If a visit to Wae Rebo is out of the picture but you’d still like to see something of traditional Manggaraian culture, Todo village is a viable alternative. Located about 18km south-west of Ruteng as the crow flies, it’s a 2-3hr road trip from Ruteng to Todo and there’s no hiking involved.
No one is quite sure just how old Todo village is but villagers claim their ancestors came from Sumatra hundreds of years ago. In the fertile hills of south-central Flores, after years of warfare, they established themselves and the village as the dominant power among the indigenous Manggaraian inhabitants. Their dominance was strengthened through the centuries as members of the Todo clan took marriage partners from other villages and established an extensive kinship network throughout the Manggarai regency. It was a logical choice when the Dutch colonial government formally anointed the Todo clan leader as the King of Mangarrai in 1930.
Remnants of Todo’s past glory make for an interesting visit. The most striking attraction is a single mbaru niang traditional ‘drum’ house, restored in 1992 after another eight mbaru niang were lost to neglect and decay. This mbaru niang now serves as Todo’s ceremonial house and repository of the village’s most sacred items; the ritual drums and gongs that are used to communicate with their ancestors. Visitors are able to enter the mbaru naing but are asked to refrain from touching or handling these items.
Next to a big waringin tree, is found the Watu Todo, a ritual stone that guards the village and symbolises its power. More recent relics, a set of old British cannons, are located a short distance away.
Todo village can be accessed by heading south from Ruteng via the villages of Poco Lusang, Golo Cala and Papang. It’s a 36km journey along paved, though somewhat degraded roads, winding through the southern highlands with delightful views of quaint villages, terraced rice fields and lush river valleys. By private car or scooter, it takes a little over 2 hours. If travelling by public transport (minibus or bemo), allow on extra hour.
If you’re travelling the Transflores Highway in a westerly direction from Labuan Bajo, take the alternative route. After about 2.5hrs, just west of Waebanka Village (approximately 95km from Labuan Bajo) you’ll reach a junction. Turn right here and travel for another 17km’s (30-40 min) to Todo Village. Note the travel times given for both routes assume reasonably good travel conditions. Like much of the Flores, low cloud often hangs over the highlands and hampers driver visibility which can add to travel time.