From the Side of a Volcano to a Convent
I’ve said it before, but one of my favorite things about living and traveling in Indonesia was that you never knew how your day would unfold or where you would end up for that matter. I woke up early at Happy Happy Hotel in Bajawa and the nice Dutch couple who co-own it with an Indonesian couple served up a hearty plate of banana pancakes. And then we hit the road again. Our first stop of the day was the village of Luba followed by the village of Bena. It was cool outside and low lying clouds danced around the base of Inerie volcano, the backdrop to the villages. The Ngada people inhabit both villages, and although Christian symbolism is evident (see the crosses on the graves below), many traditional beliefs are still mixed in. Pak Ardi told me that people are buried behind the crosses in squatting positions to symbolize the womb position and return to mother.
At the center of the village stand parasol-like structures called ngadhu. Pak Ardi explained that the number ngadhu count the number of clans in the village. Both villages are matrilineal and Pak Ardi told me women are the ones who own land. Ngadhu are paired with other thatched structures called bhaga, together they represent male and female.
A pack of dogs greeted us at Bena. In both villages people were going about their days and nodded hello. No one was aggressively selling weavings or anything else, so it was nice to wander around and take it all in.
Beautiful eternity carvings:
The lookout from Bena village was stunning. Pak Ardi explained that with the geography and villages far away, it used to take days for people to travel.
As we left the villages, Pak Ardi and our driver Pak Patris started arguing a bit. Pak Ardi told me that Pak Patris wanted to show me other villages because I was so interested, but Pak Ardi said we had a schedule to keep so we had to keep driving. It was such a charming and cute argument to witness, it really warmed my heart.
On our drive to Ruteng, we stopped in Aimere where lontar palm is distilled and made into arak liquor. Even though it didn’t look very hygienic, I figured a little taste wouldn’t hurt (says the girl who drank snake blood).
That’s not water in those bottles! It was pretty strong stuff and one gulp was enough to get me coughing.
From Aimere, our drive wound up into the mountains and we passed Ranamese crater lake, which Pak Ardi described as a smaller version of Lake Toba.
When we arrived in Ruteng, we were in Pak Ardi’s tribal area. We went and visited Ruteng Puu, a traditional Manggarai village with a large graveyard nearby. A group of young girls approached me and they spoke remarkably good English for their age so we chatted for a little while.
Next we visited a large indoor market in Ruteng where plenty of dry fish were for sale:
Pak Ardi told me that because of the large-scale tourism development on Bali, most bananas are now shipped from Flores to Bali.
The little ones are the most dangerous:
I wasn’t really aware of where I was going to be staying that evening because my itinerary only said Susteran MBC. Well, ladies and gentlemen, in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, I still managed to spend a night at a Catholic convent full of nuns. Apparently this is one of the most popular accommodation spots in Ruteng. It was a nice place and it just proved my point: you never know how your day will end.
Where to Stay: In Bajawa I stayed at Happy Happy Hotel, a bright purple hotel that is clean and has simple rooms. In Ruteng I stayed at Susteran MBC, a convent run by nice sisters. Just be forewarned, they tend to shut the gates on the earlier side.