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INDONESIA, JOURNEY UNTOLD
Tana Toraja | Funeral | With Water buffaloes and pigs | The Ritual | The Celebration | The Aftermath
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SULAWESI - RANTEPAO

Whatever the sights, there's no doubt that the highlight of a trip to Tana Toraja, the area of central Sulawesi whose capital is Rantepao, is to visit a funeral. This is easier than it sounds: because the funeral celebrations take a lot of preparation, not to mention expense, the Torajans have two funerals for each death, much like the Balinese; the first one is a private affair straight away after the death, and the body is preserved in the house where it died until the necessary cash has been saved up for the second one, a much bigger, more public affair. Because the second funeral is effectively a huge party and can be held at any time, it tends to be organized for between July and October when the relatives can come to visit more easily, during the school holidays. This leads to the strange concept of the Funeral Season, which L. and I were lucky enough to catch the end of.

It was pure luck, but L. and I managed to get 'invited' to a medium-sized funeral in a place called Buntulepong, somewhere that didn't even appear on the local maps. We had just returned to our hotel after our evening meal when this local guy called Sam rushed up and wondered if we would like to go to a funeral tomorrow, in his home village: we had no plans, and so we agreed. Of course our 'invitation' cost us $15, but our cynicism was short lived: the three of us - the two of us plus a third girl from the same hotels - were the only tourists at the whole event. And what an event, something that daunts upon me for long.

BADA VALLEY | GUNUNG RINJANI | UJUNG PANDANG | MAURMERE | RANTEPAO | TOGIAN ISLAND