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In the shadow of Gunung Inerie, the Ngada village of Bena is the prime reason most travellers break their journey at Bajawa, as the village is considered a classic example of Ngada culture.
The village comprises two rows of traditional houses facing one another across an open area dotted with ngadhu totems and bhaga shrines. Upon arrival you'll be hustled across to a reception where you're asked to make a donation and sign the guestbook. You then walk up the right side, climb the stairs to the viewpoint and walk back down along the left side.
As you walk up note the buffalo horns and pig jaws that have been tied to the sides of some of the houses. Women will be weaving traditional fabric, available for purchase should you be interested, on their verandas or selling local produce including vanilla beans and candlenuts. You can also ask to look inside a house and of course always ask before taking a person's photograph.
At the top of the village is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and behind that a viewpoint that offers an impressive panorama across the surrounds.
As you make your way down the left side look to the centre and you'll see a series of three objects repeated on the way down -- the ngadhu totems (kind of like umbrellas), the bhaga shrines (little houses), platforms of flat stones which are known as lenggi and lastly megaliths.
The ngadhu totems are built to symbolise the male clan ancestor. The trunk is decoratively carved while the exterior of the roof is tightly wrapped. The bhaga shrine represents the female side of the clan and is apparently big enough to contain just two small men -- yes, when the rituals are held within the bhaga shrine, they are only ever undertaken by men. The lenggi are used as a court to settle disputes within the village.
The village is a fascinating place and we suggest trying to get there early as in high season it can get busy. We arrived a little before 09:00 during April and were the only ones there.
The village is around 17 kilometres from Bajawa and is easily visited by car, bemo or motorbike -- regardless of your means of transport, have them wait to take you back as there is little passing traffic.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 27th May, 2014.