Mentawai experience: Siberut trekking Part II.
Living in the jungle or when a tampon applicator goes missing.
We trekked for 5 hours in the jungle to get to our next stop. It was the trickiest part of our Siberut trekking. Very slippery, muddy and sometimes the ground looks ok but then you can be in the mud to your knee in a second. All the way there are skinny logs on the floor to walk on them, but only locals know how to walk on that, balancing like ballerinas. Did I mention that they’re barefoot? Lush forest, thorny palms, strange sounds everywhere, we finally made it to the village.
“Is that a motorbike?”
And in the middle of the jungle we saw road. And motorbikes. Hmmm. Looks like the government paid for it and they get bikes here by boats. Who knew. Lots of people came to say Anai Eleu Ita or hello but I think ube or cigarettes are the main point of interest. Everyone wants to smoke cigarettes that they can’t afford. At one 10 min stop at the village we gave out 30 cigarettes. Crazy, I tell ya!
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We spent one night in the village, playing games who can name more animals starting with the same letter, listening to the rain.
“Where are we going?”
Shaman called Telephon. What a name 🙂 He is around 30 years old and has a beautiful face with bad teeth and feral eyes. I can just see him with a spear, hunting wild boars. His father is also a Shaman and his brother is in learning. Youngest one will get the tattoos in a couple of months. Here tattoos are made by a needle and bamboo stick, the process is supposed to be very painful and long. From the broken English or Levi’s lack of knowledge, I didn’t really get what Shamans do. They make medicine from plants and they can call spirits but we met so many Shamans and all they did was smoke and talk.
Telephon has 5 children and a toothless wife, also called Telephon. They don’t use contraception here, he explained. Also, teeth hygiene is not very important in Mentawai 🙂 Telephon speaks very good English, learning only from guides and tourists. His wife showed me how they collect tiny prawns from the river. I wasn’t very good, but her 7 year old daughter is a master at this.
It’s Shaman’s fashion.
Traditional clothes for Mentawai people is a loin cloth that they wear over their ‘bago’ (banana 😉 and in the back it looks like a thong. Women used to wear the same thing but nowadays only Shamans wear red loin cloths and others wear used shirts and shorts that tourists leave here. We went to the jungle and Telephon cut down a tree with his machete. Easy peasy. Loin cloth is made from the inner part of bark which they hit with a tool so it becomes softer, wider and more red.
“I’m going. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
On the second day here there was a Shaman ceremony scheduled for the evening, so we decided to buy a pig. It was less than 20 eur and we wanted to eat some meat for a change. Levi took care of it in a very hushed manner and it took him all day. When he came back in the afternoon, he told us he’ll get some other tourists and he’ll be back next day before lunch. Our defense mechanisms went off but what can you do, we could not force him to stay. So we stayed with Sulai, our porter/guide who was very nice and caring and speaks very good English. He seemed worried, tough. At that point we had only couple of packs of cigarettes, rice and 100.000 IDR. Something felt wrong …
“I’m holding an anus.”
Yes, you read it right 🙂 It was time for dinner and we went to father Shaman’s place. He has a big house with very little light and loads of skulls. It looked kinda scary. 6 Shamans were chanting beautifully in a ceremony and they killed two chickens, meanwhile someone else killed the pig. Of course, they made a soup out of it, no spices, no salt. Barbecue is only for sago worms. When it was cooked they started dividing the meat and we saw they put almost half of it in bamboo sticks for later and divided the rest between us, 6 Shamans, their wives and children. So around 30 people 🙂
Our plate full (and by full I mean 10 small pieces) of intestines, little piece of liver and stomach. Wow. We shared this with two other men who were watching us and warmly compelling us to eat more. I was trying to pick the nicest pieces but in the dark – who could tell 🙂 What i couldn’t chew I put behind me and it disappeared. At one point, Mic told me trough his teeth: “I’m holding an anus.” A beautiful little anus. We almost died laughing. Thank god for dogs 🙂
After dinner we sat around the fire, the Shamans singing, Mic and I were talking. All was nice and calm, the atmosphere almost magical . Children were playing by the fire and one went by with something familiar and blue in his mouth, it looked like a flute. And there it was, my tampon applicator, and a young child was playing imaginary sounds on it. Oh, no 🙂 I discarded it in a trash bag in the house the day before but here every empty can can be a drum and every tampon applicator can be a flute.
We went to sleep in the black night, still wondering if Levi would come the next day …
You can read about the beginning of our Siberut trekking here.