A guide to visiting with the Tana Torajan dead part 2

by Will Sanders on March 20th, 2010

I started this a while back and it has been sitting here inside my computer nagging at me in whispers.  I usually write these right away for the sake of memory but this one was a few months old now.  Lots of things have been happening and I got distracted I guess.

“I seriously wish you had a picture of the spiders. I can’t believe there eyes glow.”  Said Marcus in his comment on the last post, which I have only just now gotten around to reading.  Well, it ain’t such a grand picture, not really all that focused but there you go.  Never ever doubt the word of the Sanders again you turkey!  The picture I really regret missing was that time I got beat up by Big foot, but the glowing eye spider I do have, even though really in all honesty it’s a reflection from my flash.  I hope it’s not too much of a let down.

Hang on, it’s been a second let me go check and see where we left off.  Ok, here we go.
The day after the skull cave I got an early start, heading straight for the transpo depot that I had wasted so much time looking for the day before.  This time I was armed with my guide book, the right page now dog eared and covered with frantic scribblings to myself, important words circled or underlined.  I told one guy where I wanted to go and he led me to a crowd of five guys who led me to a bench where another white guy sat.  ‘Stick those white guys together, they belong as a set.’  They must have told each other, we just made better sense to them as a pair.  This guy was from Slovenia, and as luck would have it was heading to the same spot as me.
After a good 40 minutes of sitting on that bench in the noisy hustle of the transo depot the Slovenian and I figured that we had been abandoned to fend for ourselves, the public transportation promised had either already left, wasn’t really leaving, or was leaving God knows when, niether of us were able to get a straight answer.  No worries though, no not us, we got a pair of ojeks which means hanging on for dear life from the back of a guys motorcycle.  We got the price we wanted quickly from a couple of guys who had planed to hang out there all day in hopes of finding riders.  We were given helmets that looked like little league toys for children, we eached hopped on the back of one and were instantly flying like Empirial speeder bikes on the moon of Endor.  The city was gone in a couple of minutes and we were flying through imense green fields of rice paddies, green, green, green.  Flat expanses lined with jungle gave way to hills which rolled up and lazily back down to more fields.  Each field was home to one Water buffolo who bathed in the mud, what an existance.  Gracefully eating and mud wallowing in a green field for a life time, and in the evenings they were hand scrubed in a river by a loving farmer with the care of a doting father.  I would almost, almost say that living the life of a buffolo in Tana Toraja would be worth dying the death of a buffolo in Tana Toraja.  The ceremonial throat slitting and ten to 30 minute bleeding and shaking until nothing left with an entire tribe of people on hand to watch the final indignity.  Almost worth it, but no not quite.  I wouldn’t want to go that way.  But I also suppose that I don’t want to go in any manner but am bound to sooner or later.
We were taken by the drivers to a grave yard of chiefs.  A garden of huge falic stones had been erected, (pun intended) to show the importance and manliness of each dead chief.  These looked to be several tons each, drug out of the jungle and carved by some guy who was lower on the totem pole.  It didn’t look like an easy days work, especially when you don’t have machines and just have to get ropes and drag it out of deep jungle and get it there somehow.  My new friend was a geologist in Slovenia, and was impressed with these rocks.  He was also impressed with the graves, I was too.  Burial chambers are carved out of gigantic rock formations.  We found on that was being made, it was around six feet by twelve feet.  The Slovenian geologist pointed out how solid and hard to cut that kind of rock happened to be.  At the entrance hole of the chamber, on the ground lay chips of cut rock which had been swept out the front.  I picked up a small chip, the size that would be good for skipping across a lake, almost razor thin, almost paper thin and still I couldn’t break it.  I felt very sad for the guy who had to spend his days cutting this rock for a stiff who would never even say thank you.
On the way up we got to a part where the road got steep and the motorcycle drivers reached around and made us put our arms around each of our drivers stomachs, which really was as embarrassing as it sounds.  The hills were almost straight up so it wasn’t without good reason, but I must say me and my Indonesian Ojek driver made a nice couple.
Next we were taken to a cafe on the side of a cliff overlooking a valley below.  The valley had been split up into rice paddies and the terrain spanned forever.  It reminded me of dreams I had back when I was still stuck in America between China and Indonesia.  In those dreams I was floating like a bird way up in the sky over Asian landscapes at nighttime and I was so happy until I woke up and realized that I was still home and still stressed endlessly about money and trying to find a job and everything else.  And as if on cue an eagle came flying along and he played around in the wind, dancing in the sky above us.  The Slovenian geologist and I both agreed that we would be happy to trade places with him, even if it meant abandoning our intellect and memories, friends and families just to be so free and without stress or worry.
And we spent the rest of the day wandering and talking through lush hills and rice paddies which climbed up from valleys along cliffs endlessly up from endlessly down.  We stopped at one point to help some locals carry beams of wood out of the jungle, heavy heavy work over slippery mud.  We got all kinds of smiles for our help and they posed for pictures with us.
I helped carry that beam we are sitting on there through some mud, but not very far.  check out the old man’s feet.  I guess that what going barefoot your life will do.
We got caught in the rain in a villiage and sat under the roof of a hut where we bought beer from local kids.  In Tana Toraja the rains come at around 4 everyday without fail, and never off by more than 10 or 15 minutes.  The local Children crowded as and my Slovenian friend gave them his camera to take pictures of each other.  He told me of his time in the war and about what it was like when Yugoslavia became Slovenia and so many other things in his countries history.  The rain was getting heavier and we kept chatting and drinking the beers and the children played.  They were so happy to see the pictures they had taken of each other when we showed them the little LCD screen.
I think we wound up hitching a ride down after while.  It was a nice day.
Ok, part three soon, soon, soon.  It will be all about the tribal funeral I witnessed, maybe the strangest thing I have ever seen in thirty three years with my own eyes.  I may even get to the Indiana Jones plane ride out of the jungle but may not get to it.  Thanks for reading blog believers!
Please leave comments that always makes me happy.

2 Responses to “A guide to visiting with the Tana Torajan dead part 2”

  1. Marcus says:

    “Forest Moon, of Endor” or “Forest Moon of Endor”.

    That spider gives me the willies. (and I’m not talking about the kind where some dude comes over to your house to play records, the wire, eats your brataco’s and sleeps on your couch.)

    Great post Will, I wish you would have taken a picture with your “biker buddy”. Also, isn’t it interesting that an eagle showed up during this time? Like the other time you told my about an eagle popping up into your field of view?

  2. Amy Burke says:

    So glad you finally found some time to post some more of your stories Will…you know how much I look forward to reading them! I like how they almost always end up with you drinking beers with a new foreign friend someplace cool. =) Also, I’m glad you are not a water buffalo or an eagle, but our own dear Will Sanders who we are excited to see again very soon! Love you and miss you!

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