Wae Rebo is destined to those who love challenge, adventure and particularly the hidden gem of East Nusa Tenggara.
The decision to step in the Eastern part of Indonesia actually was initiated by my friend’s Instagram feed displaying thought-provoking sceneries of East Nusa Tenggara. Surprisingly, people who knew that I was going to Wae Rebo instantly wowed my plan as if it was the coolest thing I have ever done in
my life. I didn’t know exactly why Wae Rebo was so triggering their excitement but one thing I knew was Wae Rebo starting to be a trending topic in the world of traveling.
There is just a few of direct flight to Wae Rebo. The nearest airport is in Ruteng and to reach this small airport you need to depart from Bali. In this case, I took the route to Ende and landed at H. Hasan Aroeboesman Airport. The traditional village was situated about 1,200 meters above sea level and far from the city; in the district of Manggarai to be exact. Driving 12 hours and more from the airport to Wae Rebo was possible but not suggested. I stopped by at several places such as Moni where the well- known Kelimutu Lake stands still, Ruteng and Dintor (the nearest village before climbing to Wae Rebo).
I stayed in a homestay in Dintor that accommodated revelers going to Wae Rebo. This place was run under an organisation preserving Wae Rebo that has received the Top Award of Excellence from UNESCO and UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards. The homestay was more like a dorm and built in a very traditional architecture. Don’t wish for an electricity for a full day because through daylight they turned it off and only used it from the beginning of the evening to midnight.
The best time to discover Wae Rebo is early in the morning, around 4 or 5 am since it would need three and a half to four hours walking to arrive and depart back. Complying with the direction, I woke up really early and commenced my long-hour walk with another group of travelers. Gathering at the lowest point of the mountain, a tour guide was ready to lead the way.
He was a local teenager who helped his parents to collect pocket money. And what shocked me at the first time was that he was merely wearing a pair of flip-flops to hike up when I was truly presenting a professional mountain climber’s look. I kept wondering if the track was not that steep or it’s just him who got used to trek on sandals. Then my question was answered: it was just him with his super feet. For four hours ascending hills by hills, gigantic rocks, slippery ground and tricky pathway contributed ‘ouch’ and ‘aduh’ to my journey.
Certainly I was exhausted on the way –yes, but at certain stops, I could admire the astonishing Mother Nature projecting magnificent mountains which actually paid off the sweats. Particularly when I set foot at the gate of Wae Rebo as this so-called village underneath the clouds provided picturesque views of layering mountains and tropical forests. No wonder my weariness of long-hour trekking immediately diminished once I catch a glimpse of the traditional houses Mbaru Niang in this isolated village comprising seven gigantic houses that reflect the original culture of Indonesia. To respect the local culture, firstly I had to visit the main house and dined in with the hosts. It seems like a ritual for tourists to convene with locals as a symbol of acceptance. After meals served and finished, the village’s chief gave us speech before we wandered around the village and explained the house rules. As told, I carefully observed my surroundings and interviewed couples of locals about their life up there. Amazingly, they can plant anything there from rice, vegetables to coffee beans. For poultry and other staples, however, they brought from downhill, so it’s quite common that during your hike you might come across many villagers on their way up while shouldering food supplies. These natives have lived in the village for 19 generations, a big family sharing one big traditional house forming a cone-shaped building constructed by palm fiber and wooden pole. In separate location, there was also a library for the children to study. Tourists are encouraged to donate books to these kids as they do not experience normal school life. Witnessing their daily life, I figured that harvesting and processing coffee beans and weaving songket cloths (here called cura) are their main income besides gardening other nature resources. Each house has different task to participate in catering the needs of the whole community. One is for producing rice, another is for livestock and so forth.
Entertainment center is in the middle of the field. Sometimes it is used for rituals and celebration when other times it is simply a spot to regard the entire village’s layout or play with the kids and puppies. Yup, puppies are raised for your pleasure, accompanying your short stay. Tourists are allowed to spend a night in one of the houses of Wae Rebo since such long walk could sap one’s energy terribly.You will sleep on a tikar, a woven mat made out of Pandan leaf, in a Mbaru Niang, and encounter the life they have been passing through, spending most of the time under one roof with their extended family. At the time, I unfortunately could not spare a long week to prolong my day-off so I hiked back and forth in one day. It surely drained my stamina yet picturing the mind- boggling landscape and absorbing extraordinary stories sufficed the inevitability of nature refreshment and cultural knowledge.