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Strangers in the night…

This probably is one of the most remote places I’ve ever been to.

Location: Indonesia / Sulawesi Morrowali park
#houses: 1
#families: 1
#inhabitants: 4
Situated at 2,5 hrs walk through dense jungle from the nearest group of huts (which are inhabited by in total 7 persons). 

I had just arrived in the hut and wasn’t fully at ease. That came from:
– being dependent on somebody else for directions (guide)
– not having my own food (my guide had it all)
– not having my own place to sleep (the hut had only 1 room)
– in the middle of the Sulawesi jungle, where I can’t get out independently
– surrounded by people from the “Wana’ tribe whose language I literally don’t understand a single word.

Anyway, the hut I’m staying in is ‘minimalist heaven’: no decoration at all. Each object is related to the acquisition, preparation or consumption of food. Most of the objects (like the hut) are made from wood and made by the family who owns the hut. You’d think nothing could happen here, but in the end it turned out to be quite scary.

After dinner and in the dark (it felt like 22.00, but it probably was more like 18.00), I heard screams and wild laughter from the forest. I asked the guide what it was. He answered that they were fishermen. The voices slowly approached the hut and now I could clearly make out their drunk laughing.

Our hut was lit with a small oil lamp as we silently watched them enter under a cloud of laughter and screams. One of the 3 guys immediately emerged as their leader. We were 3 men + an old man + 1 woman. My guide repositioned the oil lamp (the only source of light) so that his face was hidden in the shadows. He then offered the visitors some cigarettes. Everybody (except me) smoked in silence.

Finally, a conversation started between my guide and the leader of the band of three. From their bodylanguage I could gather that they were establishing where each group was from and whether they had any shared family or friends. As there are only 5.000 people in this park, all from the “Wana” tribe. A name, unknown to me, started appearing in the conversation, and it seemed they had found common ground.

Suddenly, two guys and the woman (all from my group) walked off  to sleep in another part of the hut. Leaving just my guide and me with the three newcomers. An hour had passed and in sharp contrast with usual encounters in Sulawesi, nobody had addressed me with ‘hello Mister!’ or ‘what’s your name?’. The tone of the conversation had softened and my fears subsided. I left a package of cigarettes to my guide and laid myself on the wooden floor of the hut, trying to get some sleep.

In the daylight of the following morning, I could see that the fishermen were more like ‘fisherboys’, the oldest maybe was 18 years old. They looked at me with great curiosity. My guide had bought Oreo cookies for breakfast, when I shared these there were smiles all around. We waited for the rain to end and continued our trek into the jungle.


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