The Buffalo Market in Tana Toraja, Indonesia

by Gabriel Miller / Mar 27, 2013 / 0 comments

The smell hit me before anything else. It smelled like a buzzard's buttocks fell off and got sprayed on by a skunk. A few more steps forward and we started to hear them, piercing the air were many loud moos - or at least something like it. They sounded like a bray of a donkey mixed with a deep moo from a bull. Water Buffalo, great big lumps of muscle and fat with bones holding it all together. This, combined with horns that could gorge a canyon in your fragile gut, created a deadly force that could easily overcome us humans' feeble resistance. What made matters even more unsettling is that, when we rounded the corner, we saw a two football field-sized area covered in black (and sometimes spotted) water buffalo all packed together. This may seem like a stupid thing to be worried about, but these things are big. That many, if they stampeded, could decimate the little town we were in on that day. Now that you know that, you may be a little unsettled yourself. But hear this, we were walking right into the middle of this horde of black monsters that with a flick of their heads could kill you. And we were walking in such a cramped space that there was no way that we could not touch the water buffalo. So cramped that if one decided to freak out, all of the buffalos would either have to move with the beast or be run down.


Water Buffalo, Tana Toraja, Indonesia


Standing on a little rise was a HUGE water buffalo. Our guide said that he was a buffalo that was used for fighting. He moved and large muscles rippled underneath his black hide. He lifted his head high and let out a bray-moo, and out from him the tide of black hides rippled and moved in a slightly clockwise way. Seven more bray-moos rang out into the air, none of them coming even near as deep and kingly as the fighting buffalos was.


I opened my jaws to try to get rid of the stink by breathing through my mouth, but what met my tongue was a very horrible taste. Take the worst taste you have ever experience and mix it with chemicals, sulfur, burnt chicken (or beef), and magnify it by ten times and you may be able to come close to this experience. Actually, the easier way to do it rather then gathering all that stuff and burning the chicken (or beef)? Just go to a buffalo market and breathe through your mouth. Frankly, I wouldn’t do it. 


A man looked at me and gestured for me to touch his beast. Tentatively reaching out my hand, I brushed my fingers along the buffalo's hide. He had short bristly hairs that pricked my fingers a little if I went against their natural direction. The buffalo looked at me with big, sad brown eyes. My heart reached out for him and I mourned that he had to Be staying in such a place just waiting to be haggled over and then brought away to a new life, never knowing if that life would be a happy one or if his masters would be cruel. Just then mom called to me to get me to hurry up so we could go on to the next activity. I tore my eyes away from those sad eyes and picked my way through the throng of buffalo and humans. A sad bray-moo sounded behind me and I knew that those sad eyes would always be easy to pull up into my mind for they were burned into my head like a branding. It felt as if he had branded me for life.


Buffalo Market in Tana Toraja, Indonesia   


I joined up with my family and we walked on toward more sounds that had a likeness to human screams. They were pigs. That night I enjoyed a nice dinner of pork while dad, to my left, had a plate of buffalo.





Gabriel Miller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


All photos courtesy and copyright Gabriel Miller