Rate Wana, Tambera and Geila Koko villages

Rate Wana, Tambera and Geila Koko villages

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If you’d prefer to visit villages that don’t see a ton of tourists, head north, but you will definitely either need Indonesian skills or a local guide.

Travelfish says:
Geila Koko, one of our favourite villages to visit in Sumba. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
Geila Koko, one of our favourite villages to visit in Sumba. Photo: Sally Arnold

The gateway to the tiny hilltop hamlet of Rate Wana is marked by a majestic banyan tree. Small and compact, two rows of thatch houses border a row of simple slab-style graves. Not all the houses in this village have tall roofs, but a mix of shorter ones too.

Only one or two of the houses here display a small arrangement of buffalo horns — they are either not as wealthy, or not as ostentatious as some closer to the city dwellers. Folk are welcoming, and on our visit kids were keen to show off a brand new sibling.

A new sibling for a Rate Wana family. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
A new sibling for a Rate Wana family. Photo: Sally Arnold

Five hundred metres as the crow flies (1.5 kilometres by road) to the east, Tambera is about twice as large as Rate Wana.

A steep staircase leads to the rows of thatch houses. At the northern end of the village, a large stone circle is ringed by slab-tombs resembling a mini Stonehenge. Daily life is fairly slow; we saw folk fetching food for the livestock and later preparing it. Valuable animals seem to have better diets than some of the humans.

Still life, Tambera. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
Still life, Tambera. Photo: Sally Arnold

Six kilometres further north, the steep hill into Geila Koko is a little difficult to navigate on a motorbike — we had to get off and walk about 500 metres along a rough track lined with betelnut palm trees.

It was worth the small effort, as this fascinating village was filled with unusual and curious cultural objects, and friendly folk willing to explain a little (then line up for photos). A grandma with traditional tattoos was particularly keen to have photos ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 300 words.)

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Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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