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About Shangri-La, New Guinea and the meaning of life. Part 2


We leave the friendly village and get into the car. It's time to go back, because we have planned to buy fruit at the local market. Along the way we constantly come across with sad and concerned people who are in a hurry somewhere, carrying bags of rice, small pigs, vegetables and fruits. I am asking the guide where they are going. "To the funeral", he answers and asks me for the permission to drop in there for a while. And so we are going there together, but it seems to me, we will be there out of place.


The yard is crowded with people. Men and women are sitting separately. We can hear only the hum of voices. Actually, this is the right tradition - to get together and mourn a common and certainly a beloved and respected friend. Our guide is joining the men, and they start crying bitterly and loudly. People go on lamenting, we can't understand their language, but we do understand that they are talking about the pain of loss.


Late Justinus Dhabi was a famous conductor for more than 25 years. He was the leader of the Association of guides, belonged to the Dani tribe and was fluent in English. The person who had worked all his life with people and headed more than one hundred expeditions in the jungle, died from malaria. Today his friends have come to remember him. The funeral will take place tomorrow. And tomorrow his wife's finger will be cut off and cremated together with the body in the yard of this house. But at the moment all the guests are treated with rice, vegetables and even pork during the whole day, that undoubtedly is a great luxury. All these treats are brought by guests , paying a tribute of respect to the deceased. They will share the meal, but the hosts and close relatives have no right to eat during a month, they are supposed to follow a special feast.


We were surprised by the way of cooking pork. They dig a hole in the ground and cover it with palm leaves. Then they put the hot stones on the bottom and big pieces of meat on them. After that the pork is covered with leaves and hot stones . In 50 minutes the dish is ready. We thank the hosts for their hospitality and opportunity to take photos, than we express our deep condolences once again, donate small sum of money and quickly leave the yard.


Out next stop is the local market. There is almost everything here! Vegetables, fruit, souvenirs mixed with people, sitting on the ground and children crawling under the customers, sellers and grazing animals's feet. And in the midths of all this chaos I unexpectedly find a really worthwhile souvenir - two unique ritual headdresses decorated with stuffed birds of paradise, feathers of the cassowary and precious shells. Of course, I immediately start bargening. Here, as well as in any other market, it is necessary to haggle. After 15 minutes of stormy negotiations we determine the price acceptable to both sides, and here I am the proud owner of one more exotic rarity! Now we may come back to the hotel, especially since it's getting dark outside.


A small hotel Baliem Pilamo is a clean and cozy place. The small restaurant is almost empty. One table is occupied by a small group of tourists. August is considered as an unsuitable season for visiting New Guinea, though a festival of Papuan tribes takes place here right at this time, but unfortunately we were late for two days. The guide says that the best period in Papua lasts from October to January, and August is a very damp and wet month.

Early in the morning we set off to the same tiny airport more reminding me a rusty hangar. The tight room without glasses and conditioners filled with travelers. The local tributes are bustling between them, trying to sell something and earn some money or get cigarettes at least. Asike also comes here. Today he is sad, explaining that he will miss and wait for us back. And I am surprised very much again how such simple, “little” people can have such huge souls!

We load our huge baggage into the tiny plane. Obviously there are more bags, than it should to be. We come to the conclusion to fly without a cook.

The overcrowded aircraft is heavily gaining the altitude. The beauty of the landscape takes my breath and I feel as I am back in the pages of the novel “Lost in Shangri-La” again. The beautiful valley stretched below us is replaced by the chain of mountain ranges. The rivers like curly snakes, cross thousands kilometers of absolutely impenetrable jungle. These places are fraught with danger. There are hundreds of poisonous insects, reptiles and plants, millions of bacterias, high humidity and sultriness heat. We have to face all of these the next few days, but we are ready just to to meet the Korowai tribe. The tribe of my dream.

What is waiting for us, whether we'll come back safe and sound? And if there are hardships, whether we'll overcome them with dignity? No tour operator gave us any security guarantees. Moreover, we have signed the document that we are warned about everything. We interfere in the world, where we are absolutely alien. Now everything depends only on our physical and moral preparation. We'll have to try our willpower and spirit in this trip not once and in full.


Posted by Olga Michi 02:29 Archived in Papua New Guinea Tagged new travelling guinea tribes aboriginals

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