Flores, Ruteng to Bajawa 150 Km, 6 Hours
What to See
Ruteng is a small town on the western end of Flores Island, Indonesia. It is the capital of West Manggarai regency. The population is predominantly Roman Catholic, but still preserve the ancient Manggarai custom of caci (whip fighting), which is usually practiced at weddings, and serves as a tourist attraction.
Ruteng is a Hinterland east of the port area of Labuhan Bajo and close to the other ports of West Manggarai regency and it really another ‘passing through’ area in Flores’s western area. Whether you area heading to Komodo and the eastern islands of extensive protected wildlife and or towards the east in search of incredible peaks and mountains it is likely that you will find Ruteng a convenient stopping point. Ruteng is a beautiful place to explore when passing trough or residing in any of the coastal area in the west, southwest and northwest of the Flores Island.
Ruteng is a town that deals will the export of the tropical fruits and vegetables from which the farmers of its surrounding areas produce as the largest industry and traditional of the area. Beautiful traditional villages surround the large town, these villages extend high into the mountains offering cooler and more humid mountain fresh climates with amazing sunrise views and the ability to grow and sustain a larger selection of crops. crops here include Pineapple, cinnamon, cloves, sweet potato and many other spices and fruits.
Points and areas of interest that Ruteng has to offer include Golo Curu, the ‘welcome mountain’ this beautiful view point can be reached by heading out from Ruteng towards Reo but going straight after the bridge when instead of following the main road round to left. from here you area lead to an unpathed road that is only a 20 minute to the top. As with most of the Mountains in the Flores area, Golo Curu is subject to clouds manifesting around its peak during the day but is almost always clear in the morning, if you make it for first light you will witness an incredible sunrise over the city of Ruteng and its surrounding mountains and hills. upon the mountain of Golo Curu the very top is obstructed by vegetation but a little further down there are some excellent panoramic viewpoints. there is also an alter to the virgin Mary after a reported sighting and message that one should be built, the church agreed to build it but so far this is where the story ends.
Another worth while experience is to visit and witness a local marriage, marriages are an interesting and pleasant event and usually feature one of the most potent elements of Flores’ culture, the whip fighting. Whip fighting is a social display that is more of a dance then a fight but does feature a competitive edge. The whole ceremony is a good experience and if you are appropriately dressed and know how to behave according to the customs then you will be warmly welcome even as a stranger. The best way to look for this if you are interested is to ask in Indonesian at the market or employ the help of someone who speaks English to help you and advise you on how to behave and what to wear.
About an hour before Bajawa you can discover how the local drink (arak) is made. People from all over Flores, mainly the men, drink this strong ‘palm wine’ (from the lontar palm) during traditional ceremonies, on special events but also just in the evenings when socialising with other men from the village. Arak can also be made from rice (rice wine). In this coastal village you can taste and buy your own Arak.
Click to Enlarge !
Wawo Muda (the three red lakes
In 2001 a volcanic eruption in Central Flores created a massive crater, changing the skyline of the local area forever and turning a vast swathe of land into volcanic ash dotted with dead, branchless tree trunks defiantly pointing upwards to the sky. Water that entered this gigantic crater formed five lakes.
Like the more famous Kelimutu crater lakes, the Wawo Muda lakes change colour according to the mineral content of the water. Unlike Kelimutu, however, the Wawo Muda lakes sometimes dry up, particularly during the dry season. When I visited in mid-April only two lakes were visible.
Trekking to the Crater
After driving for a short distance up through the town of Bajawa with my guide, Johannes, we paused at the entrance gate to the Wawo Muda area. There was nobody around so we continued on without being able to pay an entrance fee. Parking our motorbike at someone’s house, we continued on foot, uphill and along, and uphill some more. We passed coffee plantations; coffee from this area is exported as far as the US. Some brave locals rode their motorbikes up the steep and narrow country footpath, while others walked up the hill towards their plantations. Many vegetables and fruits are grown here, in addition to coffee, often in mixed plantations.
Johannes pointed out interesting trees and plants along the way. I smelt the crushed up leaves of the eucalyptus tree which, here in Indonesia, is used to make an oil called minyak kayu putih, applied to the skin to relieve numerous ailments. I saw coffee beans before the roasting process, all wet and white, and I learnt how in Flores they plant a particular type of tree before planting the coffee plants; these trees, spread throughout the plantation, improve the quality of the coffee. I smelt the roots of a plant used to make tiger balm, and saw enormous bamboo growing by the side of the path.
This root is used to make tiger balm
As we climbed higher I looked out across a breathtaking vista of the whole town of Bajawa with Mount Inerie in the background and many large hills surrounding it.
Wawo Muda Lakes
It was scorching hot as we climbed the final stretch up to the crater rim. Then, between the trees, I glimpsed Wawo Muda. The large crater area was almost completely bare of vegetation, with only a few brave trees that had grown since the eruption. Dead, blackened tree trunks dotted the area. I could see two light brown lakes.
It is possible to climb down into the crater and get closer to the lakes, but it is a long way back up. Local people sometimes gather sulphur there, which I was told is used to reduce itchiness of the skin.
We walked around the crater edge to see the lakes from several angles. Since Wawo Muda is not a developed tourist destination, there are no handrails and I was careful not to slip on the little stones that line the ground. The view across the volcanic landscape and the two lakes was eerie and other-worldly.
How to Visit Wawo Muda
If you like a short trek through some interesting countryside, visit Wawo Muda before it dries up. The entrance to the area is a short drive from Bajawa, and you face a trek of one to two hours depending on where you start walking. Motorbikes can drive up the footpath so you have less walking, but the hike up through the plantations is pleasant.
Johannes was an excellent guide, extremely knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the local area, as well as the development of Wawo Muda crater and the surrounding mountains. He also offers tours to other attractions in the Bajawa region, such as to Soa hot springs, climbing Mount Inerie and visiting traditional Ngada villages, and he regularly runs tours across the whole island of Flores. He can be contacted by telephone on +62 (0)81 353 061310.