In a dimly lit hut the new high priest muttered words under his breath over and over before the sacrifice was made and the blood poured down the face as a blessing from the tribe.

Yes it’s one of those posts where I ramble on about some great adventure in the past, but in-between trying to give advice and insight into the world of long term travel I want to keep posting travel stories, old and new, to give a glimpse into the kind of adventures you will discover. Inspiration so to say.

The setting for this story is the tribal region of Bajawa in Flores Island, Indonesia. It happened way back in 2001 when I was 24 years old.


Tribal dance at high priest ceremony.

I had completed a trip across the sea by the island of Sumbawa on a local boat, passing through the Komodo Island group and paradise beaches.

Upon landing on the island of Flores myself and a small group of other travellers rented out a minibus, loaded it up with crates of beer and went cruising into the hinterland of this intriguing place.

Most of Indonesia is Muslim, but Flores is mostly Christian mixed with local beliefs.

After a few days passing through lush highlands with impressive views we had arrived at the tribal region of Bajawa, and arrived at an absolutely perfect time.

After exploring the region for a while we discovered that a new high priest was being anointed and we had been invited to the ceremony after getting to know some of the locals.


Tribe in Bajawa at ceremony.

Not only had we been invited, but we were honoured guests.

Arriving at the ceremony we were invited up onto the main stand to join the elders of the tribe and sit near the high priest in waiting.

The tribal members started dancing in the clearing in front of the stage as others from the area watched on.

People brought gifts from the surrounding villages in tribute, dressed in their best clothes. Even the children were all dressed up.

The children were hilarious, being all interested in these strange foreigners showing up into the middle of nowhere. They laughed and smiled.

Finally the new high priest was anointed on stage to much fanfare from the locals. By this time we had slowly disappeared into the crowd to have a laugh and joke with all the locals.

They were so friendly and welcoming.


On stage with the elders of the tribe as the new high priest watches over at front.


Children dressed in their best clothes watch on.

Buffalo had been sacrificed for the new high priest. It’s common for buffalo to be killed to honour celebrations in parts of Indonesia.


Boys by a sacrificed buffalo head.

After mingling with the crowd for a few hours we were invited to join the new high priest. Beckoned into a dimly lit hut there was a sense of something strange about to happen. Almost a foreboding feeling.

The gut feeling wasn’t wrong.

The high priest had decided to give us a blessing from the tribe before we left and continued our travels.

Now the translation from someone who spoke English there was a bit muddled, and we couldn’t quite understand if we were just being blessed by the tribe, or blessed into the tribe!

We went for the first option as we figured we wouldn’t be blessed into it as we were just visitors for a short time.

But hey, I may be part of a tribe in a remote part of Indonesia!

The blessing involved the high priest cutting a chicken by the throat and then pouring the blood down our face, while speaking out a blessing in his native tongue.

Not exactly the best feeling, but hey it’s their beliefs.

And for those who eat meat crying about the fate of the chicken, where do you think your meat comes from?


High priest sacrifices the chicken.

Meeting afterwards with more members of the tribe, including the high priests wife, we hanged out for the rest of the day celebrating.

Drinking ensued with plenty of beer and locally brewed alcohol consumed.


With the high priest and blood on my face.

Waking the next day all blurry with a hangover the whole thing felt like a dream. Like a scene from the movie Apocalypse Now.

But fuck yeah this is the kind of adventures and crazy new experiences you can discover on your travels, especially if you try and get off the beaten path to remote areas.

Go for it!

Have you had any experiences like this?

If you’re heading into Flores Island then take a look at what you can do in Labuan Bajo, one of the main entry points for the island.

From Labuan Bajo you can easily head to Komodo Island to see the famous Komodo dragons.



Jonny Duncan is a travel blogger and freelance photographer. He specialises in adventure and budget travel with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 to give advice for other travellers. He has lived in Japan, Amsterdam, Kiev, and more.

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