The first large town after Labuanbajo is Ruteng, 140km to the east. Surrounded by forested volcanic hills and rolling rice-paddy plains, it’s a cool, relaxing place. The market just to the south is the central meeting point for the local Manggarai people, as Ruteng is their district capital. They speak their own language and have a distinctive culture most in evidence in villages on the south coast. Their traditional houses are conical and arranged in concentric circles around a circular sacrificial arena; even the rice paddies are round, divided up like spiders’ webs, with each clan receiving a slice. Most of these formations are no longer used, but a good example can still be seen at Golo Cara, thirty minutes by bemo from the central bus station, and traces of them are visible from the bus to Bajawa.

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