Pero

Pero

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Pero is a small Muslim fishing village, with a natural harbour inlet sheltered by a sand bar and mangroves. The village does tend to waft with the scent of drying squid, but the all-natural beach just north of town has blonde sand, a palm and scrubby grass backdrop and a sneaky good left-hand break just offshore, as well as ideal side shore wind for kite surfers. From here you won’t hit land again until Africa. The long-running Homestay Stori is run by a hospitable family, has a handful of rooms in a rather frayed concrete home with peeling linoleum floors and shared slimy mandis in the backyard. But, hey, it’s the only surf crash pad in the area and it’s dirt cheap. It’s on the main drag in town, on the right side of the street as you head toward the sea. To visit traditional kampung, go north or south along the coastline.

Take the paved road from Bondokodi, or go off-road for about 3km along Pantai Radukapal – a sliver of white sand along a pasture, and you’ll come to the kampung of Ratenggaro, framed by a low rock wall. Although they had a fire in February 2012, and were rebuilding with government support when we visited, it is still a remarkable place and our favourite village in Sumba. There are eight houses supported by intricately carved columns, one for each cardinal point. The tall, peaked roof homes are situated on a grassy lawn on a bluff above the mouth of Sungai Rateboya (Crocodile River) with an absolutely breathtaking view along the coconut-palm–fringed shoreline. You can easily pass hours watching the waves of Miller’s Point (a famous surf break) pound the rocks, with the high roofs of Wainyapu, a collection of 12 kampung and more than 40 homes, peeking out above the trees across the river. On the near side of the river mouth – where the mocha river meets the turquoise sea – unusual stone tombs occupy a small headland. Visitors are asked to contribute a donation (20,000Rp will suffice). The villagers here are full of life, and after a few minutes you’ll realise that you’re not here to check them out, or to inspect another exotic culture. Rather you are here to be inspected yourself. Don’t worry, it’s fun. To get to Wainyapu, you’ll have to wade across the river at low tide.

On the way to Ratenggaro, look out for the thinner, high-peaked roofs of Kampung Paranobaroro through the trees, about 1km inland. The best of which have enormous timber columns intricately carved and cured by an almost perpetually smoldering cookfire in the centre of the raised bamboo platform. Stone statues decorate the public space. During the day only women and children are in the village. Women are often weaving and happy to chat. During ceremonial time you may see pig jaws and buffalo horns displayed on the front porch.

From Waikabubak there are direct buses to Tambolaka and frequent bemos and trucks from there to Pero.

Anakalang Villages

Anakalang Villages

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Set in a fertile valley carpeted in rice fields, the Anakalang district (east of Waikabubak) has some exceptional stone megaliths that are worth seeing. Historically the seat of power (though geographically it is in the island’s centre), Anakalang royals ruled West Sumba for centuries, and during colonisation only royal children were educated, so when government bureaucracies took hold the royals still ruled thanks to wealth and educational access bias. Eventually educational access evened out, and the government diversified.

Right beside the main road to Waingapu, 22km east of Waikabubak, Kampung Pasunga boasts one of Sumba’s most impressive tombs. The grave of particular interest consists of an upright stone slab carved with images of a chief and his wife with their hands on their hips. This monument dates from 1926 and took six months to carve; 150 buffalo were sacrificed for the funeral ceremony. It is visible from the road. Pasunga’s kepala desa, whose house has racks of buffalo horns, is friendly if you share some sirih or cigs with him. He will ask you to sign the visitors’ book and leave a donation.

At Gallubakul, 2.5km down the road from the modernising village of Kabonduk, tombs are largely crafted from concrete and cheesy tile, but it’s also home to Sumba’s heaviest tomb, weighing in at 70 tonnes. It is said that 6000 workers took three years to chisel the Umbu Sawola tomb out of a hillside and drag it 3km to town. The tomb is a single piece of carved stone, about 5m long, 4m wide and nearly 1m thick. At its eastern end is a separate upright slab with carvings of the raja and queen who are buried here, as well as buffalo and cockerel motifs. The raja’s son lives right by the tomb with his wife and can tell its story. He’ll also ask you to sign in and make a donation.

Regular minibuses run between Waikabubak and Anakalang (fewer after 1pm). Buses to Waingapu can drop you off on the highway.

Waitabula

Waitabula

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Located 42km west of Waikabubak, this once sleepy market town has become West Sumba’s main transport hub – it’s booming and it’s got a whole new name, at least in tourism brochures and other government literature. We’ve followed suit, even if many locals of a certain age still refer to it as Waitabula. While it’s still in its early stages of growth, Tambolaka, home to our absolute favourite sleep in Sumba (set on a slice of pristine beach), is easily accessible from Bali, and is the gateway to the island’s sensational western half – where the surf rocks, and the villages are as pure and raw as the land. Yes, it makes a damn fine base.

Tambolaka’s big market day is Saturday.

Praiyawang & Rende

Praiyawang & Rende

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Nestled in a shallow valley between grassy hills, Praiyawang is a traditional compound of Sumbanese houses and is the ceremonial focus of the more modern village of Rende, located 7km south of Melolo. It has an imposing line-up of nine big stone-slab tombs. The largest is that of a former chief. Shaped like a buffalo, it consists of four stone pillars 2m high, supporting a monstrous slab about 5m long, 2.5m wide and 1m thick. Two stone tablets stand atop the main slab, carved with figures. A massive Sumbanese house with concrete pillars faces the tombs, along with a number of older rumah adat.

Several buses go from Waingapu to Rende (15,000Rp), starting at about 7am. The last bus back to Waingapu leaves at 3pm.

Kallala

Kallala

Kallala

Kallala, 126km from Waingapu and 2km down a dirt road from the nearby village of Baing, has emerged as the surf capital of East Sumba. It’s an absolutely stunning stretch of white-sand beach that arcs toward the coastal mountains, which tumble down to form East Sumba’s southernmost point. Waves break 500m offshore.

If you plan on spending the night, you’ll bunk at the once-renowned Mr David’s. Mr David (as he is referred to throughout East Sumba) has lived in Sumba for over 30 years, but the resort has seen (much!) better days. Bungalows have warped wooden floors, weathered mattresses and no furnishings. But the open dining room has some definite remote surf-camp appeal. Old boards decorate the rafters and there’s a stack of sticks for rent too. Plus, Mrs David (the lovely Yohanna) whips up outstanding meals in short order. You will also have the wave to yourself, so dedicated surf rats won’t mind it here at all, though they might whine about the price.

Four buses a day go to Baing (30,000Rp, four hours), leaving Waingapu between 7am and 8am, and then again at around 11am and 1pm. The road is sealed all the way but is bumpy past Melolo. A dirt track with many branches runs from Baing to Kallala. Buses will drop you off at the beach if you ask the driver.

Waingapu

Waingapu

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Waingapu is a leafy, laid-back town that is plenty walkable and makes a decent base to explore the surrounding villages. It became an administrative centre after the Dutch military ‘pacified’ the island in 1906 and has long been Sumba’s main trading post for textiles, prized Sumbanese horses, dyewoods and lumber. The town has a groovy harbourfront dining scene, a few ikat shops and workshops. Traders with bundles of textiles and carvings hang around hotels or walk the streets touting for rupiah.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/nusa-tenggara/waingapu

Waikabubak

Waikabubak

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A dusty, country market town, home to both thatched clan houses and rows of concrete stores, administrative buildings and tin-roof homes sprouting satellite dishes, Waikabubak makes Waingapu feel like a metropolis. It’s a welcoming place, surrounded by thick stands of mohagony, and at about 600m above sea level, it’s a little cooler than the east and a good base for exploring the traditional villages of West Sumba. The big market is on Saturday.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/nusa-tenggara/waikabubak

The Wanokaka district south of Waikabubak has stunning mountain and coastal scenery and several very traditional kampung. It’s a gorgeous drive from Waikabubak, taking a sealed but narrow road that splits at Padede Weri junction 6km from town. This is where golden, white-headed eagles soar over mountains, which tumble to the azure sea. Turn left at the junction, and the road passes through the riverside settlement of Taramanu, 4km further on. About 2km further downhill you’ll meet a rugged earth track that leads to Waigalli, a huddle of about 25 thatched peak roof houses around a fabulous stone grave site on a promontory above the sea. You’ll see slabs blanketed with corn kernels drying in the sun, women weaving or children pounding rice in the old timber grinder, and a marvellous view of the rice fields in the valley below. A few families have traded the thatched roof for tin. You’ll be asked to make a donation (20,000Rp per person will suffice) and sign the guest book.

You’ll find the nearly 200-year-old Watu Kajiwa tomb in the deeply traditional and isolated if sprawling village of Praigoli, notched in the dusty leafy hills above Sumba’s southwest coast. From here it’s just a short drive further on to lovely Pantai Wanakoka, where there’s a crescent of sand, craggy palm dotted cliffs and massive bluffs to the south, a bay bobbing with fishing boats, and a beachfront Pasola site. In the rocky coves west of the beach, the water becomes clearer and rolls into decent, if inconsistent, surf. But the wind is consistent, which makes for interesting kite surf possibilities. Most of the action gathers around the concrete public fishermen house where you can buy their catch in the morning and watch them mend their nets in late afternoon. Nearby is the traditional village of Wangli, with views of rice fields, a river, the sea and coastal mountains, and another stone tomb with a 2.5m-tall fleur-de-lis.

Rua, the next in a series of luscious south Sumba beaches, is 5km southwest of the Padede Weri junction. It’s yet another tumbledown rustic fishing village with a failed jetty bisecting its wide bay. At one time the Bima ferry docked here but a big storm trashed the jetty and the new dock was situated in Waikelo. Expect more lovely pale golden sand, turquoise water, and great waves when the swell hits between June and September. There looks to be a point break in the south and stiff onshore wind in the afternoon. There’s only one very basic lodging option.

Heading west again, the road passes through the village of Lemboya, with its gorgeous rice fields scalloped into the inland side of the rugged coastal mountains and boasting one of Sumba’s greatest Pasola fields. Set on a rolling grassland it’s big and wide and attracts thousands of people in February. From here there’s yet another turn-off south to the idyllic white sands of Pantai Marosi, 32km from Waikabubak. Set on a ridge above the coast, is the sweet Sumba Nautil resort. Stay or dine here, and the owner can point out the secluded, powdery white Pantai Etreat, and the glassy seas of Pantai Tarikaha, from his stunning dining room, and take you to Magic Mountain, a coral-draped underwater volcano that is Sumba’s best dive site. Just before Sumba Nautil, the road forks. If you take the right fork you’ll reach kampung Litikaha where there is now a graded gravel road to Tokahale, Kahale, and Malisu, three hilltop villages with spectacular panoramas. It’s a 15-minute drive to the villages, or you can walk it in about 40 minutes each way.

The world-class surf spot known as Occy’s Left, featured in the film The Green Iguana, is on Pantai Nihiwatu, east of Morosi on another absolutely stunning stretch of sand buffered by a limestone headland. Unfortunately, only Nihiwatu’s paying guests have the right to walk this beach, and surfers who try to ride its legendary waves are reportedly chased off by resort security. Thankfully, there are a few more ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’ scattered within a 30-minute boat ride from both Marosi and Nihiwatu.

– Sumba

Sumba

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Sumba is a dynamic mystery. With its rugged undulating savannah and low limestone hills knitted together with more maize and cassava than rice, physically it looks nothing like Indonesia’s volcanic islands to the north. Sprinkled throughout the countryside are hilltop villages with thatched clan houses clustered around megalithic tombs, where villagers claim to be Protestant but still pay homage to their indigenous marapu with bloody sacrificial rites. Throw in outstanding hand-spun, naturally dyed ikat, and the annual Pasola festival – where bareback horsemen ritualise old tribal conflicts as they battle one another with hand-carved spears – and it’s easy to see that Sumba runs deep. One of the poorest islands in Indonesia, an influx of welcome government investment has brought recent improvements in infrastructure – best seen in Tambolaka, the island’s newest city. And change has trickled down to traditional villages, as well. Thatched roofs are becoming tin, tombs are now made from concrete, traditional dress is increasingly rare, and remote villagers expect larger donations from visitors. Some traditions persist, however. Sumba’s extensive grasslands make it one of Indonesia’s leading horse-breeding islands. Horses still serve as a mode of transport in more rugged regions, they remain a symbol of wealth and status, and can still win a bride.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/nusa-tenggara/sumba