A surprisingly nice Roadstop in Tentena

Tentena-6103The Togean Islands were nice and relaxing but after those three days I was ready to move on and go exploring again. I just can’t live the lazy beach life for too long. So I took an early morning ferry back to the Togean’s main city Wakai down to Ampana. From Ampana my plan was to charter a private car and drive down to Tentena. I had the number of a local driver who had told me that I would need at least four more people to make it happen. Luckily I was able to motivate two couples to come along. I arranged the rest and off we were to Tentena, avoiding a long and exhausting bus journey.We arrived in Tentena at around 8 pm at night. By that point we had traveled already 14 hours straight. We got dropped off at the tourist information which was still open and managed by Debbie, a friendly local girl who spoke excellent English. She recommended a hotel close by which was situated on a hill overlooking Poso Lake. It was actually a very nice place, clean, affordable and run by a friendly family. One again it proved to stay away from the places listed in the lonely planet.

Beautiful Tentena – A Christian Haven in Indonesia
The next morning we had breakfast on our porch with a beautiful view of Lake Poso, Indonesia’s third largest lake and famous for its abundance of fish. The sun was shining, the breakfast was tasty and a good day was waiting. My plan was to rent a motorbike for the day and explore the surrounding area of Tentena. Equipped with a little hand drawn map I started my little trip.

Panoramic view of Tentena from my hotel's terrace.

Panoramic view of Tentena from my hotel’s terrace.

I drove through the village and up the surrounding hills to make it to a viewpoint which Debbie had recommended the night before. The view down to Tentena was beautiful. It is a quiet town with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere to it. What struck me first was the omnipresence of Christianity with a lot of churches scattered across the city. People there are mostly Christian Protestant and practice their religion in a very lively way. Until a view years ago, the area was shook by religious violence with Muslims from neighboring Poso fighting Christians of this area. Looking down to peaceful and sleepy Tentena from the viewpoint, it was hard to believe that people were killing each other here not too long ago.

Tentena from the viewpoint.

Tentena from the viewpoint.

Caves and Beaches around Tentena
My next stop was close by – Latea Cave, a burial site for the remains of the deceased. Apparently the dead get first buried somewhere in the jungle. After a while their remains are being dug out and then put into the cave. I am not sure if the cave is still in use, but seeing the skulls and bones still in there was a little spooky. Especially since I was the only person around. I snapped a view pictures and was glad to return to my bike after a bit. Central Sulawesi has some really special traditions and customs in terms of dealing with death, a phenomenon which would become even more evident during my following stay in Tanah Toraja.

Looking out of Latea Cave

Looking out of Latea Cave

Skulls and bones in the cave.

Skulls and bones in the cave.

... and some more of that. Spooky.

… and some more of that. Spooky.

I drove down South along beautiful Lake Poso. The color of the lake was amazing and it’s water was amazingly clear. The scenery reminded me more of Europe than of Indonesia. My destination was a little beach resort on the banks of the lake. It was supposed to make for a nice road stop to have some coffee and food. On the way I met a bunch of local bikers who were also heading to the same destination. I joined the guys and we all made it to the resort safely. We talked a bit, I practiced my basic Bahasa Indonesia skills and we all had some good coffee. The guys had come from a waterfall close by and were headed to the cave I had been to earlier. My next stop would be that exact same waterfall where they had come from so it was time to say goodbye. As usual not before having our picture taken. Indonesians really like pictures with foreigners. Same as I like pictures with Indonesians.

Good times at Saloupa Waterfall
A bit later I made it to the waterfall and was instantly greeted by a gang of wild kids guarding the entrance. They were eager to know where I was from and what I was doing there. After getting our obligatory picture taken, I hiked up the falls which were carrying a lot of water. Some of the stairs were impassable because water was running over them. The falls had several stages with two big falls on the top. The lower part consisted of a number of huge rocks just covered by the roaring stream of whitewater. It was great and since I haven’t seen waterfalls for a while, I was able to fully enjoy this phenomenon again. On the way up to the top I met a lot of locals who spent their Sunday afternoon there. All of them were very friendly and I can’t tell for how many pictures I had to pose on my way down. I must have been quiet the attraction there.

The rest of the day I spent riding around, taking in the nice scenery and stopping here and there. The climate was great. It wasn’t humid and not too hot. It made me realize how nice a fairly moderate climate can actually be. I can appreciate that now after having been in the blazing heat for almost my entire journey.

Trying the local dance
The evening ended with a nice surprise. May, the daughter of the owners of the guesthouse invited me to come along to a traditional dance and celebration that took place a bit outside of town. It was the end of a 4 day church event that had been going on. We got there at about 9 but being in Indonesia, the dance didn’t start until 11 o’ clock. It was a strange affair which appeared to me like the Greek Sirtaki dance. Only that the music was rather modern accompanied by a singer shouting unknown things in his microphone. I gave it a try but didn’t do too well I would say since you have to know the steps for each dance. It was still good fun, definitely a memorable experience and a great end to a surprisingly nice day.

Doing the traditional dance.

Doing the traditional dance.

Last Thoughts …
Tentena was basically just a stop on my way down South to Tanah Toraja. The trip is very long and the place seemed like a nice road stop. I had already heard good things about it but I was surprised how pleasant the stay actually was. The atmosphere was great, the people were nice and there was quite a bit to explore. It was perfect for a day and a good way to interrupt  the journey. It is strange how nice places can turn out if you don’t expect too much. It reminded me a bit of my experience traveling down the Mekong Trail in Cambodia. I heard that a lot of people had skipped Tentena or were about to do so on their way up or down Sulawesi. I myself am quite glad to have stopped there.

Categories: Indonesia, Motorbike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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