What comes to mind when you think about Indonesia? Most likely beaches, surfing, diving, cocktails and so on? That’s pretty much what I though before I visited Sulawesi in autumn of 2016.
I was looking for some place “new” to go kayaking, and somehow became interested in taking a closer look at Indonesia. On the website of the German foreign office, I was looking over the travel advisories and read something about religious revolts in the region around Poso in Central Sulawesi a couple years ago. Sulawesi? Never heard of it before, so I decided to take a closer look at the Island.
High mountains up to almost 3,500m, a lot of rain in the rainy season and the satellite images showed a bunch of rivers which look runnable. The idea was born, so we put together a team of five and started to use online search engines to gather some information to our questions. Has anyone been there so far? If so, how is the whitewater? Is it worth going? What’s the best time of year for paddling? Soon we made a contact with Tim from the UK, who had been there two years ago and explored many cool rivers. We were very thankful to get his travel notes which we used as a base for our plans.
The time ran faster than we thought and we found ourselves fully loaded on the 22nd of October at the Munich Airport, boarding our plane via Doha and Jakarta to Makassar on the very south peninsular of the Island of Sulawesi. Everything worked out perfectly and the two drivers we arranged in advance picked us up at the airport to start our long drive north into the mountains of Sulawesi to Rantepao, in the middle of the region of Tana Toraja. This was to be our home base for the next three weeks. From here you can reach most of the rivers we planned to paddle within one day.
On our fist two rivers, the lower Mai’ting and the Sa’dan, we were a bit surprised about the quality of whitewater we found here. We ran perfectly shaped class 4 big water with 35°C air temperature and around 20°C water temperature. This had only one disadvantage; It gets dark at 6 pm but it is still very warm outside, so on a multiday trip you have to wait for a couple hours in the darkness before slipping in your bivi bag, which protects you from rain and insects.
While running a couple of already known rivers in the area of Tana Toraja, we started to look for something new. A few days later we found a pretty cool river which to our knowledge had not yet been paddled, and after some scouting from the