Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 2: Sugapa to Suangama

We awoke to another large meal of rice and eggs before resorting our gear in advance of the porter weigh in. After finding it sufficiently light (or heavy, depending on one's perspective--under 17kg), we waited for the final negotiations to conclude on porter payment before heading off for the first of our six trekking days.

We rode the first 5km on the back of 150cc motorbikes. Someone on the July expedition had crashed during this and was medevaced out...so I was more than a little anxious for this section considering how horrendous the roads are. (With a lot of persuasion, Robert--a motorcycle dealer and expert--convinced the local to let him drive. Unfortunately the bike couldn't make it up one of the hills so the local had to walk the rest of the way!) Luckily we all made it to the start of the trail in one piece. The trail was a thin dirt path that wound its way up through hillside and at times into forest. This area is inhabited by Dani tribesmen so some of the local area is cultivated--they grow sugar cane and potatoes primarily. The hiking was up and down, with the occasional stream crossing.

We were supposed to go all the way to Camp I in the jungle but the last group to pass through had neglected to pay the porters from the village of Suangama and so we were forced to spend the night in this village while our guides worked out a deal with the locals.

The village where we stayed the night.
Luckily, the rains started after we ha made camp in the village so we are still dry. Not sure how long that will last...

The highlight of the afternoon was twofold: first was developing some pleasant friendships with locals. They even invited me in to socialize in their hut. The huts are circular--almost like wooden yurts--and are covered in wood and straw. The cook fire is in the center of the hut and fills it up with smoke due to a lack of ventilation. We took pictures and laughed together.

The second highlight was a series of disputes resolved in the local fashion. The first was the porter issue I mentioned earlier. The two tribes: Moni from Sugapa and Dani from Suangama came to an agreement by which the expedition would continue with several more locals hired as porters. The second was a domestic dispute between a local woman and man. We couldn't make heads or tails of it but there was a lot of aggressive yelling followed by what appeared to be a judiciated discussion with several other village people acting as mediators. Turns out the dispute was over the price of yams that day. The final agreement was concluded by the divvying up of a huge bag of yams!

Now we're having dinner and then heading to bed. The next couple of days will be extra difficult due today's shortened itinerary.

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