Floating in Flores – Sweet Smile of Wae Rebo Village

Dintor – 5:30 AM

One fresh morning in Dintor. Sweet and silence. As the sky grow brighter, we just realize that this is a small place. One by one the local people get outside from their house. While Jo and Steph meet some of them and asking the direction, I decide to go to the beach 10 meters away from our car.

This beach, have a peaceful ambience.. With her little waves, the sound of fisherman’s boat engine, the warmness of the sunrise, and the scenery of Mules Island in front of my eyes. This beach contains with smooth rocks on its surface, with some colorful wooden house. Yes, Flores have many colorful wooden house and we will see many of them in this journey.

After filled our car with fuel and pumped the tire, we continue our journey to our main destination, Wae Rebo Village. To reach this village, we must drive to the place called Denge. Along the journey, we passed by the beautiful landscape, church, village, and cheerful local people. Everytime we pass the kids who walk across the street, they warmly greet us and shout “Helloooo…!!” with their bright smile.

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Denge – 6:57 AM

Denge Homestay beside the elementary school. Yes, we finally arrive here. We see some foreign tourist near the homestay, and kids running around the yard. After parking the car, a tall man greeting us and let us sit inside his house. His name is Mr. Blasius Monta. He is the homestay owner in Denge. Visitors who wants to visit Wae Rebo can contact him for the reservation. It’s necessary because the Wae Rebo village have limited space for visitors to stay the night. You can contact him at +6281339350775. But he said that his cellphone is sometimes hard to reach because the signal doesn’t reach the place. So, it’s a lucky guess I think hahaa..

While drinking sweet hot tea, Mr. Blasius explain on how to reach the Wae Rebo village and the rules inside it. He also said that he is the son of Wae Rebo and lend us the book that titled Pesan dari Wae Rebo” or “Message from Wae Rebo”. This book is written by Yori Antar and tells us about how Wae Rebo communities struggle to maintain and preserve its traditions, including their traditional house : Mbaru Niang. The traditional house of Manggarai, Western Flores.

Yori Antar is a well known architect who have a great dedication in traditional Indonesian architecture. When he arrived in Wae Rebo on August 2008, he just found out that four of the last surviving examples of these Mbaru Niang houses, two of which were in need of renovation. So, he initiated and facilitated a community-led revival of traditional techniques enabling all the original houses to be rebuilt. The design started on 2008 and completely built on 2011. The Mbaru Niang preservation is one of 20 projects on the shortlist for the Aga Khan Award 2013, and also won the Award of Excellence from UNESCO on Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation 2012.

Mr. Blasius' house
Mr. Blasius’ house
The rules
Message from the local host
"Pesan Dari Wae Rebo", a book by Yori Antar
“Pesan Dari Wae Rebo”, a book by Yori Antar

As Mr. Blasius said, to reach the village we must hike for around 3-4 hours and will be accompanied by the local guide. After repacking our belonging and only bring the things we need for one night stay, 9:12 AM we start hiking.

The track isn’t too hard. There are some road construction with a pile of stones everywhere. Apparently they’re planning to build road that reach the Wae Lomba River so the visitor have shorter hiking track. This river is the first rest post from total 3 posts untill Wae Rebo village. We reach the river for just 45 minute hike. The water is so clear and super fresh, and of course we can drink it.

After passing Wae Lomba River, we entering the forest. It helps us while hiking because the shady forest prevent us from direct sunlight. It’s almost mid-day when we arrive at second rest post : Pocoroko. The view from up here is absolute beautiful. All is blue and green. The sky, the hill, the valley, and the Sawu Sea in the south… Perfect spot for a rest!

The track during construction
The track during construction
Wae Lomba River
Wae Lomba River
2nd rest spot arrival
Pocoroko
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View from our second rest post, Pocoroko

Just an hour hike from this spot, we found a bamboo bridge above the dry river. Our water supply is nearly empty even though we’ve taken plenty water from Wae Lomba. But hey, look what we found! There’s a small hut with banner that said : WELCOME TO WAEREBO. From this hut we can see Wae Rebo village very clear. In this hut, as the tradition, our guide had to rang the gendang. This is also as a notification for the local villagers that there’s a visitor so they can prepare for the welcoming ceremony. From now on, nobody allowed to take pictures untill the welcoming ceremony ends.

Wae Rebo – 12:39 PM

Located 1100 meters above the sea level (longitude 120°17’2.51″E, latitude 8°46’8.89″S), this place have a very magicall ambience. Surrounded by mountains, and literally behind the cloud. Lucky for us, today’s weather is very clear and warm enough. One by one we entered the biggest house, Mbaru Gendang, for welcoming ceremony.

Inside the house, there is an elderly men and his wife sitting in the center, facing the entrance door. After we getting the permit to enter, the elderly men hold a welcome ceremony in Manggaraian language. Our guest who sat beside him then translate it for us. He said that we had welcomed by the villagers. After this ceremony had ended, our guide tell us that we can take some photographs inside this Mbaru Gendang house.

A view of Wae Rebo village with its Mbaru Niang house
A view of Wae Rebo village with its Mbaru Niang houses
Gendang, traditional musical instrument that hanging inside Niang Gendang, the main house
Gendang, traditional musical instrument that hanging inside Mbaru Gendang, the main house
Natural ligthing inside Niang Gendang
Natural ligthing inside Mbaru Gendang
The elderly man
The elderly man
The elderly woman
The elderly man’s wife
A view of Wae Rebo from Niang Gendang entrance door
A view of Wae Rebo from Mbaru Gendang entrance door

The people who lives here is currently the eighteenth generation. Empu Maro, was the very first generation and touted as the founder of Wae Rebo village. He built all the seven houses. The Mbaru Gendang is the biggest house, and the other six are called Niang Gena. One of the Niang Gena is used as the sleeping area for visitors. The building itslef is made from local materials such as woods, bamboo, and black palm fiber from sugar palm tree for the roof covering.

Mbaru Niang is classified as stilts house and have 5 storeys with different function for each floor.

1st storey, is called Tenda. Used for daily activities such as sleep, eat, greeting the guest, etc. In Niang Gena house, the diameter is +/- 11 meter.

2nd storey, is called Lobo, where the foodstuffs are stored. Lobo also means ‘the attic’ and the diameter is +/- 9 meter.

3rd storey is used for future foodstock. The local used to stored corns in this 6 meter diameter area. They called this storey a Lentar which means ‘corns’.

4th storey is also used for future foodstock. But nowadays this 3 meter diameter storey is remain empty. This storey is called Lemparai.

5th storey, is called Hekang Kode. Which literally means ‘the monkey house’. The diameter of this storey is +/- 1,8 meter, and commonly used for Ancam Bobong ceremony.

Mbaru Gendang, the main house with its buffalo horn (Rangga Kaba) on the top of the cone
Mbaru Gendang, the main house with its buffalo horn (Rangga Kaba) on the top of the cone
Photovoltaic panel in each house as the source for electricity
Photovoltaic panel attached in each house, captured the sunlight and convert it into electricity
Graham climb up to the 2nd storey, the Lobo.
Graham climb up to the 3rd storey, the Lentar
The structure of Mbaru Niang (source : Archnet.org)
The structure of Mbaru Niang (source : Archnet.org)

After have a delicious lunch made by the village’s most awesome housewifes, we decide to spent this afternoon by exploring the house’s construction and of course having fun with the local. Especially the kids. Today, the village doesn’t look too crowded. Most of the adults are going down to Denge to attend the 40-days-death ceremony of Mr. Blasius’ son.

What we saw here, is a peacefullnes. The elderly are very welcomed to us. And the kids are easily got attached with us, playing around and having fun. Up on the hill, there’s a building that used as a library. Me and Yaz decide to go up there along with the kids. Not to far, maybe just 3-5 minutes hike. From up here, the Wae Rebo scenery looks very clear. Yaz also bring the Indonesia’s national flag and we take some photographs. Suddenly, this little kid named Ronal grab the flag and happily waved it. Even he took some rocks and said that he will throw them if we grab back the flag. Hehehhe what a cute kid…

Back down to the village again, we took some photoshoot and play football with the kids until the sky grow darker and the air feel colder. It feels like back to the childhood again. There’s a time when I played football on the field near my childhood house, super fun without gadgets, come home late, being scolded by my mother who ask me to take a shower immediately, and have dinner. Yes that’s what happened here in Wae Rebo this evening. When the kids’ mothers shout at them to get inside the house and have some dinner. Oh yeah for a while I definitely felt the childhood freedom moment again, without those crapy life problems… ;D

Super lunch
Super lunch

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Wae Rebo – 9:00 PM

After having a light meal for our dinner and a warm chat with the elderly, we decide to get outside of the house. The air is very cold, but the reward is the super clear sky up there. You know what happened when the sky is clear? The stars…and not only that, you’ll see the Milky Way galaxy too!! It’s look like a thick sky dust if you see it with naked eyes.

The electricity in Wae Rebo is turn on from 7:00 PM untill 10:00 PM only. After that, a complete dark here. I captured the sky during the village’s lights on as a trial. Around 9:30 I went inside the house for a nap because it’s a very tired day. Yeah, with the morning journey from Dintor, the hike, the football match with kiddos… But then I woke up again around 10:00 PM, of course for capturing the Milky Way galaxy. Now with a complete darkness surrounding. It was majestic if I may say…

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Wae Rebo – 5:15 AM

In this early morning, our room filled with super cold fresh air. Somebody must have open the door. It’s a very good morning alarm though, we immediately rise up and step outside.

There’s always a moment of silence when you see the sunrise. Especially this beautiful one. When the sky turned orange, this highland weather became more warmer. Still cold though, but this little warm sensation is priceless.

But the thing that made this morning perfect, was the sound of villagers who roasted the coffee seeds. Yeah the sound and the smell is like heaven on earth hehe.. One by one, the kids running around the field with their laugh and bright smile. I wonder how peaceful their life is. The true and honest expression from the people who live in the nature.

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We spent this morning with many many smiles. Almost forgot about the time when our guide suddenly told us to pack our stuff. We must hike back to Denge at 8:00 AM. Time flies, brother.. I think it’s not enough for spending just one night in Wae Rebo. The magnificent house, the scenery, the kindness, the kids, the smile..all is missed and all is perfect. Yes, one day we will definitely come back here!

Thanks for your sweet smile, Wae Rebo, one of true and authentic Indonesia’s jewellery.

Take care, General Ronal. See you when I see you..
Take care, General Ronal..!!
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