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          We left from Balikpappan on the good ship Tidar around 11 Am after the crew diddled around with refueling until 2 hours after the scheduled departure time (typical in this part of the world)

       We arrived at Pare Pare around 3 AM. Across the street from the ferry terminal was a 24 hour Padang restaurant that did passable Padang. The food was bastardized with Sulawesi-isms, though still not altogether bad.

            Our next destination was Tana Toraja. It was about 4 AM when we found a bus, which also seem to be available at all hours in Pare Pare.

            Though the ride was crowded and cramped it was still breathtakingly scenic. Going through the highlands just before Toraja as the sun was rising, with the rugged, spirey mountains cottoned with patches of ethereal mist, was truly breathtaking.


            The area was almost as heavily populated with buffalo and cattle as with humans. There were, surprisingly, even a few full-sized horses.

We arrived at Hotel Pison on the outskirts of Rantepao about 10 Am, and immediately crashed. It had been a tiring ferry and bus ride. 

                 Hotel Pison had amazingly good, clean, comfortable & spacious doubles with hot water & personable views of the surrounding Torajan scenery from private balconies for Rp 65.000/night (about $6.50 US).

            When we woke around 3 it was on to Christmas dinner. We had traditional Torajan food, including Pa’piong (pork and green vegetables smoked in bamboo tubes), buffalo sate, & buffalo pamerasan (a curry-like dish with a spicy black sauce), and mie bakso babi (pork meatball & noodle soup). It was all scrumptious.



The next morning we took off for Batutumonga, a traditional Torajan village about 20 miles north of Rantepao. We stayed 2 days & nights there, just exploring the area and enjoying the view from the traditional Torajan house we stayed in there.

            There were loads of traditional Torajan graves there as well. The Torajan people probably have a stronger connection with the afterlife than any people today, and keep their dead in stone graves, providing them gifts such as food, drinks and cigarettes as though they were still living.

The Torajans probably have held on to their culture better than any indigenous people in Indonesia. The traditional houses, villages and graves still dominate the landscape, not as a show to milk tourists for money, but out of genuine devotion. We gave donations freely while we were there at several villages, commending them for preserving their lands and their lifestyle despite constant pressure.


  On the 29th we went to Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi. We enjoyed the lovely seafood, seaside colonial architecture, and historical landmarks there. 



The 30th through the 2nd we stayed in Pantai Bira (Bira Beach) The water was blue, the sand was white, and the beachfront cliffs were absolutely exquisite. We could actually see swordfish and smaller fish swimming around in the blue waters under the cliffs that the cottages were perched atop.

            The snorkeling was also superb. The reefs were colorful, the biodiversity extensive, and the visibility nearly perfect. The sunsets were breathtaking as well, colorful, clear and lingering.



We also visited Takebonerate Marine Preserve, which is one of the most amazing collections of undersea gardens anywhere on earth. It boasts the third largest atoll in the world, and is impeccably preserved.

We made contributions where we visited, patronized the local establishments for some of the most sumptuous fresh seafood we’d ever sampled, and commending them on their overall sense of environmental responsibility. 

We also noticed that the Bugis people had a tremendous respect for their environment. Though depending on fishing for their livelihood, they have refused to succumb to the temptation to fish bombing here in Bira Beach, and they keep the reefs in the area extremely well preserved.

 Though this area is underrated due to its lack of publicity it is one of the most superb showcases of marine splendor  we have ever had the pleasure of visiting. We will definitely be back again. 

These areas, as well as all marine and coral preserves in Indonesia and throughout the world, are supported by the Indonesian Coral Reef Foundation. For more information on this wonderful organization please click on the banner below.  


We had planned to stay longer, but I did one of the most bone-headed things I’ve ever done in my life. I left my flash discs, with literally thousands of hours worth of work saved on them, in Rantepao (the seat of Toraja). So I had to take a bus all the way back to see if it was still there. Thankfully it was. The good people in the internet café I’d been working in saved it for me.


We also took the chance to enjoy more of Toraja. We went to the burial caves in Londa. Guarded by wooden effigies, this is truly one of the most unique cultural sites that exists anywhere in the world. We made a donation and had a wonderful chat with the guide,  who was extremely helpful and informative.



We will definitely go back & spend more time in Toraja later. The land is beautiful & the people are among the loveliest anywhere. They are all friendly & giving; unlike most people everywhere else in this country who only want to make friends to ask for something.

            The kindly widow who ran the pork meatball soup stand in front of her house actually raised & butchered her own pigs to make the meatballs. She graciously offered us one of her pigs to take home with us, but we unfortunately could neither fit it in our bag nor carry it on the ship.

            On the 5th we took a minivan back to Pare Pare to catch the Ferry back to Balikpappan again. We arrived back in Borneo, Kalimantan on the afternoon of the 6th. 


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We are currently located at:
Indra Valley Inn,
Bukit Lawang
Near the entrance to the Gunung Leuser National Park's Bohorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
North Sumatra, Indonesia
Yangshuo, Guilin, China