Trip Start Oct 06, 2007
16Trip End Apr 06, 2007
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Our main purpose for visiting Sumba was to attend Pasola, a ritual war festival in which men from competing villages hurl blunted spears at one another while on horseback. (Does it get any more phallic than that?) In years past, before the Indonesian government got involved, the spears had sharp points, and death by impalement was a yearly occurrence. In fact, the fighting at times got so out of hand that civil wars broke out between the participating villages.
Two days before Pasola, we landed near Waingapu in eastern Sumba. There, we met our guide Bonny and driver Umbu who shepherded us across the island while listening to the Best of Two Live Crew and Shania Twain (Umbu's music of choice). Bonny had more traditional ideas about the arts and took us to the home of an ikat weaver. To quote Lonely Planet, ikat is "an intricately patterned cloth of threads that are painstakingly tie-dyed before being woven together."
From there, we drove over the river and through the woods to visit some of Sumba's traditional villages, and by traditional, we mean no plumbing, no electricity (excepting solar power), and lots of betel nut. The houses feature steep peaked roofs that accommodate the four floors necessary for honoring marapu, Sumbanese spiritual forces. Some of the roofs are over fifteen meters high.
On the day of Pasola, we awoke at 3:45 in the morning to join the throngs on their way to the seashore where local shamans opened the Pasola festival by caching the sea worms that come to shore only one day each year. A month before, the shamans had chosen the date of Pasola by determining when the sea worms would arrive - about seven days after February's full moon.