Bagging It!

According to a botanist who hiked Pompangeo in 2013, it is definitely baggable and is even a rather ‘dull’ hike, relatively speaking. The road up into the mountains from the coast is full of pot holes, so walking in or using a motorbike is recommended. It is only 4km or so from the end of the road to the peak (in a straight line). We hope to visit Pompangeo in the next few years. If visiting, do be sure to check the security situation first.


    • Getting there: The closest airport is Poso which has a daily flight to/from Makassar.
    • Accommodation: Poso is the nearest town, but most people are likely to prefer Tentena.
    • Permits: Unknown.
    • Water sources: Unknown.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): luwuk


1 thought on “Pompangeo”

  1. Some good views of this massive, plateau range from the Wings Air flight from Palu to Ampana. There is very little information available online, but Google Maps suggests there is a mountain road to within 4km (straight line) of the peak. This mountain road appears to reach an elevation of well over 2,000m. It therefore looks like an easy one, what with there also being an airport at Poso (perhaps only 90 minutes from the potential trailhead).

    Alas, this particular region of Central Sulawesi still needs to be treated with caution. Although much quieter now, the horrific civil unrest that began in Poso nearly two decades ago could potentially bubble up to the surface again. More worryingly is the continued existence of an admittedly small number of Islamic extremists who continue to move around the forests surrounding Poso. They are terrorizing the locals, yet to continue to survive they must be being supported in terms of food by a small number of sympathisers. The cycling tour of Central Sulawesi was a step in the right direction last year, and my recent trip went smoothly (had I not know of the background or done any research online I would have been blissfully unaware other than seeing rather more military personnel at Poso airport than you might normally expect).

    Below is a very rough description of my recent time in the Lake Poso / Tentena area – one of Indonesia’s most fascinating by far.

    After I reached Ampana from the Togean islands, my plan was to try to get to Tentena (majority Christian town on the north banks of Lake Poso, 60km inland from troubled Poso town itself) in time for New Year. For who knows how difficult it might be to find a driver or transport on January 1st, meaning the chance of a lost day or two waiting. Nobody else on the ferry was heading in the Poso or Tentena direction, and a car with driver from Ampana was going to cost Rp800,000 (rather high when you’re travelling alone) so at Ampana terminal I got into a shared minivan with four others headed for Poso. Price: Rp100,000 per person.

    Admittedly I was feeling a bit uneasy about heading to the town of sectarian violence and ISIS-affiliated militias, but the folk in the minivan were very friendly and the coastal scenery stunning. After about 3 hours or so, we were travelling through distinctly Christian villages with white picket fences, Merry Xmas signs, and people dressed smartly and walking to church. It was surreal. It then started raining incredibly heavily. The minivan had no windscreen wipers (!) but somehow the driver managed to navigate the windy, treacherous road in the dark and we rolled in to Poso terminal at around 8pm (4 hours from Ampana). I told the driver I would ask at the terminal if there were any more buses up to Tentena that night, and if not would just stay in Poso town for the night.

    Poso terminal was deserted and looked rather derelict, except for 4 friendly but weary-looking men, two of whom appeared rather drunk. Anyway, they said there were indeed buses up to Tentena, so I leapt out and started chatting with them. After the usual introductory questions I asked when the bus would be arriving. The reply came that there were no more buses to Tentena that night! I then pointed out that I had got out of the van here because they had told me there were indeed buses to Tentena! Next they say, well ‘mungkin’ (maybe) there will be a night bus from Palu but it is not certain as it is New Year’s Eve!

    Having woken up on Una-una, I was utterly exhausted! So, New Year in a hotel in Indonesia’s conflict town it might have to be after all. I asked about an ojek. They said, yes there are ojeks, but it would be Rp200,000.

    What have I walked into here, I thought? Rp200,000 for a 4km ride in Poso town centre. Perhaps they know I am left with few options on New Year’s Eve and am standing around in a deserted bus terminal on the outskirts of a notorious town. I ask for the price again and they confirm Rp200,000. Because it’s New Year’s Eve and it’s raining and dark and……. it’s a long way.

    It then suddenly dawns on me that they are talking about giving me an ojek all the way 60km up to Tentena! Suddenly I smile once again and almost feel like Rp200,000 is too low a price for that! Anyway, I agree, so Martin Luther puts on his jacket, I shake hands with the others wishing them all the best for 2018, and we shoot off past the eerie ‘Welcome to Poso’ monument with silver letters on black background, and into the hills. Village after village of white picket fences, churches (the larger ones guarded by military personnel), hymns and smartly-dressed local folk. It is most peculiar. 1950s America in Central Sulawesi on the last day of 2017.

    As we near Tentena I note that folk are smiling a bit more, as opposed to the much more cautious, world-weary expressions near Poso. It’s amazing what a difference of 90 minutes and 60 kilometres makes. Martin Luther drops me off at the lovely hill-side Tropicana Hotel and I check in. Is there any beer available? It’s 9.30pm. Two and a half hours to go! The nice young hotel worker Bang Oba says there is no beer in but he will go out immediately and get me some! Yes! I unpack my bags, charge my power bank, look out over the lake and listen to ‘Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru’ (melody the same as ‘We wish you a merry xmas and a happy new year’) booming out from the loudspeakers of the nearest church! It’s great to be in Tentena and I head out and chat and drink with random locals on the main street as fireworks are set off.

    The next day is a day off. January 2nd is a daytrip with Bang Oba to the fascinating Lembah Bada (‘Bada Valley’) about 2 hours up into the hills from Tentena. From the hills above Tentena, where there are numerous hornbills, you can see the flat top of Pompangeo in the distance to the east, though very few locals have heard of it. Anyway, the statues are what I came to Tentena for. Megalithic statues at least 600 years old, and possibly much older. Indonesia’s Easter Island. The tallest looks almost 4 metres tall or so and is the only one where we meet other tourists (locals). The landscape is beautiful…. upland golden rice paddies, with eagles soaring in the surrounding forests. Not all the stone carvings are vertical, some are lying down, with faces at one end, eyes peering up at you from the middle of the rice fields. There are also stone jars, exactly like the ones in Laos at the ‘Plain of Jars’ near Phonsavan. Did the same civilization create both, or how are they linked? Did they simply come up with the same idea independently? One statue in a village has no head, and nearby is a petal or fish shaped pattern carved into a rock – of a similar age or much more recent? There have not been many studies done on this area yet….

    This is a fantastic region – and the Bada day out was one of my most memorable from 6 years of living in Indonesia. There are other valleys further west including the Napu Valley with more megaliths. I hope to get back again one day.

    The following day we went for a spin down near the shores of Danau Poso, where eels reaching 2 metres in length live (and are delicious according to locals!) There are a few Balinese transmigrant villages down on the western shore – lovely Balinese architecture… another element thrown into the dazzling and peculiar mix that is this part of Sulawesi. There’s a great grassy hill called Padamarari. Pitcher plants (N Maxima) and tropical sundew (Drosera burmannii) (thanks to Alastair Robinson for ID) grow in abundance and it’s a super viewpoint for looking across the vast Lake Poso. From Tentena it takes about 90 minutes to reach here by motorbike. On the way back Saluopa Waterfall just 20 mins from Tentena is well worth a visit even if you don’t like waterfalls – it’s one of Indonesia’s most impressive. There are also a couple of caves near Tentena with important traditional significance (human remains are to be found there).

    Later I chat with Bang Nain, who is the first person I have met who has heard of Pompangeo. He thinks trekking is possible with locals. Possibly from a village called Desa Didiri (or similar). He’s a good contact in Tentena…. 082399297747. There are several foreign tourists in Tentena, either travelling down from the Togeans or up from Rantepao (Toraja) on the Makassar-Manado route (or vice versa).

    Oba (082290460613) who works are the Hotel Tropicana is another friendly contact in Tentena who can assist tourists. He likes listening to the Everly Brothers and knows the local routes to various worthwhile destinations mentioned above. He even gave me an ojek all the way down to Poso airport (2 hours in total) to catch my flight back to Makassar and on to Jakarta. Much appreciated.

    The airport itself was another interesting experience. President Jokowi opened the refurbished airport in 2016 and there are daily flights to Makassar. The military presence remains heavy, but there were no police checkpoints en-route and there are a couple of reasonable little cafes where you can a coffee and snack. The hills to the west (Gunung Biru) are (or were) one of the main Indonesian ISIS training/hiding grounds. Don’t worry though – despite looking quite beautiful in the early morning sunshine, Gunung Biru is not likely to be listed as a Spesial anytime soon. The plane was less than half-full (because it was midweek or because people are still scared off by Poso?) but two other foreign tourists were onboard, heading to Manado via Makassar (quicker than overland by many, many hours).

    I hope to investigate Gunung Pompangeo when it is definitely safe to do so. Within the next 5 years I hope.

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