|Many caves were used as dwellings in prehistoric times but these days it is only really those who have chosen a monastic life who inhabit caves because of the natural isolation and protection they provide.|
Not so in Pangkajene and Kepulauan regency, South Sulawesi, however, where a family of four lives in a cave and still has a social life.
Hamdan Syaidan, 45, his wife Sinta Hatta, 25, and their daughters, Nur Kamsiah, 5, and Nur Aisyah, 3, have lived for the past year in a home hewn out of a limestone cliff face in Bantimurung village, Tondong Tallasa district.
I’m very happy staying here even if we do get wet when it rains. Our children are doing fine, they haven’t been sick since we moved in,-÷ Sinta said.
Her husband has grand plans for the cave, hoping to make it as fancy as some of the big homes in town.
Before moving to the cave, Hamdan, who married Sinta in 2000, was staying with his in-laws in Bantimala, a village neighboring Bantimurung. But the house was crowded and Sinta and her siblings were constantly at each other’s throats.
The bickering finally got too much for me. But I had no idea where else we could go. I had neither land nor the money to build a house. One day, on my way home from work, I looked up and saw the cliffs. It suddenly struck me that it wouldn’t be a bad place to live,-÷ he said.
Hamdan, who used to make furniture from tree roots, surveyed the cliff face, finding a cave that was just the right size at about eight meters high.
It (the cave) was quite roomy and I only needed to put up some walls to make it livable,-÷ he said.
In reality it took Hamdan seven months to make the cave fit to live in. Scrub bushes obstructed the entrance and a large banyan tree also grew there. Locals, who had been using the area as a dump, believed the cave was haunted and did not dare venture there after dark. Some claimed they had seen ghosts.
When Hamdan announced he was moving in, his friends thought he was crazy. How can you live in a dirty and haunted stone cave,-÷ a former neighbor, Rudi, said.
Hamdan ignored the comments and his cave dwelling is now a peaceful and pleasant place to live.
The family has visitors almost every night. It is more comfortable here. It’s like stepping back in time,-÷ said Syahriati, who also lives nearby.
The single living room Hamdan built inside the cave measures about five by seven meters. It contains a bamboo bed, which doubles as a couch. The rest of the room is filled with cooking equipment. There are holes in the ceiling, which have been patched up with plastic sheeting; the floor is made of clay.
Hamdan erected a door frame and pinned a piece of material from it as a door.
Hamdan gets electricity and clean water from the house of one of his cousins, which is about 50 meters away.
Hamdan, a mason and a carpenter by trade, never stops making home improvements.
Currently, he is working on a loft, where the family can sleep away from the kitchen area.
Using a chisel and a large hammer, he has broken up the limestone slabs that he does not need.
I can’t rest until the loft is ready,-÷ Hamdan said.
Due to financial constraints, however, it could be some time before the family has a new place to sleep. Hamdan earns Rp 25,000 a day, spending half on the family’s basic needs and the rest on building materials like cement.
To make his home more beautiful, Hamdan has leveled out the yard and planted flowers and vegetables there. He has also dug out ponds for fish. He has a good eye for design and says he was always good at painting and drawing as a child.
Hamdan’s cave home is now a place that outsiders greatly admire. Even Pangkep Regent Syafruddin Nur commented on the attractiveness of the cave during a recent visit.
Indeed, Pangkep regency is home to a great many cliffs and caves that were inhabited by humans thousands of years ago.
The cliffs extend from Maros regency to Pangkep, an area of 20,000 hectares. The limestone cliffs of the area are said to be the second most beautiful in the world after those in China because they take the form of a spectacular tower at a height of between 40 and 420 meters above sea level. This cliff area is now part of the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park.