I will start the story with Gorontalo: 5 days diving trip, 8 diving freaks, 1 new year’s eve, 20 fireworks (1 flew straight into our hotel terrace, almost a disaster!!), 1 wedding engagement and too-many-to-count great moments. My buddies (as usual) were: Adrijani Lim, Darwin Wibowo, Joseph Liemonta plus my girlfriend Veronica Djapardy, my brother n sis in law (Jeffrey & Regina Wirianta) and Frieda Dharmawan. Too bad, our best buddy, Dewi Wardjojo canceled joining us at the very last minute because her family was very worried about the repeated earthquakes in Sulawesi (we got so many, didn’t feel a thing and survived ;). And also my dearest buddy Meta Rostiawati, who also canceled due to her grandma sickness. Next time, Dewi and Meta dear…
We dove with Miguel Dive Centre (www.miguelsdiving.com), basically ran by an American, Rance Allen Wadley, who spoke perfect bahasa Indonesia. We got a good deal as a group. Each person was charged Rp 3,500,000. It includes 5 nights at Oasis Hotel (bed & breakfast), 11 guided dives, lunch, airport transfers and good hospitality. I suggest you to bargain hard to Rance, he’s a nice guy. Very knowledgeable, safety-goes-first kind of guide and has a true love to the marine life. My man! (He has published his own book about Gorontalo underwater.. a very very nice one).
Gorontalo is a province in North Sulawesi. It’s capital, a town with an area of 64.79 km² and population of about 140,000, also has the same name. Less popular to Manado, it is still a fascinating dive destination. Most of the dives were easy, average visibility, a bit choppy sea. Our starting point was 10 minutes from our hotel, by the river. We reached most of our dive points in more or less 15-40 minutes.
The coral was: a w e s o m e. I saw it as a tropical forest under the sea. The most amazing one was Salvador Dali sponge (Rance said he’s a businessman, so he decided to give a unique name instead of making it Rance sponge). Macro stuff were also plenty. We also saw 17 mabula rays, which really made my day. Rance promoted that he saw 5 whales, only 25 metres from the beach, on his very first day trying diving in Gorontalo, back in the 90s.
Try ‘bentor’, bendi motor. It as so much fun. It is a modified motorcycle with 2 seater front passenger cabin. And try misolu. It’s basically a corn soup mixed with vegetable, only cost us Rp 5,000 each. I liked Gorontalo food in general. It was spicy, pretty much like Manado food.
I was not pleased to see the development of the tourism though. Most of the interesting places were developed in such poor taste, spare the functionality. The government usually tries to absorb the modern look of the western coutries, combine it with its (beautiful) local culture, and comes out with a total disaster design. I wonder when they start consider to hire specialized people who understand more on how to do it.
Now, about Toraja :). It was my second trip to this beautiful place. We flew to Makassar from Gorontalo and had to drive for another 8-9 hours to get to Toraja. But we of course didn’t miss konro soup and grilled ribs Karebosi, plus some very nice ba pao (sorry, forgot the name) before leaving.
We stayed at the Novotel hotel in Toraja, which was the best in the area. I liked the hotel very much and highly recommend it.
The word toraja comes from the Bugis language, to riaja, meaning “people of the uplands”. The Dutch colonial government named the people Toraja in 1909. Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colorful wood carvings. Toraja funeral rites are important social events, usually attended by hundreds of people and lasting for several days.
We organized our trip with a local guide, called Agus, who guided us to see a fascinating funeral ceremony and a cozy hiking through the paddy fields and small villages. The funeral ritual usually goes on up to 7 days, depending on the status and class of the family. It is the most elaborate and expensive event. The richer and more powerful the individual, the more expensive is the funeral. In the aluk religion, only nobles have the right to have an extensive death feast. The death feast of a nobleman is usually attended by thousands. A ceremonial site, called rante, is usually prepared in a large, grassy field where shelters for audiences, rice barns, and other ceremonial funeral structures are specially made by the deceased family. Flute music, funeral chants, songs and poems, and crying and wailing are traditional Toraja expressions of grief with the exceptions of funerals for young children, and poor, low-status adults.
Another component of the ritual is the slaughter of water buffalo. The more powerful the person who died, the more buffalo are slaughtered at the death feast. Buffalo carcasses, including their heads, are usually lined up on a field waiting for their owner, who is in the “sleeping stage”. Torajans believe that the deceased will need the buffalo to make the journey and that they will be quicker to arrive at Puya if they have many buffalo. Slaughtering tens of water buffalo and hundred of pigs using a machete is the climax of the elaborate death feast, with dancing and music and young boys who catch spurting blood in long bamboo tubes. Some of the slaughtered animals are given by guests as “gifts”, which are carefully noted because they will be considered debts of the deceased’s family. I also saw lots of pigs too, as they were cheaper than the buffalos.
Apart from the funeral, the burial were equally as fascinating. There are three methods of burial: the coffin may be laid in a cave or in a carved stone grave, or hung on a cliff.
What amazed me the most was the hospitality. I found the villagers were very kind and sincere during our 4 hours hiking through fascinating paddy fields and small villages. I have visited many places in Indonesia and I only remembered a few places that can match Toraja. There were three village kids who accompanied us for almost a kilometer, offering shaking hands again and again, beside their wide and bright smiles. Sweet little things that I would never forget.
Last but not least, do not forget one thing that makes Toraja world famous: its coffee. I bought a blend at a local market on my last day and enjoyed the whole incoming week in Jakarta with the best thing you can get to start your day with: its fine aroma, full body an strong bitterness.
Last but not least, some very fun things we found on the trip: