Crossing the mountains from 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:
Here is what durian looks like when it’s on the tree:
Coconut love continued as well:
Our status as celebrities on bicycles continued:
In fact at one point, when we were resting on the side of the road, a motorcyclist stopped, pulled out his cell phone, and instead of taking our photo, opened facebook and showed us a photo of ourselves that his brother had taken a few days before! Celebrities indeed!
We continued to find the occasional good meal (in this case, tempeh at Hotel Ilagaligo in Malili):
I did notice a couple differences. For one it started raining more and more. Usually we were able to get to some shelter and wait out the showers, but we did get pretty wet a few times. It ended up raining about two weeks, I think. Finally, coming down a pass from 1400m in the rain on a good road in wet clothes, we actually got cold bicycling in Sulawesi! But, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Another difference we noticed is that the population density is higher in Sulawesi Selatan. Sadly, this meant even more traffic. In other words, it wasn’t always like this:
However, the higher population density also meant that there were occasional options to get off the main road onto through side roads. Sometimes they were brilliant roads like this one:
but more often the nice, smooth road would end, and we’d be on a muddy, rocky mess which was very slow going.
Of course we found some good views.
One small (horrible) road took us to a village where we came across these crazy-looking houses:
By far the nicest buildings in the village (which we later learned was Christian), we thought they were prayer buildings perhaps. No, they’re for storing rice. Later, in Tana Toraja, we saw hundreds or even thousands of these buildings, but again I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the village of Lauwo we met Ardi, who invited us to stay at his house. We ended up spending two nights there. The youngest of many siblings, he was raised by his sisters since his parents died when he was quite young. He now works in Bali and speaks excellent English. I mean, fantastic English — one evening I met with a local group of bicyclists, and Ardi did a super job translating as we talked about Indonesia, Turkey, the US, politics, religion, bicycle touring.
During our two days with them Ardi’s sisters took great care of us, giving two hungry cyclists plenty of good food. It was interesting to see village life first hand for a day. Their door was always open for whoever needed anything. We were surprised to wake up our second morning there to see the living room full of people sleeping. A bunch of colleagues had arrived in the middle of the night, and of course had a place to stay.
As we pedaled away from their village, Ferda was lamenting that we weren’t able to do more for them. They had treated us so well. We talked a little about hospitality for travelers, about the hosts benefiting from the interactions as well as the travelers, that being respectful, curious, and open is usually enough for everyone to end up satisfied.
The point was driven home the next day. A motorcyclist came up alongside us and said, “hello, Ferda.” At first we figured it was another facebook fan, but it turned out to be one of Ardi’s relatives who had shared a meal with us in Lauwo. He didn’t speak English, but we sat down with him for some drinks and a rest. When we went to say goodbye, he started crying! We had had no special interactions, but for him it was such a big deal that we stopped in his village, stayed with his family, and shared some stories, time, and smiles.
From Batusanduk to Toraja we had been warned that the direct road to Sa’dan would take longer than the long way around via Palopo. Of course, as a cyclist I always think, “if I were in a hurry, wouldn’t I just get on the bus?!” Well, I don’t know which one would actually be longer, but I can say that there’s no traffic on the direct road. It’s a long, steep, often muddy climb. We ended up spending two nights out before cresting the pass on the morning of the third day.
We found this great campsite down low:
The following morning started promising with some good sections of flat road.
The traffic was way more interesting than what’s on the main road.
Things became pretty desperate for many kms after this bridge. I was too tired to get the camera out.
We were awarded with good views:
and a decent, though very wet, campsite:
Just around the corner, the next morning did not start so auspiciously:
but then, suddenly, we came to poured concrete!!! And we knew we’d make it to Toraja.