How to get there
Forget about the daily Merpati flight from Ujung Pandang. They only fly if they have enough passengers, i.e. never nowadays.
The airport is also quite a long way from Rantepao.
There are extremely comfortable buses from Litha company running several times a day, including a night bus departing at 9 pm and arriving around 5 am. If departing from Rantepao, these buses can drop you at UP airport if you wish. Price was 70.000 for the marvellous AC bus.
If going or coming from Sengkang, you need to change buses on the way. These buses are much less comfortable.
If coming to Rantepao, you will probably be joined by a tout coming on the bus at Makale and trying to sell you a tour or a hotel. We did a tour the first day with his driver, but didn’t like it. Also, we were discouraged by him in everything we wanted to do like walking from Lemo to Lemo to Tilangga.
We stayed at the 5-star Novotel for only 350.000 Rp including taxes and breakfast. Their normal promotional price was 700.000 Rp including half board. This is a real bargain for this excellent hotel with marvellous buffet breakfast (5/98). Phone them and discuss about the price, their car will pick you up.
The 4-star Misiliana is also good with rooms at 150.000 Rp including breakfast and taxes. They have a swimming pool en rooms with TV (8/98). This is the hotel where the touts at UP airport will put you if you go for the expensive tour.
There are plenty of other cheaper options in town:
– The Wisma Iraya Hotel is reasonable, but don’t book your transport through them since they will have their commission.
– Wisma Monton is a good friendly mid-range hotel. A clean modern room with fan, mandi, western toilet and bathtub went 60,000 + 10% tax. I’m sure you could bargain it lower, given the circumstances, but I’d rather see hotels like this survive vs. me saving a dollar a day. The balcony in front of our 3rd floor room had a reasonable view of the mountains, not to mention the garden and courtyard of the hotel.
Plans for a restaurant at the hotel have been put on hold until business improves, but they do serve a decent breakfast at 6,000. The owner/manager (P.K. Parubak) was interested in how I found out about Wisma Monton. He doesn’t use touts, and suspects he loses a lot of business when the touts on the bus tell prospective clients that “Wisma Monton is full”. It’s got my thumbs up, and for those who want to make a reservation, or just check it out, here’s the important info:
– Jln. Abd. Gani No. 14 A Rantepao, Phone (0423) 21675, Fax. 21675, 21665
A very good suggestion was given to me by Rich (7/99). He stayed with a family in their Tongkanan. Apparently they just started to rent rooms, so it’s nothing touristical (yet), and he was very pleased with the way he was welcomed by these people. They charge 25.000 Rp pp including half board. To get there, follow these directions:
– From Rantepao, take a bemo towards Makale
– Then change bemo’s and go to Sangalla and get out at “market” or “Rumah Makan Erlina” (this is Ferryson’s (the father of the family) restaurant). It’s probably best to get there shortly after lunch. Telephone is 24108 from rantepao.
Pia’s Poppies is very good, but service “can be slow”.
Indra 1 is OK, but nothing too spectacular. You can eat at the Novotel for the same price in much nicer surroundings.
Novotel: the food is good (try the gazpacho). However, if they have a lot of guests, you will be obliged to take their buffet at 53.000 Rp p.p. (5/98).
David Sills enjoyed the Indograce on Jl. Mapanyuki which serves Chinese, Indonesian, and Torajan specialties.
One day David’s guide led them to the Celebes for lunch. “It was what we considered extremely expensive (we paid more than Rp 100,000 for two set meals, including a couple of beer), but the food was good and plentiful, and included some Torajan options”.
How to get around
You can easily take bemo’s to most of the places described here. Price is 500 Rp.
Also count on an admission fee of 3000 Rp for each place you want to visit. At the end of the day, this can add up if you’re on a budget.
The easier way is to rent a car with driver and guide. The car will cost you 70.000 Rp a day. The first day we had a driver who didn’t speak English, and we had a lot of problems to go to the places we wanted to go, since he only wanted to go to the places which were written on his paper by the guide who contacted him. So try to avoid this problem. The second day we hired a car with guide at Jet tours. You pay a bit more (85.000 Rp for car + driver and 45.000 Rp for guide) but at least they take you where you want to go.
What to do ?
We visited the south. Go to Lemo first because of the sun. At 9 am, tour groups start to arrive. Then we went to Tilangga spring which is not so special, then Kambirra. Absolutely marvellous is Tampangallo, sometimes it’s not on the tour’s schedule, so make sure you get there. Kete Kesu is OK, but too clean and touristic. We preferred Palawa.
We went to Palawa which is very beautiful. Then we went to a funeral where we stayed 2 hours. Admission fee for a funeral is usually either a carton of cigarettes (15.000 Rp) but I think it’s better to give sugar for the same price.
Then we went to Batutamonga. The road up is marvellous and not to miss. We had lunch there and then walked from there to Tikala. This is a marvellous and easy 2 to 3 hours walk past several villages. Don’t miss it!
David Sills stayed in Batutamonga for the night and did some more walks in the neighbourhood. This is his report.
– We went up to Batutumonga one morning, and spent the afternoon climbing up (and coming down) Gunung Sesean. There are some steep sections, and it can get slippery when wet.
– Batutumonga would be an excellent place for entymologists.
– The next day we walked to Lokomata and back, then down through Pana to Tikala, and caught a bemo for the short ride back to Rantepao. No shortage of beautiful countryside, Torajan houses, rock graves (Lokomata), and interesting activities (rice harvests, bellows-operated forges, machete makers etc.) to see along the way. Note the map of the Toraja region on p. 801 of the Indonesia Handbook (Footprint) is a bit misleading, as it shows the road to Pana about 2/3rds of the way from Batutumonga to Lokomata. As far as I could tell (and I asked a lot of people) there is no road or trail from there. The road to Pana is basically on the western outskirts of Batutumonga. The Footprint guide states that it is “well signposted” but we found that the “signpost” was a crude arrow on top of a sign advertising the Betania Homestay. You’d miss it if you blinked or weren’t very tall. Best to ask. This road is currently not negotiable by 4-wheeled vehicles, but there was a lot of upgrading going on. In the not-too distant future it might be possible to drive all the way from Batutumonga to Tikala, (but then it might not be such a pleasant walk).
We went to another funeral, and in the afternoon we went walking in the Salu valley which is also nice. You will see plenty of bamboo bridges on the way there.
We went rafting with Sobek on the Maulu river. Price is normally 65 US$, but we only payed 25 US$. They pick you up with Landrover and you go to Madong (1 hour). Then you have to walk down over a slippery track (45 min.). From there you go in the water. The first part of the trip is really spectacular with waterfalls dropping in the river every 200 metres, and less often you can spot iguana’s. The rapids are not dangerous, but this can also depend of the amount of rain you had the previous days. You stop for lunch at a marvellous waterfall. After lunch it gets a bit less spectacular.
This was our first time rafting, but we could really recommend it. Sobek has good equipment, and the 2 guides were very good. There’s another company, and apparently they do the same river, but they start a bit upwards of the stream.
We went to the market in Rantepao. This is held every 6 days. Don’t expect too much, but you should see it.
We also rented a motorbike and went to Marante. There are some graves and a suspension bridge.
Reports by David Sills
We went up to Batutumonga and stayed overnight. We got there following LP’s advice (bemo from Rantepao to Lempo, then 30 minutes walking). LP guide states that it’s a 2 hour bemo ride to Lempo. It only took us 45 minutes in a fully-loaded bemo.
Having studied our materials, our first choice for accomodation at Batutumonga was Londorunden. When we arrived there, a couple of idle youths sitting under a tree told us that the guy with the keys wasn’t there. “When is he coming back?” we asked. “He isn’t” was the answer (I assume this meant he was gone for at least the day). We consulted our materials again, and thought Mama Siska’s would be a good alternative. It was a 15 or 20 minute walk back in the direction of Lempo. When we got there an old woman and young girl informed us that Mama Siska wasn’t there. “When is she coming back” we asked. “She isn’t” was the answer… I think that a lot of the local hotels just don’t expect guests during the low season – especially one made even lower by events in other parts of Indonesia.
By this time, we had walked by the Mentirotiku twice. There had been tour company vehicles parked there, and the restaurant looked a bit classy from a distance, so we thought it would be expensive, but we were tired of walking back and forth, so we checked it out. The rooms were surprisingly “basic”, and the asking price for a double (including breakfast) was not that expensive (but not great value either) at 50,000 (12/98). It was a very friendly hotel, with an excellent view from the verandah of the front rooms and the restaurant. The people in the tour company vehicles were only there for lunch with a view – and once they left there was only us and one other couple at the hotel for the night. The LP guide mentions that there were plans for a karaoke bar at Mentirotiku. I saw no signs of this, (although they could easily accommodate one in their restaurant) but one of the girls who took care of the place was a good singer. Food here was ok but not great.
Going to the North: Tentena/Poso
Our hosts at Wisma Monton recommended Batutumonga Bus Company @ 30,000 all the way to Poso (and offered to get the tickets for us). We checked out the Damri bus company in town, and they quoted the same rate. We went with Batutumonga, and, as requested, our hosts got us the front row seats on the left side (best legroom and view). Batutumonga turned out to be the right choice, as from what we observed, the Damri bus was older, dirtier, and slower. We left Rantepao about 10:00 AM, and it was a twisty, wild ride, with non-stop jungle and mountain scenery. We got to Lake Poso about sunset, and to Poso town (our destination) about 11:00 PM. The road got worse and worse as we went along, but we managed to get through or around all obstacles.
|Palawa Tongkanan||Children playing Palawa|