The Dani's from Baliem valley

Trip Start Mar 20, 2009
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Flag of Indonesia  , Papua Barat,
Thursday, March 11, 2010

At Sensani airport, while waiting for the flight to Wamena I met a nice cute girl called Ironia.
She was born in Sulawesi and has been living for a while in Wamena, working for the local government.
She nicely offered to help me upon arrival in Wamena as I needed a permit (because of recurrent insurgent movements). Thanks to her connections we got the permit in no time at the local police station then she took me to see a Japanese friend of her's, managing "" the only internet shop around, who could advise me on trekking around the valley. We printed a little map, I bought a few biscuits and bananas at the local market, packed a lite bag and left the rest in a simple hotel (basically I took my sleeping bag, a warm jacket, a raincoat and a hat), then I took leave of Ironia and jumped in a local mini van that took me to Sogokmo, South of Wamena, where I could start my trek.

It was already 3pm when I started the trek so after just one hour I decided to spend the night in Kurima as I met a nice family offering me a bed and dinner. Just a little warm up session for the feet.

After a great dinner with this Papua family and a good night of sleep I woke up early, cleaned a bit in the river nearby (no bathroom here) and headed South following the Baliem river.

Basically a beautiful valley, warm people all the way, a lot of huts, wild pigs and funny flowers.
A tough day though as the little paths were slippery with wet mud going down the slope. I walked for a while going up and down til I reached the village of Wamenek at around 1pm.

I originally wanted to reach a village called Syokosimo on the other side of the river but Silas, a young guy living here, told me it would take me 2 days to do so.. Since he and his family were quite nice I decided to stay there for the night, dropped my bag in a hut and went visit the surroundings hills and villages with Silas.

We came back later this afternoon and spending the evening with this family was another great experience of my trip.

I learnt a bit more about the Dani tribe and their unique habits.

The Dani's

A basic Dani village will have a little central plaza, some small huts for the women and a big double-storey hut for all the men. The married ones can still visit their wives in the little huts or take advantage of the bushes surrounding the village to honor them. The top floor of the men's hut is occupied by a mummy, often an ancient tribe chief, today dragged out for tourists who can then contribute to current chief's wallet. Pigs play a preponderant role in Dani's life. They are either eaten or exchanged for a wife! Pigs buy love in other words...
Chiefs will have several of each (the pigs and the wives) and will treat them roughly with the same degree of care. What you notice as well is old men or women have lacking finger joints as they amputated them for every dead relative..


To my biggest surprise when I woke up the next morning the chief of the family was all dressed up and ready to have me take photo of him (for me and for him...). After having fun taking the pics, Silas told me he would accompany me back to Wamena just to get a copy of the photos.. We're talking about a 5h trek + way back!

So here we go, on the hills again. The good thing about being with Silas, on top of the company of this great and fun guy, is I could discover some little villages and take a totally different path from the way I came. We went farher away from the river passing Tangma village (at 1600m), Wanem, Polima and then reaching Kurima just after mid-day.

With Silas as a teacher I had the opportunity to practice the dialect on the way..
In Bahasa Indonesian you use "Pagi", "Siang" or "Sorre" to say "Hi" respectively in the morning, at noon and in the evening. "Makasi" is for "thanks" and "sama, sama" for "you're welcome".
In Papuan you keep it very, very simple. You use "nayak" to say hello, bye, thanks, etc.!
That's for the men, for the women it's "laok".
I can learn this language in no time!

Then we catch one of the little vans going back to town (a 40min ride) where I could print some pics for Silas. He was so happy.. After that we went to the local market buy some fruits. Then after a well deserved shower I met Ironia for dinner to thank her for her hospitality.

A short but intense intrusion in the Dani's world!
Will be back for more..
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yuli on

i found ur blog and it's so interesting to see ur journey around asia especially my country indonesia, too bad u didn't go to north molucas to see the customs, tradition and traditional wine they make from the forrest tree :)

fredtrip on

Hello Yuli,

thx for your comment. I'll make sure to go next time (I'm sure there will a next time soon as I really enjoyed your country and its amazing diversity)


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