff graves); Suaya&Sangala (baby graves in trees); Pasar Bolu (traditional market, look for the day they sell water bufallo and pigs); and Batu Tumonga Plateau (the highest place in Toraja).
We found that it is better to stay in the town of Ratenpao instead of Makale. They are supposely around 22 kms apart and the sites mostly are around Ratenpao area.
Now if you are lucky to be in Toraja during a burial ceremony then you will see the rich tradition of the Torajanese. You will see clans bringing along with them water buffalos and pigs which will be put in the ledger by the deceased family and this will becomes a kind of “loan” which the deceased family will have to repay (return the kindness) when a member of that clan dies and was given a burial ceremony. afterwards you will have the slaughtering of the water buffalos in front of the guest (this we choose not to attend incase we faint which will be embarrasing). But this is just a part of the 3 to 5 day ceremony and anybody that shows up is treated like a family guest. It is so facinating. if you do intend to show up at these ceremonies, it is said to best bring some “presents” such as cigarettes, sugar, of soft drinks.
As restaurants goes, there’s hardly any. Aside from dining at hotel we stayed at, we did try eating at a small “warung” called Setia (km 2 from Makale), they have the biggest pork satay which is sooooo delicious (you may have to discard the excessive fat on it), I love the chili sauce mixed with sweet soy sauce (to reduce the heat!) and another restaurant is called “Mambo” (in Ratenpao) which would be where westerners are often seen dining.
Anyway, if you have a bit of an adventure spirit in you. This is a must try!!!