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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Indonesia: Bada Valley

Peter leaning against a jeep
Peter with the jeep that rattled us along the dirt roads into the Bada Valley

By the following afternoon, Peter and I had arrived in Tentena, a small village in Central Sulawesi that took a bus journey from hell to reach, not just because of the normal problems of awful music and cramped seats, but also because the roads in Sulawesi are shocking. We settled in for a relaxing evening in a good but pricey losmen, and made our plans for the morrow. Our mission: to discover the megaliths of the Bada Valley.

The Bada Valley
The beauty of the Bada Valley

The Megaliths of Bada

Mark crossing the Sungai Leriang
Crossing the Sungai Leriang at Bomba

Nobody really knows how old the Bada megaliths are, or who made them, or even why they're there. They probably date from the first millennium AD, but this figure is fairly debatable, depending on which scientist you consult. The locals don't have a clue – 'They've always been here,' is the most common response if you ask someone where the statues came from – and all this adds to a wonderful sense of mystery. Even more interestingly, all the objects in the area are made from a type of grey stone of which there are no deposits in the near vicinity, so work that one out; these megaliths are huge, heavy, and in the middle of nowhere, a long way from where they should be.

A hand-copied map
Our somewhat primitive map
Our guides and Kalamba
Our guides showing us the stone cisterns known as Kalamba

We could have seen more, but the rest of the walk beckoned, and after this many megaliths, we'd seen plenty. To be honest, it was a thrill just to find them, especially under our own steam.

Leaving the Valley

The rice paddies of Bada
The rice paddies of Bada

The second day of our walk was comparatively uneventful. The path cut through tropical forest, following the huge Lariang River north towards the town of Moa. At 225km long, the Lariang is Sulawesi's longest river and it's an impressively powerful beast, strewn with rocks and the detritus of rainforest. The walking was easy enough, which was lucky as our map didn't stretch beyond the valley of the megaliths, and soon after lunch we arrived in the small riverside village of Moa.

Mark washing in a river
Washing off the rainforest

Bada Belly

A local Bada man
A local Bada man

I thought it was all over, but it was not to be. A couple of hours after retiring at the ridiculously early hour of 6pm, I was back up again, rushing to the toilet for my first bout of Indonesian food poisoning. I threw up every couple of hours until about 6am, and I won't debase this travelogue by talking about my other orifices. There was no way I was going anywhere when Friday finally arrived; not only was I suffering from the intestinal equivalent of the levee breaking, but I had the associated total lack of energy and interest. I wasn't going anywhere.

Crossing a river
There are lots of rivers in Bada
A meal of prawns and rice in a banana leaf
My last meal before getting ill - I have a sneaking suspicion it was the prawns