When I am trying to recall those days in Papua, trekking from one village to another during that four days three nights, I find myself smiling. All those fun and challenging moments are obviously not easy to be replaced with experiences that I had in any other places. I remember my friend that had been there before said that he didn't feel like he was in Indonesia when travelling through the Baliem Valley. The experience was unique and unforgettable.
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August 10, six of us together with five people from other group did the extension programme – trekking through the Baliem Valley, the next day after the closing of Baliem Valley Festival. Besides us, there was also a group of porters coming along to help us carry our food and water supplies for the trip. And each of us had one porter to accompany and assist us. But the fact, I felt that I had TWO. It was not that I had such privilege to have two porters with me, just that whenever I needed some helps when trekking through some difficult trails, I could somehow find either one of them around me like my secret heroes.
I walked for one week from my village to get to here. My home is at that mountain.
BY FOOT? Seriously? I was left in awe for few seconds hearing that. Walking barefoot-ed with one of our backpacks loaded on his back, he was pointing at one of the mountains behind us. To be honest, I didn't know which mountain he was pointing at as there were several there. My mind couldn't stop thinking that his life was not easy. But he didn't look as he has been going through hard life. He was full of spirit and jolly all the way.
Victor, one of the porter guys I mentioned earlier that accompanying me. I could remember him clearly because of his green color beanie. He was quite chatty and bubbly. I could see his eyes sparkling whenever he was telling stories about his life experiences and basically about anything he could think of.
" I have been longing to come here but I was scared to come alone cause it was a long journey, so I joined other people. We walked together. It was a happy journey." He paused for a while and chuckled then continued his stories happily.
Probably he recalled of something funny that happened during his way here. I was listening to his stories attentively while watching out my footsteps on the path that sometimes was uneven and rocky. There was a small river ahead us. We walked further to find way to get down to the lower ground and cross the river by a bridge made from a fallen tree with its branches as a handrail.
I noticed that he spoke very limited Indonesian with his unique local accent. Sometimes, I had to guess what he actually meant. But that what made the conversation became interesting. There was a sense of pureness. Nothing to hide and nothing to shame about. Just spoke out whatever he had in his mind. Many times I tried not to laugh because of his face expression but sometimes I couldn't hold it and just laugh out loud like what he did.
Then while we were taking a short break, I asked how long he has left his village. He chuckled and said, "I don't know. Many years ago."
I looked at him then I repeated my question again thought that he didn't get me earlier. But the answer was same. I was a little bit surprised in the beginning but I didn't ask him further because it reminded me of one of my friends. We continued to walk along the inclining and declining path then cross another river before getting to another really dry path.
"The calendar system. He might not know about it yet way back then." While I was waiting for my turn to cross the river I was thinking that could be the reason for not knowing.
One of my friends who came from a small village in Java once told me that his year of birth stated on his birth certificate may not be accurate because his parents were late to register for his birth. And his parents didn't know exactly in which year he was born. They didn't know about the calendar year, they watched the nature to know the time. So, his parents only remembered there was a full moon and there was something going on in the village when he was born that day.
I didn't buy it that time but now, I could not not to believe it. Especially in Papua where not all villages are reachable by current information and technology yet.
I looked at the path in front of me which was getting steeper. I felt all the pains from yesterday's unplanned trekking at Ilugaimo were acting up as my foot one by one stepping on the slope that leading us to another higher point of the hill. Fortunately the steep path wasn't long till we reached flat ground where I saw everyone who were ahead me started taking photos.
I looked at the direction where they were aiming and I saw one long stretch of river that I saw on photos I found online before. Just right about from the same angle. It was as beautiful as I remember. That's the Baliem River with its numerous river bend that cut across the valley. I felt the breeze standing on the hill, I felt the calm overlooking at this view. There is a price to pay to enjoy this view with our own eyes. Deep in my heart, I told myself.
I am finally here in Baliem Valley
About an hour later, around 1 pm, we finally reached our first village at Kilise where we would spend night at. Approaching the village, we saw few kids were playing at the side of the path and seeing us coming seems to be something exciting for them. We brought some sweets for the children although personally I didn't feel encouraged to give it to them. Yeah, I know children love sweets but when it has become a habit...? Ah, probably I was just thinking too much.
The weather was chill and definitely was much colder at night. We stayed in the Honai, the Papuan traditional house that the locals purposely vacant few of those to accommodate us for that night. Our porters brought us mattresses and blankets all the way from Wamena because the locals don't usually use that. We all brought our own sleeping bag for an extra warmer. Although the Honai is only made from woods and able to keep us warm enough at night, sometimes we could feel the wind blowing in through the gap in between the woods, too. All I can remember is I slipped into my sleeping bag and slept throughout the night till morning.
And did I tell you that they don't have electricity? We had our dinner with meals cooked by our local chef and also with support of LED portable light that one of us brought to light up the dining area. It reminded me when blackout happened at the olden days back in my hometown.
Our entertainment that night was star-gazing and mingling with others. It was full moon and the sky was not really clear. However, we could see shooting stars and also stars with very slow movement in the sky – which later I found out those are actually satellites. I couldn't be happier than seeing those beautiful nature myself.
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My conversation with him for that day was ended as we reached the village. That four hours journey wouldn't be enough for me to learn about someone's life but at least I have another story to tell. A little story about him – The Green Beanie Guy. Till we meet again.