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Tuesday 2 Jun 2015
Rantepao, Indonesia

Palopo – Rantepao

I woke up full of intention to ride my bike to Rantepao. Yes, my bike, faded old piece of junk on the outside, was my friend, and if I could hold myself together I would get on it again. It has served me faithfully for many years and I don’t get sick of the sight of it or the idea that it will help me to progress with my life.

The road to Rantepao should be around 60 km which would be half a day’s ride and leave me with spare time - but there was no time to dither at the start as I wanted to get climbing before it got too hot. My hand seemed to function, I just had to rest it in a few awkward ways on the handlebars and avoid jolts or any excess pressure. The road was sealed and smooth and I wasn’t going fast as it was climbing.

After 10 kilometres I reached the first saddle and took in one of the last views down to the coast and Bone Bay, the body of water between two of Sulawesi’s arms. Soon after, I stopped for second breakfast in a place that perched over a chasm with a waterfall under a bridge, and I was worried about dropping the water jug out the window and down the cliff.

Aside from only being able to lean on one hand, I was actually in good shape, no longer being sick and having rested for three days. I set a steady pace and kept up with the long switchbacks, each time coming slightly closer to the pass I could see above me while resisting disappointment. This is how climbing is supposed to be. I finally got to the top at the 35 km mark. Later, I found out that this was a height of 1200 m, about the same as the previous climb near Malino, except that this time I enjoyed it.

From the top it was clear that I was in Tana Toraja. Lush agricultural activity prevailed. The famous and bizarre Toraja houses with their steep boat-shaped roofs were everywhere. Rice paddies and buffaloes completed a successful cliche and made a pleasant approach to Rantepao.

As I arrived in town it was threatening to rain and I went into a fancy looking coffee shop to wait for it to end. It turned out that I was confused and not actually in Rantepao, but it didn’t matter as it wasn’t far away.

I then floated around Rantepao for a whole day acting like a backpacker and meeting other backpackers, one of whom was doing a cycle tour of his own heading from Makassar to Gorontalo. He had some useful information about the road ahead.

66.67 km, average 12.3 km/h

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