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The Bada Valley or Napu Valley, as it is sometimes called, is located in the District of Poso in Central Sulawesi, and is part of the Lore Lindu National Park. The valley is particularly prized for the beauty of its natural environment – a scenic expanse of rice paddies and green plains, engraved with small streams, and surrounded by soft rolling hills which give way to dense forests and rocky mountains. The Lairiang River flows through the entire valley and is crossed by three hanging bridges. This river is irrigated into smaller streams which run across the terraced rice fields. The Bada Valley is world famous for its prehistoric relics from an ancient megalithic culture. Dozens of finely carved megaliths dating between 1,000 – 5,000 years old are scattered across the valley. A mysterious, yet magnificent testament to the skill and genius of a civilization that we know absolutely nothing about.
Megalithic monuments have been found in numerous countries across 6 continents with one thing in common: No one knows who built them. Perhaps the most famous “standing stone” site is Stonehenge, in England, or the giant heads of Easter Island. These sites have been visited by thousands, if not millions of tourists, and yet their meaning remains shrouded in mystery. The Megaliths of Bada Valley hold equal historic significance, but are difficult to access, buried in the mountainous terrain of Central Sulawesi. Some are found in the middle of valleys, some in streams, open fields or rice paddies.
The statues of Bada Valley are carved in human or animal form: owl, monkey or buffalo; all with the similar, and rather abstract style of being somewhat oval with large, round faces.The largest statue stands 4.5 meters tall and 1.3 meters thick. Sources indicate that they show remarkable resemblance to the stone statues of Easter Island, Cheju Island in Korea, and the Olmec Statues in Mexico.
Nobody really knows how old the megaliths are, who made them or why they’re there. The most common response from the area’s inhabitants when asked about the origin of these statues is that “they’ve always been there.” The locals have various explanations for the meaning of these statues. Some believe they were used in ancestral worship or may have had something to do with human sacrifice. Others believe that these statues ward off evil spirits. One legend tells that they are criminals which were turned to stone, and there is even a superstition that the statues can disappear or move from place to place. Some have even been reported found in slightly different locations. Yet another curious aspect about these statues is that they are made from a type of stone not found anywhere near the area, so there would need to have been a mighty good reason to haul these huge, heavy stones off into the middle of nowhere.
The term “megalithic” is used to describe structures that were built with large stones, and without the use of mortar or cement. It also denotes items that were hewn from stone into a definite shape for a definite purpose. The word megalith originates from the ancient Greek word mega, meaning great, and lithos, meaning stone.
Researchers and philosophers have long analysed the significance of stones, yet with or without understanding, their work never ceases to fascinate. Megalithic art has been said to represent eternity that lives beyond the notion of time. Massive, yet unpretentious. Unchanged.Unmoved.Timeless.Through centuries, nay millennia of sun, sands and storms. Still they stand—watching. Silent witnesses to our past. Secrets masked behind a timeless expression—whispered only to those who pause to listen.
A few tips: A guide is not necessary, but it would be a plus. You won’t get lost on the way to the valley, but you may have a hard time finding the megaliths. Bring proper walking shoes, and don’t forget your mosquito repellent.
To reach Bada Valley, one must first fly to Palu, a small city in Central Sulawesi. Mutiara Airport in Palu is a domestic only airport with flights available from Jakarta, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Manado and Makassar.
Alternatively, if you love a good adventure, you could embark on the nine-hour, semi-off-road journey over land from Toraja. Either way, the plan is to end up in Tentena.
From Tentena, the best way to the valley is by foot, though it is also possible to go by bicycle, motorbike or jeep. The distance is about 50km with a small shelter to mark the half-way point. The walk is a long, straight road that cuts through a tropical jungle and is crossed by small rivers in several places – another reason that makes travel by foot easier than by motorized vehicle. Along your walk, you may catch a glimpse of a few animals, namely macaque and deer.