Aug 18, 2011

A Tour of Duty in North Sulawesi

5:54 PM

Waruga, antique stone graves in Sawangan, Minahasa
A Tour of Duty in North Sulawesi

When Alfred Russel Wallace, that paragon of English endeavour and observation, toured though this region in the 1850s, he noted that "the little town of Menado [sic] is one of the prettiest in the East...To the west and south the country is mountainous, with groups of fine volcanic peaks 6,000 or 7,000 feet high, forming grand and picturesque backgrounds to the landscape."

Those fine volcanic peaks that he talks of are the Minahasa highlands. North Sulawesi is the only part of this strangely sprawling island that has volcanoes, and they are magnificent smokey beasts to behold. Nestled as it between two active volcanoes (one of which, Lokon, is given to erupting every few years, the last one was in May, 2001, showering Manado and surrounding areas with ash) it’s little surprise that the name of the village means “people who pray”. Even the most casual observer will notice that North Sulawesi has a proliferation of churches, many of them seemingly stuck at various stages of construction. Given their precarious situation though it’s no surprise that the people of Tomohon were given to praying more than most.

For energetic travellers a trek to the top of either of Tomohon’s two adjacent peaks, Lokon or Mahawu, will both challenge and reward you with spectacular views. On a clear morning from the rim of Mahawu’s steaming crater we got a bird’s eye view of the whole region right down to the city of Manado and Bunaken island to the north and as far as Bitung and Mt Duasaudara to the east.

The fertile soils of the Minahasa highlands have made them some of the most productive for agriculture, and it seems everywhere you look up here are neat rows of cabbages, carrots, spring onions and other vegetables that eventually find their way to the Tomohon market, and later onto dining tables around the region.

Lake Linow in Minahasa, North Sulawesi Being volcanic highlands you might also expect to see some highland lakes, and you won’t be disappointed. Lake Tondano is the largest and most well known, with its colourful restaurants built on stilts over the water for a fresh seafood lunch. Then there’s the remarkable Lake Linow fed by a steaming volcanic spring, on a hot day it is famed for its colour changes from deep blue to turquoise, green and sulfur yellow. Also nearby is Kali waterfall. Just a short drive from Tomohon, from the carpark it’s a moderately energetic walk along a narrow path which winds through some luxuriant rainforest. The waterfall itself has a charming fairy tale quality to it with an arched bridge having been put in place and the rock walls around are covered with beard moss blowing in the breeze and spray from the powerful falls. Best to take a raincoat and something cover your camera.

Around two hours drive from Tomohon is one of the most remarkable cultural sites of all North Sulawesi. In the village of Sawangan in the Airmadidi district you will find a collection of stone sarcophagi. Varying in age, the oldest reportedly dates back as far as 900AD. The Waruga as they are called consist two distinct parts; the hollowed out square or rectangular base, and a rooflike lid into which some have carved scenes depicting the life, and sometimes death of the occupant. According to the wizened old crone who tends the grounds here, the oldest of the sarcophagi have no decorations. It was only a relatively recent practice, from 1700s on, to add the low relief carvings. One scene clearly shows a woman giving birth and suggests that she must have died during labour. Surrounded by gnarled frangipani trees this is an eery place, especially when you consider that the dead were not buried underground but merely placed, inside the vessel in a fetal position squatting atop a china plate. An outbreak of cholera and tuberculosis in the early 1800s meant that the Dutch colonial government outlawed the practice, and many of the waruga from around the region were gathered up and relocated to Sawangan. There are now 144 of them gathered together here, and a small museum was added which displays some ceramics, and huge copper jewellery (bracelets and necklaces) which were used to adorn the otherwise naked bodies.
 Continue Reading: Bolaang Mongondow

Mt. Mahawu Volcano
Mt. Mahawu Crater
(Photo: Corine Frischknecht)

Mt. Mahawu in a wheelchair
Well, if you want a challenge, try Mt. Mahawu (1311 meters) in a wheelchair. Several months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Wolfgang. At the time we were somewhat concerned that maybe the resort did not have all the correct facilities for someone that is handicapped. Our fears were unwarranted because Wolfgang may have been in a wheelchair but the last thing you would call him is handicapped.

Mt. Mahawu in a wheelchair

Not only did Wolfgang dive during his entire stay but he also requested a tour to Mt. Mahawu. A team of hotel employees willingly agreed and away they went to tackle this mountain. The rest is history as documented by the photos.
Wolfgang sent us the photos (upon our request), in order that we might challenge anyone who has the time and the courage (in some cases) to visit our other attractive wonders of North Sulawesi.

Jeremy H Barnes

"What's Happening?"
Manado Safari Tours Newsletter

Mt. Mahawu in a wheelchair
Churches are a common site in mostly-Christian North Sulawesi
Churches are a common sight in predominantly Christian Minahasa.

The Vihara Buddhayana Complex in Tomohon

Vihara Buddhayana complex, Tomohon

The Vihara Buddhayana complex and Buddhist temple in Desa Kakaskasen III/Tomohon is an interesting phenomena, taking into account that the main houses of worship are churches. The dominant red buildings of Vihara attract visitors from the main street. A friendly guard from the Vihara complex will accompany visitors through each building. Climbing to the top of the eight-floor pagoda is worth your time. From there you have a wonderful view of Desa Kakaskasen and Mt. Lokon from a distance. It is a breath-taking panorama.
There are four eight-sided buildings and one cave-modeled building in the complex and each has its own purpose.

Source: Jakarta Post, 1999

Kali Waterfall
Kali Waterfall Got four hours to kill? If the answer is yes, then get in a taxi or microlet and take a trip to Kali Waterfall, a short drive from Manado, part way up the road on the way to Tomohon. Suggestion – wear sneakers or hiking boots as can be slippery. Pass Gran Puri Hotel and you will make a left hand turn after about ten minutes later, as you begin to wind up the hill towards the highlands. Once making this turn, the road is actually pretty good all the way up to the parking lot. (I hate to use the word "parking lot", it should be "the house where there is room to park a car or two"!). This short ride is about 10 to 15 minutes. Get out of you vehicle – smell the cool air, no exhaust and everyone willing to lend a hand, if you need it. The walk down to the waterfall begins. First stop is the scenic overlook of Manado, where there is a private residence at this point and sometimes you may get pisang goreng (fried bananas) for a nominal fee, but worth it, with the sambal (chilli). Do this on the way back! After this brief Fuji Moment take your next right and follow it down approximately 200 stairs and some flat area as well, and voila you arrive at the base of the falls. Be ready for lots of wind blown spray as the force of the water is pretty intense, causing the mist to pretty much cover everything and everyone. There is a nice bridge that spans the river where you can get some great shots of the waterfall!

Jeremy H Barnes

Source: "What's Happening?" - Manado Safari Tours Newsletter

Vegetable fields near Rurukan
Vegetable fields near Rurukan, along
the way up to Mahawu crater

Flowers for sale in Tomohon
Flowers on sale in Tomohon

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