2016
07.11

FACES OF TORAJA

CHEWING BETEL NUTS

CHEWING BETEL NUTS

SYNOPSIS:  About not learning any lessons.  About rain.  About meeting a Swedish couple.  A day of processing photos and impressions.  A day of rest.  Taking the night bus back to Makassar.    Images of the faces of some of the Torajans.   Saying goodbye to Sulawesi. 

Didn’t I learn anything from my experience with Nicola in Java (see Yogyakarta blog) — leaving the house without the address of your hotel?  No, I did much better than that:  I found myself without money not knowing where I was and not knowing where I was going!  Me!  A 40 year+ experienced traveler.  I can’t even look in the mirror this morning…

Last night, I left the house in a hurry in the middle of a rainstorm, jumping at the opportunity of a ride with my former guide Yussuf who was on his way home.  Huddled behind him in the dark, hiding inside my hood, I had no idea where he was taking me.  I knew where I was going:  to the Hotel Indra, to meet a Swedish couple for dinner — but I had no idea where I was once I arrived.  Pierre and Brigitte had crossed my path twice over the last few days — once at a restaurant somewhere south of here, once on the road somewhere north of here and now finally, we had agreed on meeting for dinner.  Too bad it was raining cats and dogs.

As soon as I arrived at their hotel I realized that I had left the house without money!  I had to ask for an advance for dinner and a ride home — how embarrassing!  But it got even better.  We walked to the restaurant which turned out to be about a 5 minute walk from my place:  Riana’s Homestay.  But I did not know that yet.

We had a fine time at Cafe Aras, a trendy restaurant with excellent food and decor, the kind of place I never go to on my own as it just feels like a waste of time and money to eat out nicely all by yourself.  I welcomed the idea of their company.  She, a retired teacher, he involved in commerce.  They have been to Indonesia multiple times — I can see now why people come here over and over again and had interesting insights to share.  I finally was ready to eat a local dish of pork — I have not touched any meat since the ceremony — and what can I say — it was delicious.

Rantepao is a small town and wouldn’t you know it, my homestay neighbors, a young Spanish couple also showed up at Aras’ for dinner and were able to pay my bill — much easier to pay them back, right?  On top of that, Salvador and Patricia were there with their own motorbike and Salvador offered to take me home.  It was pouring again.  But in the dark we got confused about directions, and I did not want to impose on Salvador any more than necessary as Patricia had to wait for his return.  I suggested to fend on for myself.  After all, I had $2 in my hands from his advance, and a ride with a tricycle cost only 50 cents.  They are driving around everywhere.

Yussuf had assured me that everyone knew Riana’s Homestay.  Well, not quite.  First, I was driven to Maria’s Homestay, then to Panorama Homestay, and finally, the driver admitted defeat.  Stopping three more tricycle drivers did not move the situation along any further.  In and out of dark alleys I was getting quite frustrated with the driver and very upset with myself for being such a fool.  At least I knew that I was not in any danger this late out.  A street vendor finally came to the rescue and an hour after I had left the restaurant — which as I found out today was only a 5 minute walk — I arrived back home.  Will I now learn my lesson?!

It is the dry season here since May but you wouldn’t know it.  It has been raining like clockwork every day in the afternoon, pouring, in fact.  And then not just for a while but for hours and entire nights on end.  One likely explanation for this is climate change.  This kind of rain, this late and this prolonged is unheard of and very unhealthy for this region.  Cacao beans, one of the cash crops around here are rotting on the trees as it is way too moist for the season.  And that is just one effect I observed.

I had not planned much for today other than posting photos and writing much-overdo blog entries.  But the Swedish couple stopped by for a surprise visit after they had stumbled on a sign pointing to Riana’s.  Very nice people indeed.  I hope someday I will meet them again.  Perhaps in Sweden?  Perhaps in the US?

My week in Tana Toraja is coming to an end.  In a short while, I will board the night bus again.  That means, that I really have not seen much of Sulawesi at all.  Tana Toraja is a special enclave.  But it surely is a unique one; one I will remember fondly.

See you in Timur.