Felix showed up in the morning after a 24 hour bus ride that must have destroyed his soul. We faffed around and talked to the Romanian cycle tourist about the road to Makassar.
We decided to head for Rantemario, the mountain. We seemed to have just about enough days left, without knowing exactly what would be involved.
Of course, this plan was at least as uncertain as all the others. We were fairly sure the mountain existed, although even that was complicated as there was confusion about which peak was the highest. We had no idea at all how to get there and our map did not give any clues. We asked an old man in our hotel in Rantepao and he said to go to Baraka, which was our only lead. After looking around the market in Rantepao we bought two pairs of shoes for about $35, intending to destroy them on the mountain.
We wanted to do some sightseeing so that we would not feel we had missed out on Tana Toraja. 2 km away was a buffalo market where we duly inspected some buffalos, including one albino one which is worth a lot more. We saw some Toraja houses at Kete Kesu and went off on some road to Kalosi: not the road we were expecting, but probably one with less traffic.
After going up and down a bit through Tana Toraja, we got onto a long descent. It started raining. Then it was raining so much that there were currents of water flowing across the road and dragging us off course. We couldn’t get any more wet but we could possibly get knocked over from below. So we stopped and somehow sloshed into a very small bakso joint where all sorts of people were sheltering and a few people were trying to keep the flood out. We ate some bakso, which was warm, and waited for the situation to stop being ridiculous. We kept going down, concerningly so, to Baraka.
Somehow in Baraka we found the penginapan (small hotel). There was no-one there so we were confused for some time. We weren’t sure whether to ask in the shop, which was closed, or ask the small boy whose purpose was unclear. In the end someone let us into a room which was not really in the hotel but it was a room anyway.
To find out how to climb the highest mountain in Sulawesi, we used our main strategy for sorting things out: asking people in the street. We gradually figured out that although the mountain is called Rantemario, everyone calls it Latimojong, and this might be the name for the mountain range or the national park. Though we were possibly asking for it under the wrong name, it didn’t take long to find someone who knew about mountain climbing, and he said we should follow him, and he took us to the house of the president of the mountaineering association, Mr Dadang.
We arrived unannounced in the dark, but Dadang was excited, his wife prepared an impressive meal, and we started talking about the mountain. We ended up with a hand-drawn map outlining about nine ‘pos’ stations. I still don’t know what pos means. Anyway, one of them was a cave, and while we were offered a tent and stove, we had no real way to carry them up the mountain. So it became clear that our plan was to sleep in the cave, climb up to the summit during the night, and get down by the end of the next day. This was a pretty crazy plan and we took a moment to decide whether we were really committed to it.
This was the decision that would define the trip. We would have been justified in taking the easier option of riding the long way around to Makassar and exploring South Sulawesi with the freedom of surplus time. But of the things we hoped to do at the start of the trip, we had achieved very few. Sulawesi had defeated us so far. If we climbed the mountain, we would not be able to say that we had fallen short of our vision of adventure.
As with any decent mountain-climbing expedition, there was no scenario where this would be comfortable or easy; it could only involve us being tired and freezing at inconvenient hours of the night. This was particularly so as we were taking the fast and light approach, aiming to get in and out as simply as possible and putting the pressure on ourselves to do the required amount of walking.
85.67 km, average 15.6 km/h