We spend the night in the city of Bajawa. It is a nice little town in the hills a bit over a kilometer above sea level so up here we escape the heat of the low lands of Flores. The city is the biggest city in the area inhabited by the Ngada people – but it still only got a bit over 40,000 people living there. The Ngada people aren’t a very numerous people but they still got their own language.
The island of Flores is generally very hilly and difficult to get around – but the area around Bajawa is possibly even hillier than the rest of the island. And before they built the road going across Flores this area was virtually impenetrable. Hence the people living here didn’t communicate much with the people living on the other side of the volcanic hills or down at the coast which you can actually see in the distance from certain view points in the area. The isolation has led the people of the area to have their own unique language which is only spoken by the people of the region and completely incomprehensible for people from other parts of Flores – hence they will have to communicate in the common Indonesian language Bahasa Indonesia.
The area is one of the poorest in Indonesia but it has a special culture and some very unique villages which do attract a few tourists who want to look at the special villages which are nothing like anywhere else in Indonesia. The tourist do provide some much needed extra income for the area so I guess we shouldn’t feel too bad about going and observe the culture of the region.
We arrange with the owner at our small hotel to go for a tour around the region going to three different villages where we can see the famous local building style.
We leave in the morning going out on the small rough road in the country side around Bajawa. It is slow going considering the somewhat dubious condition of the roads but the distances is fairly small so we don’t have to go high speed to get around.
We start out in the village of Bena which is the most famous of the traditional Ngada villages. It got a lot of traditional huts with their thatch roof. There are a lot of huts which are lined up on each side of a large village square. Some of the huts have different decorations on the top of the roof – they indicate different statues of the clan who live in that particular house.
Inside the village is an old stone structure which is ancient and has special meaning concerning the ancestors of the village. Some local ceremonies take places around the stone structure at certain times of the year.
After Bena we visit a couple of other old villages – but these are not quite as interesting as Bena. But they are still interesting and in one there are a big square which the houses is placed around.
After the two cities we head for lunch. Our driver takes us to his house for a traditional Ngada lunch. He lives in a more modern village of the Ngada people. They don’t have thatches roof – but they still do construct the houses in the same style. The houses are located around a large square where the local kids run around playing football.
It is interesting to see what the house look likes inside – it has a large room and a raised platform where the family can stay. There are a lot of different carvings on the wood works which make it more interesting to have a look inside.