Travelog: Mentawai

Mentawai consist of several island and famous for the Mentawai ethnic and their beautiful beach with waves for the surfer. I am not a surfer but I really eager to visit the place as you only see it through tv in the previous time. So the trip start with a fast boat riding for 6 hours, its a beautiful day, the clouds are full above the blue ocean and there are some fish jumping over in the middle of somewhere as I sit on top of the boat. We stop by at Mailepet port then continue the riding for another 2 hours before we arrived at our destination port. I go with a guide and another two friend traveler. Then we meet with another couple who just been abandoned by their guide so there is 6 of us at the end. The trip should be accompanied by a guide as they people speak in their ethnic language so we will need to be accompanied by certified guide who can help us to communicate with the local people. From the port we took 30 minutes ride to the villages where we will took another small wooden boat through the river to the jungle. Another man from the village join us as additional helper, so there are seven of us on the small boat with addition to the boat driver.

Cookie, Sikerei from Mentawai
Cookie, the Sikerei from Mentawai

We couldnt move much during the small boat ride as the boat could shake easily. It was a really exciting journey as we take turns on the river so many times and start entering the jungle. One thing I’m worried is crocodilles (>_<) but lucky there is none though they are known there are crocodiles too around there. After another hour of boat ride, we stop by at a small wooden port on the edge of the jungle where some porter already waiting for us. From there we shall walk for another hours to the main house of the Sikerei where we would spend the night at. It was like having a sport as we shall walk on the muddy soil, we only able to walk by steppin the branch on the muddy ground so we wont stick to the ground. The guide give me a stick to help me to walk with and at the end I ended up with two stick ahahahaha I even didnt mind when someone offer to bring my bag as it is extremelly difficult to walk on the muddy ground with sagoo tree all over. But the porter who help us bring the food is really crazy, they walk like running and already waiting for us on the main house.

Another fast boat at Mailepet port during our stop, Mentawai
Dont move too much please! Mentawai

We walk using boots passing through the jungle, small river that will be our toilet around 50 meters from the main house with a 3 stick of branch as our walking path, but who wants to go to the river at night to do their business as you cannot see anything. No electricity at all and the modern thing they have is only head lamp. For night light we use the gasoline lamp for a while and turn off at night. The stage main house itself made by woods and bamboo. It consist of one big room separate by wooden wall with the gate door open till to the back of the house, no door exist on the house. Three part of the house is the porch part where there is seat on every edge stick to the side of the house, then the second part is big room used as kitchen and some corner covered as sleeping place, then the last room is the previous kitchen used to pile woods to cook. It was a stage house, and the under part use to raise pigs who roamed freely at the back yard. They also have a chicken cage next by to the house and the chicken also roaming freely outside, they only go home after feed for dinner and go back partying outside at the morning. 

The middle part of the house used as kitchen is full of bones, catch during the hunting, Mentawai
The font porch of the house, they put branches as the entrance to the stage house.
Its where you pile the woods to cook
The pigs on the backyards and under the house

The house is lead by a Sikerei, a very old person known as the doctor of the forest and respected. No one know exactly his age ah. H elive with the daugther in law and his grandson wife’s at that time who help us cook our food. We eat dinner together and gathering on the porch before we put a tend around the porch as our room. There is seems no personal space around as everyone can see what you are doing. One thing I realized is they really like sweet things and non stop smoking like train. Its a long and exhausting day but we excited for the next day. The night is so dark but still it has its own beauty as the stars are crazily bright.

Skinning the tree to make kabid, Mentawai
Making kabid, Mentawai

I sleep with Iris, a traveler from Norwegian which I called ramboo, she is strong like rambo and licensed nurse so I anyway I feel safe if something ever happen.  We wake up early at the morning, go to the river and laughing while we do our small business before we go to the jungle. No shower needed as I dont have enough confidence to take shower openly on the river where people, swine or chicken can see you freely, and the water is only a knee deep, so no where you can hide ah.

Can you imagine how big is the tree in the jungle, Mentawai
Looking for sagoo warm, Mentawai

The schedulled of the day is learning how to make underwear for the man from wood skin known as kabid, getting sagoo tree and its sagoo warm. The sikerei, we call him cookie as his nickname as he love sweet things, he lead us to walk in the muddy jungle though the side of he house, looking for the tree. He still strong enuf to bring the equipment to chop the tree and walk fast. Many times he have to stop by and wait for us, pickin up flower and put it on my forehead. The distance probably not that far but the journey start taking our breath away and lucky he found the tree he was looking for and start choppin it. He smack the fallen branch before skinning the tree. Then the skin beatin up until it getting wider and become like a net to get rid of the sap. We take turn to knocking and beating at the skin tree until its ready and its done. The skin tree will need to be wash and dried before its ready to use. Its the man thing so we are not that exiting to get to know how to wear it.

Chubby sagoo warm, Mentawai

Then cookie start roaming around nearby to find the sagoo tree and start chopping it again with the axe. He getting excited to find the chubby sagoo warm inside the branch and we take turn to take it away and pull it on the equipment basket. For Mentawai people, the warm is so precious as a protein source. We are teasing each other who will have the courage to try the raw warm as you can eat it directly. No one brink water to drink but our guide bravely enuf to chew one of the chubby warm then scream out loud ahahaha.

It taste just like chicken! yam yam, Mentawai

Everytime cookie chop the sagoo tree we excited to stick our finger to the hole and pushing the warm out. We collect quite much and decided to have it barbecued for lunch. It seems like a while but then we arrive back at the house after lunch time, he told the daughter in law to barbecued the sagoo warm and give one stick for us to share. The taste is just like chicken and I love it.

drying the kabid before used, Mentawai

And at the afternoon since we still have time, he taught us how to make poison they use to with their arrow to hunt. Interesting  as he also keep the secret ingredient worried that it will be using outside the place to harm people. Then at the afternoon there is activity for girls as we are dressed in a banana leaf skirt to catch fish and shrimp on the river, can you imagine, its the same river we use as toilet. We keep wearing our tshirt while the originally they dont use anything on top of the skirt while holding bamboo stick as the bag to keep the catch and holding net to stuck on the river ground to shaking the shrimp hiding under the rock. After a while we dont get anything and I have a stomache so I walking away from the group and start looking for a deeper part of the river, you know this banana skirt is sooo helpfull to cover your butt while your doing your business (at last I can do my business openly on the river! yay) I keep laughing while doing that and watching is flow away along with the river flow, so anyone who ever there on the other part of the river might get surprise-surpise. That is the most brave thing I do in the jungle ah. But until the end of the trip no one take shower at all, we arrive with the same shirt we go, roaming around the jungle in sweat and goin back on the same clothes too.  No one smell worse than the pig under the house ah so its okay, we survive the trip though.   

Catching fish and shrimp is a lady thing over there, Mentawai
Making poison for hunting, Mentawai

That is the last day we spend on the house since we have to walk really early on the morning to catch the wooden boat and get rush to the port to get back to Padang as the fast boat dont have daily schedulled from the port.

My ramboo girl and our guide in the jungle
Happy ours at the jungle, Mentawai
it just like in the middle of somewhere, hardly to see the turn in a dense of the jungle
take a ride back to the port where we should go back from, Mentawai

I’m so much grateful for this experience as we are surrounded with easiness in our daily life in the place we were use to be. This area even don’t have electricity and easy road, and they really have to work hard for their food, we even haven’t talk about the education. Some parents have to separate and send their children to join a public school in the nearest villages. I’m so gratefull that I could still meet and see the way the Mentawai people live along with their culture as much as the youngster is start eager to leave the jungle and leave the tradition so probably within few years there will be not much sikerei stay on the jungle, who knows it just my opinion though.


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