PALOPO, Sulawesi (Gateway for Tana Toraja)
Palopo is a municipality in the South Sulawesi Province of Indonesia, with a population of approximately 150,000. The city has an ancient history dating back to its founding in the early 1600s. The port has always had a trade link to the highlands of Sulawesi known as Tana Toraja, and a physical link through a twisting mountain pass making it a perfect gateway to Toraja. The land of Toraja is an ancient and mysterious place where residents adorn their homes with the horns of water buffalo killed in funeral ceremonies and ornate carvings painted in bold reds and black. In many ways the Tana Toraja customs of honoring the dead dictate their ways of life. Human remains rest in stone chambers in the hillsides and burial caves high in the cliffs. Elaborate funeral ceremonies which can take months or even years to prepare can go on for days and can draw hundreds of people in a festival-like atmosphere.