Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 30 June 2017 • Destination
Having only been once to a savanna in Indonesia, which was the Bekol savanna in Baluran National Park, I was excited to see more savannas in Sumba Island. In between the visits to Sumba’s awesome beaches, my friends and I kept ourselves dry running around and sitting calmly at the gorgeous savannas.
Wairinding savanna is seemingly the most mentioned online of all the savannas in Sumba Island. It’s located in Pambotan Jara village, about half an hour drive westward from Waingapu, the capital of East Sumba. The smooth asphalted road meandered, with no obvious sign of direction to it. Having a reliable local driver, we just enjoyed the view along the way, and next thing I knew the car stopped by a small kiosk at a turn.
We hiked up to the hill by the kiosk, guided by a 3 year-old Agan, one of the many little children that hiked with us that late morning. Layers upon layers of undulating green hills spread in front of us, ended only at the horizon. It was a lot more captivating than seen online because of the vastness and the fact that I finally stood right on the hills for real. And I did what I had always wanted since I planned the trip to Sumba: sketching the Wairinding hills. Yeay!
After taking pictures, some of the guys sat with me and just enjoyed the view while chit-chatting about random things, mostly about diva wars. Agan and his friends played with Shasya and some of the guys, and we all took our time just sitting there, looking at the hills even though the day was pretty hot.
When we just arrived, Zindan and Rizal greeted the children who were playing near the kiosk. They knew the names of some of them because they’re often around and like to hang out with visitors. Apparently, visitors often come and bring them gifts like sweets, chocolate, or drawing books and color pencils. They politely took the chocolate from the box Rizal brought. This ‘giving back to the locals’ idea is still puzzling to me. How much do you owe the locals to enjoy the landscape they live nearby? How do you give back wisely? How do they process whatever you meant to give them in good will? For the time being, I just hope they can keep their neighborhood clean from the chocolate plastic wraps.
“Stop, stop! Horses! Horses!” I tapped on Rizal’s shoulder, who was riding the motorbike, on our way to Lailiang Beach. As soon as he parked the motorbike, I hopped off and walked fast to the savanna on the left, where horses were grazing. I knew that grazing horses is a scene to be expected in Sumba, I just didn’t think I’d see them so soon and only about 13 km from Waikabubak, the capital of West Sumba.
As a city kid who rarely gets to see horses in their original habitat, and in this case was a very scenic one, the view was a luxury to me. I wanted to come close and these little horses were so cute I wanted to stroke their manes, but I didn’t dare. I didn’t want them to be bothered or feel threatened that they’d start kicking. And you best keep away from wild animals because you don’t know what they might suddenly do that could harm you. Unless, maybe, you’re trained to handle wild animals.
These horses were smaller than those I’ve seen before in Indonesia. They’re called Sandelwood Ponies, also spelled Sandalwood Ponies. They’re called ponies because the height of the back is only about 140 cm tops, and ‘Sandel/Sandalwood’ was from the fact that Sumba’s sandalwood used to be exported overseas.
Although Rizal said that we’d see more horses in a wider savanna a few days later, I took my time in Lailara, and then joined by Shasya. Aside to the horses, the savanna was also a sight for sore eyes. Layers after layers of hills were spread far and wide before us. Man, I envy these horses for having that kind of view for brunch every day!
Purukambera is the most popular savanna among tourists for the grazing wild horses. Located about 43 km northward from Waingapu, we drove past a few villages and many churches to get there. Unlike Wairinding and Lailara, Purukambera savanna is relatively flat, and bordering with Purukambera Beach. As expected, we saw more of the Sandelwood Ponies there, grazing in tranquility. They didn’t stand close to the road, so I take it that they weren’t disturbed by the rarely passing cars.
Sumba is known to have the best racing horses in Indonesia. From what I read, the horses are mixed breed of the Arab and local horses; there are also articles that say they are descendants of Mongolian horses. I’m not so sure which one is truer, but I know that the horses at Purukambera savanna were running free, none of them was tied, though they belong to the local farmers.
“Aren’t the farmers afraid they’ll escape or be stolen?” I asked.
“No, they’re here only for grazing. Later the owners will gather them again back to the farm,” Zindan explained.
Wow, what a peaceful life, not having to worry about losing your possessions.
Lapale looks a lot like like Wairinding, only the hills are a bit disordered. Our visit to Lapale savanna was not in the plan. We drove pass it on our way to Tarimbang, about 22 km from the beach, and then stopped for the sunset view later in the day.
I don’t think Lapale is any less stunning than Wairinding, though my photos here don’t do it justice. It is, though, less popular. I’m guessing it’s because the location is harder to get and it’s a detour from anywhere else other than Tarimbang, and the road is winding and very hilly. It wasn’t in our itinerary either. We just stopped there by chance to enjoy the sunset view on our way back from Tarimbang, heading to Waingapu.
If you prefer a place with a gorgeous sunset view and with as little as people or vehicle’s presence, then Lapale could be a better choice than Wairinding.
We were in a rush to get to Walakiri beach because we didn’t want to miss the famous sunset. However, we couldn’t not stop when passing by a savanna only a few kilometers before reaching the beach.
There wasn’t much to see or do at – I don’t even know the name of the savanna even after googling about it, so let’s just call it – Walakiri savanna. But it was a perfect golden hour, I loved the ambience and how our tanned skin projected in the photos. The tall weeds caused a little bit of an itch on my legs, but I only realized it after we were done running around like the Ingalls sisters on the Little House on the Prairie opening title. Does anyone remember that show?
It was late in April until early May when I visited Sumba. The rainy season had just ended, but it wasn’t dry for too long, so the grass on the savannas was still green. It was just the way I wanted to see it, since I had seen the Bekol savanna in Baluran when it was yellow like those of pictures of African savannas. But if you’re looking for yellow savanna in Sumba, you could try going there in July to October.