A breezy morning in Ruteng didn’t stop us to wake up early in the morning. We decided to take ojek (motorcycle taxi) to Denge at 8 AM. We only had one thing in mind: We had to reach Wae Rebo village before the sun went down. Actually there is another way to reach Denge, also the cheapest way. You can take ottokayu (a truck modified into a locals’ public transportation) but ottokayu departs at 2PM from Ruteng which means you will arrive in Denge at 7PM.
Unfortunately Goddess of luck didn’t come to us that day, it turned out that it was Sunday morning where locals went to Sunday mass (Catholic is the main religion in Flores Island). The street was so empty. E-M-P-T-Y. The looking-for-ojek technique we learned from locals the day before didn’t work. At all. Three motorcycles stopped by when we waved our hand while shouting “ojek, ojek”, but no one wanted to drive to Denge (I didn’t blame them at all. Ruteng-Denge is about 3-4 hours by ojek. Plus the not-so-appropriate-for-motorcycle damaged road on the way.)
Then we delegated Dimas to take an ojek to Pasar (public market) and look for ojek(s) who were willing to drive us to Denge. He came with a result of renting a private car –driver included– for IDR 500k (one ojek costs around 125-150k/person). Quite a good deal we got!
I figured out about Wae Rebo village from Jalan-Jalan Men series on Youtube (damn! Jebraw, the host, was super hilarious until I have an obsession to meet him in person). People called this village as a village behind the cloud. We have to hike around 9KM to get to this village and the hike starts from the nearest village called Denge.
We started our hiking at 1PM after eating lunch at our homestay. There was only one homestay in Denge, maintained by a man who called himself as the son of Wae Rebo. Let’s call him Mr. BM. Well, considering the increasing number of visitors to Wae Rebo nowadays, I had to say that he is the only player in this homestay business. One person had to pay IDR 200k to stay in Denge, including three meals. Later on, we paid IDR 200k for a guide to guide us to Wae Rebo who then offered himself to carry my super big carrier.
It took 3.5h for us to reach Wae Rebo. Before entering the village, our guide had to rang the drum (in Indonesian, gendang). Mr. BM told us earlier to pay 50k for the village entrance and also for the welcoming ceremony. No tourist allowed to take pictures of Wae Rebo before having this welcoming ceremony. They told us about some kind of mystical powers who prevent you to take pictures of Wae Rebo if you don’t join the ceremony. We were quite suspicious at that time because we read on several blogs if the entrance payment was supposed to be 20k per group. In addition, two foreign tourists who came with us was being told to pay only 20k by Mr. BM. Then why it was 50k for us? Hmm!
I had been wondering why people call Wae Rebo as a village behind the cloud and now I know why. 04.30 PM: We arrived at Rumah Kasih Ibu where our guide rang the gendang. We could see Wae Rebo from Rumah Kasih Ibu and it was allowed to take picture from that distance. Only the fact that Wae Rebo was covered by cloud. Yes, cloud! Can you spot the clooooooud below?
After the ceremony at the main house called “Niang Gendang or Mbaru Tembong“– the biggest house on the picture above, we were welcomed by several kiddos who played around. Wae Rebo was kinda calm that day because the day after was a market day in Dintor, a village below. Most of Wae Rebo people work as a coffee farmer. Coffee grows really well in their farm, except that they have one big problem of mouses. There weren’t many cats around so can you guess which animal kills those mouses?
I freaked out when I knew that. Mr. BM forbids visitors to start hiking at more than 2PM. Why? First, because it will get dark really soon. Second, crazy cliffs. Third, …deadly snakes are around.
There are only seven houses (called Mbaru Niang) allowed in the main area. One house is allocated for the chief and other elders and one house is allocated for visitors — yes, all visitors stay in the same (big) room. While other five houses are mainly occupied by 7-8 Wae Rebo families inside. Of course as time goes by, its population are increasing. Therefore, you will also see additional houses (made with iron rooftop, unlikely the iconic Mbaru Niang) around the village. If you pay attention, seven Mbaru Niang(s) don’t make a full circle and leave an empty space in front of Mbaru Tembong. Why? Because locals believe that the empty space is the space where their ancestors are.
The best spot to enjoy Wae Rebo is in front of Wae Rebo library (also to take selfie(s) and full pictures of Wae Rebo and its surrounding mountains). I highly advise you to come early morning because when we were there, cloud started coming and covering the village at around 10 AM. Anywaaaay…you have to feel the sensation of breezy cloud slowly touches your face from the window inside Mbaru Niang. So..so..good!!!
I approached and talked with several housewives who were in charge for visitors’ house. I asked them about the library because I was so curious about it (you know I am a bookworm :p). When I was there the library was closed, oh come on, it was Monday! I asked them when will it open but no one knew about it. I asked them if the library is open for public but they answered they even never came inside the library. WHAAAATTTT?!
There is one thing that we realised from Wae Rebo-ers: the young people don’t really know about their own history. We heard from Mr. BM if Wae Rebo ancestors are originally from Minangkabau people in West Sumatra who migrated to Flores. We asked about that to our guide (he is a local Wae Rebo-er) and to those housewives yet they answered it in doubt. We were curious of the history why the ancestors made the houses like that and many many other things. Unfortunately I learned many about Wae Rebo not from the locals but from other guides who came with foreign visitors (these guides are from Labuan Bajo).
When we were enjoying Wae Rebo in front of the library, we met Mr. Michael (don’t be shocked. Flores people have foreign names) who originally from Ruteng and was visiting his sister in Wae Rebo. We asked about Wae Rebo and the Manggarai history to him then he told us to ask the elders. Well, me & my friends are coming from Java and Sumatra where our unwritten rule said it is not so polite to directly knock the elders’ house without prior notice or someone introducing us to the elders.
Mr. Michael said the guide holds an important role in bridging visitors to the elders (we were 100% agree with you, Sir!). He met several elders the might before and these elders said they were very welcome if any visitor approach them to ask any question about Wae Rebo. Unfortunately, we heard about this matter just hours before we hiked down. I personally think that the guides will be more valuable if they are not only being a guide (or sorry to say, a porter) but also having knowledge to introduce Wae Rebo to visitors or maybe bridge visitors to meet the elders. IMHO.
That morning, our guide left us earlier because he had another group to “guide”. Honestly speaking, we were kind of disappointed because it felt like “kejar tayang” — getting many groups to guide as much as possible without considering any added value of being a guide. We didn’t mind going down by ourselves because surprisingly our group was getting bigger by having Mr. Michael and two foreign friends coming down with us.
Cloud came and covered Wae Rebo tho the sun was shining brightly. We went down but didn’t really feel to come back to Denge immediately (yeah, nothing to do there). Then we talked again with those housewives inside the visitors’ house. One housewife told us they were so happy being approached by us. They thought visitors won’t like talking to them because they cooked inside the kitchen and they smelt bad. They suggested us to go to a waterfall called Cunca Neweng while waiting for lunch and voluntarily ordered their children to guide us. Yeay!!!! Thaaaaaankyooooooou, Madame :”)
FYI, usually visitors have to pay additional fee of 100k for a guide if they want to go to Cunca Neweng. This time we had these three little kiddos act as our guides to Cunca Neweng. The path was harder that Denge-Wae Rebo path plus deadly cliff as a bonus. Ok, this sounds like we babysitted those kiddos but what happened was the opposite. They were completely acted as gentle guides who even helped us carrying our bottles. Sad thing that they only knew some Indonesian words (they speak Manggarai language).
We came down at 2PM then spent a night (full of mosquitos) in Denge. The day after, we took bemo to Narang then continued with the glorious ottokayu to Ruteng. OMG! Ottokayu‘s sensation was completely much more amazing than those roller coasters in Disneyland Paris. We paid 20K for bemo (2h trip) and 20K for ottokayu (3h trip). Dimas’ head crashed to a wooden seat in front, mine landed in i-don’t-care-whose’s shoulders, Abhe’s body was suppressed many times when the ottokayu turned right (he sat at the leftmost seat). Then I have to tell you the truth: we were sooo sleepy that we didn’t care of those deadly cliffs during the trip.
After coming from Wae Rebo, we discussed about Manggarai ethnic, Minangkabau ethnic, and their relation to these people in Wae Rebo. Oh dear Wae Rebo, you left us so many questions to be answered. What’s behind this beautiful village?