IRIAN JAYA A LAND OF CONTRAST, MYSTERY AND ADVENTURE
BY JEAN-PHILIPPE SOULÉ ©
... My first visit to Irian Jaya took me to the northwestern peninsula that the locals call the "Birds Head". I met a local, the son of an Indonesian and a Dutch missionary. He had studied in Holland and America, had worked as a journalist and then dropped out of society and returned to the jungle. A medicine man, survivalist and deeply spiritual man, he told me the first time I met him that he had been waiting for me - that he had had a vision of my arrival. He took me under his wing for a month, showed me edible and poisonous plants, taught me to hunt bats, parrots and lemurs, and how to survive in a hostile new environment. ...
... I took with me the strict essentials. I figured I could always sleep outside or build a shelter if needed. Also, I wanted to minimize the impact I had on people I met. ...
... After walking for three days through mountains and jungles eating what I gathered and scrounged from the previous village, I ran out of food and started to worry. I had no idea where I was. For all I knew, I could have been an hour or weeks from a village. I didnt know when I would meet up with anybody. Food was definitely my biggest challenge. I was always on the go, so I couldn't set any traps. I wasnt a good trapper anyway. I didn't have any hunting equipment, and my knowledge of local edible flora was very limited. I couldn't find many of the plants I had learned to feed on with the Mentawais. Until now, I had optimistically relied on the hope that I would probably come across a village within a couple of days. The following day, I was at a loss and almost decided to backtrack. Doubts started to transform my great adventure into a nightmare. ...
... If it wasnt for the smoke escaping from the roof of a few huts, I would have believed it was abandoned. I walked with a strong feeling of being observed by thousands of eyes. As I stopped in front of the central hut, I was suddenly welcomed by people aiming their arrows and spears at me. All silent and careful, they jumped all around me, slowly getting closer. Although they were just a few dozen men, It felt like I was surrounded by hundreds ...
... I returned to the States to face a counter cultural-shock - I was home, but I couldnt call it home anymore. The marks Irian Jaya made on my body faded, but the impressions which began with the Mentawai tribes in Sumatra remain etched in my mind.
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