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…

Disappointing Diving in Alor

Diving our way through Nusa Tenggara, I have to admit that I had high expectations for the rumored underwater treasures of Alor. Perhaps, after the spectacular U.S.S. Liberty in Bali, sunfish spotting in Nusa Lembonggan, the underwater splendor of Komodo and the quirky muck discoveries in Maumere, I had set those expectations a little too high.

Even our arrival in Alor kicked those unrealistic expectations up a notch. The unusually stunning – almost arctic – crytal blue waters around Alor simply look like they should provide the best diving in the world. As our ferry approached Kalabahi, the massive resident dolphin superpod – only the second superpod we’ve ever seen – surrounded our boat and escorted us to the island. How could this possibly be anything less than perfect?

But reality started to set in once we started looking for a dive shop. Realistically, if you are not on a liveaboard, you only have two options in Alor: the dive shop at La Petite Kepa and Alor Dive, based in Kalabahi.

The French-owned shop at La Petite Kepa has an excellent reputation for quality dives; it also has a reputation for snobby Continue…

Mr. Coca Cola

My name is Tony, and I’m a Coke addict. (They say admitting the problem is the first step.) I’ve known for some time that many around me believe that I drink too much Coca Cola. When friends Lisa and Garrett came to visit, they reported to my family on my troubling addiction, recounting that I would hit the bottle for breakfast. But I continued to deny my problems… until Alor.

When I stopped to grab a quick drink and a bag of chips at the local shop, the owner gave me the normal Indonesian afternoon greeting with one rather unique touch: “Selamat siang, Mr. Coca Cola.” He had my Coke waiting for me, but I had to request a bag of chips.

That was odd, I thought to myself as I left. Mr. Coca Cola?

I strolled down the main thoroughfare in Kalabahi killing time before I headed down to the bay, and a friendly local waved to me from across the street and yelled, “Hello, hello, Mr. Coca Cola, hello, hello.”

Hmmm. My denial was starting to fade.

Later that evening, as I was riding my motorbike back from the bay, another bike shot by flashing its lights and I heard, “Sooooreeee, Coca Colaaaaaa!” Evening, Coca Cola.

Clearly, I have a problem.

The Abui Tribe in Takpala

Fine, I take back what I said about Philip Morris. Geez, smokers can get so edgy!

No seriously, Martinus and I were just joking around in this picture, please don’t think the Abui tribe greets visitors with arrows to their faces. Quite to the contrary, they are some of the friendliest people we’ve met in Indonesia.

As you might have gathered, Katrin and I decided to take in a little of Alor’s amazing tribal culture by visiting Takpala, a traditional village on the volcanic slopes of the island’s northern coast. As you can see by the picture, we had a blast.

Renting motorbikes for the day, we drove out along the island’s coastal road past a series of small villages and black stone beaches. As Google Maps hasn’t quite made it to this part of the world yet, it took us a while to locate the access road to the village, which might be more accurately described as a steep path cobbled with very loose, uncooperative volcanic rock. (Not an easy ride.)

Stunningly situated in the mountains high above the coast, Takpala is inhabited by the Abui people, the first Papuan ethnic group Continue…

Risky Travel Business

As the title says, travel – especially travel to remote regions – can be risky business. While good medical facilities are available in most capitals and larger cities, more distant regions leave few options for treatment. During our time on the road, we have heard endless stories of people getting sick or injured miles from nowhere. Those stories can leave even the most experienced travelers feeling uneasy. Knowing when and where to seek treatment isn’t always simple. And I learned that lesson, yet again, first hand.

Days of stinging pain in the lower right-hand side of my stomach had my mind racing. What if I had appendicitis? How fast could I get to the closest real hospital? Where was the closest real hospital? Although Kalabahi, the capital of tiny Alor, had a small walk-in clinic, it was no place to undergo surgery. Knowing that I couldn’t just walk into a modern hospital pushed me to the brink of panic. Was my pain getting worse? Was my head playing tricks? Should I just wait and see? In the end, precaution took over. I decided to take advantage of Alor’s small airport and fly back to Bali to seek medical treatment.

Despite the pain, the decision to leave was not easy. Continue…

Kelapa Muda

Traveling through Indonesia, there are two important words everyone should know: kelapa muda, which means young coconut. While coconut water is the latest health craze in the West, it’s just another refreshment on a hot and humid day in Asia. Often compared to an isotonic sports drink, it’s definitely a few steps above Coca Cola, which – as we all know – is normally Tony’s lifeblood. But even he can’t resist a green coconut right off the palm.