Wae Rebo – The Village in The Clouds
It was almost midday, in the middle of a mountain trail and we were still about 2,5 hours away from our destination when we realized that we have ran out of drinking water. Not to fret, our friendly local guide said, and within minutes, we arrived at a corner where fresh mountain water trickled down. Being the ‘leader’ of the group I stepped forward courageously (after being nudged by the others) to be the one to test this “mountain water”. To my surprise, it was very cold, and as I drink it, it reminded me of iced cold water from the water dispenser at home. I smiled from ear to ear and told my friends – this is super good, you should all drink! And drink they did.
Me with my friendly local guide’s son on our trail hike to Wae Rebo
A couple of hours later we finally reached our destination. And yes shivers still run through my veins as I write this and recalled the view that awaited us, the fatigue accumulated over 4 hours of trekking through the mountain disappeared almost instantaneously into laughter of joy. We have arrived at the village of Wae Rebo.
I first heard of this secluded village from my high school friend, Audrey. She was kind of my muse in terms of travel. Before I started my travel business 3 years ago, we had coffee and I asked her about all of the unique places she’s been in Indonesia, and one place stood out, and since then I’ve promised myself that I would visit it one day.
Wae Rebo has this charm I could not begin to express through words alone. To get to Wae Rebo, one has to travel first to the island of Flores, in East Nusa Tenggara, about 1.5 hours from Bali. From the airport in Labuan Bajo, there’s another 6-7 hours drive to reach Denge, the village on the feet of the mountain where Wae Rebo is. Depending what time you arrive, you might have to stay overnight before continuing by foot for another 2-3 hours. Yes, we took almost 5 hours because we started the hike too late (ideally if you start when it’s still dark you get there in less than 3 hours).
The unique thing about Wae Rebo, first of all, is the cone-shaped houses or the Mbaru Niang. The houses received support from a team of Jakarta-based architect and the government to be in its better shape. Each of these houses gathers more than 1 family, so it has a very communal feeling. If you decide to stay overnight, you will stay at the guesthouse, which is the newest out of the only 7 houses. You’ll also notice the biggest house, Niang Gendang, the one in the center of the half circle layout, where the village elder invited us in for a formal welcoming ceremony. After the ceremony, the village elder said that from now on we are all part of the Wae Rebo family.
Wae Rebo’s Mbaru Niang House Structure
Picture was taken from this article: http://dailyvoyagers.com/blog/2016/09/14/mengenal-sejarah-rumah-adat-waerebo/
Indeed, this warm, family feeling I can’t help but notice from almost everyone in Flores. Perhaps it has to do with how they prefer to be addressed here – we call all the older ladies “mama”, all the younger ones “kakak” (which means older sister or brother in Indonesian), and the kids “adik” (which means younger sister or brother in Indonesian). The men? We call them “oom” which means uncle in Indonesian (not sure why it’s not “father”).
The morning after, when it is still dark, we got up to the viewpoint to witness the morning view of the whole village. As the sun started to appear, the clouds were moved by the wind and then moved through the houses, making it look like it is a village in the clouds. We took turns taking pictures with this background. After breakfast, we gathered the kids and took some fun pictures together. It was the weekend, so all of the kids were there in the village. There’s no school in Wae Rebo, so the older kids have to go to the feet of the mountain on weekdays to live in Denge Village to go to school.
Finally, we said good-bye, and started our descent downhill. As we arrived back in Denge, I can’t help but feel very lucky to have been able to fulfill my dream to visit Wae Rebo and I made another promise – to share this story with people I know so that they also one day, can experience it themselves.
By Kennita Kurniawan
Having been away from Indonesia for half of her adult life, she discovered her full love for travel in Indonesia when she came home in 2012. Two years later, TravelPeople was established – out of the passion to introduce more of Indonesia to fellow Indonesians & the people of the world. Kennie believes that travel is much more than just sightseeing or an escape. It is a great opportunity to learn from the world outside of our own – giving meaning and context to life itself. Kennie also loves to meet new people and listen to their stories – another one of the reasons why she loves to travel.