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Hidden Villages of Flores

11 Sep 2013

photo by Sean Cousins


If Diving is not your thing, or visiting places lost in time is, then you should consider exploring the interior of Flores.  An inland adventure is a more intrepid option, but is probably not suitable for most children under the age of 13.  

Filmmaker Abroad will soon be offering a Flores experience focussing on the beautiful remote villages of the islands interior; it will be called Hidden Villages of Flores.  Found in hidden valleys and perched under volcanoes, these are some of the most interesting places in all Indonesia. There is only one ‘proper’ road that runs the length of the island, intersected with rough arterial roads running up into the mountains, and down to the coast, where remote villages can be found.  But in my view the best villages to visit don’t have roads to them at all - they are 'walk in' only, and as such tourists are rare. 

My favourite place is Wae Rebo – a remote and pristine village in the heart of what was, before colonisation, the Mangarrai civilization. It’s a 10 km walk up a fairly steep track from the end of the road to the village.  But the walk only adds to the mystique of the place. The sense of arrival, coming over a rise to see the circle of enormous grass huts positioned on a grassy knoll surrounded by steep mountains is truly inspiring.  A new “traditional” house was added a few years ago to accommodate the few intrepid travellers who make their way here. And it’s an essential part of the experience (not only because you don’t want to have to do that walk twice in one day). It’s a simple homestay with grass mats on the floor and simple meals provided, but what an incredible privilege to be welcomed into the homes of these families, living traditional lifestyles in communal houses; sharing coffee that they’ve grown in the surrounding hills.  Ancestor worship is still strongly adhered to here, and families can traced their lineage back for 17 generations or more; that takes us back to a time before the Portuguese arrived here.  Since the 1970s they’ve been keeping records of who visits the village in a book.  Fewer than 30 Australians have made the trek.  I’ll be posting a film on the website of our time in this village very soon.  We were incredibly lucky to be there on a day when the children (who attend schools and stay during term time at a village down the mountain) were saying goodbye to their hard working parents.  It was a magical and timeless scene.

 photo by Sean Cousins


Photo by Sean Cousins


photo by Sean Cousins


A day’s drive from Wae Rebo is the village of Bena; a more visited place, as there is good road access, but an absolutely stunning sight.  Situated on a slope at the base of a great volcano and completely terraced in stone it looks like it could be a set for Lord of The Rings.  This is a weaving village – beautiful handiwork – with most customers these days being tourists.  There is no homestay here as such but it’s well worth a day trip.


photo by Sean Cousins

The third village, like Wae Rebo, is also well off the beaten track.  It is called Saga, in the Ende district, and it is another hidden gem.  Carving features heavily in the timber and grass houses here. The huts are beautiful structures that seem to almost float a metre in the air, perched as they are on granite stalagmite-like stumps.  This village is a day’s walk overland from the stunning Kelimutu volcano crate lakes.  When I return with the group of filmmakers we will follow a “lost” trail, passed a huge waterfall, that leads to a flat plot of land close to the famous coloured crater lakes.  Once in time this open land was a communal market and celebration space (rather like a corroboree ground I suspect) for people from all villages around Kelimutu to gather, intermingle and trade.  In years to come this trail may become a well-known hike and a wonderful alternative to the well-worn path up to the crater lakes, but right now it is just a concept and a completely unique experience for participants of the forthcoming Filmmaker Abroad trip. 

photo by Sean Cousins