West Papua, Indonesia
Dani men in a
Balim Valley village wearing traditional gourds (koteca), West Papua, Indonesia.
Travel Guide | Indonesia
most colourful and photogenic part of Indonesia's Baliem experience
is Dani fashion.
The well-travelled Dani male - outside the central
town of Wamena - wears feathers in his hair, pig fat mixed with soot
over the upper body, face and hair, and an enormous, inconvenient penis gourd. Curly or straight, the koteca is 30 -50 cm
long, light brown and held erect by one string around the waist
and one around the scrotum. Pig tusks through the nose, war paint
and a bundle of spears are optional extras.
watchtower over the Balim Valley.
The Baliem Valley is primitive tourist destination with no real hotels, little food,
no beer and lots of rain. However, what is does have to offer the curious traveller is just about the strangest menswear ever seen, some very weird
traditions and a lush green hiking environment.
Dani, like most eccentric ethnic groups overexposed to Western
practices, are changing their ways. Out will go the spectacular koteca, in comes tatty shorts, out will go the bare-chested mama, in comes
the shabby sack lady.
Dani men help a foreign visitor on slippery tracks.
are convoluted and often wet and slippery, so a guide and hiking
boots are equally useful travel accessories, though not essential.
If you are not wild about having sweet potatoes for three meals
a day, critical foodstuffs, such as chocolate and peanut butter
can be found in Wamena, supplemented - with luck - by vegetables
bought on the trail and cooked by your faithful retainer - in
his own pots and pans. Alcohol is not available in any form in
Crossing a Baliem Valley river.
A Dani village in the valley.
How/when to travel around the Balim Valley, West Papua.
Weather: Indonesia's Baliem Valley is warm and wet for much of the year.
January to March is supposed to be the most comfortable season. July
and August are the busy months; less seats, less rooms, more travelers,
Baliem's main town, and the market area in particular, is an agreeable
introduction to the Dani, but for the real thing you should travel
around the Balim and adjoining valleys, taking at least two or
three days, and staying in Dani villages - almost certainly in the men's
experienced English-speaking guide with some knowledge of Dani
language is vital for a full exploration of such an alien environment.
Few Dani people speak English and inter-clan rivalries may affect
their information and en-route contacts, so unfortunately some
of the best guides are from other islands in Indonesia, such as
Sulawesi, and not natives of the culture at all.
Travel Guide | Indonesia
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