Travel | Tana Toraja 127 green carpet at the foot of the towering mountains that loom in the distance. Reaching the town of Pinrang, we turn east and begin the ascent that will take us to 457m above sea level and the fertile valleys of Tana Toraja. Misty green valleys, crisscrossed by gin-clear streams and emerald rice paddies clinging limpet-like to the side of the mountain fringed with golden stands of bamboo and quaint steeple-clad churches, lie far below. Without warning, a giant gate built in the style of a typical Toraja house, which stretches across the road, greets us. We have arrived in ‘Torajaland’. The regency is divided into two administrative centres and ‘capitals’, the southernmost being Makale. However, it is in its northern neighbour Rantepao, 31km to the north, that our eight-hour journey will end. Alighting from the minivan in the last light of day, the first thing one notices is the freshness of the air, tinged with the smell of ginger; it is crisp and cool in direct contrast to the climate lower down on the plains. We are advised to rise early and head higher into the mountains to see Torajaland from above and be ‘closer to the stars’. And so it is, in the pre-dawn light we take a winding, narrow and badly potholed road and weave our way past grazing doe-eyed buffalo to travel ever higher, the drops either side becoming more precipitous. On the crest of a mountaintop, as the sun creeps over the horizon we are able to see for the first time the breathtaking beauty Torajan House The most striking feature, perhaps, of Toraja is its houses. Most houses have the typical boat-shaped roofs, which, nowadays, are predominantly made of iron. The roofs used to be made of bamboo and other natural materials. The houses that you will see in villages are the so-called tongkonan (from the Toraja word tongkon, which means ‘to sit down’). These kindred houses are used for family purposes, and the construction involves the entire family clan. Sepertinya, fitur paling mencolok dari Toraja adalah rumah-rumahnya. Sebagian besar rumah memiliki atap berbentuk kapal. Zaman dulu atap terbuat dari bambu dan bahan alam. Rumah-rumah di desa disebut tongkonan (dari kata Toraja “tongkon” yang artinya duduk). Rumah-rumah keluarga digunakan untuk acara keluarga dan dalam membangunnya membutuhkan keterlibatan seluruh anggota keluarga.