Baliem Valley – Irian Jaya, Indonesia
One of the World’s Last Frontiers
Irian Jaya is Indonesia’s most distant province, and we’re not just talking geographically. Adjectives like “tribal,” “primitive,” and “primeval” best describe the “lost world” of the former Dutch West New Guinea, just west of Papua New Guinea, with which it shares a disputed border.
This journey explores trading paths that link local villages to the cool, green highlands or the vast lowland home of the Asmat people, known for their artistic wooden carvings and cultural rituals. There’s even feasting and dancing around a roaring fire with aboriginal Dani tribesmen, best known to the outside world as the warriors of the Baliem Valley.
They wear only their ornamental headdresses, war paint, and penis sheaths fashioned from dried-out gourds, which come in different sizes and lengths according to the occasion. These materially poor but culturally rich, gentle people teeter between the Stone Age and the 21st century.
You’ll witness the former by leaving the valley’s main town of Wamena, accessible only by air, and its fascinating marketplace to strike out on foot for some of the remote Dani villages. You’ll know the local folk by the pig tusks the men wear through their noses.