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Destination Flores 1971 (part 2)

around Ende


My hosts in Ende, the parents of one of my students, were well-connected, she being a teacher and he a school inspector. They made a real effort to take me to interesting places at a time tourism was virtually non-existent. The inspector used to make his visits on foot or bicycle, sometime on horseback. We joined him occasionally.

On one of those hikes, we passed by a spring in the forest with a curious history. In colonial times the Dutch had built here a small swimming pool, named Woloare. But after independence the local government wanted to enlarge it. So they broke down the concrete wall on the lower side of the pool, which took quite an effort. Then they built a new and higher wall more downhill of stone and mortar. When they filled up the pool, the new wall collapsed….


My hosts also introduced me to two traditional villages. At the time they were really traditional, not yet accustomed to receiving tourists. The people in these villages addressed me with ‘romo’, the title of a catholic priest. Priests being the only white men they had encountered.


Nggela lies, as the crow flies, not more than 20 kilometres east of Ende. But even today – according to Google - it would take a two hours' drive to get there, by a long detour. Walking would be a 50 kilometres hike. So the practical way to travel from Ende to Nggela is by boat along the coast, setting out from Ipi beach. The photo shows people arriving at the beach near Nggela, which lies 1.5 kilometres inland. The boat that brought our group there was more seaworthy, but I don’t have a photo of it.


The population of Nggela belongs to the Ende tribe, who live along the coast and make a living of fishery.


At the time they still lived in traditional houses, built of bamboo and wood with thatched roofs.


These were arranged around ancestors tombs, as indeed is the custom all over Flores.



Though nominally catholics, the relics that the Ende people preserve have nothing to do with catholicism. I could not receive an explanation what is special of this elephant tusk and where the village obtained it. There are and never were elephants on Flores. The really holy objects were stored in this vessel, that only could be opened on special occasions with due ritual.



Nggela is one of many Flores villages where the traditional weaving technique ikat is kept alive. In this technique the patterns are dyed on the warp before the cloth is woven. The process is started by stringing the warp threads on a frame. After the pattern has been drawn on the warp, bindings are applied where the dye may not penetrate. The warp threads are then immersed in a bath of natural dye. As most patterns require more than one colour, the warp is strung once more on the frame, taking care that they match, and the process is repeated. As I don’t have a good picture of a woman at the loom in 1971, that photo is of my 2011 visit to Wolotopo.


The finished cloth is sown into a cylinder. Centre in next photo is my student’s mother showing how the skirt is worn. The other women have dressed up in a skirt that is considered more precious, as it is not locally made.


In the afternoon we walked back to beach, but the boat had not yet come to pick us up. We lay down in the shade of some trees. A young boy had come with us. He started humming a melody while rhythmically knocking a pebble on a stone. His simple music merged with the sound of the waves. I closed my eyes and felt contented.



Life went on and another day we went to Wolotopo, much closer to Ende. So we walked. Yet the only access to the village was by a flight of rough stairs between two rock faces. Forty years later, in 2011, I visited Wolotopo again, and found it had changed a lot. A road had been cut between the two rocks and we could go by car.



Wolotopo was and is quite a big village. Like in Nggela, the people of Wolotopo used to live in traditional houses with thatched roofs. At my first visit there were still four multi-family houses, in which up to five families lived each with their own fireplace for cooking. The thatched roofs need maintenance, see the photo where half the roof has been renovated.



They were also busy re-enforcing an embankment, Wolotopo being located on the steep slope a river valley.



In 2011 only two of those big houses were left and most families lived in single-family houses built of brick.



Though those veranda's of the long houses remain favoured for community life.



In 1971 the only brick building in Wolotopo was the church. I remember the chat I had with the resident German priest. His greatest joy was the harmonium that he had had sent from Germany, so that he could accompany the singing of his flock. But he was disillusioned that he had not been able to change the custom of adolescent boys and girls to bath together in the river at full moon. He had wanted to have a wall built to separate them, but had not succeeded.

At that time there was no bridge, except during heavy rain one could cross the river by wading through.


I saw several small houses on the hillside across the river, and asked who lived there. But these were not for living in, but served for food storage. After harvest the crop is stored here, at a distance from the village. That way the risk of losing the food supply to fire is reduced. I saw this custom also in Sumbawa (situs Uma Lengge in Maria village). It is a wise measure, because the risk of fire in a traditional house, with a kitchen under a thatched roof, is not imaginary. In Nggela as recent as October 2018 31 houses were destroyed by fire.



Later a hanging bridge had been built and now some families live in bungalows across the river.


Like in Nggela, there were ancestral tombs in the centre of Wolotopo. The corrugated iron roof on the left belongs to the church!



There was also a big banyan tree, perhaps planted when the village was founded. I photographed it again in 2011.



And Wolotopo also had its heirlooms, among them an elephant tusk like in Nggela. They also had several ancestor’s effigies covered in red cloth. In 2011 I had brought my laptop and I showed the villagers the pictures of my previous visit. They then told me that this ancestor’s effigy had been stolen! So they were very happy to copy my file of it on a stick (and the other photos of my 1971 visit).


Next photo of my later visit shows how they now keep the effigies.


To Mount Iya

Of course we made an excursion to Iya volcano. Its last and unexpected eruption had occurred less than three years before. So its condition was regularly monitored. We, a group of five, joined an inspector whose duty it was to measure the temperature in crevices in the craters. Any increase in temperature is an indication of heightened activity.


It was a hot day. Once we approached the peak of the old crater, vegetation was scarce and there was no shade.



in the photo on the right Pulau Ende is just visible in the background. According to legend it is the sword with which Mount Iya cut of the head of Table Mountain.

We descended into the old crater, where our guide had to make a measurement.



By the time we reached the new crater, I was very thirsty. I had not known what to expect, everyone just carried one bottle of Fanta. When I looked down into the crater that lay beneath me like a big cauldron, I thought: ‘When I go down there, I will never get out again.’ So I waited on the edge while my companions went down and the guide did his job there.



For our return we descended the steep slope to the shore, then walked along the the water's edge. After an hour or so we reached the first coconut trees. There we took a rest and I drank the water of three young coconuts.




The coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu have become the second most visited attraction of Flores after the Komodo dragons. They can be reached from Ende by a turn-off from the trans-Flores road. That road had been built in colonial times, but in 1971 it was not surfaced yet. So it was rough driving along this tortuous road with high cliffs on one side and deep ravines on the other. People still spoke of a horrible accident that had happened years earlier. A highly laden truck with passengers on top of the load had hit a rock that had fallen on the road. As a result the truck toppled over sideways en rolled into the ravine.

We did not go by truck, my hosts had chartered the Willys Jeep owned by the protestant church of Ende. Here it is on the road from Moni to Kelimutu (now nicely sealed).


We were lucky to have a clear day and saw the lakes in their natural state, without railings, explanatory and warning signs. Neither were there the stairs to the peak from where to view all three lakes.



I can confirm that at least one lake changes colour. Here in the foreground is my 1971 photo of lake Ata Polo. At the time its colour was dark ‘liver’ red, in the photo it comes out almost black. When I visited again in 2011 lake Ata Polo was dark green.



Lake Nuamuri Koofai is separated from lake Ata Polo by just a low rock wall, yet it’s colour is different. I have always seen it light green(right).
The third lake, Ata Mbupu, seems never to change colour. It is shaped like an almost perfect cylindrical sink hole (below).


This was a day long excursion. On the way back we found a suitable place for the picnic we had brought.


Christmas in Ende


The majority of the Ende population are Christians, either Catholics or Protestants. So we attended Christmas celebration at a school, where the biblical story of the birth of Christ was enacted by the students. At right are Joseph and Mary standing by the manger. Below angels, shepherds and the three kings pay homage to the newborn.


At home family and guests participated in the local line dance rokatenda.


Soon after Christmas we had to return to Central Java. The Willys Jeep of the church brought my student and me all the way to Maumere (150 kilometres on the not yet surfaced road). From Maumere we flew to Surabaya, where I had left my car.

Posted by theo1006 10:57 Archived in Indonesia

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hey, another great entry and photos, looking forward to part 3...

by joffre

Great memories. It must have been very interesting to see so many places before they became touristy.

by irenevt

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