Besides the common tourist sites, guides with local knowledge can take you to lesser known places to see rock graves and tau tau. This is a great experience as you get to see the tau tau and coffins in 'untouched' condition. Coffins sometimes fall from their hanging positions - when they can't be put inside a rock face, they are hung from one - cliffs erode away etc. and bones and boxes are left to crumble. It is forbidden to move any bones without further ceremony, so there are places where bones and coffins are lying on the side of the road, and the tau tau look like very worn out wooden dolls. At some tourist sites such as Londa and Ke'te Kesu, bones have been strategically placed. Our guide took us to site right opposite a school in the Marante area where fallen coffins lay strewn and you had to take care not to step on bones lying at the side of the road. He explained that no one would dare toch them without advice from the village chief or relatives of the deceased.
While the Torajan people have their own traditional funerals and burials, many also are Christian - all Indoesians ust have a nominated religion on their ID cards. As such, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are important occasions in Rantepeo. People go to church on Christmas Eve and often again on Christmas morning and on CHristmas Day spend the time visiting family and friends. On one trip to Toraja, our guide asked us what we would like to do on Christmas Day. We said that we would occupy ourselves, as he should spend time with his family. So, on Christmas mornig we went for a walk up the road to Ke'te Kesu village. We had with us sweets, biscuits and small toys which we had brought from Australia. We shared these small gifts with children as we passed their homes. 'Selamat Hari Natal' - Happy Christmas. At one house we tried to encourage a shy young boy to accept a gift from us. His older brother came outside to see who he was talking to. He invited us into his home. At first we declined as we were hot and sweaty from the walk, and didn't want to intrude. Then the mother of the house came and asked us in - we had no choice. We were taken into their sitting room and offered Christmas cake and fresh fruit salad. The mother proudly told us about her children and showed us photos. It was a lovely way to spend an hour on Christmas morning.
Be aware that many businesses and several restaurants in Rantepeo will close on Christmas Eve as people attend church. Christmas Day will also be slower than normal. Local guides should be able to tell you which restaurants will be open.
Most of all, whether you are christian or not, share the occasion with the local people.
Not so much a tip, more a unique experience. While driving to Batutumonga we came across a temproary shelter where a group of men and teenage boys were wrapping bodies from a nearby rock grave site. Our guide who has lived in Toraja all his life said he had never come across this event with tourists before - unlike funerals in Tana Toraja, rewrapping of bodies is not publicised. Our guide spoke to the men in Torajan and asked if we were allowed to take photos. The men said it was fine, but also that we shouldn't touch anything. We watched as they wrapped bodies in strips of colorful cloth and then bound them in fresh white sheeting. Truly a unique experience!
Probably, Pa'piong is the most typical Torajan meal. Cooking takes place inside a bamboo tube. It can include chicken, fish or meat or anything, but it normally contains pork meat.
Meat is mixed with piles of vegetables and stuffed into the bamboo tubes. The bamboo tubes are cooked slowly (for about half an hour) over low flames. After cooking, pa'pion is served and eaten with rice.
Although this is a durian-tree, some trees are very special. Close to the Londa graves is Pa'baisenan (Liang Pia). A big tree is used as a grave for infants who died under 7 months (before teething). Coffins of babies can be found hanging from the tree. So their "body-souls" can grow with the tree. Although most Torajans today bury their babies in the ground, some followers of the old Aluk Todolo religion still follow this custom ...
Tanah Toraja is famous too for its world-class coffee. Robusta and Arabika is well-known in Holland too and you can buy it in special coffee-shops. It is sold in Rantepao's market per kilo. Or find a coffee dealer who sells attractive souvenirs containers, pre-ground and vacuum-packed.
It is much more fun to join the ibu's (local women) in the villages preparing coffee-beans. Sometimes they enjoy to watch you when trying to bray the coffee-beans and, the ladies will even pack your coffee up in bamboo tubes for traveling. Did you know the coffee plants do grow wild too?
See here a just nearly finished roof and, the legacy by the Dutch; "Stamhuis" = Dynasty.
Usually richly ornamented and built solely by the tongue-and-groove method of construction, a traditional house has a layered roof, and on its sides a maze of geometric ornamentation in black, red, yellow and white (representing aspects of the festivals of Aluk Todolo).
The old religion is called Aluk Todolo ("Worship of the Spirits of Ancestors"). This religion divides the Universe and the World of ritual in half: Life and Death.
Red is meant to symbolise human life since red is the colour of blood. White is the colour of flesh and bone and a symbol of purity. Yellow represents God's blessing and power. Black symbolises death and darkness. Traditionally the colours were all natural ... black is the soot from cooking pots, yellow and red is coloured earth, and white is lime. Tuak was used to improve the staying power of the colours ...
Don't hesitate to enter the burial caves of the Torajans. Guides with gas-lamps take you to the caves and, kids hold your hands until you drop some Rp. Inside the cave is a collection of coffins, may of them rotted away. There are other cave graves in Tanah Toraja where no coffin is used at all ... the body is wrapped in cloth, places in a niche in the rock face ...
Other coffins hold the human bones of several family members (an old Toraja custom that all people who lived together in one household should also be buried together). The black painted ones are Christian ...
The most I like about Torajan lingo is they way the say 'eiii?' ~ that truely friendly and close to the person to be talking with. Means 'really?' And other word that mention they are friendly reflected by the way they knocking the door and continue with words, "Hey, what are you cooking today? Already finish yet?" It's cool. Several Torajan words I can say:
~ Aba kareba? [howdy?]
~ Kurre sumanga [thanks]
~ Kareba melo [I'm fine]
This was a great ceremony for the dead in Sa'dan. Exoctic area.We had to pass the "kampoeng" street to reach the place.Walking out in 20 mins [abt. 1 km far] ==to be continued==