If you want to experience Ngada culture beyond 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 beautiful place. The sixteen beautiful traditional houses are located in a secluded forest clearing, providing natural harmony. The sixteen traditional houses, standing tidily in two parallel rows, are renovated on a regular basis and are thus in very good condition. Five of those 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 (with kaka meaning ‘to share’). These houses are considered ‘children’, the descendents 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 for the ‘bui loka’, a ceremony to initiate reba, the Ngada-wide New Year festivities.
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 inside part of a Ngada house. By reading the intestines of a sacrificed chicken, the mosalaki can see if there were any incidents on the way to Belaraghi, and he will make predictions about the continuation of the guests’ journey by the nature of the intestines.
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 that will accompany you to sleep. As Belaraghi is already close to the coast, it will not get as cold as in Bajawa at night.
Belaraghi is located in Keligejo village, Aimere sub district. It can be reached from Bajawa, take the Transflores highway towards Aimere. About 35 km on, 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) Keligejo. Paukate is a good starting point for your hike.
The most interesting and rewarding, but also most demanding, way to reach Belaraghi is by a 11 km hike starting from Beiposo village near Bajawa.
Article and images by Christiane Moser, Annaas Firmanto
Copyright by Swisscontact Wisata