The man who seemed to be the head of the household asked us if we would like to see some nearby caves.
Caves? Of course!
We gathered our energy once again and prepared for another traipse through the blistering sunshine. We followed him along the grassy, cow patted paths that were raised in between the rice fields until we met a verdant, towering forest. Our feet trod more earth than grass now, countless twigs and spikey branches littering the path. Tall and as equally spikey trees surrounded us, with the odd Tarzan vine drooping low from the high branches. I cautiously thought; if I was a snake or a giant Harry Potter styleeee mega-spider, this would be the perfect place for me. After thinking this, my eyes now full of paranoia became fixed upon the earth and I opted for a light tiptoe over my prior heavy plodding.
Not too long after, we were confronted with the gigantic, craggy rock face of a humungous karst, staring at us as if we had disturbed its slumber. It was so humungous, that standing so incredibly inferiorly at the feet of it, we couldn’t tell how high it was – never mind see the sky over it. After a few moments of us gazing upon it, the staring rock face decided it couldn’t be bothered to waste the effort in dealing with such puny creatures and would reluctantly let us play and frolic upon it. We excitedly ferreted around it, climbing upon rocks and declaring ourselves kings of the castle. Deep, dark cavities hid inconspicuously throughout the rock face, of which our guide informed us that hundreds of years ago the native people here used as homes. We peered into the abyssal caves, trying to imagine living there in the darkness. True cavemen.
Since our trip to Pantai Bira (which I will address in a later blog post) myself and Layla had become expert seashell spotters. Whilst carefully walking around the caves, Layla made an interesting discovery; there were shells on the floor. In a forest. Next to some caves. We looked closer – there were loads of them. How did they end up here, hundreds of miles from the sea? Our wise old guide muttered a few words of Indonesian to Jack.
‘Thousands of years ago, this whole place used to be underwater,’ Jack explained.
These titanic mountains and karsts used to be underwater? This whole place was underwater? I tried to picture this unfathomable image in my mind, rather unsuccessfully. We truly were in a land before time.
Enlightened and sufficiently soothed by the cool shade, we after a while decided to head back to the river. Walking back through the paddy fields and taking a few last photographs before leaving, I stood and looked at the prehistoric-like land around me. Seriously, no one knows about this place? I repeated this out loud to Jack.
‘I guess it’s just so remote out here,’ he said. ‘And it’s so tricky to get to this part, people don’t know it exists.’
Part of me liked this fact, that it was so unknown. I thought about the family in the house and how droves of tourists coming to see the karsts would spoil their idyllic lifestyle. The surrounding areas of Maros were so heavily mined as well, it was encouraging to see that these ancient rocks hadn’t been affected by it all. Organic and natural, it had been left completely untouched – and, fingers crossed, will hopefully remain this way.
*Tune in next time, for some random rock gardens and 30,000 year old caveman paintings…
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. If traveling during the rainy season, wear sturdy footwear, as the rice fields can become a muddy, slushy (and very cow patted) affair!