On our last morning in Flores we finally got to explore more of the island and headed off in a bus up a very long and winding road into the hills outside of Labuan Bajo to a tiny village known as Melo.
I enjoyed seeing more of the agricultural interior of the island and was amazed at the abundance of tropical vegetation around. All the locals seemed to have paw paw (papaya) trees, banana trees, coconut trees, pineapples and rice paddies in their back yards. Us Westerners slave away in grey office blocks day in and day out so we can afford to put healthy food on the table (and pay for our international holidays) while the locals in this part of the world live in a tropical paradise of green fields and blue skies and have delicious, healthy food on their doorsteps. Yes, I am making a very general observation from a brief encounter and know nothing more about the struggles of daily life in this part of the world, but what I can say is that something about our “modern” lifestyle definitely leaves much to be desired.
Arriving at Melo Village, where we would spend a morning with the local tribe, we were welcomed with a traditional gift of a locally made scarf, introduced to the elders of the tribe, sampled their rather potent Sopi (palm wine) welcome drink and then were entertained by their elaborate dances and warrior displays… eventually joining in!
Melo offers a range of village-based tourism activities and here visitors can watch exciting cultural art performances such as the ‘Ndundu Dake’ dance and the well-known Caci performances. The village is run as a cultural cooperative known as Compang To’e and is a great place to experience the distinct Manggaraian culture.
The highlight of a visit to Kampung Melo (kampung means ‘village’ in Indonesian), is the opportunity to enjoy a Caci performance, more than just a traditional performance, it is a major element of Manggaraian cultural identity and an important part of ceremonial life.
During our visit to the village I spent time observing and photographing the performances from the ‘Panorama’ hut, a bamboo building with a great view of the valley, and then, while the rest of our groups attention was focussed on the dancers and performers, I headed up the small hill to the musicians… the women of the village! Here they sat, in a colourful huddle, tirelessly keeping the beat of the drums and the rhythm of the music going. It seemed like a thankless, endless task but they all kept smiling, and chatting to their friends as they kept going!
Eventually it was their turn to join the party and they brought their grace and beauty to a unique performance of a traditional bamboo pole jumping game known as ‘Tetek Alu’…. Definitely not easy as was evident when a few of my fellow bloggers tried to join them and were hardly as graceful!!!
Another one of the highlights of my visit was a completely unplanned one (as is often the case) and it was such a lovely little insight into normal family life… in Indonesia!
I poked my head back into the local home where we had met the elders on arrival and there I spotted a pair of brothers re-enacting their fathers with an elaborate fight/ dance on top of their reed mat beds!
The jumped and rolled and tumbled on top of each other all the while making “fighting” stances and basically being little boys. As I hadn’t seen my own two kids for over a week I loved being able to watch them and was reminded just how similar boys around the world actually are!
After a morning of unique Indonesian culture we headed off back down the mountain to Labuan Bajo for lunch.
Post-lunch I did a quick walk up and down the main road in the town to snap a few pics and give you a better idea of what this busy Indonesian town looks like…
Lots of scooters of course, plenty of businesses offering dive trips and day trips to the Komodo islands and the usual assortment of local shops and a few restaurants. I particularly liked the offerings outside the hardware store – spades, pick axes and anchors… a true reflection of this coastal town!
How to get to Labuan Bajo
The easiest and fastest way to reach Flores is by air from Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar, Bali. There are daily flights that last approximately 90 minutes.
How to get to Melo Village
Located 17km (approx 40 mins) from Labuan Bajo the best way to get to Melo Village is to rent a motorbike or ask for a local ojek (motorbike taxi) to drive you there. Another option is to take a small minibus from Labuan Bajo – Ruteng. Be warned the road is very windy and ascends quite high, so if you’re prone to motion sickness take a tablet!!
Read more about my #TripofWonders experience in Indonesia here:
Images: Kathryn Rossiter
My trip to Indonesia was on the invitation of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism as part of the Trip of Wonders. For more information on travelling to Indonesia please visit www.indonesia.travel and follow @indtravel on Twitter or Instagram and search the hashtags #WonderfulIndonesia #TripofWonders for more incredible photos from our journey.
I write reviews and feature beautiful places on my blog in order to inspire others to find new, exciting and different places to visit. As always all thoughts, opinions and images are my own.