Ili Wukoh

Facts

Elevation: 1,431 m (4,695 ft) Prominence: 1,046 m
Ribu category: Google MarkerKurang Tinggi Province: Nusa Tenggara Timur
Google Earth: kml Other names:  
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Photos

Bagging It!

 

Ili Wukoh lies to the west of the twin peaks of Lewotobi Laki-Laki (husband) and Perempuan (wife). As you descend the steep track from the dome of Lewotobi (Perempuan), Ili Wukoh is visible to your half-left in the distance. From here, it appears as a reasonably gently climb until reaching the base of its peak that then angles up sharply. However, this impression is somewhat misleading if you actually attempt the true summit of Ili Wukoh. The mountain top consists of two sharp, rocky peaks, Ili Ledo (1,273 m) and Ili Wukoh. These peaks are presumably the remains of an ancient volcano eroded away with time. There is no volcanic crater at the summit.

Ili Wukoh is a mystical mountain with much folklore from animistic times that still seems to influence the lives of the villagers. Like Lewotobi, its two peaks, Wukoh and Ledo, are considered as ‘husband and wife’. We learned something of the mysticism surrounding this mountain from Hewa villagers during our trek.

Folklore relates that there was the King of the Sea (nearby on coast to the north) and the King of the Mountain (Ili Wukoh). These Kings were in conflict with each other. A consequence of this conflict was that if one climbs Ili Wukoh no mention may be made of the sea below – the words, “fish”, “salt”, “coast nearby”. If these words are mentioned, one will become ‘lost on the mountain’. (But, my assistant and a villager discussed this folklore quite openly, using these words, without any reservations while on the mountain.)

Folklore also dictates that no less than three person may climb the mountain at a time (including guides) – “if less, people will become lost”. The Village Head gave our group of seven climbers, with two guides, permission to climb. We were required to provide name and nationality in advance. The Village Head has apparently rejected applications from individuals who have attempted to obtain permission in the past for this reason.

We were told of a cave below the summit that contains a “magical cloud/mist”. Folklore relates that if you approach this cave, you will be drawn in “as if by a magnet”. Inside, a snake, Maduwan, will consume you and your body will emerge in the sea below.

Most interestingly, the Hewa villagers climb to the true summit of Ili Wukoh each year before the rains, in about October, to pray for good rains and harvest. An offering of a binatang (animal) is made on the peak, normally a pig and/or chickens. About 30 people can be accommodated in the peak of Ili Wukoh at one time. The offerings are cooked and consumed there before all descend. On this occasion, the path to the summit is cleared by the young men of the village making for an easy ascent. Men, women and older boys and girls partake in this ceremony.

We arrived at village Hewa (165 m) at about 05:30 and met our guides, two elderly gentlemen (one carrying a bow and arrows for shooting pigs and monkeys; the other, a machete for cutting the path). They were excellent guides with complete knowledge of the mountain – even though they did become a bit confused on the upper slopes of Ledo trying to cut a track through the thick undergrowth. Despite being barefooted, we were not able to keep up with them. The total ascent from Hewa to the true summit (Wukoh) is about 1,266 m, and to the summit of Ledo about 1,008 m.

The first 2.5 km from Hewa is a gentle hike thought cultivated gardens of cocoa and subsistence crops (480 m); then 1.5 km up a dry, rocky riverbed (760 m alt). At the end of the riverbed, the track turns right onto a ridge. After about another 2.5 km up this ridge, the first peak, Ili Ledo (1,273 m), is reached. The ascent of Ili Ledo is steep without any visible path and through very dense rainforest and hardly any good views of the summit. The ridge becomes increasingly narrow towards this summit. No fun, especially when the guides had to cut their way through the undergrowth. Even they became a bit lost in the process! The climb from Hewa to the summit of Ili Ledo took about 4:30 hours.

We did not attempt the true summit of Ili Wukoh. Reaching the true summit of Wukoh from Ledo involves a traverse with a very steep decline from Lebo to a saddle and then an even higher climb up again to the true summit of Wukoh. The traverse of the saddle is about 100 m and, in places, only about 40 cm wide with vertical drop-offs on each side. It looks like a difficult and dangerous climb in unknown territory, even though the villagers obviously do it each year. Given our lack of time, we decided not to continue. Recommended time for the return trek from Hewa to the summit of Ili Ledo is about nine hours! More time is required to reach Ili Wukoh. Trees apparently block views from Wukoh; better views are from Ledo.

Meret l. Stigner, Flores: Adventure Trails, Swiss Contact, 2012, suggests that the climb is of ‘medium’ difficulty and that only four hours are required to reach the true summit. We find this an overly optimistic assessment. It states that the track is in ‘good condition’ – not so in our experience, perhaps after the October ceremony only! The track to the summit does not seem to be used ‘frequently’ by the locals, as this publication informs, except perhaps for the October ceremony.

The book also states that the forest is ‘adorned with untouched forest’ and ‘teeming with wildlife such as civets, monkeys and Flores warty pigs, Timor deer, snakes, and even more diverse wildlife’. Like most mountain forests in Indonesia, progressive felling of virgin forest for building materials and new agricultural land is occurring. The forest may be ‘teeming with wildlife’ but don’t expect to see any when trekking through the forest. One of our lead trekkers, a serious birder, informed that the mountain does indeed have good potential for bird watching.

Bagging information by Nick Hughes, Werner Waldner and David Robertson (August 2017)

Practicalities

Getting there As for Lewotobi; turn off the main road between Maumere and Larantuka at Boru; take an angkot (inter-village bus) that runs the route from Boru to Hewa (trailhead); the road passes the Badan Geologi office and continues on until taking a right turn off the main road to the village of Hewa.
Accommodation As for Lewotobi. If you are serious about a one-day climb of Ili Wukoh, you would need to stay in Hewa overnight for an early start the next day. Perhaps the Village Head will offer you camping space somewhere in the village!
Permits As mentioned in the narrative above, folklore dictates that only three or more people (including guides) may climb the mountain together. Permission is required from the Village Head to climb the mountain. Name and nationality may be requested – take a photocopy of your passport/ID in case. Discuss with the staff at the Badan Geologi, Boru, whether they are able to assist with, or advise on, advance arrangements with the Village Head at Hewa. Otherwise, arrive at Hewa early the day before to discuss permissions, logistics (guides), accommodation, etc. directly with the Village Head.
Water sources None available – take sufficient supplies with you.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): maumere

Location

4 thoughts on “Ili Wukoh

  1. I gave it a try yesterday. Went to Hewa by motorbike and then asked a few people how to climb Ili Wukoh. I was told to take the village road that goes off the main road right before the school (SMP). I parked at the end of this road and took the foot path into the forest. You first have to cross a small river and then just continue on the same path up. You will cross many small plantations for about an hour or so, before you get into the forest.

    I met very friendly workers on the plantation, who invited me to drink coffee and Tuak with them. I went for the coffee, as I still had a hike before me. They told me about you Hanna, when I told them I was German and that you stayed there for three months and are able to speak the Hewa language fluently. They said that you are now staying in Lembata?

    90 minutes into the hike I was close to what looked like the peak, but despite trying a few different paths, I always ended up in a dead end, where I would have to bush knife to continue. In one case the path led down again towards the coast.

    On the hike I saw literally hundreds of butterflies, many small lizards, one monitor lizard, two big black spiders and a praying mantis.

    In the end I did not make it to the peak. The locals had told me btw that there two peaks, husband and wife. The husband is called Wukoh and the wife Ledoh. Despite getting lost twice on my descent, I enjoyed the hike very much. The slopes are not too steep and you are partially protected from the sun by forest. From the area around the peak, you have a good view over the nearby beach and ocean. Nearby Lewotobi was unfortunately covered in clouds. Bring enough water, moskito repellent and sun screen!

  2. I first got a look at this mountain from the slopes of Lewotobi. A very appealing pyramid peak of forest, probably offering no views.
    With Rafael I proceeded to Hewa, the large village at the base of Ili Wukoh, not more than 30 minutes from Bawalatang which is the starting point for Lewotobi.

    Pak Dominingus and his wife really looked after us, and even told us of a German student who has spent 3 months staying with them recently, studying the local Lamaholot language. We decided it would be best to go to speak to the Kepala Desa that evening, in order to find someone who could lead me up the mountain the following day.

    Unfortunately, because this was perhaps the very first time a foreign person had asked about the mountain, the Kepala Desa would not permit me to climb Ili Wukoh or find anyone who could take me up there. He thought it too dangerous and needed authorisation from the local mayor or some kind of official tourist agency. I would need to visit maumere or Larantuka to arrange such a thing and so, given my schedule, this just wouldn’t be possible.

    There also seemed to be a supernatural element to his decision. Locals were scared of the higher part of the mountain and there were reports of people meeting a stranger in the forest who simply disappeared, vanished without a trace.

    So, we went back to the house and I resigned myself to not even being able to set foot on Ili Wukoh. Rafael told me about his time spent working in Berau and how the Dayaks buried a lot of their elders in the forests, even letting them die in the forests rather than having them in the house. And one night when he went fishing with others and they got lost how one companion told them all that they would have to strip naked to find the way out because Dayak souls had encircled them and gotten them confused. Once naked, they did indeed find the right way out of the forest!

    The next day we did a circuit round the base of Lewotobi. The weather was still unusually cloudy. Back at the main road I hopped on a Maumere-bound bus and checked into the Gardena Hotel before an evening meal at the Chinese-run place down at the port itself.

    On the way back after a couple of beers, I thought to quickly confirm my Merpati flight the next day to Labuanbajo. Turns out no such flight was scheduled. Merpati had not just changed the time but also the DATE of the flight without bothering to phone or email me. Utterly useless. So I would be spending an extra day in Maumere, doing not very much. Ah well….

    • Hi Dan,

      it’s funny to read this because I am this German studying the language of Hewa.

      Apparently, you came to Hewa shortly after I left in 2013. I went back to the village this year, and in fact they were telling me that there had been someone coming to climb the mountain. At that point I also did not completely understand why they didn’t let that person.

      It’s really a shame that you couldn’t climb the Ili Wukoh. I guess, you are right there might have been some supernatural element in the kepala desa’s decision. A general fear to go deap into the forest and climb the mountain’s top because of stories like the one you wrote about. And another reason is probably that you were the first foreigner wanting to climb this mountain and also locals usually don’t climb it. And the kepala desa felt responsable for your safety as it was on his village’s ground. As he didn’t have experiences with people climbing the mountain, he probably didn’t want to take the risk anything happening.

      Are you planning another trip to Flores? I hope you will get another chance then to climb Ili Wukoh!

      Best regards
      Hanna

      • Hi Hanna,

        Good to hear from you. I live on a Scottish island now so chances of a return to Flores in the near future are low, but you never know….

        Best wishes from Stornoway

        Dan

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