Thursday May 17th
Today is a special day as it was the day that our amazing son Reuben came into our lives 11 years ago. Now here he is boldly adventuring yet again. This time, across Flores, Indonesia with his mum and younger brother.
This would be his last year of primary school, his year of being student councillor, the year he would go to school camp, the year he moved from cub to scouts, the year he started to play the saxophone in his youth jazz band. Many things already accomplished and many challenges to look forward to, including coming face to face with a Komodo Dragon. His family are all immensely proud of what he has accomplished, who he is and we look forward to seeing who he will become. Love ya Reuben xo Happy Birthday…
Today we hired a car, kindly driven by our host family and united our families connect to set out for a day of fun-filled adventure around Bajawa. (This day proved to another of the highlights of our “Komodo Dragon Kaper”).
Bajawa is a quiet, medium-sized town in the central highlands, framed by thickly forested volcanoes and perched 1100m above sea level. This gives it a pleasantly cool climate, compared to the coastal towns like Ende. It is the capital of the Ngada regency and it’s residents are mostly Roman Catholic. It is a famous leap-point for visiting the many traditional Ngada villages, hiking adventures, mountain bike trails and natural hot springs, of this stunning region. Few tourists bother to stop here at all but we really enjoyed our stay in Bajawa and would have liked to stay longer.
Local School Visit & Town Lookout
Our kind local host Maya is a high school English teacher, so we stop in briefly to visit the local government school where she works. We were delighted to meet a few of her students too.
Then we visited Wolobobo Hill lookout just three kilometres from Bajawa. It is an extinct volcano rim formed after an eruption 10,000 years ago. Sadly it was a drizzly, misty day and we only glimpsed the breathtaking view over the surrounding countryside including Mount Inerie (pronounced ee-nay-REE-ay) and Mount Ebulobo volcanoes, the oddly shaped Batu Jaramasih hill and Bajawa town.
The local Boabai people’s story, is that the volcanoes Mount Inerie and Mount Ebulobo are gods who were once engaged to be married. After a dowery dispute, the two were drawn into a battle resulting in the death of Inerie at Ebulobo’s hand. This explains why Inerie still smoulders.
We headed back to Bajawa to pick up our hosts older son from school. Whilst in town we stop for lunch, dessert and a haircut for the boys. Our host took us to a hidden local eatery with charming long tables where everyone knew everyone. Here we ate the favourite dish of the region, Mee Soto Ayam (chicken noodle soup) with Sate Ayam (chicken satay sticks), served with steamed rice or Lemang (rice cooked in bamboo). Truly delicious.
We then revisited the fruit salad drink shop and settled in at the local barbers to get both Reuben and Felix’s hair cut. This tiny shop was popular with a lot of local men meaning a long wait but in the end two handsome boys were produced.
Bena Traditional Village
Bena is the most famous, most visited and spectacular of the regions traditional villages, quietly nestled in the gorgeous Jerebuu valley. Being only 16km from Bajawa and just off the main road, it is popular with tourists.
The village consists of two parallel rows of traditional, high thatch-roofed houses. Highly visible in the center of the village are ngadhu and bhaga, pairs of shrines – one for each clan of the village – representing the clan’s ancestors. The ngadhu is an anthropomorphic umbrella-like pole embodying the male ancestor of a clan. The trunk is decorated with carvings and is topped with a warrior-like figure. The ngadhu symbolizes fierceness and virility. After a new ngadhu has been carved out of a special tree, the men of the village carry the pole in a ceremonial way into the village.
The bhaga, a female ancestral clan shrine, is a small hut with a thatched roof that resembles a miniature of a traditional house. It symbolizes the sanctuary of the house and the female body. The bhaga offers enough space for one to two persons to hold rituals for female ancestors.
Another distinct feature of Ngada culture, of which Bena offers an awesome sight, are the megalithic formations in the village center. Megaliths are a means to connect with the supernatural realm and to communicate with the ancestors, often by animal sacrifice. As with the ngadhu and bhaga shrines, there is also a stone altar to every village clan. Additionally, a massive pile of flat stones, called lenggi, represents a court where the different clans of the village settle their legal disputes. If you look closer at the houses in Bena, you often find them decorated with skulls and horns of water buffaloes and pig jaws which were sacrificed at different ceremonies.
Visitors can buy locally crafted ikat, or tie-dyed woven cloth, in Bena. The sarong, which is a large tube of woven cloth, is often worn wrapped around the waist, both by men and women. The ikat weaving motifs range from animal patterns like horses, chickens, elephants, and the sacred ngadhu and bagha symbols.
– Flores Tourism
A local weaver shared some of her candlenuts (similar in taste and texture to Macadamia nuts) with us, the villagers grow these in the surrounding jungle along with coffee. We admired the intricate detail of their ikat weaving where the threads are tie dyed before being hand woven into beautiful traditional pattens. These patterns are passed down the generations and embedded in the minds of each weaver.
On a small hill at the end of the village, is a viewpoint with a Virgin Mary shrine. This gives you a good view over Bena and a wider view of the beautiful surrounding landscape, including Mount Inerie and the Savu Sea. On this day, Inerie and Savu hid their faces in the mist…
Malanage Hot Springs
A few kilometres from Bena we reached our days favourite destination, the Malanage hot springs. These are such picturesque natural looking hot springs, unlike the many concrete creations in much of Asia. Here the hot volcanic sulphur laden waters mixed with the cool waters of a local stream, plus there were various tree covered pools of varying temperature to try. We had such a fabulous time, swimming, relaxing, being surrounded by giggling school girls and local families.
Pasta Dinner for Seven
Then back to our hosts home where we cooked everyone a huge dish of vegetarian spaghetti. We were shown the growing piglets, hens and vegetables in the backyard that supplements this families income. Lastly, more conversation with cups of sweet black coffee before a welcomed slumber…