If you've ever fancied yourself as a bit of an Indiana Jones, then a trek through the Bada Valley has to be one of the most amazing ways to indulge your fantasy. Central Sulawesi is bound to become more and more touristy and gradually the Bada Valley will open up to more visitors, but when I visited the area in hardly any Westerners bothered to make the effort, and it's still very much off the beaten track.
The Bada Valley is incredible. Not only is it home to an Indonesian community that seems to exist in a little world of its own, it's also dotted with the most bizarre megaliths (huge stone statues). They sit there in paddy fields while farmers grow rice around them; the megaliths of Bada are all but ignored by the locals.
Nobody knows how they got there, who built them or why they bothered, and to cap it all they're made out of a kind of stone that can't be found locally. The designs are haunting, and if anything they're reminiscent of the famous statues on Easter Island. Anyone coming here for evidence of aliens landing and creating images of themselves in rock is in for a treat; some of them really do look like spacemen.
The walking itself is challenging, if only because there don't seem to be any maps of the area; the route we took was based on a hand-copied map I made from the wall of our hotel, and it proved to be almost totally useless. We even ended up sleeping in the rainforest one night – an interesting experience if you've never tried it – and to cap it all I ended the walk with severe food poisoning. But who cares? I got to see the megaliths of Bada, and that's something I'll remember for the rest of my life, as will anyone who puts in the effort to track them down.
One of the attractions of the Bada Valley is the complete lack of tourist infrastructure and an accompanying lack of literature about the area. I couldn't find any maps or guidebooks covering the Bada Valley – at least, none that I could find for sale in Indonesia – so our plan was to catch a jeep to the village of Bomba at the eastern end of the valley, and to try to track down some information once we got there.
All we discovered in the end was a hand-drawn map painted on the wall of our losmen1, which I copied down as best I could. It looked pretty comprehensive and had most of the major megaliths marked on it, but it turned out to be completely useless. In particular the distances shown on the map were way out, as they put the trek from Bomba to Gimpu at about 75km; it was a lot less than this. We wandered around aimlessly, trying to match the map to reality, and it simply didn't work, so in the end we hired a couple of locals to take us to the vatu molindo, as they call the statues round here. Once out of the valley and guide-free once more, we found the path pretty easy to follow, as we simply stuck to the Sungai Lariang (the Lariang River) for the most part. Here's the route we ended up stumbling through, more by accident than by design:
|1||Bomba to Tuare|
|2||Tuare to Moa|
|3||Moa to Gimpu|
We didn't actually stay in village of Tuare itself, but in a makeshift rainforest camp about half-an-hour's walk past the village. I can't for the life of me remember why we decided to sleep on the rainforest floor rather than in a bed back in the village, but it certainly proved to be an interesting experience. Luckily we found a proper bed in Moa, the next village along, and from there it was a relatively easy walk out to Gimpu, the first village served by public transport.
1 A losmen is an Indonesian hotel.