Today we are on the Indonesian island of Sulawasi, very different from Bali. Sulawasi is a long and rather sprawling island with a population of about 7 million people. Many different countries ruled this island beginning with the Dutch. However, there were originally two different ethnic groups and the one (the Makassarese) over powered the other one (the Buginese) proclaiming its state of Gowa the stronger. At this point, the ruler of Gowa adopted Islam in 1605. Future clashes with the British and Japanese finally resulted in this island becoming part of the Republic of Indonesia in 1950.
Today, most of the population is engaged in agriculture, deep sea fishing, and some manufacturing. It is a poor island and appears very 3rd world everywhere. It was the ship’s first time here, so it was a new experience for most of us. The only thing I am still confused about is why the town/port where we docked is sometimes called Makassar and sometimes called Ujung Padang. The terms seem to be used interchangeably. I think it has to do with the locals calling it one thing and the Dutch another. I will refer to it as Ujung Padang. This city has a population of 1.7 million.
We had booked a tour with Karen Deacon from Cruise Critic, so 28 of us boarded a bus for a day’s tour of the south western part of this island. It was a huge bus and one of the most comfortable with almost “Lazy Boy” seats for everyone – a real treat after Bali’s bus where our knees touched the seat in front of us!
Our first stop was 25 miles north of town – about a 1 1/2 hour drive – to Bulusaraung National Park, one of the island’s most spectacular natural areas. To get there we went through the city and then some smaller villages – great local color. And because this island is mostly Islamic, we saw mosques everywhere! The Burgis people live in the more southern part of the island. This house is typical of their style with its peaked roof and stylized crossed wood at the top, signifying protection. As we crossed one of the two large rivers we saw similar houses, but built on the river.
As we passed through the villages, we saw many houses along the road. What I found interesting was the mixture of nicer homes next door to shabbier homes – there were no neighborhoods that we saw that where the difference in lifestyle in living was separate. Here are two homes that were within a few houses of each other.
When we arrived at the national park, we were all ready for a bathroom before walking through the park to see the waterfall. However, upon seeing our only choice, a bucket and spigot, we all decided we could wait a little longer. I’ve seen holes in the floor, but never this. All part of the travel experience!
One of the major features at this park is the Bantimurung Waterfall which gushes 50 feet from a rocky cliff into a tree-lined stream. The name comes from the Bugis words “benti” water and “merrung” roaring. It was fun to see the boys tubing down part of it.
On the pathway to the falls, we saw an amazing little mosque built into the limestone walls. Small mosques are called “mushallahs”and there was a sign on the pathway pointing this one out. It was certainly the most unique mosque I’ve ever seen. They have it here for families who come for the day so that they have a place to pray (Muslims are called to prayer 5 times a day.)
The other feature of this park are the thousands of butterflies which thrive in this habitat. The 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace documented this site as Kingdom of Butterflies. However, we only saw a handful, which was a bit disappointing. This is the best I saw. There were young boys selling preserved butterflies suitable for display – a wide variety and very colorful – so we bought a small box of them since those were the best we saw! It would have been great to see them in their environment.
One of the most picturesque parts of the day was the drive back to the city along a river. The river separated our main street from the villages on the other side, but there were a wide variety of “bridges” across the river. I took many, many pictures, but here is a sample of what we saw on our ride back to the city. I really liked the last one the best. This led to a rice field, while the concrete one led to a mosque and the other to a typical house along the river. And the first picture, even though it had no bridge, was a great picture of these Muslim girls on their motorbikes – very popular on this island. A bit of local color!
Our next stop was to see the homes typical of another ethnic group on the more northern part of the island – the Torajas. Their homes were very distinct in that they resembled the ships that carried them to this island. Here you can see two – one still being built. They are made of wood and have very small window openings. They use about three or four main colors and have symbols of several animals painted on them. Across from them were three smaller, but similar buildings they used to store their rice, so they are called rice houses. They also serve to house guests underneath the rice storage area and also a place for guests to sit while attending village ceremonies. We were allowed to go inside the one house, and it was plain with mainly areas with beds. The staircase going up was like climbing a ladder – very steep. Our guide is from this ethnic group so he knew a lot about the homes, their construction, and functions. Most interesting to see.
Before lunch we went to the traditional market – one long street with individual stalls selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables, fish, spices, and eggs. It was fun to see the people, the children, and the colorful display of these items. Because they don’t get many cruise ships, we were somewhat of a novelty and they were eager to say hi and get their pictures taken. One young man asked – “where you from”?” When we said the USA, his reply was “Obama – good!” We were one of the few people on this tour who would have agreed with him! Big thumbs up on both sides! Here are some of the things and people we saw on this street.
Following the market, we went to a hotel along the water for lunch. It was called the Hotel Pantai Gapura and it was such a contrast to what we had recently seen – it was a true resort.