I decided to backpack Indonesia because of a buzzfeed article.
Yep, I said it.
It highlighted the “top 15 must-see hiking spots in Indonesia,” and I’ve been steadfast in checking as many as I can off the bucket list.
The one that caught my eye the most was one to a village in East Nusa Tenggara province on the island of Flores. The village was only accessible by foot and is a Unesco heritage site. You can hike 2.5 hours in dense rainforest, descending into a beautiful valley with seven small huts residing there.
The village is called Wae Rabo and it’s had inhabitants for over 1200 years. It is one of three old villages in Manggarai that maintains its traditional houses called “Mbaru Niang”. They live without internet access and transportation.
The cone-shaped, traditional houses serve a purpose: they are the symbol of protection of the people of Wae Rabo. The circular shaped floor is a symbol of harmony and justice among families living inside the “Mbaru Niang.”
There are only seven houses in Wae Rabo, meant to honor the seven directions of the peaks surrounding the village. They are animists that believe the spirit of the dead protect their village and lives among them.
Upon entering the village, we were required to participate in a ceremony with the village elder, giving thanks and asking for acceptance from their ancestral spirits. We did this in the drum house, where all important matters are dealt with including: New Years ceremonies, negotiating dowries for weddings, and for solving problems that come about. Only 200 people live in the village and the direct descendants of important ancestors are permitted to live in the drum house.
After the ceremony, we were shown the guest house with mats and pillows lining the edge of it, a mat placed in the center for meals.
There is an altar in the center of the village that is sacred and not to be touched, as we were forewarned. It’s where the people offer their ancestors food and the blood of chickens, pigs, and buffalo.
Rafe preoccupied himself playing football with some young men in the village and I snuck away to do some yoga in the guest house. We enjoyed some amazing homegrown coffee and I chatted with a local that knew very good English. He said most people here are coffee farmers and his village also sells big sticks of cinnamon to neighboring towns and villages. They live simply and the kids go to school in a nearby village. There is no doctor, but a sort of qualified person to advise them (he didn’t know the word for it in English.)
A few more tourists eventually showed up and we shared a meal of rice, greens, and egg before calling it a night. The stars at night were out of this world, even with the cloud cover.
In the morning, we gave our thanks and started the trek back. What an amazing experience it was to stay in a traditional village, still so untouched by western influence.