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IRIAN JAYA (NEW GUINEA, INDONESIA)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Port Moresby, Vanimo
IRIAN JAYA: Jayapura, Baliem Highlands and Baliem Valley, jungle above Senggo, Jow, Biwar Laut, Agats, Mapunajaya
THROWIM WAY LEG
"Throwim way leg" means to go on a journey (in pidgin New Guinean.) It describes the action of thrusting out your leg to take the first step of what can be a long march. Well, we really threwim way our legs this time! Nearly threwim way the rest of us, too!
Our three-week trek through the jungles and swamps of Irian Jaya was easily the most memorable, challenging trip of our lives. We aren't sure we'd recommend it, as few folks we know would willingly subject themselves to such exquisite discomfort.
Where the heck IS Irian Jaya? We weren't sure, either, before we went there. It's the western half of the island of New Guinea - the second largest island in the world (after Greenland.) General MacArthur used Irian Jaya as his headquarters for staging the assault against Japanese troops in the Philippines during World War II. The Germans who had colonized the eastern half of the island lost it during the war, and Australia administered the area until Papua New Guinea became a separate nation in 1975. The Dutch had colonized the western half of New Guinea, and after World War II tried to prepare it for eventual union with Papua New Guinea. However, Indonesia (in collusion with the U.S., which wanted Indonesian oil and military bases) managed to annex Irian Jaya for itself. Since taking over in 1963, the Indonesians have shoved the Irianese aside economically and politically by relocating thousands of Javanese to Irian Jaya. Resistance to Indonesian rule brought harsh reprisals - tribal villages were napalmed, and local leaders were tortured or dropped from helicopters to their deaths.
Today, Irian Jaya is one of the last great wilderness areas in the world. Maps of the region still show some sections as wide as 300 km without any relief data at all. First contact with the outside world was made by two unknown tribes as recently as 1996; one of these tribes slipped back into the jungle and has not been heard of since. There are at least 250-300 different languages spoken, due to the often impenetrable terrain and continual warfare. Cannibalism was generally stopped about 25 years ago, although it is rumored to continue to this day in some remote areas.
Travelers were allowed to visit just a few areas when we were there, and movements were strictly controlled by police permits. Obstacles of language, transportation, lodging and food in the remote areas were insurmountable for us to make the trip on our own. So we signed up for a small-group tour with six other travelers.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
The two of us entered Irian Jaya illegally, were tossed out and had to try again. We were traveling in Australia before the tour began, and didn't want to pay big bucks to fly from Darwin all the way to Jakarta and back to Jayapura. The map indicated a closer, cheaper route through Papua New Guinea, so we made arrangements to be driven through the jungle-covered mountains and across the border. Meanwhile, increasing resistance from those trying to free Irian Jaya from Indonesia and unite it with Papua New Guinea caused Indonesia to close the only road across the border. This road was "iffy" anyway, due to the armed raskol gangs that carry machine guns and prey on travelers and locals alike. (Joan had intended to close her eyes during the whole overland trip!)
New plan: Through the tour company, we chartered a small motorboat to take us across the border by sea the 75 miles from Vanimo (PNG) to Jayapura (Irian Jaya.) We got off the plane at Vanimo airport, where we were met by an Irianese interpreter who walked us across the tarmac to the ocean; we waded into the water and climbed aboard a 10-foot open boat that held four people (captain, interpreter and us) and one life vest. During the three-hour journey along the densely jungled coastline, we saw no other boats and almost no sign of human life along the shore. We were nervous, but made the trip safely. When we arrived in Jayapura, however, the police informed us that we had 24 hours to get out of the country! Although we could have entered Indonesia without a visa through either Jakarta or Bali, we needed a visa to enter from PNG.
Back into the boat - in total darkness at 3:30 the next morning. (By now, we felt like homeless boat people!) The boat had no running lights so we were relieved when we finally cleared the dark harbor, congested with fishing boats. The dash back to Vanimo was an eerie one - enlivened by a spectacular sunrise and the companionship of tiny flying fish, who rode the air currents caused by our boat's movement - "flying" as much as fifty feet at a time.
We'd hoped to get to Vanimo, grab our visas and make it back to Jayapura in time to continue onward with our tour group. Hah! No chance. Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are in deep financial trouble. Unemployment is rife. Those with jobs must justify the importance of their work. The guy who began the processing of our visas in Vanimo studied our single-page applications for two hours before stamping them. Then his boss (in the back room) had to deliberate some more. Another ninety minutes passed. Eventually, we were issued 30-day visas to visit Indonesia - not the usual 60-day visas allowed if entering from elsewhere. It took another 45 minutes at PNG immigration to get exit stamps. In retrospect, some backsheesh (bribe money) probably would have speeded things up dramatically. At this point in our travels, we were still too self-righteous to pay bribes, which function somewhat like tips do in the Western world - as income supplements for otherwise underpaid workers. Back into the boat. Raced to Jayapura. Missed the plane. Caught up with the tour on day #4. Welcome to the Third World.
HIGHLANDS & BALIEM VALLEY
During our stay in Irian Jaya, we visited three tribes in a number of different villages: the agricultural Dani people of the Baliem Highlands and Baliem Valley, the tree-dwelling Korowai people in the jungles above Senggo, and the wood-carving Asmat people in the swamplands of the southern coast.
The Dani are the best-known Irianese - famous for their determination to continue the traditional ways they have followed for thousands of years. Most of the Dani men still wear traditional attire, which consists of a horim (long gourd) that encloses the penis and points it upward in a permanent erection. Although the highlands can get very cold, they wear nothing else, except a few feathers or perhaps a boar's tusk through their nose. Sometimes, they'll smear blackish pig fat on their chest and arms to help keep them warm. The boys wear short "trainer" gourds, the girls wear brief grass skirts and the bare-breasted married women wear looping, braided skirts.
Women are considered to be witches in the highlands and their powerful magic increases with age. The men practice polygamy and live in a separate men's house, while wives and children live in huts clustered nearby. A long house with multiple hearths is used for cooking. If a sow dies, a Dani woman will suckle the piglets. (We even saw one young woman nursing a small dog!)
The Dani are sophisticated farmers, using irrigation and crop rotation in the terraced sweet potato fields on the steep highland valley walls. The men do the heavy work of preparing a new field. After that, the harder-working women do all the farming. The 70 varieties of sweet potato they raise are the staple of their diet, supplemented by bananas and sweet potato greens. The men eat a bit of pig meat from time to time; the women are seldom given meat and generally have a life expectancy of about 42 years - three years less than the men. (The woman below is probably 10-15 years younger than Joan!)
Our small group tour was quite a sight on the isolated jungle trails: eight travelers, plus the Canadian tour leader, a Jayapura-based Indonesian tour guide, a Wamena-based Irianese guide, Febri our Irianese cook, and 12 singing and drumming Lani porters - and a cockatoo in a mongi mongi tree!
The barefoot Lani porters are short and compact - about five feet tall, with sturdy brown bodies. Their wide penis gourds are held in place by strips of bright red fabric around their waists. As we moved along the trail, they decorated their hair and our hats with flowers, vines and ferns. They were endlessly cheerful, and - although burdened with our packs - were always there to help us across slippery logs that bridged the streams and down steep, rocky trails. Joan's porter was Beyot ("bay-oh") - a charming fellow in his early twenties with red-dyed dreadlocks decorated with bright blue beads and matching red teeth, stained from chewing betel nuts. He carried a homemade guitar and - along with some drummers - led the raucous singing along the trail. We often sang Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song, substituting "Bay-Oh" for "Day-oh!" (Lou is trying to play this guitar below; the rest of the porters and one of our fellow travelers are laughing at him.)
Beyot used a little too much energy keeping time by beating on his penis gourd and cracked it; Lou repaired it with duct tape. (The porters enjoyed sitting around talking together - while trying to flick pebbles into the open tops of the others' penis gourds!) Martinus, Lou's porter, had an impish sense of humor and delighted in "stealing" Lou's hiking stick. They spoke five or six words of English and we spoke the same amount of Dani, but we trekked along with them for five days in great good humor.
We slept in a variety of "lodges." In towns we stayed in small hotels; in villages either a basic guesthouse, the village head man's house or a thatched longhouse; often we slept on church or schoolroom floors. Except in a couple of the larger towns, we didn't have flush toilets. Most of the time we had either a squat toilet in the floor that was "flushed" with a bucket of water, a porter-dug latrine surrounded by palm fronds or (most of the time) just the nearest clump of bushes. We eventually became less concerned about toileting, even when curious villagers peered at us!
A one-day festival was going on in the Dani hillside village of Ibiroma when we arrived, celebrating the completion of its church. Christian missionaries had encouraged the villagers to construct the church by paying them with cigarettes and soccer equipment. For 24 hours, the 400 or so people from surrounding hills and villages continuously drummed and chanted, while bounding straight up and down in a joyous dance. Meanwhile, pigs were roasted, soccer played and our Lani porters played and chanted - surrounded by villagers as if they were a visiting rock group. This festival was an authentic happening, rather than an event staged for travelers. We were mostly ignored. That night, we all lay awake on the hard schoolroom floor, listening to the drumming and shouting from under our mosquito nets. It was tempting to wonder how deep the veneer of Christianity went in this recently cannibalistic country, and whether we might suddenly look like a delectable meal. It was as if we were in the midst of the film "Apocalypse Now." Truly an eerie, magical night.
The next day our group slid more than hiked down the steep, muddy trail through terraced sweet potato fields to the small village of Ugem. We passed the hut of a woman with the tops sliced off both her ears (one to show mourning for her father, the other for her grandfather.) She was missing two joints of the little finger on one hand (in mourning for her son.) We walked through the very neat and tidy village of thatched huts, which are low, dark and smoky and nearly empty of furnishings. The church's corrugated metal roof was the least likely to leak, so our guide rented it for the night. It was challenging to walk around in the church by candlelight, trying to avoid the huge holes in the floor!
Each day, we had toast and tea or instant coffee for breakfast, sometimes accompanied by fresh eggs or fruit. We had nasi goreng (rice with a bit of vegetables and maybe a fried egg spiked with sambal hot sauce) for lunch and a multi-course dinner of soup, rice, vegetables, maybe a meat or chicken satay and fresh pineapple or bananas. If our porters hadn't carried bottled mineral water, food and a cook skilled in keeping things clean, we would all have come down with what our leader, Scott, called "monkey bum." But we were all spared - thanks to our cook Febri. (Below, Scott and our Indonesian guide Jaya are peeling vegetables for dinner on the floor of a village school. Note the chalkboard behind.)
Descending from the highlands into Baliem Valley, we stayed in La'uk Losman - a very basic inn. The generator is on from 6 p.m. until midnight, during which time a 15-watt light bulb "glowed" in our bedroom. We scooped water from a square mandi (a Dutch word for the tiled water tank) in the bathroom - either to flush the squat toilet or to bathe. (The bathwater runs down a drain in the cement floor.) The tank is filled once a day and the sediment is supposed to settle, but ours never did. Nothing like cold, muddy water for washing your hair. Since we were hot, sweaty and covered with mosquito repellent, we were happy even for this.
While eating breakfast at the inn one morning, we watched a tall Dani man strolling proudly down the rainy lane outside - naked except for a penis gourd, but he was also wearing a gold watch and holding a black umbrella overhead! This incongruity of intersecting cultures made us grin. Later in the day, we hiked up a steep trail for an hour to a brine pool, where we watched bare-breasted Dani women gathering salt brine in banana stalks. This was staged for our benefit, but was still interesting. The gathering of brine in this pool is beautifully described in Peter Mathiessen's fine book on Irian Jaya, Under the Mountain Wall.
We made a visit to Jiwika, the most tourist-savvy of the Dani villages. As we walked down a trail towards this village, a man standing in a high lookout tower unexpectedly rained arrows on us - just out of range. We were being "ambushed" in a mock raid by fiercely painted, spear-carrying Dani warriors. We entered the village, where our group was shown the impressive 250-year-old blackened mummy of a tribal chief. (Like a tree, the age of a mummy is figured by counting the rings; the fiber strands around its neck were added at set intervals.)
The villagers then staged a traditional pig feast. A small black boar was held aloft by two men while a third shot it at close range with a bow and arrow. The poor beast ran shrieking around the enclosure until villagers finished it off by pressing the air out of its lungs, while the three vegetarians in our group cowered in the background. Village women filled a pit with wet banana leaves, sweet potatoes, greens and pig parts, then covered it with hot rocks - very similar to the traditional Hawaiian imu. However, the imu is kept hot all night, while an hour's cooking was enough to satisfy the Dani. (For safety, Febri later cooked our portion longer - serving it up as pork satay with peanut sauce.) The men and boys ate most of the pig, but at least they gave the women and girls a bit of the fat and rind. Tourists probably visit this village two or three times a year, and the small fees they pay help the village afford some meat. Pigs are a sign of wealth in Irian Jaya and are rarely killed except in times of plenty. Pig is preferred to human flesh; because the pig doesn't work, its flesh is white, soft and sweet. On the other hand, humans do work and their flesh is yellow and hard. There are few birds or animals in the dense jungle - for people who don't get enough protein, human flesh is better than nothing. No wonder the protein-starved Irianese have a long history of warfare with neighboring tribes. Tribal wars were for revenge, but also a form of meat-gathering; the losers were eaten.
The two of us each walked for awhile hand-in-hand with a Dani elder named Horak (below). The hand we held was missing four fingers. He had bowl-cut black hair, a boar tusk in his nose, black pig fat smeared on his chest, a ceremonial cowry shell "bib" and the ubiquitous penis gourd. We bargained with Horak as we walked, and finally bought his pig-fat-smeared bib for 60,000 rupiahs - about $8.00. Later, we realized that - because of his age - Horak undoubtedly had taken part in real warfare and eaten human flesh. Yikes! If we'd met him 15 years ago, we might have been his dinner!
There are no roads in most of Irian Jaya. Travel is by trail, longboat or small plane. To reach the center of the country, we flew in a small plane (in two shifts) from Wamena south to Senggo. Our small plane was a Swiss-made, single-engine, tail-dragger - a Pilatus Porter piloted by a morose Dutchman. Flying across the jungle is usually a "seat of the pants" effort with pilots of dubious character penetrating dense valley clouds between the country's few landing strips. Before a plane lands or takes off in a remote village, a siren clears the runway of villagers and pigs. The bigger "airport" in Wamena is just a warehouse, cluster of barrels of aviation fuel and a landing strip. Its only building is used to weigh and store big bags of rice and other goods for shipment into the vast interior. One by one we each stood on the rice scales holding our packs, to be weighed so the plane wouldn't be over-burdened. Meanwhile, a man hand-cranked fuel down a long hose into the plane - while cigarette-smoking villagers lounged around the barrels of aviation petrol!
At Senggo, we boarded two longboats dug out of the trunks of jacktrees and powered by 40 hp outboards, and headed up the Wildeman River for Korowai country. Cruising at 20 mph was a breezy way to beat the heat, humidity and insects as we passed lush vegetation, screeching birds and villagers standing to pole their dugouts along the river. Occasionally we passed cane-and-thatch houses built on stilts along the edges of the river - above dangers such as snakes, spiders, boars and the vagaries of the water level. Wearing our mosquito head-nets (this is one of the most malaria-infested areas in the world) and looking like space aliens, we arrived in the tiny village of Tiau at 10 p.m. Febri made us some hot soup and we climbed under our mosquito netting to sleep on the hard schoolhouse floor. Next morning we were up early and soon motoring upstream to the village of Basman - the staging area for our trek into the jungle.
KOROWAI TREE PEOPLE:
According to the Rough Guide to Indonesia, Stone Korowai people have had very little contact with the outside world and may attack with poisoned arrows and spears anyone who ventures into their territory. These warlike tree-inhabitants live as much as 70 feet up in the jungle canopy. The women wear only a brief grass skirt, while the men are naked except for a leaf wrapped around their penises and cassowary feathers that protrude like whiskers from pierced holes in their noses. Missionaries and government agencies have tried with little success to lure the Korowai out of the trees and alter their lifestyle. The people are traditionally polygamous and exogamous - that is they take many wives, all of whom are from other villages. The people are primitive gatherers, harvesting the jungle's sago palm and banana groves. To supplement their diet, they hunt boar, snakes, cassowaries and small birds.
"It's wise to approach the area with great caution and common sense. In the week we visited the area missionaries told us headhunters killed fifteen men, women and children, in a single raid on a village in the Stone Korowai region. The same missionaries are certain that cannibalistic practices still exist in these areas." (Rough Guide) Yikes! The Rough Guide writer was here just 18 months before we trekked into the area! The original tour plan had scheduled us to go to this same village, Yuniroma, but that raid persuaded our tour leader to take us along a safer route out of Basman to a different village. One of our guidebooks notes that if you hike out of Basman about six hours you'll run into some potentially dangerous Korowai tribes. We hiked out of Basman in the same general direction, but for only four hours! Was that reassuring or what? We hadn't read any of this before we hit the jungle trail, and it is probably just as well - ignorance is bliss, especially if you come out alive!
Despite the heat and humidity, the five-hour hike was strangely wonderful: lush green vegetation, lots of swamp and mud to wade through - sometimes up to our waists - and rivers to cross by balancing precariously on mossy logs. Several people fell off, some more than once. Even our leader Scott fell into the water, to our great delight. Here's Joan being helped across a muddy stream by the Indonesian guide, Jaya. We were guided by villagers from Basman, who also carried our gear.
After several hours of muddy, humid walking, we saw several cane-and-thatch houses way up in the trees. The floor of the highest tree house was about 75 feet above the ground - a lookout for raids from neighboring tribes; the others were homes about 30 feet up. Only a handful of Korowai people were around - the others were out hunting a day or two away. But we met and spent some time with Muntip, who might have stepped out of the Stone Ages. He was 30ish, about five feet tall, with very dark skin, a strong jaw and receding forehead. His septum was pierced and his only attire was a thin headband and a two-inch piece of banana leaf covering his penis. He had a very well-proportioned and compact physique and a compelling presence. He was carrying his bow and arrows, as he had just come in from hunting. We shook hands and exchanged manop, manop, manop greetings with him for most of a minute. The interpreter explained that the day's hunting had been a "bust", he had two sons and his wife had died. He really appreciated the tobacco, nylon fishing line, axe heads, razor blades and salt that our guide gave him. Muntip had a lot of charisma and social grace. Clearly, he was intelligent and resourceful.
We settled our packs into a long-house shelter where we'd bed down for the night. In the evening, the Basman villagers as well as Febri cooked over several open fires inside the huge shelter (perhaps 100 feet by 30 feet.) The aromas of bananas and a recently-trapped wild boar being cooked are unforgettable. So was the night. The 25 villagers had brought their children, dogs and pigs along on our four-hour trek, so we had a veritable zoo in the longhouse. The kids coughed and cried, the dogs yelped and the pigs (kept safe in net bags hanging from pegs) squealed and snorted all night long. The villagers talked among themselves much of the night, while it poured rain and the thatched roof leaked. To add to the excitement, the slats of tree bark used for the long, communal bed platform were such that when one person down the line rolled over, it lifted and dropped the beds of all of us. But then, we didn't come here to sleep! (Joan collapsed on the bed as soon as it was ready. She felt feverish after hiking through swampy, hot and humid jungles all day. We found out later she had an ear infection.)
Next morning, after Febri prepared crepes in a wok over the campfire, Muntip arrived. While we talked, Lou handed him our silver-colored camera. He obviously had never held a camera before, as he hadn't a clue what it was about. He held it up over his head and turned it over and over in complete wonder. He held it so long that Lou feared he might keep it!
Muntip showed the group how he and his people harvest the mainstay of their diet, the sago palm tree. He led us through a waist-deep swamp into a forest of enormous sago palms and felled one of them, then hacked open one side of a ten-foot section of the trunk to expose the pinkish heartwood. Four bare-breasted women arrived - one carrying a child and another a pig in nokens (net sacks) that hung down their backs from their foreheads. Using triangular hand-axes of hardwood, three of the women beat the heart of the palm trunk into a stringy pulp. After constructing sluices out of the sago bark, they soaked the pulp in swamp water and ran the solution through the sluices to obtain a pasty sediment. Later in the day they would dry this to obtain about 80 pounds of whitish sago flour from which bread would be baked. (All that work - and sago flour has low nutritional value.)
Muntip knocked open the trunk of a dead sago palm to harvest some beetle larvae; these three-inch whitish-grey worms are translucent, with visible guts. The Korowai people consider them a delicacy, and Muntip popped several alive and wriggling into his mouth - after first putting them into his ears for a while to eat the wax! (Febri later fried some larvae in a wok and Lou bravely ate one. He claims they actually are no worse-looking than an oyster and taste like escargot. Riiiight.) Muntip also built a boar trap. When the trap is baited with palm heart or meat, the boar enters and trips a vine that releases a heavy cage top that presses down on him, forcing his belly into a sharp stake. Scott commented that if he were lost in the jungle, he'd want this man with him. As Muntip left us, he playfully snapped Lou's index finger and smiled.
In the Asmat village of Jow, the medicine man explained that he rubs a cut with leaves to heal it. This may well do the job, as many ancient medicinal herbs have proved effective. To heal a headache, however, he uses a sharp fishbone to make cuts in the forehead and induce bleeding. The principle sounds good (relieve the constricted blood vessels) but the effectiveness of this treatment may be caused by giving the patient a more immediate problem than the headache!
In the village of Biwar Laut, the men enacted a public health ritual used to exorcise the village of the demons they think bring epidemics upon the children. A man representing the demon wears a body mask and dances into the village chasing the children. Then the village men - dressed in their cuscus (possum) hats, feathers, body paint, dog tooth necklaces and grass skirts - drum, chant, dance and ultimately chase the masked demon out of the village. Today, medical missionaries visit these villages to immunize against the demons and give other Western health care. Not nearly as exciting.
A major reason for all the thousands of years of fighting in Irian Jaya is that the people believe death is caused in one of two ways: either being killed in battle or hexed by black magic. Both types of death must be speedily avenged by killing someone from the offending tribe; otherwise, the slain person's spirit will continue to haunt his own people.
A ROCKEFELLER DISAPPEARS
Some speculate that vengeance is what caused the death of Michael Rockefeller in 1961. He was a photographer for the Harvard-Peabody expedition studying the people of Irian Jaya's central highlands. He and a friend later went down into the coastal swamps of the fierce Asmat people; they and their two guides were in a dugout that capsized. The guides swam ashore. After a long night of clinging to the overturned boat, Rockefeller decided to swim ashore also. He was never seen again, but his friend was later rescued. Some think Rockefeller simply drowned or was eaten by a salt-water crocodile. Others speculate that he may have been the first white man to appear near a village that had had its tribal leaders massacred in a Dutch "pacification raid" some years earlier, and this was merely payback time. At any rate, the world's press converged on Irian Jaya, along with his father - New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller - who launched a massive search of the area. (He was never found, although it is rumored that, soon after his disappearance a local chief began wearing Western eyeglasses like Michael's!) Today, the Michael Rockefeller wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York showcases fantastic Asmat artifacts, along with pieces from many other tribes of New Guinea.
"DAMN THE TREES - FULL SPEED AHEAD!"
Much of our time in Irian Jaya was spent in longboats. During a longboat ride into the Asmat jungle, one of our boats hit a log and two of our guides catapulted into the river. Another day we motored for four hours along an inland passage through the swamps - a labyrinth of winding rivers with lush green banks (mangroves, ferns, nipa palms) and exotic bird calls. Frequently, the channel narrowed to a width of five or six feet, and contained submerged trees, overhanging boughs, and floating logs. Captain Walter, the Irianese driver of our 35-foot dugout canoe, attacked this problem by motioning to us to keep our heads down, getting up speed and ramming the floating logs or trees while pulling up the prop! Somehow we made it through, but not until two trees broke off and fell into our boat and a third tree ruptured our dugout's hull, opening up a two-foot-long section - fortunately above the waterline.
The final day we awakened at dawn and boarded two larger boats (45 x 4 feet) to travel along the ocean shoreline from Agats to Mapunajaya. The expected ten-hour trip turned into a 16-hour marathon. The wooden boat benches felt harder and harder; as the day wore on so did our butts. There was only one toilet break in those 16 hours because there was no place to land in the watery swamp. We were crammed together with no privacy. Finally, the men had to pee off the sides of the boats while the women huddled under tarps to pee into plastic jars.
The boat ride took much longer than expected because the ocean was rough; the 20-foot intervals between the big ocean swells were too short for our long dugouts. If a boat were to straddle the swells, it likely would have swamped - in the middle of nowhere. It was a very dangerous situation. We lost an hour going in circles as virtual hostages while Scott negotiated with the Irianese boat captain to purchase our safety. Poorly-paid by the Indonesian boat owners, they saw this as a chance to make a windfall profit. Finally, they agreed to accept an extortionate sum of money to take us on an alternate, longer route through a network of rivers. The last few hours were totally dark along the winding channels, except for stretches where the trees on both banks were lit up with billions of twinkling fireflies. Incredible.
Scott, who is a veteran of eleven years of tour-leading in Africa, South America and Asia, says Irian Jaya is the standard against which he will measure all other trips. This trip, he says, was not "perceived adventure" (where a so-called adventure tour has been run safely so many times that the operation is predictable) but REAL adventure - with lots of dangers and uncertainties, and where spur-of-the-moment adaptations must be made. For sure, traveling through Irian Jaya was the adventure of our lifetime!
Other photos of Irian Jaya
From Irian Jaya we flew to BALI
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
GUIDEBOOK: Indonesia (Lonely Planet)
BACKGROUND READING: Under the Mountain Wall, Peter Matthiessen; Islands in the Clouds, Isabella Tree; Throwim Way Leg, Tim Flannery; National Geographic magazine had an article on Indonesia (February 1996) with a section on the Stone Korowai tribe.
FILM: The Sky Above, The Mud Below
HEALTH: Irian Jaya is a high-risk malarial area. Preventive measures are outlined in HEALTH
21-day Eldertreks tour: $3695 per person, not including airfare to Irian
Jaya. (Note: Eldertreks is a Canadian tour company that specializing in
small-group adventure tours for people 50 and above. It is not affiliated
with Elder Hostel.) To request the excellent Eldertreks catalogue:
Grand Irian Tours: Eldertreks arranged for porters, interpreters, cook, food, and transportation through this Jayapura-based company: www.grandiriantours.com
Joan and Lou Rose firstname.lastname@example.org