Archipelago of amazement, definitely not an overstatement. With so many different ethnicities and landscapes, Indonesia pretty much stands out. After having visited 4 of the main islands, I can get another island of my bucket list.

Like the flowers of an orchid in the wind, that is how the peninsulas of Sulawesi spread in its surrounding seas. It’s probably the world’s most oddly shaped island, famous for its spectacular beauty of nature. The inlands are dominated by rugged mountains, emerald green rice terraces, tropical rainforests and mysterious lakes, whereas the coasts are surrounded by splendid coral reefs and sandy beaches. All in all, a majestic landscape. 

After the first stakeholder meeting with representatives from Swisscontact and DMO VisitToraja we got in the bus for a 9h drive. The road from Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi, to Toraja runs for about 130km along the coast and then hits the mountains. The stunning views truly amazed me and I felt privileged, but I was happy to arrive at our accommodation in the village of Rantepao.

The Toraja district is well known for its elaborate funeral ceremonies that can take days and involve entire villages. Those ceremonies, however, are held mainly after the last rice harvest is in and cleared, which is normally between July to September. These timings are possible since the dead are not buried immediately but are kept for months, sometimes for years, in the ancestral house until time and funds allow for a proper funeral. Today, me and my group explored the area around our hotel and we accidentally came across a burial site which actually serves the purpose of being a tourist attraction too. This resulted in a spontaneous morning hike up the hill, rewarding us with a spectacular view of the area. We sacrificed all our sweat and energy, since it is already pretty humid here, but it was worth it. Later on we came across a guide who can maybe take us to a funeral ceremony coming tuesday! Not sure if I need to be thrilled or scared. An open mind will do.

Written by: Nike van der Velde