The region around Pero is noticeably greener and more fertile than anywhere else on Sumba and it’s just north of town at the nearby village of Tosi that the Pasola, an ancient war ritual festival is held between February and March each year.
The precise start date of the festival is determined by the annual arrival of the Nyale, a multcoloured sea worm which washes up on the shore for a few months each year. After harvesting worms from the beach, making offerings to their ancestors and feasting, two teams of 25 men from different villages race around a field on colorfully decorated horses flinging spears at each other, recreating an ageless tradition with fierce and sometimes injurious zeal. In ancient Sumbanese beliefs, blood spilled during the festival will fertilise the land and improve crops.
With thundering hooves, mud flying and spears zinging through the air it’s quite a spectacle.
Even if you miss the Pasola, there’s plenty to see around Pero. It sits almost midway along a 20km stretch of coastline endowed with sweeping beaches and some of the best surf breaks in SE Asia. South of Pero you can follow a 10km loop heading along the coast then sweeping back via an inland route.
On the beach at Ratenggaro you’ll find a megalithic stone tomb, then head across the Bondokodi River which can be crossed on foot at low tide or by local boat at other times. Wainyapu village lies on the opposite bank and has some delicately engraved tombs by the entrance to the village. From here you can keep exploring along the coast or follow the river a short way inland to return to Bondokodi and Pero using the river bridge.