Indonesia - Tana Toraja Day 2

Day 2 in Tana Toraja was spent first at Pasar Kerbau (Water Buffalo Market). It's not only for buffalo actually, it's a real market with produces like vegetables and other things, but we only went to the buffalo and pig field. The interesting part about this market is that the market changes places everyday to a different town and will only come back after 6 days and we're lucky to be in the area when there is market. The field where the buffaloes are is very very big, we didn't go all the way through. From what I could see, it seems it's the space of a soccer field. I'm not sure it it extends more at the back and there are many many many buffaloes! It's a real tourist attraction. I saw the french group from lunch in Pare Pare and many other foreigners. Buffalo is actually not cheap. Well there are those which is below 100 million IDR (~ 8,274 USD), but the average good one I think will average out to around 200 - 400 million IDR (~ 16,500 USD - 33,000 USD), while the really good ones shoot up above 500 million IDR. The one that definitely can fetch a good price are the ones with pinkish white skin (like a pig) and also black, like this. Buffaloes who also win in fights can also fetch a good price. While buffalo that's all white is like tainted meat. The guide said people will just slaughter it and sell it at the market, but the Torajan believe it's not good for them to consume it, they would get rashes. Now, buffaloes sacrifice is important for a funeral ceremony, the guide told us that for Torajan royalty, they would need to sacrifice at least 24 buffaloes! This is not including pigs and chickens. I googled and for average people, they would need like 8-10 buffaloes. Still it's a lot of money. You may need to sell a house or land to pay for all this. It's a big affair a funeral ceremony in Toraja.

I am pretty sure there is no audit in this market, like no one counting how many buffaloes are sold and the total money changing hands, but I think they could be in billions of IDR, maybe even millions of USD. All these buffaloes just for local consumption. Yes funeral is a big family event, but it's still curious how these people, common people, have that much spending power. Another interesting thing for me was that this market is over by 2 pm, I wonder how the logistic is to bring all these animals and get them prepared for the market. Also the logistic on getting them all out. It must be so chaotic. I didn't take many pictures because I was focusing on not stepping into the dung. It smelled of course, but none of us was as troubled about it as was my aunt. She struggled so we didn't linger long. We went to the pig section and my mom was amused that all of them were black pigs. There was an area where the pigs were tied in bamboos, I guess so that they don't run around and buyers could inspect them better and I have to say it's quite sad hearing the pig squealed in there. It sounded like they're so stressed out and I would be too if I am in that situation. The interesting thing is the pigs are sold by the meters. So I guess the longer they are, the more money they could fetch. Side note, on one of the drive, we saw a man just casually walked a pig like one would walk a dog. Our guide told us that the pig is a male and it's very common that the owner of the male get a call to another house so that the male can mate with a female. It's very funny seeing that man walking the dog. Anyway this pig below was in a small pen with the others, it looked concerned, didn't it?

After that, we went to another cluster of Tongkonan houses where we saw a grandma weaving under her lumbung (barn). I really couldn't understand how weaving works, how one does the pattern. That time the grandma was weaving a simple cloth without any pattern it seemed and I saw that there are 2 groups or boards (I don't know what you call it) with different colors and she inserted a thread in each iteration and somehow a cloth will be weaved. Unclear explanation? My point is it seemed there were 3 groups of threads with different colors for the fabric she's weaving. I'm really curious about this and I wish I can get lessons on how this works. Anyway after that we actually tried to go to a wedding party or a funeral, I'm not sure what. However as we were nearing, the car couldn't go in anymore because there were already too many cars inside and when the guide proposed we walk, my aunt and mom were not keen on doing that. I think there could have been many tourists in there. Anyway so we decided to just go straight to Batutumonga which is higher up in the mountain. I took motion sickness pill because I know there will be sharp turns all the way, so I kinda slept on parts of the journey. I kinda fell asleep quite a lot during many of the drives, so I missed out on seeing interesting things. As we were nearing Batutumonga we saw long stretch of paddy fields. Again too bad we're there after harvest in the dry season, so what we saw were many brown areas. We then arrived at a homestay which was quite cool. The rooms were in a form of a small tongkonan. There were foreign tourists too there and that amazed me. Maybe it's not a big deal for them, but for me thinking of the fact that they braved long flights from wherever they are to get to Indonesia and another flight to Makassar, then long drive perhaps in local buses to get to Toraja and then to Batutumonga, it's a very very long journey. They're willing to do all this to be there. Amazing and kinda humbling when you think about it.

We stayed for awhile sitting on big rocks looking at the view then we found out that inside that big rocks are used for funerals and there are bodies inside it, but I think it's alright for us to be sitting there, hopefully. After that it's another long drive back to Rantepao, the area of Toraja we're staying in. Had lunch and I decided we should go to Bori before we end the day. Chose Bori because it's actually in the itinerary. What interesting about Bori is that in addition to carving spaces inside big rocks to store the bodies, the people also erect megaliths for a funeral ceremony. Some of the megaliths were short and small were pretty tall and the space is not very spacious so it's amazing that they could put these stones in and not knock existing megaliths. I don't know how they manage to do it, amazing. Nearby we saw one megalith was in the process of being shaped, maybe to be used for a funeral ceremony in the near future. We also saw a tongkonan being built nearby. The workers use bamboos to erect the structure. These people pretty sure don't have a degree in engineering, but the fact that they know how to build the roof and make a sound and safe house is amazing.

Here we kinda managed to convince my aunt who didn't want to go up and see the burial rocks to wait at the bottom, so my mom came along to see the big rocks being used to store the bodies. These are like the ones we sat on on Batutumonga. Each rock belongs to a family and they built like little windows for each of the body or perhaps bodies. Family members who visit sometime left things like cigarettes or beers or other things in the little windows. By the way the Torajan are usually buried (can you say bury when no burying involved?) with many of their belongings like their best clothes and their jewelries. So it's like they prepare their life, their savings for their funeral ceremony. The guide told stories of a family member who refused to wear the one good clothes he had because he wanted to wear it for his funeral. It sounds silly, but you know like the phrase of how wearing your Sunday best, maybe these people just want to be on their very best when they meet the Lord :)

Alright, that was the end of our Toraja adventure. Many hours were spent on the road. We didn't explore every bit of Toraja as I would have liked to but I'm really glad to have my mom and aunt there. Again for photos, please go here here. We still had another day in Sulawesi before we left, will try to write about that adventure soon.

:) eKa @ 1:14:00 PM •


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