In the extreme west of Sumba lies the increasingly popular Kodi district. Its centre is the village of Bandokodi, well known for the towering roofs that top its traditional houses. It is also one of the main Pasola venues in west Sumba. With your own transport, you can explore the area from Waikabubak, or you can stay in Pero. There are direct buses from Waikabubak to Bandokodi, but they can be hard to find; it’s easy enough to take a bus to Waitabula in the north and then connect to a Kodi service, which should take you all the way to Pero – check the price with a local, as drivers will optimistically ask for many times the real price. Direct buses back to Waikabubak leave Pero around 6am – you should be able to connect back to Waingapu the same day if necessary.
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The only place to stay in Kodi is Pero, a seaside village with a solitary losmen. The village is not constructed in traditional Sumbanese style, but has a quiet charm. Numerous kampung with teetering high roofs and mossy stone tombs dot the surrounding countryside, some only a short walk away. The Homestay Story offers basic rooms, which can get stuffy at night. There are a lot of mosquitoes and no nets are provided, so come prepared. The main surfers’ beach, a desolate long stretch where high waves crash onto the steeply sloping sand, is to the right, but the currents and undertow are ferocious. There’s a more sheltered beach to the left over the river, with a vantage point above for local crowds to gather and gawp as you swim.
By far the best-known and most dazzling festival in Nusa Tenggara, the Pasola is one of those rare spectacles that actually surpasses all expectations. It takes place in Kodi and Lamboya in February and in Wanokaka and Gaura in March; most hotels can give you a rough idea of the date. This brilliant pageant of several hundred colourfully attired, spear-wielding horsemen in a frenetic and lethal pitched battle is truly unforgettable. It occurs within the first two moons of the year, and is set off by the mass appearance of a type of sea worm which, for two days a year, turns the shores into a maelstrom of luminous red, yellow and blue. The event is a rite to balance the upper sphere of the heavens and the lower sphere of the seas. The Pasola places the men of each village into two teams in direct opposition; the spilling of their blood placates the spirits and restores balance between the two spheres. The proceedings begin several weeks before the main event, with villagers hurling abuse and insults at their neighbours in order to get their blood up. The actual fighting takes place on special Pasola fields where the battle has been fought for centuries.