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Makassar - Tanah Toraja (Rantepao)

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


We are leaving the capital of Sulawesi behind this morning and heading north. As we drive out of Makassar, it seems one town blends into the next, with plenty of streetlife, shops, and restaurants to entertain our senses.


One of the many delights of travelling with a guide, is that we get the opportunity to try different foods along the way. We make a stop at a stand selling pomelo, a fruit that is new to me.



Resembling a large grapefruit, its taste is not as bitter as a grapefruit, nor is it as sweet as an orange.


Dange Pulu Bolong

These traditional cookies are made from sticky rice, coconut, and sugar, and are baked on the fire in special irons.





Soft when hot, the cookies turn crispy as they cool.




Travelling along the coast, we pass several fisheries, where nets are strung between wooden sticks and lowered into the water. The fishermen sitting atop the towers monitor the amount of fish in the nets, and when suitably full, the nets are hauled back up again.


Seaweed is also farmed in this area, for export to China and Japan where it is used as food or in the production of cosmetics.


Tile Workshop

Intrigued by the brightly coloured domes at the side of the road, I ask Nadja (our guide) if we can stop and take a look. By the time the message has got through to Acho, our driver, we have passed the point by around 100 metres. Acho, however, stops, and thinks nothing of reversing back along the dual carriageway. Thankfully the traffic is light, so it is not a problem.


The lads working in a small shed around the back are more than happy to explain to us how tiles, imported from Java, are sprayed in different colours, and then assembled into the domes we see.


The enclosure used for spraying

Getting the tiles ready

I'm surprised they don't wear long gloves - that paint can't be good for their skin

Freshly sprayed tiles

Tiles hanging to dry

These tiles are all ready to be assembled

Shaping the support structure


The domes are used to top mosques and other important buildings.



Mate’ne Village

Operating the fishing boats after dark, and using floodlights to attract the fish, the workers bring the catch back to the village to dry.


Sumpang Minangey

Further along the coast, these fishing boats, on the other hand, go out for several days at a time.


Kupa Beach Restaurant

Set in beautiful gardens on the coast, we are shown to a covered seating area and offered a welcome drink and a very much appreciated refreshingly cool face cloth.


The gentle breeze on a wet face helps to cool us down too, and helps to wake me up from the deep sleep I was in when the car stopped.


The grounds are extensive and the interesting layout of the property compliments the little knick-knacks around the place, making it all very quaint.


The asparagus soup is very salty, which, along with a sweet Sprite, will probably do me good as I am suffering from an angry and upset tummy.


Fearing the repercussions, I avoid the fish, but try three of the delicious-looking tiger prawns with plenty of rice and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).


Fresh fruit for dessert

After my somewhat unpleasant encounter with a very basic Indonesian style hole-in-the-floor toilet at a service station earlier, I am grateful that the facilities here are Western style, albeit made for local people whose height is very much less than mine. With my arthritis, getting up from a low seat is not the easiest of manoeuvres.


Back in the car, I snooze again for a while, until we start climbing up into the hills. The road is winding, narrow, and suffering from severe erosion in places, as well as deep, huge potholes.


The driving culture is.... not for the faint-hearted. Cars, including ours, overtake huge, slow, heavy trucks uphill on hairpin bends, while dodging kamikaze motorcyclists, pedestrians, dogs, and chickens. Narrow misses that would make us scream back home and talk about for days, are commonplace every few hundred yards here, and no-one bats an eyelid.

Gunung Bamapuang

We make a brief stop to take some photos of one of the mountain peaks we see along the way.


Rumah Makan & Art Shop ‘Jemz Gunung Nona’

At one of the many restaurants that have been created where the landscape offers some ground between the road and the deep, steep valley beyond, we break for a comfort stop.


The sweet girls who serve us are keen to practice their English and after ordering iced cappuccinos, we are presented with complimentary roast potatoes.



An ice cream is always welcome, as we enjoy the spectacular view of Gunung Nona mountains from their balcony.



It’s a long eleven-hour drive today, and darkness sets in before we reach our destination. If we thought the roads were perilous, with crazy driving, before, add trucks and motorcycles without lights to that mix and you have a terrifying cocktail.

Toraja Heritage Hotel

The grand entrance, with its many steps, is impressive, and the cold fruit drink offered on arrival is equally as welcome as the hot towel.


Our room is in one of the many traditional Tongokan buildings with their pointy roofs, and is large and airy with a sizeable indoor bathroom and a further outdoor shower.


Having struggled to keep awake on the journey up here, I feel way too tired to go for dinner, so we just have a little picnic in the room with some of the snacks we bought earlier.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip of a lifetime.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:43 Archived in Indonesia Tagged boats fishing road_trip indonesia seaweed sulawesi ice_cream dried_fish makassar undiscovered_destinations outdoor_shower room_picnic fisheries toraj tanahtorajah pomelo dange_pulu_bolong seaweed_farming tile_workshop metal_workshop tile_spraying matene_village fishing_after_dark fishing_by_floodlight kupa_beach_restaurant gunung_bamapuang rumah_makan guning_nona iced_cappuccino toraja_heritage_hotel

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I love a road trip like this, although not ideal when you're suffering from an upset tummy. But so much to see along the road and the scenery is fantastic. Your hotel room looks lovely too :)

by ToonSarah

Thanks, Sarah, I love these sort of road trips too. Having suffered from severe IBS for over 40 years, an upset tummy is part and parcel of travel for me.

by Grete Howard

what a day, thans for sharing! it seems like you guys are having a blast on your trip besides the tummy problem which I hope will be gone soon! I loved the pictures of the domes as well. Do they use it for colorful churches only, do you know?
Loved your pictures of the mountains, so beautiful! :)

by Ils1976

Thanks for your comments Ils, Sulawesi is a magical place, with a fascinating culture. I didn't see many churches to be honest, as most of the people follow the Islamic religion, and the ones I saw, were very traditionally built, like we would in the West.

by Grete Howard

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