If you’re hungry for traditional Sumba culture, head west into the golden rice fields that crawl up blue mountains, carved by rivers and sprouting with bamboo and coconut palms. Kampung of high-roofed houses are still clustered on their hilltops (a place of defence in times past), surrounding the large stone tombs of their ancestors. Rituals and ceremonies for events such as house building and marriage often involve animal sacrifices and can take place at any time. Outsiders are welcome at these events, but be sure to make a donation – your guide will know how much (usually 20,000Rp to 50,000Rp).
Even though kampung seem accustomed to visiting foreigners, gifts of betel nut help warm the waters with the older crowd and are a sign of respect.
Give yourself a few days around West Sumba. Once you have learned some basic manners as a guest arriving in a village – hopefully armed with some Bahasa Indonesia – it’s possible to do it without a guide, though it always helps to have one.