TORAJA TOUR DESTINATION
About 5km from Rantepao, renowned for its woodcarving and traditional tongkonan and rice barns. On the cliff face behind the village are some cave graves and very old hanging graves. The rotting coffins are suspended on wooden beams under an overhang. Others, full of bones and skulls, lie rotting in strategic piles. This is one of the most popular sights in Tana Toraja and it can get quite crowded.
Londa (6km south of Rantepao) is a very extensive burial cave at the base of a massive cliff face. The entrance to the cave is guarded by a balcony of tau tau . Inside the cave is a collection of coffins, many of them rotted away, with the bones either scattered or heaped in piles. A local myth says that the people buried in the Londa caves are the descendants of Tangdilinoq, chief of the Toraja when they were pushed out of the Enrekang region and forced to move into the highlands. Many visitors site this as one of their favorite places in Tana Toraja.
Lemo (10km south of Rantepao) is the best-known burial area in Tana Toraja. The sheer rock face has a whole series of balconies for tau tau . According to local legend, these graves are for descendants of a Toraja chief who reigned over the surrounding district hundreds of years ago and built his house on top of the cliff into which the graves are now cut. Because the mountain was part of his property, only his descendants could use it. The chief himself was buried elsewhere because the art of cutting grave caves had not yet been developed. The biggest balcony has a dozen figures with white eyes and black pupils, and outstretched arms like spectators at a sports event. It’s a good idea to go before 9am for the best photos.
The tau tau here are one of the most stunning sights in Tana Toraja. The graves belong to the chiefs of Sangalla, descendants of the mythical divine being Tamborolangiq, who is believed to have introduced the caste system, death rituals and agricultural techniques into Torajan society. The former royal families of Makale, Sangalla and Menkendek all claimed descent from Tamborolangiq, who is said to have descended from heaven on a stone staircase.
KAMBIRA BABY GRAVES
Torajans traditionally bury babies in a tree and this is one of the biggest in the region, holding around 20 deceased infants (by Torajan definition a baby is a child who hasn’t yet grown teeth). It’s a shady, tranquil spot. The babies’ bodies are buried upright and the belief is that they will continue to grow with the tree.
Marante is a fine traditional village, just north of the road to Palopo. Near Marante there are stone and hanging graves with several tau tau, skulls on the coffins and a cave with scattered bones. From Marante you can cross the river on the suspension bridge and walk to pretty villages set in rice fields.
This village has a particularly grandiose traditional house and an impressive fleet of 14 rice barns. The rice barns have a bizarre array of motifs carved into them, including soldiers with guns, Western women and cars. Keep an eye out for a colony of huge black bats hanging from trees at the end of the village
One of the easiest places to stay overnight and also one of the most beautiful, Batutumonga occupies a dramatic ridge on the slopes of Gunung Sesean, with panoramic views of Rantepao and the Sa’dan Valley, and stunning sunrises. Located about 20km north of Rantepao via Deri, you could also day-trip here for some hiking and a local lunch.
PASAR BOLU / BOLU MARKET
Rantepao’s main market is held every six days (but operates in a reduced capacity daily). The main market is a very big, social occasion that draws crowds from all over Tana Toraja. Ask around Rantepao for the exact day, or seek out other markets in the area. There is a 10,000Rp charge to enter the livestock market, where the leading lights from the buffalo community are on parade. Many cost more than a small car. Pasar Bolu is 2km northeast of town