Published: September 30th 2009September 23rd 2009
As the Sams and I were on our way to Papua we started one of those conversations that tends to happen at least once on long trips - discussing all the food we are missing. Cheese…burritos…all Mexican food…cheese…pizza…mmm cheese. There is definitely much more bread than I was expecting. but on a whole Indonesians are grossed out by cheese and dairy products so they have been a little hard to find. On our first day in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, we were walking around and we saw a sign for Pizza Hut. We all looked at eachother…Pizza Hut?? Really??? We were JUST discussing all that cheese; it was like our prayers were answered! So we set off walking in the direction the sign was pointing. After an unsuccessful few minutes we tried to ask people, “permisi, di mana Pizza Hut?” -blank stare- so we try again…”restaurant, pizza hut?” “oh restaurant, restaurant! Ya ya, di sini - here” our hopes are lifted momentarily until we see he is taking us to a random Indonesian restaurant. Sad times. So we walk back, take a picture of the sign and start showing it to people. Still nothing. Half pointed us one way and
the other half pointed us the opposite direction. Feeling defeated we decide one last try and we asked the reception at a hotel. She tells us that the pizza hut is in another town but we can take a shared shuttle taxi for a few dollars so we go for it. An hour or so later we arrived outside the fanciest Pizza Hut ever. Since we hadn’t eaten all day we ordered WAY too much. Yes we would like 3 pizzas…and some cheesy garlic bread oooh and 2 salads please…thankfully it was like home and they had a to go box for our entire untouched pizza…an epic journey but well worth the fortune we spent on it :)
The following day we flew from Jayapura to Wamena in the interior and I realized that Papua is immensely different than anything I have ever seen. First of all it feels like we left Asia and flew to Africa. Everyone here looks 100% African. And oddly, the rasta colors are big here. I think they are the same colors they have on their local flag. So a lot of people have these red/yellow/green/black beanies or shirts...I was half waiting for someone
to speak to me with a Jamaican accent. Our first day in Wamena we spent bargaining with several different guides and finally settled on a guy named John who spoke English pretty well and is from a Dani tribe, so he speaks Dani, Lani, Yali, Indonesian and English. With that array of languages we could go to any of the surrounding areas and he would be able to speak to the locals. We got a pretty good deal and set out the next morning. We drove about an hour south and then started walking. The first day was pretty tough with a lot of ups and downs and crossing rivers by walking on logs that had been laid across the gap. It was draining and I was a little worried that the whole trek would be super hard but thankfully it got better each day.
Along the way we saw a few men wearing just the penis sheathes. (See the picture of the Sams with the first guy we ran into to see what I am talking about). We had been told that people only wear the traditional dress if they are dressing up for tourists but that is
only partly true. You will never find an entire village that still wears the traditional dress within at least a weeks walking distance from Wamena, but a lot of the old men and some of the old women never switched over to western clothing. So mixed in with everyone dressing in pants and t-shirts are mostly naked men only covered by what a long skinny gourd will cover....I have seen more old man parts this week than I really ever want to see!
We got to our first village we were staying in, dropped our stuff off and were going to walk to a smaller village to see how the Dani people work in the fields but our guide told us that there had been a death in a nearby village and there was a funeral going on. So all of the people we were going to go meet were actually down at this one village participating in day 2 of the funeral. Another man wearing only a gourd was our guide down the hill to bring us into the village and ask the chief if we could watch. So funny watching this naked backside of the old man running down a muddy hill in front of us! Thankfully the chief said yes we could stay. We gave him the equivalent of about $10 as a thank you and we sat on the outskirts and watched. One old man (also mostly naked) broke down and fell on the ground crying and wailing uncontrollably. A group of maybe 10 other men surrounded him and started singing as he moaned in the middle of the circle grieving for the friend who had died. Then they dug up the pig they had been roasting on hot stones under a pile of ferns. We thought they gave our guide some but we couldn’t see it...so SamF asked as we were going to leave if maybe we could have some of the pork. Our guide looks around and whispers to us “yes yes I have some but I can't give it to you here...come come.” We follow him up the hill and he proceeds to tell us matter of factly that he didn't want to women to see that the chief had given him a lot of pork because he didn’t want the women to curse him with black magic since he got more than them. So he had stuck the hot pork into the front pocket of his jacket and zipped it up so no one would see...then we noticed the wet mark on the front of his jacket...so funny! He was completely serious that he thought the women would hurt him with black magic if they saw how much pork he got. It is another world here.
We met a bunch of really cute kids in each of the villages, some didnt speak any indonesian, only Dani. We learned a few things La'uk - Hello to women, Nayak - Hello to men. Hanomatok - good, Wayak-Bad...The kids LOVED when we tried to say things to them in Dani. The sleeping arrangements were mostly homestay - meaning we took over someone's grass hut and they slept at a family members hut. We had our fair share of rats and mice investigating us throughout the night...Sam’s bag even got partially eaten through by rats one night. The trek was amazing but we all dreaded going to bed each night. The last night was the worst with the fleas attacking us as well as a whole family of mice running around...gross! We mostly lucked out on the weather and it only rained in the afternoons after we were already where we were going to stay the night. After 5 days of wandering through the Valley we are back in Wamena, enjoying real beds and hot showers...by hot shower I of course mean they boiled some water and added it to the water in our Mandi bucket thing and we used the smaller of the buckets to pour water over ourselves in the middle of the bathroom...We are all very much looking forward to fancy places in Bali and the Gilis that have toilet seats and real showers...it's going to be great! I am getting pretty good at the squat toilets...but that does NOT mean I like them!