It was hot. The kind of hot where you can physically feel your skin changing colour. The kind of hot that feels like the sun is using you as a deckchair. The kind of hot that makes you resent snowmen… those smug, icy scamps. And despite us all knowing it, and having said it every day prior to this, it did not deter us all from uttering it once more; it’s so flippin hot.
Mr Harris met us at our car as we lazily tumbled out from the back seats. Oh my godddd it’s so hotttttt. He was to be our guide in manoeuvring ourselves through the windy, junglesome (which should be a word) river that would lead us to Rammang Rammang, one of Maros’s most closely guarded secrets. Friends who had previously made the trip informed me that despite Maros bearing proportions nowhere near that of its big brother capital Makassar, the existence of this place negligibly registered upon the locals’ radars. Hmm, so no one around here has even heard of Rammang Rammang. Intriguing.
After noticing that a couple of curious cement truck drivers were trying to clandestingely snap a few pictures of us, (what are these crazy bules doing here in the middle of nowhere? Did they get lost on their way to Bali?) we waved and cheekily modelled a few happy bule (foreigner) poses for their photos before waving goodbye and making our way down some steep stone steps to a tiny jetty that met the river.
The view was spectacular. A green, glassy looking river stretched out before us, a few large jagged rocks protruding from the surface. The river was shrouded by tall, leafy vegetation and directly ahead of us was a solemn, beautifully green mountain rising from the earth, guarding the entrance of Rammang Rammang. I was later to learn that this mountain was part of what is technically named a karst – special types of giant rock formations produced by the effects of a certain kind of erosion… or something along those geological lines. Apparently karst formations are extremely rare, and that the karsts in Maros were akin to those in South China and Vietnam.
Wobbily we stepped into the narrow boat of which Mr Harris was steering and a tiny old local lady was sitting in. Sat down and crouched in the base of the riverboat, he began the engine and we carefully edged our way out from the tiny jetty. With the odd fluffy cloud, the sky was blue above us, and a colony of tall, spiky looking leaf-tree-plants besieged us, mystifying us further as to what kind of creatures lurked behind their density. (I am unsure of the botanical name for these plants, but they looked like tall single – bodied leaves rather than many branched trees, emerging from the ground. Their leaves were as thin strips of green, as if snipped away at by a pair of scissors.) Being under such exotic and adventurous conditions, myself and my travel companions decided to use it as a perfect photo taking opportunity. (My travel companions being Jack from Jakarta, Layla my oldest friend from my hometown, and her boyfriend Tukimin from Manchester. Yes, my friend from Manchester’s
fake, completely fake fake fake code blog name actual, real, truthful and veritable birth name is Tukimin. Everybody from Manchester’s called Tukimin don’t cha know).
As we buzzed along the river, more karst formations loomed high above us, speckled with green vegetation and riddled with gaping caves. Every now and again a few locals would pass us on the river in their own narrow boats ; the first being an elderly couple rowing their way in the opposite direction of us on the other side of the river. Silver haired and adorned in traditional Indonesian clothing, their faces were focused on the task ahead. Not unlike being on a school bus and excitedly waving to the passers-by, Layla initiated the first wave, happily waving her hand in the air and smiling at them. Their stern focus broke into wide, laughter wrinkled smiles and they cheerily waved back. (This was possibly one of my most favourite things about visiting Maros. Each time we passed locals rowing parallel to us, we were never met with a glare or a scowl – only bright, warm smiles. What I love about Indonesia is how friendly and open everyone is here; a remote, quiet place with a small community and almost no visitors – you would not blame the people of Maros to be wary, distant or untrusting of a group of bules clutching cameras and treading their territory. But every person we met in South Sulawesi was extremely welcoming. And although being a very tolerant country, it is one trait I wish my homeland of England would adopt more of.)
After passing other narrow boats, the odd riverside house and sailing through darker, cavernous rocks, Mr Harris tied up the boat to some decking at the side of the river. We again, lacking any minute form of nimbleness, hopped off the boat onto land. The little old lady walked ahead of Layla and I, and we curiously followed her.
Go Go Go!
Where: Maros, half an hour from Makassar in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
How: From Jakarta there are numerous daily flights to Makassar, with almost every airline.
From Makassar to Maros, we hired a driver. He stayed with us for a total of 5 days, charging 800,000 RP in total (approx. £40).
Hiring the boat cost us 150,000 RP (approx £7.50). It helps if you have someone Indonesian with you as they charge higher for foreigners. We luckily had Jack who arranged the boat, so we paid less. (Upon seeing myself, Layla and Tukimin however, Mr Harris confessed if he’d known we were ‘bules’ he would have charged higher.)
When: We travelled to Maros in mid-September. Dry season in Indonesia runs from May-October – the sun can be pretty unforgiving, so bring lots of sun block and water.