Wae Rebo, Flores: The Manggarai Village In The Clouds
I’m excited to share some information about Wae Rebo with you! When it was confirmed that we were going to Flores, I put this traditional village on top of the list of places that we were going to go. Heads up, this is going to be a lengthy one. To get a better idea of our trip, check out our full itinerary here.
Getting To Wae Rebo
We departed from Lembor after a hearty breakfast at a local warung. From there, we were back on the Trans-Flores highway. You’ll see a sign saying “Wae Rebo” that will get you fooled because… it takes another 3 hour drive to actually reach there. We passed through serpentine roads of the highlands, paddy fields, back down to the sea level to a rocky beach, up again through other paddy fields, plantations… and we were still not there yet! The narrow roads are rough and old. Expect maneuvering through tight corners and small streams.
After multiple cycles of waking up/sleeping and a pit stop at a local villager’s home, we arrived…
but only at the foothill of where Wae Rebo was located. From the title of this post, you’d get the idea that the village was located wayyyy further up. It was another 2 hour hike to get to our destination. Our bodies sore from the previous journey, we looked at each other and asked for the hundredth time, “APA KITA BUAT NI?!” (What the heck are we doing?!)
Our guide, Supar brought us to the main house to meet with the ketua adat or head of village. Upon arrival, make your way there first! It’s good manners to greet your host before roaming around anyway. Introductions and a short ceremony followed. Payment for the night’s stay was made here as well.
The Manggarai people of Wae Rebo believe in god (Tuhan yang Maha Esa) and also the spirits of their deceased ancestors, called leluhur. During the ceremony, the village head read some chants and basically asked permission from their ancestors for us to stay there and protect us during our travels. As Muslims, we respected their beliefs and customs. Like how we would read our prayers before embarking on a journey/whatever, we silently read ayat Kursi in our hearts.
Our Mbaru Niang
The mbaru niang is the name of the unique, cylindrical-shaped traditional houses. Each house has five floors, connected by a long bamboo ladder in the middle of the house. The largest house with the most rooms, was of course, the house of the ketua adat. Everyone lived on the ground floor. The topmost floor is dedicated for the leluhur while the other floors are for storage of crops.
We were led to our guesthouse where we met with Benji, our 17 year old host. He spoke fluent English, and was pleasantly surprised when we spoke to him in Bahasa. Stories of their way of life, their history, their culture were so fascinating, we wanted to keep him to ourselves but he had a lot of other things to do hahah.
Some things I learnt:
- To pursue an education, the children there had to travel out of their original homes at a tender age of 7. Like Benji, they come back to the village after completing their studies.
- The people of Wae Rebo speak a different dialect than the rest of Flores. A common observation in most traditional villages.
- There are a lot more than just 8 traditional houses, but they are built in the surrounding areas of the main 8. Not all of them are in this cylinder shape.
- They’re a self-sustaining community! They rear their animals, grow all the crops they need, and tourism also helps fund the village.
We spent the evening having a stroll on the grounds and getting to know our new neighbours. Our guesthouse hosted a total of 30 people from all over: Jakarta, New Zealand, the US to name a few. There were thick mats and blankets for us to sleep on, and they were arranged in a circular pattern, following the base of our house. No walls separated us – it was like having a huge sleepover! The dining and congregation area was in the middle of the house.
Eating together, sitting crossed-leg on the floor was nothing new to us Malaysians but dinner was fun. It was a few days after Hari Raya Aidiladha/Eid, and we spent our Raya on the road, missing our families and the festivities.. so I guess it was nice that the kampung feel was alive. Stories were exchanged and we found out that one of the guys we were having dinner with, James, was a marine biologist as well as a videographer/photographer. We set out to do some night sky photography later that night.
Save for my chattering teeth, the calmness was so soothing. I loved being a tiny insignificant speck while the stars glittered above me. The waxing gibbous hung high, so I dismissed all chances of capturing the Milky Way, and attempted to shoot star trails instead. I should have shot more exposures and started earlier though. Shida and I stayed out until the roosters crowed at the break of dawn and hiked up to get some aerial shots.
The Morning After
While waiting for breakfast, I sat in front of our house and people-watched, making small talk here and there. I jumped at the opportunity to help dry the coffee beans and play with the kids. Shida flew her drone and at one point, it lost control and fell onto the banana trees. The children and some of the guests scrambled to help and fetch it. One of the propellers were broken but thankfully, it was back safe in our hands!
We had some theories on why it happened when there was practically no wind. The most interesting being of course, the spirits. Other people have previously flew above Wae Rebo, so we thought it wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe this time around they got annoyed and left us with a fair warning. Lol lesson learnt!
Before leaving, we browsed through the souvenirs. The luwak coffee was cheaper than in Bali, so I got some for home. We went to bid our goodbyes to everyone and took this awesome wefie with the tok ketua.
- Bring warm clothes, slippers, a headlamp and a power bank. I’ve told you it’s a hike so proper shoes, water and sun protection goes without saying.
- Some people bring gifts for the children there. It’s not recommended to hand over the gifts directly to them. Going through their parents is better.
- There is a raised platform in the middle of the clearing, in front of the ketua kampung’s house. DO NOT go up there, it’s a sacred space. There are a lot more do’s and don’ts, and it’s best to ask your host when you arrive.
- Polaroids are great for sharing memories here. I took photos with them and asked for an address so that I could mail them over, but with poor connectivity… that’s not really doable.
- Trust me when I say that getting to Wae Rebo is the toughest part. A bumpy 7-hour car ride and hiking after is not for everyone, so be prepared!
- I’ve had people asking me about the bathroom. Don’t worry! It’s a clean outdoor bathroom, and the water is so refreshing after all that hiking. 10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND. Best gila ok mandi situ I can’t explain it. At night, it can get dark and slippery, so this is where the headlamp and slippers come in handy.
- Souvenirs are sold there too such as coffee and the traditional tenun tablecloth. Spare some cash for that if you’re interested.
- Staying the night costs about IDR 300,000 (I think) per person. Meals inclusive. You can choose to do it as daytrip but pfft… you’re missing out!
I hope this has been both entertaining and useful!