Back to Bali

After Sumba, Thomas and I needed a break in Bali. A few months of adventure in eastern Indonesia will leave even the most intrepid traveler inspired yet exhausted. What better place to relax a little than in Ubud. It’s not exactly off the beaten track, but there’s great food, some nice galleries, great walks in the surrounding countryside, and loads of culture.

Bizarrely, despite the fact that we spent almost a month in Bali the first time, we realized we hadn’t really explored many of the temples. Well, there’s no better place for Balinese temples than Ubud!

Travel 101: Packing Your Medical Kit

Our Medical Kit

As a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, I was the one to assemble the medical kit we have been carrying with us for the last five years. Being German and all, I planned for every eventuality and ended up with a medical bag the size of my head. Although Tony often questions the size (and weight) of our medical kit, we’ve made use of almost every article in that bag. Here are some of the items that have proven most Continue…

Predatory Techno-Vampire Tourists

Do travelers scare locals?

In 2000, American ethnologist Janet Hoskins asked Sumbanese villagers to describe foreign tourists who visit carrying their mysterious metal boxes (cameras). The following is an excerpt from that description:

VILLAGER: We don’t really know much about them, but they are supposed to travel around, often at night, carrying metal boxes. They have long hair and disheveled clothing, and they smoke cigarettes dipped in potions that can make you sleepy. They are said to blow the smoke into children’s faces so that they lose consciousness. Then they take the children and hang them upside down, with feet near the rafters and their heads next to the metal boxes. They open up a hole in their heads and use a hose, sucking on one end of the hose to draw out the blood and make it flow into their metal boxes. They collect the blood, then leave behind the children’s bodies.

JANET: Do the children live?

VILLAGER: Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. They are very weak and may have nightmares about what the foreigners did to them. They lose a lot of their strength and often they die afterward.

JANET: What do the foreigners do with the blood? Continue…

Tony Goes Grey

Last night, I was casually discussing the concept of returning to Germany this summer, and the next morning, we discovered that Tony had gone completely grey at the thought. Really? Is Germany that terrifying? Continue…

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. 🙂