Spiralling of the waves, craquetting of the bonfire and the clove cigarettes, coo-coo says the bird. Remote beaches at their best, boarded by pandan trees, and cliffs with white cliff rock formations, making me think of Etretat, in the North of France.
Water buffalos roaming the hills, bathing in the mud pools. Horses galloping the beach, and pristine white sandy beaches, populated by fishermen. While exploring Sumba, I could almost hear David Attenborough in my mind, as if I had jumped into a BBC documentary.
Friendly locals climbing the coconut trees to bring us young fresh coconuts. Those smiles are priceless. World-class barrelling waves, a sky filled with a zillion stars, after the sunset has painted the sky all the colours of the rainbow, just before the moonrise. Welcoming another nightfall with our beloved Milkyway.
Zooming over one of Sumba’s hilly landscapes come madonna’s daughters. While Julie lifts both hands up in the sky, their blond hairs are flying in the wind, D. lets go of the steering wheel, and scoopy rides straight down the hill!
They make a stop at the next local road shop to buy petrol, sold in a reused plastic water bottle at 10k a litre.
“Where are you going?”, asks the shop owner.
“New Zealand”, answers Julie, with the most serious gaze.
D. bursts out laughing. Everyone starts laughing together, and off they zoom back onto the freshly paved road.
“Mister Mister!”, is the sound accompanying us on the road, every local seems to be extremely enthusiastic when seeing western people. That’s probably how rock stars must feel… I feel like Michael Jackson, says D. Ah! I know, replies Julie. We are “Madonna’s daughters”! Here comes our fan club…
The ladies have taken it into a habit to reply exactly what they’re screamed at (with a giant smile on both ends). They improvise to see if the locals will then reply the sounds they make, echoing sounds through the streets. Bringing a couple of interesting improvised concerts on the road. Buleeeeeee, Ahuuuu, Coo-Coo, Yiiihaaaaa, Mister Mister, Misses Misses, AaaaAaaah, etc. etc. Good times…
Sumba Surf Camp area (stunning!)
Ratenggaro (typical houses) 2h drive (Through town left along scenic “new” road)
Weekuri lagoon 38min drive inside 1h15 by scenic road (new)
Oro beach (sleep and camp if safe)
Visit sumba foundation
Waikelo sawah waterfall
Walakiri beach sunset
Wai marang waterfall
Lainjanji after super beautiful landscape
Locate and follow easily with our google maps list, images and reviews:
I suggest you download an offline map, osmAnd for example, here (google often sends you off-road, and the connection is not always available). Sumba has very few paved roads, I suggest you stay on them as much as possible or get a proper dirt bike.
SUMBA IN A NUTSHELL
Sumba in a nutshell is trekking, wild camping, canyons, waterfalls, wild and unspoiled beaches, and world-class waves. If you’re a surfer, this place is not to be missed. World-class waves, with no surfers but you. There’s no waiting in line here, it’s just you! Arnaud from Sumba Surf Camp arrived on a motorbike and stayed. He knows all the waves and will take you there on his superfast boat with captain Martin.
SURFING IN SUMBA
The reflection of the sun was shining straight at me, reverberating from where the sunset the night before, the golden warm morning light woke me up, through the mosquito net. Announcing the sun was rising, and a new day was about to begin.
I could smell the brewing of my favourite blend of Indonesian coffee. Announcing Arnaud’s exquisite French crepes were about to be served. Fresh papaya and pomelo, from the garden. A breakfast for champions before swimming to the boat. Swimming?
Yes, you heard it right, Ha! I was getting ready to hitch a ride to the neighbouring permaculture farm when Arnaud looked at me and said: “Julie, we swim to the boat.” I replied:” ha! Ha! Yeah, right!”, in disbelief. He looked straight at me and said, “Julie it’s a boat, we swim to the boat.” Right then, in Sumba, we swim to the boat! I jumped in my swimsuit, borrowed a dry bag, and was ready to swim in for my first Sumba property visit! I was in Love with Sumba already…
The current is kicking that way, so swim straight, like that the current will naturally bring you to the boat. The surfers had boards, cheaters. Ha! I asked one of them to take my dry bag, and off I went. I’m usually a strong swimmer, in Sumba not… That ocean is powerful, I could see the white tips in the bay of the almost barreling waves, the swell was pumping, and the surfers were ready to hit the road! A couple of waves took me under, but I kept swimming, I felt brutally alive and made it safe and sound to the boat. I felt like I had swum 500m in less than 4min.
We were all on the boat, and off we went. Straight into the ocean, over these giant waves, barreling on my right, cruising through the channel, I couldn’t help but look at these waves in wonder.
Every time I look at a barrelling wave, it takes me back to the legend of Hawai, where the tribal people decided to carve wooden boards and ride the waves.
The wave breaks on the reef or sandy bottom, causing the top of the wave to roll forward, and the biggest wave sets create a barrel. Only the best surfers get to ride inside that barrel…
What a magical sport, if you manage to read the waves correctly, paddle fast enough to reach the top at the right moment, push off with your hands on your board, and find balance, bending your knees to that centre point, the wave will make you fly. BOOM!
Surfing is by far one of the most magnificent spots in the world. These white tips have always awakened some kind of magic in me. Plus surfing automatically becomes your way of life, you don’t know it yet, but once you’ve felt that magic, it becomes natural to chase the best waves to ride, around the world.
Indonesia’s most remote location (my favourite places), always has groups of surfers from around the world, here to ride some of the worlds most fun waves, especially because there is no one around! It’s just for you! Because if I understood one thing right, it’s that waiting in line on a break, or fighting over a wave, can act as a morning wrecker… In Sumba, it’s pure surf magic…
PERMACULTURE FARM – HOST A RETREAT IN SUMBA
Arnaud dropped off the surfers in front of his favourite barrelling waves, and kindly drove me to the next bay. I jumped in the water from the boat and swam in. Ha! The owner had asked me,
“Bring a hat, a water bottle, and loose long clothes”, I swam in in my bathing suit, not sure how they would react… You never know with these boutique properties, if they’ve still got the travelling soul or not.
I met Christian on top of the stairs, coming up from the beach. He looked surprised, welcomed me, I told him I swam in… “Sick!”, he replied. Yeah, they’re like me, the same kind of magic in his eyes. He said:” I’m about to go on a surf lesson, Dan will show you around, have some breakfast first.”
Have breakfast overlooking the surfing the waves in their bay, while surrounded by the biggest and healthiest looking red chicken I have seen in my life. These chickens are truly happy, I almost felt like I was having a conversation with them, Ha! Enough travelling on your own pour Moi!
I knew I had found the perfect place to host retreats in Sumba. Meeting the host usually says it all… I couldn’t wait to visit!
Sustainability at its best, barefoot luxury, stunning rooms, ocean views; hectares of permaculture and sustainable living magic, I could only imagine how fun it must be to have that much space to let all your permaculture dreams run free. Christian and his wife deff. had made the best of their stunning property Ngalung Kalla. Composting, raised garden beds, water baths, sheep, pigs, chicken farm, chicken run; worm farm; food foresting, dig holes,…
In this eco surf health retreat, the shala has 360 degrees ocean views, buildings are built sustainably in harmony with nature, clay buildings and traditional houses. The pool is delicious, and soon I’d walk back over my favourite hanging bridge in Sumba!
At the breakfast table, I met Leo. He must have been 6 or 7, gorgeous brown curls, deep profound gaze. When he realised I spoke French, we immediately became best buddies. He explained how his stay at Ngalung Kalla had been most extraordinary.
The red chickens love to be caressed, that’s Oxy, she’s the shiest, she laid an egg yesterday in the boat cabinet, we cooked pancakes with it this morning, a cock flew over us while we were racing the hermit crabs Lily had found, for the tastiest chocolate bars I’ve had, She often runs around naked…
Retreat locations in Sumba, Indonesia
CAMPING IN SUMBA
Here they come again, said Dani, our collectors…
Camping just must be one of my favourite ways to discover a country. Just driving, and wherever we feel like, we pop the tent open and spend the night.
“Pure freedom”, said Christian’s wife. When I told her we have a scoopy (motorbike), and a tent.
What do you do when you camp?
You are connected to the 4 elements: water, air, earth, and fire. Before watching the sun go down, you collect wood for the bonfire. The colourful rainbow colours of the sunset announce your daily meeting with the beloved Milky way. Just before the moon rises, with her bright orange colour, out of the ocean. Sitting by the fire camping, the wonders of nature surround us. You are naturally slowed down, surrounded by magic.
A tiny note on safety: if you don’t want to be chased by the local warrior tribes, like in Indiana Jones, best not to wander around alone, especially at night. Just kidding!!
Crime against tourism is unheard of in Sumba. Just be careful of the notorious bandits in the Kodi area (best not to camp there, we were told it’s not safe). Driving through, no problem.
In remote places, there is nor water, nor food. What we did, is we found a homestay, went in, introduced ourselves and asked if they had beer, coffee, and breaky. We simply asked if we could camp in front. We were not the kind of campers that have their kitchen with them, I mean scoopy was already heavily charged with the both of us, and our things. This is no camping cook show to add here.
PEOPLE OF SUMBA
Ibu Noni, is from Flores, but her husband Lucas was German. Unfortunately, he passed away. We drank an Arac (local alcohol) from Flores, in his name. He was an architect and built their lovely home in Oro beach with Love.
I believe that beach has the whitest sand in the world, even compared to the Guinness world book of records Hyams beach in NSW. I think Oro beach competes!
Tag @gilitravelagency #whitestsandintheworld if you agree.
Connect with the locals while travelling!
The locals in Indonesia have so much heart, they are so welcoming, the locals is what eventually made me call Indonesia home, once my entire family moved here, they also felt like I had found paradise on earth. I finally threw my anchor overboard, and decided to call this my base (home). Mama and papa retired on the island, and my brother kicked off, found himself, and started writing his own story!
ARTIST RETREAT IN SUMBA
Ibu Noni is looking for someone to help her set up a kick-ass marketing plan! If you’re looking for a place to reconnect with your art. She’s happy to give you a room for a month, in exchange for some marketing magic before you go. You can drive into town for an internet connection after you’ve dived into your creative getaway on Sumba’s most remote beach.
The first time I saw someone chewing bettle was in Papua, on the island of Arborek. We were walking through the village, passed an older local man, I smiled at him, and dear lord he smiled back.
I remember thinking:” Holy shit! What the fuck is going on in that mouth?!” Bright red coloured teeth. Chewing something obviously. Spitting bright red excess water on the floor. Smiling eyes, slightly drowsy, as if a little high. It made me think of when we were chewing coca in the Colca canyon against altitude sickness. I immediately knew I had to try it.
Years passed by, and when camping Sumba on a scoopy with D., We’d decided this trip we’d do it. We’d try bettle! Coming up from the waterfalls we bumped into this adorable toko (shop). Bettle drying in front of the shop is usually a good sign. Ha!
We started negotiating in our basic Bahasa Indonesian, and the ladies clearly replied in their local Sumbanese dialect/ tribal language. Eventually, we finally figured out we needed, something green that looked like a root, the tiny red circles, and some kind of white powder. We negotiated everything for around 10k and had her pack it in a banana leaf (NO plastic! Fantastic!).
As soon as we got home, Ibu Noni had already found the bettle, and she dived right in. “Great! Mine was just finished!”, she said. D. burst out laughing, and we both listened and watched how to perform this strange habit.
First, the green, stuff spicy and crunchy. Add the red, and some white to get that memorable and strange as f*ck looking red mouth. We both started chewing, and the expression on our face gave immediately away, that we sure as hell didn’t enjoy this at all!
Arf! D. kept it max. 5min and spit it out. I tried to power through, and while cooking I kept chewing… But my mouth just wouldn’t turn red?! Ibu Noni’s was bright red and gorgeous looking. I took some more, and continued chewing but really against my will. D. was pissing at me. “Anything for the picture”, she said. I laughed.
True, I wanted a picture with the 3 of us, with a mouth full of bettle, bright red! Diving into the local culture. Immortalising this moment in Ibu Noni’s kitchen. I kept chewing but it just didn’t get there, and the taste was starting to be unbearable, so I spit it all out in the garden. What an experience, at least we can say we tried bettle! Ha!
That night we cooked pasta, and we couldn’t taste squash because of the bettle, Ha! The kids love it though, they even had it again for breakfast!
We walked for about an hour on the beach, before we dived into the village of Kalala. The entire beach was bordered by these fisherman huts, build with palm leaves and a variety of other dry leaves. There was absolutely no food in that village, apart for eggs and mie; but somehow we could always find Bintang everywhere. One beer is like two sandwiches said the German to the Belgian.
BUDGET SPEND SUMBA