Mentawai experience: Siberut trekking Part I.
Welcome to the jungle!
Mentawai are a group of islands not far from Sumatra. And typical Mentawai people are as jungle as you would imagine. Almost naked, tribe tattoos all over their body and very distinct face features, living in raised wooden houses called uma, above the pigs and chickens. Having said that, there are villages formed and some have electricity, roads and mobile phones. Civilization is coming.
Hey! We’re still traveling 🙂 Check out our Instagram profile @wejusttravel!
For our Siberut trekking we found a nice guide in Padang called Levi (Mentawais call him Malei) who turned out to be a total jerk (but more on that later). We agreed on a price of 5 million IDR for 7 days, this including everything, transportation to the harbor, ferry tickets, accommodation, food, gifts for the families like tea, sugar, rice and cigarettes. Looooads of cigarettes. They smoke like crazy.
“Hey. What should we do now?”
An hour taxi ride to the harbor, an overnight ferry and you’re on Siberut. Palm trees and cocoa everywhere. First day we stayed in a village nearby (our guides’s home), doing what locals do. Nothing! Doing nothing was a very popular activity during our trip and for us, who are used to reading books, internet and music, always doing something, thinking something, that was hard thing to get used to. We played mind games we made up ourselves just to exercise the brain 🙂 Houses are very basic and not in a good condition, they just don’t have the money for maintenance. Cooking is made on a fire and the best toilets are the one in a private hut. Most of the time is just…outside.
Levi lives with his parents and his 2-year old daughter. His marriage fell apart for some unidentified reasons where he spent a month in the jungle with a cute Brazilian. Only friends, of course! But he did name his daughter after her 🙂 On Mentawais the children stay with the father and wife moves back to her family. The child was being brought up by the grandmother. This was still not the jungle we wanted.
Watch the mud.
Next day we went deeper in the jungle with a small boat and hiked for around 15 min. All mud and sticks on the ground. But we were prepared with rubber boots. We stayed in an uma with lots of pigs and chickens underneath. All around was mud. Going to the toilet was an adventure you better not take your shoes to. You never know when you’ll go knee deep.
Grandfather, the shaman or sikere, the medicine man, showed us how to make poison from plants he found in the jungle and topless grandmother (who needs shirts anyway 😉 showed us how to make sago with coconut, the tree that feeds everybody; pigs, chicken, dogs, cats and people. Mr. Shaman also made a ceremony of killing a chicken for dinner. It was the most elegantly broken neck I’ve ever seen.
The night was unbelievably black, I didn’t see my fingers right in front of my nose and with the noisy pigs right below you, crickets and frogs all around, no mattress and lots of tiny bed bugs or pig fleas, one has to get use to sleeping in the jungle. The one thing that reassured me was the calming voice of grandmother telling stories to her grandchildren.
Next morning the grandmother hugged my broken body (sleeping on the floor, I told you!) and told us a few tips in Mentawai which we didn’t understand and we were off. Trekking in the jungle …