If you want to experience Ngada culture beyond the more popular Bena and Wogo, and if you are ready to invest a little time and physical effort, you should dare to hike to the extraordinary village of Belaraghi and spend the night in this amazing place.
The sixteen beautiful traditional houses stand tidily in two parallel rows in a secluded forest clearing, exuding natural harmony. They are renovated in the traditional Ngada architectural style on a regular basis and are therefore in very good condition. Five of the sixteen houses are so-called sao pu’u, first or original houses, which are indicated by a miniature house on the roof; the other five distinct buildings are sao lobo, ‘last houses’, which feature a miniature human figure on the roof.
Five is also the number of clans living in Belaraghi at present. Besides the buildings mentioned, the Belaraghi clans are also affiliated with another house type: the sao kaka (kaka means ‘to share’). These houses are considered ‘children’, the descendants of a clan’s sao pu’u and sao lobo. Some of the sao kaka are even located in other villages. The kaka inhabitants support their families in the sao pu’u and the sao lobo financially, materially, and with labor.
At the back of the village there is a ritual site with five bhaga-like houses called loka – one for each clan. The loka face the watu lanu, a construction consisting of an elevated stone court framed by ijuk-covered poles. This site is mainly used by the Belaraghi people for the ‘bui loka’, a ceremony to initiate reba, the Ngada-wide new year festivities (link cultural events).
To the Belaraghi people, visitors from abroad are guests, not tourists. Therefore, guests are traditionally welcomed with a ceremony called ti’i ka ebu nusi, which translates as ‘give food to the ancestors’. It is about introducing the guests to the host’s ancestors, to ask for their blessings so that no obstacles may come in the way of the traveler, and to ask the evil spirits in the mountains not to cause any harm to them. The ritual takes place in the ‘sao one’, the most sacred inner part of a Ngada house.
After ti’i ka ebu nusi, it is time to sit together for conversation and a shared meal. As there is no electricity yet in Belaraghi, the soft light of the oil-lamps brings a very cozy atmosphere inside the neat and clean wooden houses. At night, enjoy these rare moments of silence, with only nature’s sounds to lull you to sleep. As Belaraghi is already close to the coast, it does not get as cold as in Bajawa at night.
As there are no tourist facilities in Belaraghi, you should bring your own water and food supply. If you plan to stay in Belaraghi overnight, go there with a local guide (see contact details below) who can arrange food and accommodation in the village for you. A good guide can make your stay a lot more interesting by translating from Indonesian/Ngada language to English and give you useful cultural background information.
How to get there
If you want to reach Belaraghi from Bajawa, take the Transflores ‘highway’ towards Aimere. After about 35km, at the junction towards Keligejo Village, drive to Pauleni Village and register in the guestbook as a visitor to Belaraghi. Continue your drive to Paukate Village, passing the SDK Paukate and the Kantor Kepala Desa (village head office) in Keligejo. Paukate is a good starting point for a short and easy hike to Belaraghi. Please do not forget to thank the villagers for letting you visit their place. A small donation, in the form ofmoney or coffee, tea, clove cigarettes etc, or a specialty from your home country, will be highly appreciated.
The most interesting and rewarding, but also most demanding, way to reach Belaraghi is by way of a 11km hike starting from Beiposo Village near Bajawa. For this adventurous nature and culture trek, you should be in a good physical condition. For more information and the organization of an overnight stay, please contact Wilhelmus Doi on +6285239043771 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is an excellent local trekking guide who knows a lot about the local flora and fauna, as well as the Ngada culture in general.