After a long break in Malaysia, I was finally back in Palopo again. I continued to Toraja, the “land of heavenly kings”. Along the way, I saw Tongkonan. Tongkonan are family houses that the family does not usually live in. They used to store the embalmed corpse while the family has a chance to save up for the very expensive funeral. It can take months or even years to save up and during this period they believe the corpses are still alive but ill and they feed them every day and dress them regularly.
After Toraja, I continued to Polewali. It was dark already when I arrived, so I stopped at the nearest police station to get the stamp and asked them if I could stay the night. This police station had a small clinic and there was a nurse on the night shift who let me sleep there.
The next morning, I continued to Mamuju. It was raining the whole morning and I found kids playing in the puddles of water. Why do kids love to engage in messy play with mud and water? Kids are so adorable.
Not much to say about Mamuju. Mamuju is dusty and this is the part of Sulawesi where you can see the palm plantation. Not as much as in Sumatera or Kalimantan, but for me is sad to see a very beautiful island converted to palm oil even if only a little part of it. I talked to few people and they said palm plantation helped the economy, because the company hired the locals to work for them… dilemmatic. The next morning, I continued to Palu and the view was amazing again. I was so happy in Sulawesi and I felt this was the easiest part of my trip so far.
Central Sulawesi, especially Poso and Palu district, is known as one of the main bases of terrorist operations. Santoso, one of the most wanted terrorist in Indonesia, was in Poso and his terror group often created conflict in the area. There are also indicators that they are part of IS terrorist network in Indonesia. A few days before I arrived, local people were shot by terrorists. This past two years, four locals have been killed and few have gone missing. Every police officer is a terrorist target in Central Sulawesi and many officers have been killed. Everyone told me not to go to Poso because it’s too dangerous, so I had to go through Palu instead. When I arrived in Palu, I stopped at police station as usual to get my stamp done and found all the police officers busy talking about the recent incident. When I arrived, they checked all my identity documents, and were paranoid about everything. I continued and because it was dark, I stopped at another police office. This one was a smaller one and again they questioned me a lot and asked for anything that would prove my identity. I had never seen policemen so paranoid. Usually, in small police offices, the police officers are very relaxed and they don’t sit next to their rifles, but here was a different story. I was so curious and, the next morning, asked many questions until I finally understood the whole situation. The terrorists pay so much money to anyone who kills a police officer. The police also showed me pictures of the local man who had just been shot to death. After chatted to them, I continued into the foggy morning. I always love foggy mornings as long as it is real mist and not haze. Lucky me, this one really is a mist.
Below are pictures from along the way to Gorontalo province. The views are amazing.
My first stops in Gorontalo province were the Bajo tribal villages at Torosiaje and Papayato. Bajo tribes live in groups and always live near to the ocean. Some Bajo still live on boats called “Bangau”. I went to Torosiaje with a boat. The locals took me there and it was for free. The normal rate to go to Torosiaje by small boat is 5000 IDR/person (38 cents) and the same amount back. I asked around and I think they all have different rates. But local people here are not tricky at all and are very nice people. I was amazed by how, in the middle of the ocean, they have all the facilities that they need like schools, small shops, electricity, etc. If you want to experience how to live as Bajo, they have cheap accommodation, apparently with Western toilets. I did not stay the night, so I cannot confirm the Western toilet.
In Gorontalo, it was the first time I used my tent. I was excited to have found a nice spot and to be able to camp. The weather was okay and the view was amazing so I thought it was perfect for camping. In the middle of the night it started to rain really hard and my tent leaked. Lucky me, there was an nice lady from next door who asked me to sleep at her place. I gave up and slept in her house… camping is over… very disappointing, because that was the first time I slept in a tent in my whole life.
The next morning, I took a different way to Manado, North Sulawesi. I went to Kotamobagu and then Tondano. On the way, there were so many people drying clove on the roads. Here in Sulawesi, most people are clove farmers and when I was there, it was harvest time, so I could smell the clove everywhere.
I was hungry when I arrived in North Sulawesi so I stopped at one of the Minahasan restaurant. It was a buffet-style restaurant so I asked the lady what they had and she started with, “pork.. rats.. pork”. I stopped her because I couldn’t believe what I heard so I asked again, pointing at the second one and she said it again: “rats”. There… I lost my appetite and said thank you and left. I never knew that Minahasan eat rats!! As I continued, I learned from the locals that Minahasan eat everything that moves. And they told me about a market where I could see everything. In the market, the sellers kept telling me I should come back on Saturday because they have all kind of animals on Saturday. The market is “Pasar Beriman” and is located in Temohon.
After the extreme market, I went straight to Manado. I didn’t like it because the traffic was crazy… not as crazy as Jakarta, but crazy enough to make me want to leave.. so I left and continued to Bitung. Bitung is very nice city and I liked it a lot more than Manado. Bitung was the end of Sulawesi and the place where I took a ferry for Ternate, North Maluku. Sulawesi never ceased to amaze me. The culture is so diverse and the nature was amazing. I will be back someday!