The Baliem Valley

The Baliem Valley was once dubbed Shangri La and it is easy to see why. The Valley is incredibly lush and fertile and is surrounded on all sides by towering peaks of 2,500 to 3,000 metres. The fertility is such that the valley has been farmed for 9,000 years but it was only discovered by westerners in 1938! There are three mains tribes inhabiting the Baliem Valley: The Dani in the base, the Lani to the west and the Yali in the south-east. Each tribe has a distinct culture. One sure and interesting way to distinguish between the tribes is from the Koteka, or penis gourd, sported by the male members. The men of each tribe tend to the growing of the gourds with the three tribes each cultivating a different style. The Dani use a long, thin Koteka, the Lani sport a medium sized, wide cannon-like gourd, and the Yali wear the longest of all.

The Dani
Entering Dani territory involves a journey into a deeper reality. The inevitable pig-feast on arrival is your rite of passage into their unique culture for an engrossing a four or five hour intense experience. You will find yourself in a simple, traditional compound surrounded by fully greased and painted Dani tribes-people wearing their ceremonial best.

The whole elaborate affair is deeply spiritual, far more than a photo-session can ever capture. Here you will be warmly greeted by the amazing Chief Yali, our adoptive father who is legendary amongst the Dani for his kindness, generosity and skills in the art of co-operation and avoiding conflict. With this unique and privileged connection you will receive the full weight of Dani hospitality.

The Lani
Like the Dani, the Lani are expert farmers utilising a highly effective and efficient irrigation system to produce abundant crops of Sweet Potatoes (Ubi), Tobacco, Beans, Taro, Spinach, Sugar Cane and Bananas. Much of the Lani lands lie in a beautiful oasis interspersed with checkerboard patterned sweet potato gardens. The Lani are more stockily built than the medium-bodied Dani and their lands are more densely populated. They tend to congregate in largish villages rather than the small compounds which dominate Dani territory.

The weather in the Valley is predominantly sunny and trekking along the river amidst the terraced farmlands and wondrous forests is a trekker's paradise. Trails are usually clear and maintained as local people travel them and this makes the trekking pretty comfortable.

The Yali
The Yali tribe lives high up along the valley ridges in the Jayawijaya mountains. The land here is rugged and thinly populated. The tribes-people live in wooden huts with roofs made of tree-bark and they are grouped into small compounds. A vegetable garden and dense rainforest will surround each compound.

Trekking in the Yali area is more strenuous than in the lower reaches of the Valley but it is perfect for the fit trekker who wants to experience truly virgin rainforest and the unique people who live amidst it.

In summary, The Baliem Valley will provide a never to be forgotten experience. The inhabitants of the valley are essentially peace-loving agrarians who welcome visitors wholeheartedly.

click here for Baliem Valley (Wamena) and Dani Tribe itinerary.
click here for Baliem Valley Festival itinerary.

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