Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 21 May 2014 • Destination
Elias, Karel, Ine Elis, Christina, Beti, Cecillia, Mien, Rufinus, Alex, Rafael, Biatus, Hubertus, Jessi, Vita, Velo, Frans, Stefanus, and I missed one name. These are the names of local Wae Rebo Village folks I’ve shaken hands with. I walked 4 hours up the steep hill with Vindhya, and met these people on the way there and in their homes. I wrote their names down so I won’t forget. I still remember some of them by heart.
Wae means water in the local language. Yet, Wae Rebo, as I’ve been told, doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a name from a dream of Maro, founder of the village. Interestingly, Maro was originally a Minangnese sailor that was on a conquest in search of new land. Once found himself on a plain somewhere in the middle on Flores, he dreamt that he had found his purpose. His dream had predicted that this village would rise and flourish one day. Maybe that day is coming soon as more and more people are heading up to this charming little village.
Wae Rebo is located about 7 km from Denge, the last village accessible by vehicles. From Denge, it’s hiking on rocky road, past drinkable rivers, on narrow dirt road, through the forest, and along the cliffs. Fun. I’m not a hiker myself, but I’ve been hearing a lot of nice things about the village. So, it wasn’t hard for Vindhya to convince me, even though it was going to be a tough hike. During the walk, I sweated like a pig that has been hiking. Hosh!
It’s compulsory to have a local guide with you when walking up to Wae Rebo. Usually these guides are appointed by your homestay before you head to Wae Rebo. There’s only one main path to Wae Rebo, but locals know the nature the best. You’d need a guide to get through the paths on cliffs and in the forests. When you arrive, there’s the introduction ceremony. Your guide will chaperone you to the village’s elderlies to ask permission and conduct a ceremony to accept you as family. Entering the village, visitors aren’t allowed to take any picture. It is only permitted after the ceremony.
Upon our visit, Kasiman was our guide. He was a young guy who finished high school and was working to have his own coffee shop in Dintor. He was so nice, even though he constantly giggled and teased us about how lame we were as out-of-breath city kids. But, in a good way. He was a lot of fun. Great dude!
Wae Rebo is mostly known for the 7 mbaru niang, their traditional houses. Cute, aren’t they? There are 5 levels of each house. The top level is where they place their sacrifice before building the house. Level 2, 3 and 4 are for food and miscellaneous storage. The ground floor, and the widest, is the living area.
Each house has 6 rooms occupied by the eldest of each family line. This applies to each house. Although they have rooms, they mostly live within the common area. There’s only one common kitchen in the middle of the house, which also function as a heater. The families also mostly sleep within the common area. Cramped as this might seem, it actually looks like a nice communal life. I’m sure there would be friction, but considering they’re still together, the friction might not be that bad.
Coffee is the main commodity in this village. They don’t produce a lot as they have to manually sort and lift their coffee beans by foot to Denge to then sell them to the collector. From here, they buy rice and other daily necessities; to then carry it back up 7 km. It’s a hard life. Their feet have widened with all the walking, mostly done barefoot. This trip is regularly done for needs that aren’t available within the village, such as education, health and communication. Yep. No signal. Their children go to school in Denge or Dintor Villages, but help their parents carry goods back home during weekends. As a city kid, I was mind-boggled by their way of life. It’s a hard labor life, one I can only imagine. However, I’m sure it builds character.
There are other houses aside to the mbaru niang. Other family members stay in their own houses, which are spread all over the area. One thing in common out of all the houses, each house has a chicken corpse hanging as their sacrifice to the gods.
Although Wae Rebo is known for its mbaru niang, in my opinion the people are their most valuable asset. Most media promoting this village overlook this important element, but it really is the heart of this village. The people of Wae Rebo Village are really nice, they would come up to you first before you come to them. I felt very welcomed and at home at this unfamiliar place. I thought about it and I figured that it’s probably after getting to know everybody, the people won’t bother you and treat you like one of their own, no matter how touristy you look. It’s an ordinary day every day at Wae Rebo. I felt accepted, I felt like I was one of the family. It is the reason that I would come back and hike another 4 hours.
Dintor is the main gateway village to Wae Rebo. You can get to Dintor by the very limited public transport in the form of a truck from Labuan Bajo. The truck had wooden seats in them with low backs. Their not very comfortable for a long ride, so be prepared. Not sure where you catch them in Labuan Bajo, thus you must ask around for them. It’s about 5 hours from Labuan Bajo through Lembor.
You can also head to Dintor through Ruteng. There’s a truck that goes from Ruteng to Dintor before noon and you catch them near the Cancar area. This is the only public transport available. You can also rent an ojek for about IDR 150,000 / pax and ride about a moderately tiring 2 hours. The road is relatively bad but smooth in some areas. Let’s just say, life would be better in a private car 😀
After that it’s another 10 minutes by ojek to Denge, the last village where you can use vehicles. Prices will be arranged by your guide, but I paid about IDR 15,000/pax.
We happen to stay at the Wae Rebo Lodge owned by Pak Martin, a local from Wae Rebo, who decided to make a homestay and help the tourism going. So far, he’s done an excellent job. His homestay in located in the middle of a rice field, which I’ve come to discover, is not too far from the sea. It has some breathtaking views and the place to wake up.
A night at Wae Rebo Lodge would cost IDR 250,000 / pax, which includes 3 meals and a room with an en-suite bathroom. Although it seems basic, the room is really good and can accommodate your needs. A guide would cost IDR 150,000 per group.
If you plan to stay in Wae Rebo, you will sleep in the appointed mbaru niang for guests and it would cost IDR 250,000/pax, which includes 3 meals.
While this trip seems a lot, it’s also rewarding. The hike is a great instant fat burning session, the village is no less than charming and beautiful, and even the home stay in Dintor is one of those places you don’t want to leave. Why wouldn’t you want to leave?
A side note from us to you: Wae Rebo is an old traditional villages with its way of life. When visiting, it would be wise to respect their culture and be careful of what you say and do. You wouldn’t want to introduce bad influence to such a nice village.