Friday May 19th continued…
Often when you visit a small place, you learn its local secrets. On our departure from Ruteng not only did we pass the famous traditional markets but we directed out driver to the bazaar wreckage of a Merpati Nusantara Airlines. On Saturday May 23, 1987 it crashed into a ditch while attempting to land at Ruteng. I believe all the passengers survived. As Graham is an aviation enthusiast we had to explore and document this decaying wreckage.
As we left Ruteng, we encountered a well-practiced tactic in the Indonesian driver business. We soon realised that the driver who we had negotiated over several days with, who knew what we wanted and could speak English ok was getting out and a driver who we did not know, had little social skills and had no understanding of English was getting in.
Such tactics, delays and communication errors had plagued us this trip but as all adventure travellers do, we had to “go with the flow”. At least his car dashmat made us laugh – furry and bright orange which reminded us all of Dr Suess’s The Lorax. We did not push the point as it would mean further delay and soon we were driving onwards through spectacular scenery.
This leg of our trip was also eventful as our master Felix lost a baby tooth.
Next we had asked to be taken to a lookout. So I was wary when we were taken down a lane to a small gazebo at the foot of a hill. In it was an old lady surrounded by a few small boys. We were asked for money and no paperwork was produced. After questioning this I was approached by a man who knew a little English. I asked him why no receipt was given as had been given in all the other charged tourists sights we had visited in Indonesia? With no answer forthcoming we said no to payment and got back in the car.
Sadly, only after four hours of driving did we realise, what we believed to be a local lookout had been a local entry to the Spider Web Rice Fields of Cancar, as explained to us by an English speaking guide we met. Luckily our bitter disappointment was given an alternative option and we suddenly found ourselves purchasing a 3 hour eco hike up a mountain to see another lesser known spider web rice field. It was a costly error but turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights of our adventure.
Our local indigenous guide, spoke fantastic English and had a calm, gentle rapport with the boys. As we walked he surprisingly revealed to us that he had seen anaconda here. (As we all know anaconda originate in South America. On later research there is some speculation that anaconda were brought to the Indonesian islands by traders for their skins and released, but they also have a local giant reticulated python here, which has been known on rare occasion to swallow humans). I tried not to think on this too much as we pushed our way up through the dense scrub towards a breathtaking view.
And there deep in the valley was a spectacular spiderweb rice-field.
These web fields were not intentional, but rather the result of the traditional communal agriculture of the indigenous Manggarai people. Centuries ago, the cultivated land, known as lingko, was shared by the entire village. The communal fields were circular, with the lodok at the center, where ceremonial rituals were held around the harvest.
Each family was allocated a segment of the rice field, radiating from the center outward. (Each was inaugurated by the sacrifice of a water buffalo.) The more resources a family had, the larger their slice of the pie; at the time, the rice fields were shaped like pie charts. Later, the paddies were further subdivided by the decedents of the original owners, leading to the striking, web-like shape of the lingko today. – Atlas Obscura
We descended elated by our adventure. As night fell we wearily drove into Labuan Bajo. I had planed a luxury surprise accomodation here as I wanted the boys to have a treat towards the end of this long, hard trip. We couldn’t have asked for better. After a hot shower (our first with hot water / western style, since we left Bali) and a long rest, we sat down with out welcome drink and enjoyed watching the sun slowly set into the Flores Sea.