EXPLORING INDONESIA – My expedition to Irian Jaya
I cannot call it trip and I cannot call it journey because this is a proper expedition that leaves a sign in your mind, in regions difficult to access, without any infrastructure. An encounter with people absolutely primitive due to their complete isolation. A not easy approach with peaceful ethnic groups wary of strangers but that slowly start to touch. A wild blooming nature, sometimes insurmountable. In these impassable paths we have walked to reach ethnic groups that have rarely been in contact with our world: the Dani, the Jali, the Tiom. We got to know their traditions and rituals, habits of life, their homes. To fully explore these lands and these peoples we move only on foot, helped by 17 local porters, a trekking extremely tiring, days of walking from village to village, crossing valleys and mountains, rivers and forests. We arrive in Jayapura (Irian Jaya) from Jakarta. It’s a short stop to relax and recover strength after an exhausting plane trip from Europe. The next day another plane will take us to Wamena situated in a great valley in the center of Irian Jaya and from here our trekking will begin. In Wamena, a small city, we have just enough time to organize our trekking: meet with the local guide, buy all kind of food, vegetables, eggs, live poultry and find and negotiate with the 17 local porters who will be with us for all the expedition and will carry on their heads and shoulders our bags and all boxes of food. The next morning we are ready to go, 7 of us, friends from long time, accustomed to travel together and to stand one another. Thanks God two of them are doctors!!!! Never know!! The trekking begins, our trekking shoes are brand new, our trousers nice and clean from laundry. With backpacks on our shoulders and cameras ready to film we start our adventure. The first tribe we meet after a day’s walk are the Dani. We stop at the village of Sogokmo and we are welcomed by the chief village. We are guests in their homes where we will sleep. They allow us to use their “kitchen” to cook our dinner. The night is cold, we sleep with our clothes on in our sleeping bags. Here I have my first nasty close encounter with fleas that will accompany me for the entire trip (and beyond). On waking up the next morning, we have a quick wash at the river, a hot tea and off we go again thru valleys to find other villages. The Dani people look rather primitive as they are wearing almost nothing except for some decorations on the body. Men wear only the “koteka” a sort of sheath for the penis. Women wear on their hips short skirts made of grass or bark fiber; when outside the house they cover their backs, from head to thighs, with a net also made of grass and they use it as a bag to carry the baby or the little big or to put vegetables. They live in huts made of wood capable of retaining the warmth of a small fire and to protect the cold nights. Women and children live in a separate hut from men. Women use to embellish their faces and bodies with floral white paintings, while women who have just become widow have to paint the full body with yellow paint and keep it on until it rubs out. We continue our trekking thru other Dani villages of Kurima and Tugma always staying and enjoying the local hospitality. We reach the village of Wesagalep and meet with the Jaly tribes that nothing differ in clothing from the Dani tribes. We are hosted by a Jaly chief in his village and for the occasion a little pig is killed and cooked in our honour. We take part to the ceremony and of course the banquet: an unforgettable experience!. The days are a succession of moves, new villages, new encounters with men, women, children and old people. We shake hands and they try to converse with us. But even our local guide cannot help us: their dialects are so different. We have the opportunity to participate to a performace of men fighting. Their body totally decorated, their heads adorned with various types of feathers and caps, necklaces around their necks and long arrows and axes. They fight to prove how strong they are and to show their ability to fight. We return to Wamena really stressed out and filthy!!! The first need is a hot bath, very hot indeed, but here is a utopia, we have to wash with cold water. Mt flea bytes start to irritate me a lot. My body is covered with red spots, I am itching all over. Home Sweet Home, where are you!! It has been really difficult, fatiguing, uncomfortable but what we saw and experienced will forever remain in our minds. A world of awesomeness and strong intense emotions, forgetting for some days that somewhere there is “civilization”.