A little friendly rivalry can be a good thing....
I decided to have some fun and put on my sunscreen (for lips).....our host was a bit surprised when I did this and probably thought it was peculiar behavior on my part. (if you click on the photo you'll see how he is kind of looking at me)
He was a really good sport though, ever gracious and friendly and respectful, as were all of the villagers with whom we interacted during our explorations.
It was best when they were as curious as we were!
Not exactly skeet and trapshoot....
Women don't normally run around shooting bows & arrows (that's mens' work) so our host is probably thinking I must be a bit strange.....
We were lucky enough to be driving over to this villager's place when we were stopped in the road by a man who seemingly appeared out of nowhere....he had a bow and arrow and wasn't exacly the welcoming committee I'd imagined.
Turns out we'd driven straight into the middle of two families feuding - complete with bow and arrow fight! After exhanging a few words with our guide, he waved us along without a problem and we continued on our way.
Ironically a few minutes later, we arrived at this villager's home, where I was shown how to draw a bow and arrow.
A little too much, a little too late?!?
The Huli Mountain men of the Highlands are known for their extraordinary wigs...hence they are referred to as the "Wig Men". It is a custom preserved and celebrated. The Southern Highlands were the last place in Papua New Guinea to be explored. The people are warriors and subsistence farmers, with a rich culture of tradition and decoration.
The wigs are made of human hair, preferably from the person who is wearing the wig. We learned that a man will wrap a band around his head and wear it for months as he grows out his hair - he even sleeps in a certain position designed to make the blood flow to his head and increase the hair growth process.
Finally, when the hair is grown out to a manageable length, the hairs are cut off his head and he begins working on his wig. The men have different wigs for different occasions, with specific shapes and designs and even colors that signify special events. The men are really proud of their wigs and were eager to show them to us.
I tried a wig on and found that it was kind of heavy. It was kind of smelly, too.
Limited to the male gender only.
Pass the Pipe...
It is customary for the village men to sit around and pass the pipe...nothing narcotic about the tobacco, although the tobacco itself is raw and really harsh.
I can't recall if I tried the pipe (for fun)...I'm sure I did.
If you get the opportunity to try anything offered to you by a local, it's a good (and gracious) idea to always indulge.
Never leave the house without some make-up on!
I was fascinated to learn that it is the men, not the women, who wear "make-up".
In fact, we learned that the men spend most of their day in groups, chatting, gossiping, smoking their pipes, and putting make-up on. (This is when they are not engaged in a tribal fight or a sing-sing, a colorful group dance which the Highlands villagers do during special celebrations).
It was kind of like a surreal role reversal of male/female, at least to my Western eyes.
The men are very particular about the colors they put on their faces, and most of the colors are from nuts and berries and plants found in the natural surroundings. Nowadays, the villagers are applying shoe polish and other paints that are imported from Australia.
Catching a good night's sleep is important....
I could have fainted with relief when I saw how this guy was sleeping....realizing that there were groups like the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations where you can spend a night or two with the locals, which includes the sleeping accomodations...!
In all seriousness, the Huli people are accustomed to sleeping like this and find no problem or hardship to place their head on a hard branch at night when they lay down to sleep.
We were treated by one of the villagers, showing us how he makes fire.
It was like something out of the film "The Gods Must Be Crazy".....
Of course when I tried to make fire that way, we could have sat there all day waiting for a tiny column of smoke to appear!
It's safe to say this guy had a lot more practice "making fire" than I did....
Where's a plow when you need one?!
I soon learned that women do the brunt of the daily work, as seems to typify many cultures.
Here we see a Highlands woman showing me how she plants her crops (in this case, cabbage or taro). We were encouraged - much to the delight of the villagers - to "try" whatever it was they were doing, which in this case, was back-breaking work!
I found it astounding that these women go through their day wearing a kind of woven bag on their heads - inside, they place whatever they're harvesting, or buying, or they can even fit a small child in there! This woman was extremely dexterous to be able to bend over and tend to the crops and not have that thing fall off her head or snap her neck. I kept my backpack on so that I could see what that sensation is like....not fun, I tell you!
Meet the Locals!
We stated that we wanted to see some of the "natives" and by this we meant that we wanted to interact with some locals.
We had a super guide (he really did tell us the story about hearing "the big bee" which was the first time he'd heard/seen a plane, much less white people) who was sweet and knowledgeable and very well regarded by the local villagers.
He took us to several different homes so we could see some of the culture in the Highland tribes.
After we walked around his "property", this man came to the gate and posed for me, bringing out his prized "hair wig" (it's a wig made out of his own hair, which he will then wear as a head ornament. More on this, under "Local Custom" area.)
Papua New Guinea has the most extensive species of birds in the world. It is probably most famous for its varied and beautiful "Birds of Paradise", and they can be found in the Highlands of Tari.
We got up early one morning (5:00 am), had breakfast, then drove up to a favorite bird watching spot a few miles beyond the Ambua Lodge.
We saw sweeping tail feathers and birds flying back and forth among the trees - unfortunately my binoculars were not that great so my views were limited; still, it was a thrill to see such unusual birds.
They are the inspiration for alot of the Huli (Tari village people) self-decoration.