A market is held every 6 days just out of Rantepao and we naturally had to go check it out. This isn’t your standard market selling fruits, vegetables, eggs and fish. Whilst these items are sold here, along with traditional Torajan cakes and coffee, the big ticket items for this market are water buffalos and pigs – primarily purchased for the purpose of being sacrificed at an upcoming funeral.
There were a lot of buffalo here. A lot – like several hundred of them. Apparently buffalo are brought to this market from all other parts of Indonesia (like Sumatra and Java) as this is ‘the’ place to buy and sell buffalo. And they are worth a small fortune – the same as a car, in some cases. It’s interesting the factors that will influence the price: the size and shape of the horns, the colour and markings of the skin, and the colour of the eyes. The most expensive ones go for up to $20,000 NZD ($15,000 USD) depending on who you listen to – these being the white and pink skinned buffalo with blue eyes. (NOTE: I keep hearing and reading different prices, so I’m really not sure. Suffice to say that they are worth a small fortune for these people).
As I walked through the market, I tried not to think of what would happen if there was a sudden stampede. The horns on these things are lethal! However, there seemed little chance of that as these buffalo are (relatively) lovingly cared for and handled by their owners. I do find this fact interesting as animals (dogs, cats, chicken, pigs, etc) are generally not treated well here by our standards back home. They exist, but their treatment can be anywhere from indifference through to downright cruelty. But not the buffalo. They are taken out to the paddocks to graze each day, allowed to wallow in mud baths, and are then carefully washed and scrubbed in the rivers at the end of the day. As they stood around in the hot sun at the market, buckets of water are poured over them to help keep them cool. (Of course, allowing them to stand in shade would be better…). Having said that, I can’t quite reconcile how the buffalo are usually forced to fight until at least one comes to a bloody end.
We wandered through the buffalo, photographing them, all the while trying not to step in anything too mucky – very difficult in this situation! I made a point of chatting to a few of the sellers about their buffalos. One was so pleased when I gently held out my hand to the buffalo to let him sniff me before petting it (just like you would to a dog – I have no idea why I did this!?). The owner gave me a big smile and nodded appreciatively – very sweet. His buffalo was 6 years old, black and would probably only get $6-8,000 USD. I wished him luck.
Given the high cost of each buffalo, and the fact that dozens are sacrificed at the funerals (along with up to dozens of pigs), you can start to understand why a family will save and prepare for several years before holding the full funeral ceremony for a deceased family member. The higher the status of the family, the more buffalo and pigs are sacrificed. And the higher the funeral costs. Often some of the younger family members will go work overseas just to send money back to pay for these funerals. It’s incredible – their whole life ends up being spent working for the dead.
Further along from the buffalo were the pigs. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard a pig squeal but it’s awful. They sound like they are tortured. Seeing how the pigs are handled and transported, I guess they are being tortured. Either way, I didn’t linger long in this section – it’s too distressing.
I was happy to return to more traditional part of the market – where the fruit and vegetables are sold. At least I was happier there until Alan decided to tell me how carrots are tortured when their tops are cut off….
Stroll through a village
Later in the afternoon, we wandered across the river to explore a small village very near our accommodation.
Unintentionally, we were there in the late afternoon, just as the farmers start walking their buffalo down to the river to give them a bath.
Yep, buffalo are big business here.