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, about 15 kilometres up the road from Waitabubak, was one of our favourite villages to visit. Shy at first, once we got chatting the folk here were really keen to show off their village and share insights into their culture. Closer to Waitabubak, Rate Wana and Tambera villages live much in the way of their ancestors. All three are close enough to cover in one trip.

Geila Koko, one of our favourite villages to visit in Sumba. : 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. : 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. : 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 of her tats.

A few of the men at Geila Koko. : Sally Arnold.
A few of the men at Geila Koko. Photo: Sally Arnold

One feature of this village, and several others we visited, is a spindly dead tree, set into the ground near or within a stone circle. The tree is a remnant from a previous Wulla Poddu ceremony, a month full of ritual. This tree of a particular variety is carefully chosen, and cut from the nearby forest, to be planted (sans roots) in the village. It is believed to protect and shower the village with fertility and prosperity until the next Wulla Poddu.

Contact details for Rate Wana, Tambera and Geila Koko villages

Address: Around 15km from Waitabubak
Coordinates (for GPS): 119º27'1.24" E, 9º34'32.05" S
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps

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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