Traditional Sculpture and Carving of Sumba

Carved fence post

As we mentioned in our posts on the megalithic tombs and the unique tribal villages of Sumba, incredible artistic talent is woven into every aspect of Sumbanese daily life. During our motorbike adventure around the island, I was drawn to the phenomenal sculpture and carvings that we discovered on our trip. These are not objects in a museum, but rather religious idols, fence posts, and carved architectural elements we discovered in the compounds of everyday people we met along the way. Unfortunately, while such art is still Continue…

Stone Table

As we were exploring the coast along Sumba’s southern Wanokaka region, we happened upon this solitary dolmen-like tomb under a magnificent tree. As a kid, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was one of my favorite books and I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia several times, so it’s not surprising that I immediately associated the site with Stone Table, the mysterious ancient site which figures prominently in the book series.

Situated on a plateau just south of a meandering river near the edge of a forest, the setting was eerily similar. I’m certain C.S. Lewis’ legendary site is NOT based on a Sumbanese tomb, but that didn’t matter to the eight-year-old in me.

Sumba’s Lonely Beaches

Few tourists make it to Sumba’s cultural sites – and even fewer to the island’s stunning beaches and world-class surfing spots. Largely unexplored by tourists, vast stretches of undeveloped, golden sand beaches line the shore. And they are eerily empty. As you can see in the picture above, Tony and I were the only people on Pantai Marosi in western Sumba – the void seemed to go on for miles. Needless to say, that’s how we like our beaches. 😉

But the lack of roads and beach access as well as limited public transportation can make visiting the coastline quite a challenge. We rented a motorbike and, in between village visits, took several side trips to the coast. More often than not, we had to meander along sandy dirt tracks to get to the actual beaches. And once we got there, we couldn’t really spend too much time frolicking before we had to turn around.

In all of Sumba, coastal accommodation is limited to a couple of seasonal, high-end surf resorts and two or three very rough homestays. Until more accommodation arrives, day trips out of Waikabubak, Waingapu, or Waitabula are the best way to enjoy western Sumba’s lonely beaches.

Sumba Kids

Foreigners are a relative rarity in Sumba. While the adults tend to be rather aloof and suspicious, the kids are another story. 🙂

Megalithic Tombs of Sumba

Elaborately carved tomb along road in Kodi region

Although megalithic cultures are a thing of the past in most of the world, these traditions are alive and well in many remote Indonesian islands from Nias to Sulawesi to Flores to Sumba. Of these islands, Sumba is – without a doubt – megalith central. Thousands upon thousands of monstrous stone tombs dot the island. They are literally everywhere.

Even today, megalithic tombs are an important (and exorbitantly expensive) part of the death rituals in Sumba. While archaeologists theorize about the construction of famous sites such as Stonehenge or Gigantia, the people of Sumba are actively building their megalithic masterpieces. We’ve put together a small collection Continue…

Rendezvous in Sumba

Hooray, I’m back! After flying to Kuta for medical treatment, Tony and I are reunited once again on the mysterious island of Sumba halfway between Bali and Alor. Sumba, Indonesia’s “Wild West” with its wide stretches of grassland and deserted beaches, promises to be a very different destination. Few tourists make it here, but the ones who do love it.

While tribal culture was only one aspect of traveling in Flores and Alor, it seems to be the dominating force in Sumba. The island is dotted with small traditional villages centered around ancestral megalithic tombs and giant stone altars. Skull trees, where Sumba warriors once displayed their trophies of battle, are relics from not-so-bygone times when head hunting was still common practice.

Although head hunting is no more, other rituals and ceremonies still play a vital role. One fascinating ritual is the Pasola in which Continue…

350 Km of Alor

The best thing to do in Alor is get a motorbike and take off. I’ve spent days exploring whatever I could drive on. 350 km (210 miles) of jungle, thatched villages, volcanic peaks, banana farms, and hidden beaches. The people are awesome and the sense of tropical freedom out on the empty, isolated roads is worth the entire trip to remote Continue…