Ketchikan’s totem poles

Four weeks after Ferda and I were learning about cemeteries in Tana Toraja, we found ourselves in Ketchikan learning about totem poles.  Totem poles are not for religion, and they’re not worshiped.  They’re built to tell stories.  Just as stories can be divided into different themes, there are a number of different kinds of totem poles.  There are totem poles to honor people and totem poles to shame people.  There are mortuary totem poles to hold someone’s ashes and heraldic totem poles that have village or family crests or shields.

We saw a number of totem poles scattered around the town of Ketchikan, like these three:

Raven Stealing the Sun Totem Pole by bryandkeith on flickr
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A short layover in İstanbul

İstanbul — what a fun city to visit!  This time it was only for a few hours during a (rather long) layover on our flight from Makassar to Antalya.  A friend recently had a six-hour layover in İstanbul (from the same airport we did, Atatürk) and asked if that was enough time to actually get into the city and see something.  We decided it probably wasn’t.  Well, for the record, our layer this day was 11 hours, and we ended up with about six hours of tourist time in the center of the city.

We started by taking the first train of the morning (leaving the airport at 6am) to Eminönü (change trains at Zeytinburnu). We enjoyed views of the early morning light on Yeni Camii and on the larger Süleymaniye Camii on the hill behind it before stopping nearby for a börek breakfast at a small outdoor café.  Nice to be back in Turkey!

IMG_20180712_070155 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Tana Toraja: beautiful views, curved roofs, and unusual cemeteries

Tana Toraja is undoubtedly Sulawesi’s biggest tourist draw.  The Toraja are famous for their unusual funeral practices.  Many tourists come just to see a funeral, which, conveniently for us, largely take place in the dry season — July and August.  Now you’re wondering — how is it that people only die in the dry season?  Well, for the Toraja the most important part of their life is death.  Families spend a long time saving money to pay for elaborate funeral ceremonies, and during this waiting time they don’t have a problem keeping the body (to them the person is sick, not dead) in the house with them while they procure the necessary resources which may take months or even years.

The path to paradise is arduous so the Toraja need many pigs (to guide them) and buffalo (to carry stuff), sacrificed at their funeral.  And I think maybe it’s these gory sacrifices that many tourists come to see.  Ferda and I did happen upon funerals two different days: once in Sa’dan where they were really more in the preparation phase and once in Bori where we saw a dead buffalo being hacked into pieces, a dead pig being roasted with a blowtorch, and what looked like a tug-of-war match with the casket.

I think the dead person is in here.  There seemed to be two teams who were pulling back and forth like a tug-of-war match.  There was an announcer, announcing like a sporting event. by bryandkeith on flickr

What most disturbed Ferda was that the first buffalo were slaughtered right in front of the other buffalo that were to be slaughtered later — no blindfolds, no sheet or tarp or wall or any sort of separation.  We met a British tourist who came to witness a funeral ceremony because he’s sure this tradition won’t exist 10 years from now.  Good riddance, according to Ferda.

Ferda and I came to Toraja to enjoy the good views — terraced rice paddies, mixed in with the oddly shaped Toraja houses, and mountain backdrops.
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Bicycle touring in Sulawesi Selatan

Crossing the mountains between Tolala to Malili we crossed the border from Sulawesi Tenggara to Sulawesi Selatan.  Was the bicycle touring any different?

Our love affair with the durian continued:

20180627_094720 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Bicycle touring Sulawesi Tenggara

The search “bicycle touring in sulawesi tenggara” yields only 30 results in Google, not one of which leads to a page where someone actually bicycle toured in Sulawesi Tenggara.  I guess maybe it’s “off-the-beaten-path.”  Given this dearth of information, we didn’t really know what to expect.  On the negative side, I expected heat and mosquitoes.  On the positive side, I was hoping for nice views, friendly people, and good food — pretty standard wishes for touring cyclists.

20180614_105355 by bryandkeith on flickr

We were certainly pleasantly surprised by the lack of excessive heat.  It was hot between about 10am and 3pm if the sun was out, but that’s a big if — we had many, many cloudy days, keeping the temperature quite pleasant.  Mosquitoes were hardly ever a problem either.

As for the friendly people, well, we found lots and lots of them.  Many, many people wanted to take our photo.  An all too common greeting was “selfie, mister?”
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