One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Indonesian state of Flores off the island of Bali, the hill town of Bajawa is surrounded by lush slopes and striking volcanoes.
Coming in on the road from Ruteng, the first sight that will meet tourists to the area is the Gunung Inerie, one of the active volcanoes near Bajawa. The volcano itself can be an arduous but rewarding hike particularly at sunset. On clear days, hikers can see all the way to Sumba from the volcano’s summit.
Bajawa itself is the largest town in the Ngada district, an area recognized as the spiritual heartland of the Flores. A pleasant stop for most visitors, the surrounding villages filled with traditional houses and ngadhu, carved poles supporting a conical thatched roof like a huge umbrella.
Ngadhus are male symbols used in ancestor worship to guard against sickness and preserve fertility.
Despite the influx of travelers in the area, indigenous animist religions flourish and the villages mainatin fascinating houses, megalithic stones, and interesting totems.
Tourists stopping over for a meal may also find themselves challenged with the local specialties of moke, a type of wine that tastes like methylated spirts and raerate, a dish made of dog meat marinated in coconut milk and then boiled in its own blood.
Several ceremonial edifices also stand in the center of each village which represent the ancestral protection of, and presence in, the village. These include the Ngadhu , which resembles a man in a huge hula skirt, the thatched skirt sitting atop a crudely carved, phallic, forked tree trunk, which is imbued with the power of a male ancestor.
The female part of the pairing, the Bhaga, is a symbol of the womb, a miniature house. A carved stake called a Peo, to which animals are tied before being sacrificed, supplements the symbolic coupling.