Torajaland

  • Early morning, wet rice terraces after storm - © William Mackesy
  • Across a high valley - © William Mackesy
  • Pig to slaughter, funeral - © William Mackesy
  • Down onto a watery valley - © William Mackesy
  • Early morning contemplation - © William Mackesy
  • Main valleyfloor - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Row of classic buildings - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Gathering for bullfight - © William Mackesy
  • Funeral procession - © William Mackesy
  • Funeral procession - © William Mackesy
  • At funeral  - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Cockfight in village - © William Mackesy
  • High terraces after storm - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Preparing for bullfight - © William Mackesy
  • Supper in a high village house - © William Mackesy
  • Sweet - © William Mackesy
  • The deceased, funeral - © William Mackesy
  • Village in the main valley - © William Mackesy

Key information: Torajaland

  • Walk between the unspoilt villages of this remote area of a remote island.
  • Extraordinary culture and customs; see boat-shaped, stilted homes and granaries, cliff burials and, if lucky, a positively Homeric funeral or festival (not for the squeamish).
  • Beautiful scenery and forest in the mountains: rice terraces, traditional agriculture lower down.
  • Muiti-day if you head up to the hills (remote, so come prepared), delightful day walks in the main valleys.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating92
  • Beauty31
  • Natural interest14
  • Human interest17
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating92
  • Note: Negs: Popularity

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: Variable
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Pig to slaughter, funeral - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

High in the remote central mountains of the spice island of Sulawesi, a remarkable culture has survived with its traditions and graceful, boat-like wooden houses and granaries virtually intact.

 

This obscure area of animists and head hunters was never absorbed into the spreading Muslim world, eventually falling to Christian domination in the late 1880s. The locals have created a fascinating fusion of these traditions, with the funerals of bigwigs lasting for days amid Homeric scenes of fire and feast as people gather from miles around with pigs and buffalo for the slaughter. Funerals can be held years after the death, and cost the family dear. Other festivals bull fighting (between buffalos, with little or no lasting damage) or the celebration of completing a new house, perhaps are absolutely not to be missed, as is the weekly market at Rantepao, the main town.

 

The old style of building is still much in evidence; highly decorated houses and granaries built on stilts, with unique swooping roofs that are reminiscent of sailing craft. Their panelled little rooms are reminiscent of antique sailing ships cabins.

 

Immaculate rice terraces cling to the surrounding hillsides.  In the valleys, water buffalo churn up the paddies, women totter under poles carrying rice seedlings and grannies sit on steps of houses watching the children play in the dirt. A group may be huddled around a cockfight.

 

The valleys wind between karst outcrops where, on high ledges and in caves, the effigies of their ancestors stare implacably across the verdant paddy fields.

 

As you climb to the highlands, you will trudge up tracks between fantastic rice terraces, an extraordinary memorial to generations on generations of back-breaking toil. You gain huge views of whole hillsides of terraces topped by ridges of thick jungle.

 

The upland villages are particularly intact, both physically and culturally. On one memorable evening, we sat in the grubby village "square" watching cockfights (again, not lethal, for the squeamish) with what seemed like the whole population shouting encouragement. We then slept in a panelled room in the all-wooden stilted house - it felt like a cabin in a Napoleonic warship, albeit perhaps more sparsely furnished. Amazing.

 

You can walk through rice fields and timeless villages in the valleys, or take to the hills, crossing the jungle-smothered ridges from valley to perfect valley. Walks vary from straightforward day walks from hotels in the valleys; or tougher overnight treks, staying in old wooden houses in high, remote villages.

 

You need to spend several days here, with at least one day walking in the main valleys and two including an overnight stop in an upland village in the high country. Your choice of guide will be vital, and check what festivals are on before your make any arrangements.

 

This is steamy country, with frequent showers, so you will often enjoy the misty aftermath of the downpour you just endured.

 

Our walks had some extraordinary highlights.

  • The almost painfully verdant beauty of the lower valleys, with their lovingly tilled rice fields dotted with comfortable looking villages.
  • A buffalo fighting festival; a housewarming (with a priest conducting a ceremony surrounded by more trussed-up pigs than people); and a vividly memorable funeral, with a square of temporary shelters housing brightly dressed visitors who had walked there from miles around, while mass slaughter was being done outside, the ground by mid-afternoon as slippery with blood as a Roman amphitheatre. Behind the scenes, the entrails of dismembered carcasses emitted a torrent of writhing parasites.
  • The beauty of a deep mist-wreathed valley from a ridge high above, where steep rice terraces pushed up to the jungly gulleys between the cracked limestone cliffs.
  • Crossing a jungle ridge, the path descending through thick forest, past rushing streams, into a deep valley with impossible rice terraces.
  • A man sitting on a rock amid watery rice terraces, the next morning, huddled in his bright blanket against the cold, rising clouds.

Other accounts: share your experiences

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps

Guidebooks

Lonely Planet IndonesiaPeter Turner, Marie Cambon, Paul Greenway, Brendan Delahunty and Emma Miller

Indonesia Handbook Moon Travel Handbooks

 

Other books

Indonesia: Customs & Etiquette – G Saunders and I Sanderson
1,000 Places to See Before You Die – P Schultz
A Traveller's History of SE Asia – NJ White and JM Barwise
Around the World in Eighty Treasures
– Dan Cruickshank

 

 

 

 

 

Maps

 

 

 

 

 

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Weather

Generally warm and sunny with not unpleasant tropical showers, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather.

 

For detailed weather information, have a look at: http://www.worldweather.org/ or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Usually by bus from Ujung Padang, the island’s capital and main airport. Those on organised expeditions will be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.

 

Route(s)

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There is a huge range of possibilities. Find a good, reliable guide and discuss what you want to do and how long you have.
 
Indonesia Travel News.com has a fantastic map that you could use to get an idea of possible itineraries.
 
 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

 
  • Mountain weather: rain, cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
  • Heat, humidity and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be significant on some routes.
  • Dangerous animals, including snakes, mosquitoes and stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • This is remote country: help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Potential problems include malaria. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
  • Indonesia is not always stable, and law and order can be problematic. Check that it is to visit when you plan to come

 See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

 
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
 

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do these walks independently, but would be silly to do so, as you would miss so much.

Guided/supported

It is easy to hire a good guide locally, but take care in choosing one. Assess experience and language skills, agree what is to be done and what is included, and the price. Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Expedition organisers include:

Accommodation

 
The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation. Staying in a remote mountain village must not be missed.

 

There are various accommodation websites. For instance:
Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.

 

 

 

 

Other information and tips

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Useful websites and information

 

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

 

  Add a comment

 

Other things to do in the area

 

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Other walks

 

Other activities

Don’t miss white water rafting on the Maiting river.

Shopping, if you must

We are not a shopping website. But, anything bought from local people must be of some help to this poor area. So, wallets out!

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

High terraces after storm - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Sweet - © William Mackesy...
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