This expedition with Wilderness Travel was again with the intrepid guide, Magnus Andersen. John traveled twice to this uncharted territory of the Indonesian side of West Papua, in 1996 and 1998. The Kombai and Koroway tribes live in tree-houses above the jungle floor. The trek into the depths of the jungle takes 6 days over roots, fallen logs, rocks and tree limbs. The groups stays and lives with the tribe and attends a feast celebrating the harvest of a sego palm, its starchy pulp and its grubs.
October 3, 1996
"Woke up after a comfortable night’s sleep. Today is the day of the tree house. We went to a clearing at the far end of the feast house. In a tree six feet off of the ground, four Kumbai men were perched. They had lashed three strong poles to the tree. They continued adding cross poles to make a floor. Rattan lines to the floor of the jungle allowed people on the ground to attach poles that were then pulled up. We are apparently are the first people to see a tree house built from scratch. For three hours poles were lifted and lashed forming a grill-like flooring. Next the corner vertical poles were put in place and a roof put on. This was followed by adding the same sago palm leaf pieces used on all the other roofs.
Next the women sent up more wood to fill in the siding. Also the women have been stripping bark – we think for a floor. While watching the tree house go up in the morning I had a great interaction with several of the men… It started with one wanting to know my name. That led to “go vi vi wa (what is your name?) for each of the small boys sitting with me. Two of the men started to cut down a tree. They let me try their axe. That was my best interaction so far.
October 4th, 1996
Today we had a slow morning. We watched the finishing of the tree-house. While that was going on I sat with three of the Kumbai men. My binoculars are something they all are curious about as are my gloves. The highlight of finishing thehouse was when several of the men worked on making a fire for the new tree-house using vine cord and a stick and dry material. It smokes quickly but they have to blow like mad to get it fire. This was then towed up to the house.They had previously sent up clay to put under the fire. With the fire up, the house was now complete."