A riot of luscious green paraded into vision. Acres upon acres of rice paddy fields blanketed the earth, and a congregation of gigantic, druidic karsts encompassed the land, as if protecting the little oasis and preserving its secrets.
This was my first experience of seeing karsts. If you haven’t seen them, or like me, lack any basic knowledge about them, I would like to describe them here for you. Regretfully, this is a time where I think my literary skills fail me to do these karsts justice, as they will result in sounding like any other mountain – of which they are resolutely not. The closest I can get to describing them for you is that they are towering, mammoth like mountains that stand alone. What I saw before me was not a range – but mountains standing proudly and independently, unattached from each other. This is a time, where photography can speak more for me than my words can.
We followed the tiny old woman, treading the narrow paths in between the rice paddy fields. Passing a sun-sparkled pond occupied by a gaggle of merry ducks, there stood a peculiar sight; a cotton tree. Again, at the risk of revealing how unknowledgeable I truly am, I had heard of cotton plants but it had never occured to me that it would also grow on trees. It looked to me as if it were an enchanted tree from a fairy tale, tall and slender with delicate branches and large buds of wrapped, fluffy white cotton sprouting from its stems, like candyfloss beehives. I had never seen anything like it.
Beyond the tree sat a perfectly idyllic, pastoral scene; a herd of plump happy cows grazed before a solitary wooden, cosy Indonesian house. Layla marched ahead, as Jack, Tukimin and I meandered through the paddy fields.
After saying hello to a few curious cows, we looked to find Layla standing upstairs on the balcony of the house, accompanied by a few of the old lady’s family members that resided there. Already part of the family, she waved chirpily and beckoned us to come join her.
We took off our shoes and carefully stepped up the exterior wooden staircase up to the second level of the house. Floorboards slightly creaking and the faces of the Indonesian family beaming, the place exuded hospitality. We weren’t entirely sure whether we were meant to follow the little old lady into her house, but now that we had, the family were more than happy to welcome us. Four strange foreigners that they had never met before or had had no prior alert about – and spoke close to zero of their dialect, had just come tumbling into their home to sit on their balcony. The warmth that Indonesian people possess continues to and will probably always astound me.
We sat on the balcony, Jack conversing with the family in Indonesian as myself, Layla and Tukimin found ourselves being the focus of intrigue for the small, shy children that lived in the home. Seeing the view we had just walked through from the balcony of the house was breath-taking, and slightly overwhelming. The colossal karst guardians stood proudly and looked down at the house protectively, as the sea of grassy green surrounded us. They get to wake up to this everyday, I thought, enviously.
*Tune in next time for more beautiufl karst scenery, and ancient sea caves…
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.
Stay: Only twenty minutes away from Makassar and twenty minutes away from Rammang Rammang, are streets upon streets of hotels to stay in. They are all very close so you can shop around and compare prices. We stayed in a room and paid 100,000 RP (£5) each.