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Sumba

sunny

Arriving around 7, it took half an hour to fight my way off the boat, resisting sometimes grabby hopefuls in deference to their attendant buses. Still unsure as to my intentions, a quick appreciation of diminutive Waikelo's beach and preponderance of bananas left little obvious reason to loiter, and I opted for the straight through service to the regional town of Waikabubak instead of nearby Waitabulo. That proved to be a good move since Waitabulo, besides offering a large array of traditional tombs scattered around, was more asporadic settlement than a real town and I saw on the 43K trip that those tombs would be a readily repeated feature elsewhere. Other initial impressions were of traditionally dressed men sporting turbans, black sarongs and waist bands with a Keris sword tucked into them, other folk red toothed and black mouthed from the chewing of betel nut. An ambulance dedicated to malaria cases was a dispiriting novelty, and a pig running down the main street was another. From Waikelo we passed through Waitabula with its market ensconced in the dirt, before climbing up into tropical forest rasping with insects. Prominent Christian tombs, on occasion complimented by a rustic corrugated iron church with a bull's head idol set another tone, even evidence of a Catholic political party which perversely qualified an excellent revelation in the probable availability of Bintang beer. More tombs of unusual design were habitually great solid raised slabs of stone, some with decorative lobes on top or painted with animal figures, and architecture came in 2 separate hues it seemed of either tall wedge shaped or square based pyramid roofs of thatch. Very rocky and unfertile in parts, Sumba still boasted hoards of bananas everywhere however, and the very narrow undelineated road was at least a good surface, even if you did often leave it in order to overtake.

The bus crew unusually left it until alighting to collect the fares, which rather helped me in resisting their sadly inflated demands. Not pulling any punches, the boy tellingly reduced his demands but I stuck to my aggressive stance of "I know how much it costs". Prevailing in the end meant I had surely been right, but it was a tricky juncture here moreso than most places in singling out well intendedadvice from the gamut of ulterior motives and ruses. It was always another gamble in the search for a hotel bed whether I should make a beeline for it in anticipation of subsequent hoards that might book places out, but this time I had a more pressing need for sustenance which I gambled would alternatively allow the previous nights' itinerants to check out. Obviously in fine fettle, I elected for the latter and in the meantime gave myself a heavily laden trudge in search of the town's sole alleged passable restaurant, failing to trace it but chancing upon another. Beer for breakfast was a bit outrageous but after my night's discomfort I was ready for it, using it to wash down a Nasi Cap Cay (fried vegetable rice) Seafood. The immediately apparent ready supply of beer on Sumba had indeed been explained by the propensity of Christian tombs and churches, Catholic in the main, but I'm not sure it was the intended priority of the 19th century missionaries. I was grateful all the same. I then screwed my nose up and managed to knock down the price of one of the remaining better rooms at the Hotel Artha, a suitably clean spot with a qualifying garden courtyard and rare facility such as a clothes horse and towel which made all the difference. Perhaps the beer was a mistake but my fatigue then enforced an involuntary all day slumber which meant I got little else done that day apart from an initial recce of the town, finding it a friendly laid back place, honest and unprettified. I did however come across a nearby Kampung which boasted a 7th generation 500 year old tomb amongst an excellent 2 level village. Full of friendly engaging locals, they happily did not look upon me as a money making rap, the kids just wanted to play. Still there was no internet to be had in town but I bagged myself an overdue 50p haircut in a tiny shack with no trimmer and a dirty razor. After eating my dinner by candle light during a telltale power cut I headed back to the hotel to belatedly afix plans for the morrow, picking up a pretty useless glossy tourist leaflet welcome still for its rarity value, and then enquiring as to the availability of a motorbike. It had been the main impetus to stay there at the Artha that they were used to lining up such requests, and the 3 quid asking price was what I knew to be honest and cheap. Frequention of another more up-market hotel had predictably availed me of no further information, just a moneygrabbing culture where a bike would cost suckers double.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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