Adjacent villages atop a small hill on the western side of Waikabubak, set at opposite ends of a boulder-lined path, it’s hard to tell where Tarung finishes and Waitabar starts.
High thatch-roofed stilted houses with pigs and other livestock penned below and large stone-slab tombs may have you feeling transported to ancient times, but satellite dishes remind you that this is a modern society. Tradition and Marapu beliefs still run deep, though.
Within Tarung, several of the clan houses have specific traditional functions, such as being keepers of sacred items like machetes, gongs and drums, or they have special responsibilities such as determining the arrival of Wulla Poddu, the holy month. Although geographically close to Tarung, Waitabar has its own traditional leaders and sacred objects. Interesting for the passing tourist (and good for photo opportunities) several of the houses in Waitabar are adorned with magnificent buffalo horn collections, relics from sacrificed animals and a local status symbol.
Tarung and Waitabar are number one on the village tourist trail, and if you’re on any kind of organised tour, you’ll be sure to visit. It’s not theme-park touristy as such, but women will offer their weavings and other goods for sale. Some of the younger people in the villages speak good English and are very welcoming, sometimes showing you inside their homes (and inviting you to stay).
Between the full moons of October and November, Tarung and Waitabar are among several villages who celebrate the Wulla Poddu festival. Highlights include many ceremonial events and performances of ritual dances. If you are not visiting Sumba for Pasola, this would be an excellent time to witness some traditional celebrations. Do be aware however that many villages have taboos at his time, and while guests are often welcome, sometimes they are not.