We stop here, said the guide.
On both sides of the road there were only rice paddies, no roads, no paths. From a solitary house in the distance came loud music. They were preparing for a wedding, the guide said. We headed straight into the rice paddies, the goal being some very old graffiti: the guide mumbled something about 5,000 years (but I might have got it wrong (he was very soft-spoken) or he might have messed up the numbers in English); two other tourists that we met (Danish birdwatchers) said that it wasn’t every day that you saw cave paintings 95,000 years old. It appears that the truth lies somewhere in between: the cave paintings go back some 40,000 years, which is impressive enough.
The method used had been to spray blood through bamboo tubes towards a hand held against the wall.
The walk took us through a lush landscape with spectacular karst formations jutting out of the rice fields.
Lunch was served on a terrace, but since there are no restaurants in the area, we were received in a family home.
The lunch was digested during a short trip, but what a beautiful trip!, through calm river waters in a Very Small canoe (the vessel on the right in the right-hand photo here below). I thought I was fairly agile (especially given my age), but climbing out from the bottom of said canoe, with a camera around my neck and a backpack, without tipping the canoe over, and hauling myself high up onto the little platform that served as boat stop/waiting room proved to be a true challenge. I made it.
This was just another day in southern Sulawesi.
The peaceful village of Lakkang is just a stone’s throw from Makassar. I was to have a cooking class there in a family home. To get there you take a little ferry which departs not far from the university campus.
The guide had accompanied me to the fish market and the general market in the morning to make sure we had all the necessary ingredients. We had purchased tiny fish, a bigger fish, some corn on the cob, lots of chilli and small shallots, some kind of spring onion, a large number of bananas, just to mention a few ingredients. The fish was the first thing we bought in the morning, and I was a little concerned: would it cope in a warm plastic bag while we took a ride on a becak (three-wheeled cart, motordriven in this case) to the general market, strolled around the market under the scorching sun, took a rather long ride in a very crowded bus and rode on the ferry? Apparently it did, I suppose because it was really fresh. We all arrived safe and sound at our destination.
My host and teacher looked at me with some apprehension, let me harass her with my camera and quickly understood I wouldn’t be of much help in the kitchen. She seemed to use a magic wand to get things done while I was desperately trying to keep up with my photos and note-taking.
What eventually appeared on the lunch table was absolutely delicious, in particular the corn, which had turned into very tasty fritters. A truly memorable experience.
It wasn’t until after lunch that I discovered that a young man, one of the sons in the house, had been asleep while the rather noisy cooking had taken place and while the television was on at top volume a few inches from his head. Some people do have the gift of being able to relax.
What should I order for dinner? I was in a simple eatery in Makassar, Sulawesi, called Rumah Makan Nelayan, which means “the fisherman’s eatery”. The menu had photos but it was very unclear what was what, and my knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia, the common language for the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, is limited to counting to five, saying “good morning”, “how are you”, “thank you” and “grilled banana”. Not of much help in a seafood restaurant.
The solution was to point vaguely to one of the photos and mumbling “barbecue”. All seafood is kept in an icebox on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, to the right of the entrance, and the barbecuing takes place to the left. The grilled fish (I have no idea what kind it was) that soon appeared in front of me was grilled to perfection, and it was accompanied by an array of little bowls with spicy sauces and condiments. On the whole a culinary experience out of the ordinary.
Before dinner I had done what the locals do: taken a walk along the seaside to see the sunset. This was all very romantic and beautiful until I spotted something I wish I hadn’t spotted: several young men walking around with huge pythons around their necks. I immediately fled the field, suspicious as I was that they might have enjoyed scaring the life out of a tourist (i.e. me).