Bagging It!

Gunung Ambeso is sometimes climbed by local students from the southern part of the Toraja region. There are minor roads quite high up the side of the mountain so it could probably be done as a dayhike.

The Bakosurtanal map lists this peak as ‘Buntu Ambeso’ with an elevation of 1,949m. The peak just over 1 kilometre to the west is Buntu Sangbuah (1,866m) and the peak around 2 kilometres to the south-west is Buntu Kuku (1,910m).

Gunung Sesean (2,160m)

The most popular short trek in the Toraja region is Gunung or Buntu Sesean (2,160m). This ridge is located in Toraja Utara (North Toraja) just a few kilometres north of the town of Rantepao.

The hike can easily be accomplished in half a day as the starting point is at an elevation of around 1,400m, not far from the very interesting megalithic site called Bori Kalimbuang. The spot that most visit is actually not the highest point of the ridge but simply a good viewpoint below 2,000m.

The ridge itself has two tops, the higher southern peak at 2,160m and a northern top at 2,142m around 1.5 kilometres further north beyond a col at 2,055m according to the Bakosurtanal map. It is not know if either of these are visited regularly.

Local Accommodation


  • Getting there: Makale is the nearest town on the main road between Enrekang and Rantepao and the new Toraja airport with daily flights from Makassar is just a few kilometres east of Makale.
  • Permits: Unknown
  • Water sources: Unknown
  • Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.

Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):



2 thoughts on “Ambeso

  1. Well, yet another failure to get to this mountain in South Toraja!

    After what has been an absolutely horrible year for almost everyone, a Sulawesi trip over the Xmas and New Year period was planned, many months ahead, with some optimism that it would be possible and that the corona situation would be a little more in control by the end of the year.

    Within just a week or two of booking Lion cancelled the flight and didn’t give us any alternatives so I had to phone and get us moved to the Batik air flights instead! I had been waiting since August to do anything longer than a weekend trip, entirely because of my employer, a school, and despite working from home. No annual leave as a teacher (a serious downside of the profession) and due to the term dates nothing possible beyond a weekend trip between late August and…. December 24th, the first day of the end of year holidays, and hopelessly close to Christmas Day to the point that all staff are going to have trouble flying internationally or domestically, quite aside from the added issue of coronavirus.

    Indonesian authorities made matters much worse by changing the domestic travel rules for the holiday period at the very last minute, and then failing to communicate them effectively. Indeed, they barely communicated them at all, perhaps preferring to create inconvenience for hundreds of thousands of people who quite rightly as human beings might want to visit relatives after months of enduring a deeply non-pleasurable existence. They appear to want to reduce corona transmission by making it hard to travel domestically with the newly-required health documents, despite having cancelled airport tax to encourage the purchase of tickets (!), but when you end up with masses of people queuing up to get the test done, or waiting hours in an environment in which social distancing is impossible, just to check in (seemingly not possible online anymore) then the health benefit becomes rather unclear.

    On Dec 15th, word trickled out that rapid antibody tests were no longer sufficient, and that even to go to Bandung by bus or train you would, from Dec 18th need a rapid antigen, which very few had even heard of. Even Kereta Api, the train company, could not give any clear information, until after being bombarded with thousands of tweets and cancellations they eventually said they were just sticking to the old rules for the time being, until they received sufficient updated guidelines from the relevant authorities. Hardly confidence-inspiring. Like most people, I would prefer to have travelled outside of the busy season, but like for most people my job would simply not allow such flexibility.

    Fast forward to Dec 22, and Kereta Api were now offering this quick antigen swab test at many stations (a queue of 1000 at Gambir apparently!) but the validity for travel in Java or out of and back into was just 3 days! Previously it was 14, which made a decent trip and return journey possible. By this time, my workplace had demanded that everyone do a PCR test in school on the last day of term – Dec 23rd, the same day we booked independently to get an antigen swab for our trip. The PCR result would not be available until Sat Dec 26th – far too late to be of much use to staff travelling over the holidays! So I ended up doing the mandatory workplace PCR and then a rapid antigen the same morning. 2 nasal swabs for one day is quite enough.

    We headed off to the airport at 10pm on the 23rd, and despite the roads being fairly normal, the queues at the airport were horrendous, even approaching midnight, and barely moving. No faster check-in line for Batik ‘tanpa bagasi / without baggage’ so we just stood there waiting, in an environment where social distancing is impossible. Apparently a group of Papuans ahead of us had been ordered to write a letter of apology to the airport after getting angry because of the new travel rules which were so poorly communicated to those travelling. This was causing an extra delay. Much could be said about this incident.

    Our flight, due to take off at 0130, was listed on the information screen as departing at 0000. Quite a worry. These Soekarno Hatta information screens ought really to be called misinformation screens, given how inaccurate the information actually is. Whoever is in charge of this is doing a very bad job of it, but whoever you complain to just blames someone else. Very few members of staff to ask, aside from waiting another hour or so to actually get to the front of the queue. I asked a security guy but was just told to queue up and ask Batik. Finally I found a Batik representative. He checked and said it was indeed 0130 and that the screen was ‘error’. Yes, like on most days then. Why do you people not fix the damn information? Occasionally check-in staff shout out for certain flights (last call) but even for Indonesians it is almost impossible to hear what they are shouting if you are near the back of the queue.

    We had been checking for the latest information online but even those living in Sulawesi in the queue could not tell us how many days the test was valid for out there, something essential to know as we were planning on multiple destinations. It was already likely that we would need a second antigen test to be allowed back in to Java (!) but beyond that, for travel within Sulawesi it was not clear. Old rules of 14 days (from the antibody test era which finished about 7 days ago) were apparently still being implemented, but with rocketing covid rates in Makassar and Toraja, tourist sites were being closed, no celebrations were to be permitted (as in most countries worldwide) and Lampung province over in Sumatra had seemingly just implemented the 3-day only validity rule, same as all of Java (big difference from 14 days!) Perhaps Makassar would be next.

    At the best of times travel can be unpleasant and stressful, but in Indonesia during corona as a foreigner, and with the almost traditional lack of clear and accurate information it is highly unpalatable. So we decided to come home instead and just have a quiet holiday period at home, rather than be stressed that we would get stranded in Makassar with anywhere interesting to visit closed to visitors or have to spend however much more on extra tests, new flight tickets and the like.

    As an Englishman, I cannot complain as much as usual this week, as our government has shown themselves to be utterly inept with a prime minister who personally I would not trust to do a paper round, let alone run the country. The ‘macet’ with the lorries in Kent this week is worse than the macet in Indonesia!

    Well, we at least made it as far as the airport! We did buy a very nice mango coconut thai tea drink before getting a taxi back home again! And at least our fridge is clean! But…. what a rubbish end to a rubbish year.

    So, once again Ambeso is postponed. Let’s hope there is an end to this covid-era soon instead of the ongoing sacrificing of everyone’s lives and sanity, and that we can begin to enjoy the world of travel once again.

  2. After the trouble with guides for Gandangdewata I still hoped to follow the second part of the planned itinerary from West Sulawesi to Tanah Toraja to hike Gunung Ambeso / Ambesu and then Buntu Puang. I had found a nice young chap called Ridwan (0823 4809 8714), a member of ART – Anak Rimba Toraja, a local hiking club. He told me it takes about 4 hours to hike to the top and the trailhead is 90 minutes by motorbike from the nearest town of Makale. He was happy to help and I was looking forward to it.

    I had booked accommodation in Makale, but things didn’t go to plan. After my diversion to Samarinda, Derawan and Berau, I had planned to fly from Balikpapan to Mamuju (same 6am Wings Air flight as I had been due to fly on the previous week but had cancelled after the Gandangdewata guides decided to cancel!) Plan was one night at a shariah hotel, the closest accommodation to Balikpapan airport so I could walk there easily at 5am for the flight. This was the same hotel I had booked previous, non-refundable, but cheap. Anyway, I didn’t end up staying a second time (!) so the owner must think I’m a complete idiot.

    Why didn’t I stay? Well, I had been searching for info on the bus timetable from Mamuju to Toraja, so I could explore Mamuju and West Sulawesi (my final province to visit) before heading to Toraja. It was immensely difficult, as was finding any accommodation in Mamuju other than D’Maleo (the most expensive one) that actually responded to Facebook or WhatsApp messages or provided proper contact details. Pretty hopeless. None except D’Maleo on Traveloka.

    One of Ridwan’s friends, Andi in Mamuju, offered to help with transport information, and I asked him about Mamuju to Makale a good 2 weeks prior to the day of travel. He was keen for me to use a car and driver, presumably as he would make some profit from this, but I said I was alone and wanted bus or travel (shared car) only. Well, he didn’t help much but sounded vaguely confident there would be a bus. Finally the day before I was due to fly to Mamuju he sent me a message saying there is no transport to Toraja on 29th and I would have to go on 30th. Obviously no good as 30th was the day of the hike after which I had accommodation booked and paid for in Rantepao.

    Eventually he got in touch with a travel company about a seat in a shared car for 28th (150,000 per person – fine) as I had asked for 2 weeks ago. They were full for the next couple of days. I asked him why he hadn’t given me their number when I asked him originally over 2 weeks ago. No proper answer. So, his help turned out to be the opposite of help. The alternative was car and driver which would be a ridiculous 1.7jt. Cheaper to fly to Makassar and then to Palopo and back down a little.

    Whoever is responsible for tourism in West Sulawesi deserves some criticism too. There is no website and almost no information whatsoever, even for someone who speaks Indonesian and spends several hours asking around! If they want people to visit, they will need to do a hell of a lot more than this to make it easier. You can book bus tickets from Makassar to Toraja online quite easily. Going there from Mamuju is less popular, but if there was even a little initiative it could be a great route to use. At present, don’t bother – it’s easier to ignore West Sulawesi and simply use the normal Makassar to Toraja route.

    I decided 1.7jt was ridiculous to have to pay to get to Toraja from Mamuju and was so sick of all the problems with Sulawesi (including lack of info for the final mountain Buntu Puang) that I decided to fly back to Jakarta from Balikpapan and get some partial refunds on whatever tickets I could. Andi said ‘Okay Mr Daniel’, perhaps relieved that he would not have to pretend to assist me any longer. When you spend half your holidays just trying to get basic info like bus timetables and transport options and are expected to pay millions of rupiah as a solo traveller then the hassle far outweighs any enjoyment. A real shame that I didn’t get to hike Ambeso / Ambesu with Ridwan….

    Hopefully next time but via Makassar or Palopo. Again, best avoid Christian holidays around Toraja as people may be too busy to help – annoying as most tourists have to use public holidays for their trips and the Xmas one is one of the key breaks each year.

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