Trekking in the Northern Toraja Land

The gorgeous lush inexperienced landscape of the Toraja Land has forged her charming spell upon us and we are desperate to discover the nature of this pretty place in a trekking tour. While trekking, we are many times reminded of the importance of the demise in the Torajan tradition by the many outstanding, monolithic graves and funeral caves.

travel tipp infoThe Lonely Planet also supplies some nice inspirations for hikes and you may definitely cope and not using a guide in this space as properly. Nevertheless, most Lonely Planet treks comply with the larger country roads, which may shortly develop into a bit boring, despite the good lookouts on the method. Should you go and not using a guide, spice the treks up by making some cross nation shortcuts by way of the rice fields using a GPS to not lose trek of the place you’re. The locals are all the time curious and can enable you to should you ought to get misplaced anyhow.

Our solution to Battutumonga

We go to the environment of Battutumonga, a village which is an effective base for day treks in the northern Toraja Land. We take a shared automotive from Rantepao till midway to Battutumonga and stroll the rest of the method cross-country by means of rice terraces and fields of the local farmers. Regardless of the tropical warmth, we take pleasure in very a lot the breathtakingly lovely views down into the valley.

The trek via the rice paddies requires some balancing acts to avoid moist ft. In any other case the trek is straightforward and relaxed. We cross a number of small villages and are amazed by the unbelievable Torajan architecture:

Torajan structure: Velvet Underground meets Andy Warhol

Have you learnt this nice Velvet Underground album with the cowl by Andy Warhol? The one with the banana? Think about you’re an architect and take the similar medicine as Velvet Underground. You then determine to trend a house to have fun Warhol’s banana. I feel that’s what happened right here in Toraja.

Our guide Yohanis explains a bit extra. Western anthropologists consider that the banana shaped roofs are actually a the rest of a seafaring nation… thus substitute “banana shaped” by “boat shaped”. As there is a caste system established in Toraja, only males of wealth and political energy are allowed to construct such Tongkonan, as these homes are referred to as in Toraja. The larger the roof is, the wealthier the man. Easy, world-famous logic: Measurement issues.

These stilted homes are ornamented with picket carvings. An open platform on the first flooring shelters the individuals from the rain, real rooms are discovered on the second flooring. The house is topped by a curved boat formed roof. The normal homes don’t stand alone. Often they stand in a cluster of bigger and smaller ones, surrounding an open meadow. The larger Tongkonans are for the individuals to stay in them. The smaller ones are constructed around them to store rice and other grains or meals.

You’ll be able to easily recognize the major house, the place the patriarch lives, by – in fact – the measurement, but in addition the more delicate ornaments and the rows buffalo horns adorning the entrance. The horns are immediately linked to the status of the individual or household dwelling in the house as they stem from choices at the village’s funerals. The higher the status and wealth of the family, the extra buffalos have been slaughtered and the extra buffalo horns consequently beautify the house of the family.

Close to one among the villages, we encounter a crowd of locals and soon uncover the cause for the gathering: They’re meeting up for a cock preventing event.

Indonesian Cockfighting

Regardless of of what you consider this blood sport, cockfighting has a really long custom. This tradition is much more obvious in Balinese Hinduism. The cockfights have been originally practiced for centuries as an historic spiritual purification ritual to expel evil spirits. Just like an animal sacrifice, this ritual known as tabuh rah, which interprets to “pouring blood”. Whereas these rituals are nonetheless practiced at this time, the event which we encounter is with no spiritual function and focuses on playing. As in Indonesia all gambling is forbidden by lay since 1981, additionally the cockfights are unlawful, but our information Yohanis tells us that they’re nonetheless extraordinarily widespread and that farmers truly breed a particular type of cock with high stamina to win in these video games. The ladies present in the convention usually are not gambling, however slightly sitting at the aspect, watching the spectacle from a protected distance and selling immediate noodles and beer to the viewers.

The cockfights take place in three phases. In the first part, the house owners of the cock investigate the opponents to determine whether or not they truly need to enter into the struggle and see good possibilities that their cock shall be the winner. In this part, additionally the gambling begins and both the house owners as well as the spectators guess on the competing cocks. If the house owners of the cocks determine on a battle, the next part begins, getting ready the cocks for the combat. Razor sharp metallic spurs are hooked up to the cock’s pure spurs. Afterwards the house owners of the cocks enter the so referred to as cockpit (this time the struggle floor is just a small meadow in between timber) and convey the cocks very close to each other. To start out the battle they hit the heads of the cocks towards each other which instantly will get the animals aggressive. Now the third part, the actual struggle, begins. First the cocks surround each other earlier than partaking in shut combat the place the unskilled observer can solely see a ball of feathers with out with the ability to distinguish the two animals anymore. Often, after two or three assaults it’s clear which cock is the winner and the different both runs away or lies injured or lifeless on the ground. As with all blood sports activities, we aren’t keen on what we see however observing the intense consideration of the crowd on the fights and the robust impressions on their weathered faces is an experience we might not need to miss.

After being witness to 3 cockfights, we proceed our stroll by means of bamboo forests, rice paddies and plush inexperienced hills. Apart from the intriguing architecture of the village houses, another facet is unique to the Torajan panorama: Graves are omnipresent, be it as caves, monoliths or timber:

A grave for everyone: the wealthy, the poor and the babies

Though Torajans are Christians, their understanding of the burial of a person could be very totally different to what a European Christian would have. As an alternative of cemeteries the Torajans use big monoliths, caves and (!) timber as graves for their deceased.

As we stroll past inexperienced hills and rice paddies, we already discover the big rocks that lie scattered in the panorama. A few of them are used as graves: The wealthy individuals carve burial caves into the monolithic rocks. We visit a huge stone wall with many caves inside. The graves listed here are as much as 700 years previous. Outdoors on the rocks are small balconies where you possibly can see the picket effigies of the deceased persons.

Our subsequent stop is a small cave, hidden away in between rice paddies. We now have to cross a small bamboo bridge to get there. In the cave, we see up to 500 years previous skeletons and half rotted superbly carved picket sarcophagus. Some smaller effigies could be discovered right here as nicely. Here the center class and less fortunate individuals have been buried. Yohanis stops to provide a small prayer and puts some cigarettes as offerings subsequent to a cranium. Until at the moment the Torajans are very caring for the remainders of the deceased and go to the burial locations recurrently to provide small offerings to the spirits.

We have been very touched by the child graves carved into timber. Torajans consider that infants are so harmless that they do not need large buffalo choices to get again to the “spirit world”. No less than until they grow tooth. The logic behind that’s intriguing: As long as the child has no tooth it can’t converse. Thus it can’t converse false both, and remains harmless. Once it grows a tooth all of this innocence is over.

These harmless toothless lifeless babies return to nature’s arms: the Torajans bury them in timber. These timber are on a very holy floor and once they grow and blossom it’s a sign that the child has safely arrived in the “spirit world”.


We lastly arrive in Battutumonga for lunch. In the afternoon we hike up the mountain in Battutumonga, a pleasant and feasible 2 hour ascent. We meet a number of groups of kids up there that are tenting near the summit. In case you are touring with a tent, this may be a really nice choice. The view is spectacular, although we’ve to attend till the clouds half from up there. Luckily we get again just in time to our good and very primary farm homestay earlier than the thunderstorm breaks unfastened.

The subsequent day we continue our tour by means of the nice inexperienced scenery and pink dusty roads. When it begins to rain in the late afternoon we hop on the loading area of a passing truck and get back to Rantepao dry earlier than the heavy tropical rains come down. Our minds are crammed with pictures of monolith graves, preventing cocks, laughing youngsters, toothless village elders and surreal stilt houses when we have now a late dinner in the city.

Learn extra…


Did you want this submit? Do you’ve got personal experiences to share? Please depart us a comment!