By the following afternoon, Peter and I had arrived in Tentena, a small village in Central Sulawesi that took a bus journey from hell to reach, not just because of the normal problems of awful music and cramped seats, but also because the roads in Sulawesi are shocking. We settled in for a relaxing evening in a good but pricey losmen, and made our plans for the morrow. Our mission: to discover the megaliths of the Bada Valley.
The Bada Valley follows the Lariang River along the southern border of the forested Lore Lindu National Park, and it's world famous for its ancient and mysterious statues, or megaliths; megaliths are large stone carvings along the lines of those on Easter Island. Our options were many, but we decided we'd go it alone and try to find the megaliths ourselves; guides from Tentena came in at 50,000rp per day per person, which sounded like a right royal waste of money, so we bought a seat on a jeep heading east into the valley the next day, and tried to glean as much information as we could from local tour guides and other travellers. It wasn't the most successful fact finding mission; all we got was a photocopy of a dodgy-looking map and some vague walking times, but at least it confirmed that we were in the right area. And besides, a walk with a proper map just wouldn't be right in Indonesia, would it?
We took off from Tentena the next morning, crammed onto the back of a shoddy old jeep that had seven other occupants, along with boxes of smelly fish and peanuts, a blindingly loud sound system and a radiator that overheated every twenty minutes and guzzled water faster than a hot westerner in the middle of the tropical forest. The trip along the terrible dirt road to Bomba at the eastern end of the valley took some seven hours, and although it was pretty tiring, perched on the back of the jeep with legs dangling and arse bruising, it was kind of entertaining, and we experienced the pinnacle of Indonesian pop music for most of the trip; Deddy Dorres, an overweight crooner who looks like an Indonesian Fat Elvis, graced the jeep's stereo, adding a flavour of big shades and bigger sideburns to the whole exercise. His music was terrible, his image embarrassing, but he is, by all accounts, one of the most successful artistes in Indonesia today. Ye gods.
The losmen in Bomba was expensive, but it did have a map of the area on the wall, which I hurriedly copied down, giving us a totally different version from the map we'd obtained in Tentena. Still, we were determined not to waste money on a guide, and the next morning we set out for the valley itself, home to the megaliths and a slice of human history that's as mysterious as Stonehenge.