After the spectacular crater lakes of Mt Kelimutu, we got back in the car and more than 3 1/2 hours later, arrived at Bajawa, the area where the Ngada traditional villages are located. The Ngada culture has been preserved because the area is hard to reach. The people traditionally worship their ancestors and practice animism, but now combine this with Catholicism.
To get to these villages was a feat in itself, the very narrow and potholed road was expertly maneuvered by our driver. It was slow going on a sometimes winding road and wet because of the rainy season.
According to the World Monuments Fund: “The Ngada villages … are nestled between two volcanos in the remote inlands of the island of Flores. These communities are characterized by a distinctive form of vernacular architecture that has survived despite the globalizing forces of the twenty-first century. The number of houses (sa’o) and shrines for male and female ancestors (ngadhu and bhaga) in a given village is determined by the number of clans or families (suku) in the village, and must remain constant over time. The buildings reflect traditional beliefs and are decorated with images of buffalo, chickens, horses, humans, weaponry, and other forms, each with the purpose of protecting the inhabitants of the villages and ensuring their sustainable harmony with ancestral spirits and the environment.”
We visited the villages of Luba and Bena. The first village we went to was Luba. Here’s what we saw.
The Ngada are a matriarchal society and the women are the head of the clan. It’s also the women, and not men, who inherit the land from their parents. When a man marries, he moves in with the woman and her family.
Many houses had water buffalo horns and also wild boar jaws (below) adorning their houses. The more horns, the more powerful and wealthier the family. The animals are sacrificed during traditional ceremonies.
Bena is a larger Ngada village close to Luba and consists of 45 houses. Instead of a donation, we paid an entrance fee of about $2.50 AUD each. There was an information centre explaining Ngada culture in English and Bahasa. It was low season when we visited so there weren’t many tourists when we came. We had the whole village to ourselves for most of the time we were there.
So many water buffalo horns and wild boar jaws!
According to the information centre, “People living in Bena are generally Catholic but their traditional faith to their ancestors whom is believed always presenting among them in every situation and its custom ceremonies and rituals are still well preserved until now.”
Heading back to Bajawa
All the trucks on the road had a ridiculous amount of decals and stuffed animals and what-have-you obscuring their view. How they drive on these windy roads with these obstructions is a mystery.
Malanage Hot Spring, Bajawa
We finished off the day with a visit to some natural hot springs, which runs into a river, so the closer to the river you are, the cooler the water.
Thanks so much to our wonderful driver Orfan. He’s the nephew of Robert at Palm Bungalows in Moni.
Those villages have such a strong presence, so rich with the people’s culture. I hope the worst of the modern world leaves them alone!
Hi Jamie, yes I hope the modern world also leaves them alone. I’m also liking the fact it’s a matriarchal society. Not many of those in the world. Jx
Great read. How magical you had the place to yourself. Loving your adventure
Thanks Kate! It was great we could see 2 of the villages. It was definitely memorable. Jx