Sepik Day 5

reed whiting

04 December 2010 | sepik river, papua new guinea

We came to shore at Kangaraman village early the next morning to the head counselor of the village we met the night before awaiting us. He took us immediately on a short walk towards the spririt house a half kilometer away. One the way there we passed the typical village style homes and watched as the women of the village attempted to quickly lay out there crafts before we walked by. I attempted to do some trading on the way, but it seemed the owner of the of all the items I wanted was not present so no trades were made. As the spirit house came into view a an array of loud drums were being played to welcome us into this sacred place. There were many tribesman awaiting us in the house and they had all the fires lit to welcome us. This experience dwarfed the spirit house from the day before and took us back many centuries to times of thier ancestors and made us for a moment feel part of the tribe. Ben and I just casually walked throughout the house with the drums beating and the men watching our every move. It was one of those moments you didnt want to end.

We then sat down with some of the tribe and exchanged stories about there traditions both old and new. They also asked us a lot about our country and what our thoughts are on PNG. In this village the skin carving was much more evident than the village before where only one elder was carved, as many of the men in the Sprit House had crocodile like scales throughout there backs and down the backs of there arms. We learned in detail about the rituals associated with the skin carvings and how it symbolizes there birth into manhood. I guess the missionaries hadn’t destroyed their culture here yet.

On the way out of the village I tracked down some of the owners of the artifacts I liked and made a few trades on our way back to the boat. We hoped on the boat briefly to see if Alex was feeling any better and then headed right across the river to the village of Palembei. We met a guy named Richard as we landed and he wanted to show us around. After a beautiful 20 minutes walk through large fields and jungle we arrived at the village. There were two spirit houses here on each end of a large field. In the middle of these houses there were remains of the original spirit house that was bombed by American Bombers during WWII, as the Japanese were occupying this village at the time. The spirit houses were less impressive that the last, yet more impressive was the relationships we make with the tribesman each stop. In the last house they kept all the carvings in the second story of the Spirit House and I started a good trading session with over 10 guys and they kept throwing there carvings in my face and making offers for my things. At this point I am close to considering myself an expert at Sepik Trading and I am loving every minute of it.

On the way out of the village there was one carving that caught my eye. The workmanship far exceeded anything I have seen on the trip and I had to have it. It was made by a master carver, who was actually flown to Stanford for 7 months to carve with some of the faculty and students there. He wanted 300 Kina, but I ended up giving him a bunch of knives and 150 Kina and we were both happy.

After leaving the village we headed up stream towards Pagwi making an uneventful stop in Korogo where all the men were deep in the bush somewhere playing soccer against another tribe. Alex was getting worse so we pushed through the night to get to the next proper village of Pagwi a few hours up the river. Even though we had lightning to help light the way we still got stuck in the mud twice but finally made it. Even though we arrived past midnight we still had visitors wondering what we were doing this far up the Sepik River and I told them our captain was sick and needed a doctor. The man I was talking to then claimed to be a doctor but i explained we needed a ‘real’ doctor and he said he would have one there by morning. I was surprised in the morning to see an ambulance waiting on the river bank beside the boat.

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