Monday, February 23, 2009

Mentawai impressions: trekking

Leaving Butui, one of the better accessible settlements of the Mentawai on Siberut Island. The Mentawai people never wear shoes but wethe people who cannot walkneed such aids, and many more. A handrail along the slippery tree trunk, for instance, to facilitate access to the house and to leave it, especially at night when somebody had to follow the call of nature.
Tree trunks are very often laid on muddy trails, where the mud can get quite deep. Good balancing skills are required on them, especially on round, slippery bamboo. One plus: falling in the mud does not hurt!
Rivers cannot be followed all the time, and hills in between can be quite steep. They can be better walked uphill than downhill, for us with sticks as walking and balancing aids. Left lane for overtaking!!
Trees had been felled by the local people to grow bananas, and are now part of the trail.
Three of the 21 Mentawai porters we had hired to carry the food for eight days as well as luggage.
Mud walk. Here the 'normal' forest mud, greyish and odorless, but very sticky and difficult to walk with shoes.
Lunch break during a seven-hour trek. Food is always being shared, but most important is that everybody gets a portion of tobacco.
Cigarettes are fuel for the Mentawai people.
Mud walk, here in a sago area. This mud is less dense, has a reddish-brown colour and smells of fermented sago. As with the Inuit who have many different words for snow we try to figure out how many words the Mentawai have for mud. The generic word 'lati' has been one of the first Mentawai words we have learnt.
Beauty contest after a sago mud walk.
We sometimes face the dilemna between balancing on a tree trunk and going through the mud. As shown above, mud can get quite deep. Two persons were necessary to free our fellow traveler from the mud trap, and they had to be very careful not to slip and get stuck themselves.
The river between Atabai and Butui had swollen due to heavy rains and some passages could not be negociated without getting totally wet. Backpacks had to be passed over heads, and a 'bridge' made of round, slippery bamboo to be put across for the sikerei, who felt safer at balancing on it than at swimming.

Siberut Island, January 2009.

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2 Comments:

At February 23, 2009 at 3:21 PM, Blogger Sidney said...

21 Mentawai porters... that is traveling in style ! ;-)

You are now a mud expert... ;-)

 
At February 23, 2009 at 6:34 PM, Blogger brommel said...

any questions on mud?

 

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