November 21st 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Tana Toraja

I had a rotten night.  It was desperately hot, my missing tooth was aching, + I was foolishly worrying about R3000 we had been talked into spending for a guide book to Tana Toraja.  It had turned out to be, while not a complete waste, certainly not worth the money outlayed for it.  However, I vowed to recover the money by depriving myself of coke and/or beer until I estimated it was paid for, + that cheered me a little.  Penance is reassuring, isn’t it.  That must be why the Catholics like it so much.

The morning came, of course,+ none too soon for me.  It was an early start for us, as we had to be up to catch the bus at 7, so as you can imagine, a frantic time of getting ready.  And all for nothing, as it turned out, since it didn’t turn up till 8.  There was a biman bus there at 7, on the dot,  but we were assured it was a different one, so we had to take their word for it.  We were squeezed in a bit tight.  The seats were in rows of 5, with the gangway splitting them 2 + 3, + we were 2 of the 3, with a pleasant enough little man in the 3rd seat.  And it was a 10 hour journey, so we were preparing ourselves for a rough ride.  But in fact it wasn’t too bad at all, quite enjoyable even, in some ways.  We had prepared ourselves well, keeping all the things we might need during the journey in one pack, which stayed with us, + putting everything else into the big one, which was stowed.  We had the Walkman with us, so that helped while away an hour or 2, and also drowned out the execrable stuff pouring out from the speaker above our heads – either Indonesian reggae or Jim Reeves.  I did offer them a tape to play, but it lasted approx. 30 secs before being switched off.

The people on the bus were, apart from this small lapse of musical taste, all very nice, + for the second half of the journey in particular, the scenery was fabulous.  The first part was mostly flat, tho’ there were some very odd mountains, rising sheer out of an entirely flat plain, so that one could bicycle literally into a mountain.  There were lots of them too, dotted around the plain.  Later on, tho’ things got really spectacular, with magnificent vistas over mountainous valleys, or crags of rick suddenly appearing on the skyline, thrusting their massive fingers skyward.  And then, once we’d entered Tana Toraja itself, there were the houses.  Taraja has a totally unique architecture, the roofs of their traditional houses rearing up at each end, + strongly resembling either a ship or the horns of a buffalo ( of which there are also plenty), depending on which book you read.  They are marvellous to look at, + it’s a living art – they’re still being made.  So, with all that, + with frequent stops for leg-stretching + buying provisions, it wasn’t at all a bad ride.  Even Val, normally an appalling bus traveller, had no problems. 

Accommodation was soon sorted out on arrival.  The yellow guide lists several places, so we picked the first, which turned out to be close, clean + cheap.  There were also a couple of Germans staying there, who’ve been in Ruantepeo for nearly a week, + they took us along to a restaurant they frequent.  The place made a cock-up of our orders, + when it came was nothing special, but the price was fair, the portions big, + we got the chance to try tuak, the local rice wine.  It’s still fermenting, + tastes like it, but it is strong.  Once is enough for me tho’.

When travel is pleasant, as this trfip seemed to be, all seems well with the world. And it would appear that we are becoming more accustomed to this sort of life; we are better prepared for the journey, combining ways of escaping (a good book, some music) with appreciating what there is to offer in terms of company within the bus and scenery outside.

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