Anggi Lakes (Part 1)
Lake Gita and lake Gigi, the Anggi lakes, are situated at 2000m in the Arfak mountains near Ransiki. Unfortunately the landing strip at Gita was closed, so instead of a $6 flight from Manokwari we had to take a Toyota 4x4 “hardtop” from Ransiki. After making inquiries, we made contact with a policeman from the lake area who ran a general goods store in town. He was going the next day and promised to take us with him. The next day, though, he didn’t show up, so Dan became frustrated and decided to return to Manokwari. We decided to take a day trip to a nearby village and ended up talking to some of the villagers who were taking “buah merah” (red pandanus fruit) to the market. The long, red fruit, a Papuan delicacy, can be cooked and eaten as food, but the oil is also valuable as medicine. They also offered us pomelos fresh from the tree, which we stuffed in our bag. After chatting for a few minutes, they asked as what we thought about freedom for Papua…
Apologizing profusely, our policeman showed up the next morning with the jeep. It was packed with goods and passengers. The dirt road to the lakes wound through the mountains. In some places the road was almost washed out. The forest was good. There were plenty of colorful Arfak butterflies to see along the way. At one point we had to get out of the jeep so that it could traverse a muddy section of the road. Switching into 4-wheel-drive and gunning the engine, the driver slid and fishtailed through the rutted track, throwing mud everywhere. Our policeman friend, having monopolized the front seat, sat in the car while the other passengers walked. Later, he pulled the jeep over, got out and shot his pistol into the air. “Now everyone knows that the police is here!” The car stopped at the pass between the two lakes. Lake Gigi, the “male” lake, was heavily settled. The “female” one, lake Gita, had only three villages. We decided to go there. After several false starts, we found the correct trail down to the first village by the lake. It was getting late, so we asked the village chief if we could stay overnight. He put us up in an empty house, freshly built, next to his quarters. The villagers were surprised to see tourists. They kept asking us what our purpose was. Perhaps they thought we were journalists or missionaries. The next day, we were awakened by a ringing bell. It was Sunday, and the villagers were putting on their best clothes to go to church. The service was at 8 o'clock, but the bell rang at 7. What did the first bell mean? The village head said that it was a call to bathe before church. Unlike elsewhere in Indonesia, where bathing is a strict daily ritual, here it must have been a weekly occurrence, if ever! We sometimes wondered if the Papuans ever cleaned themselves. Saying goodbye, we set out for the next village. As soon as we arrived, one of the villagers ran from his potato field to meet us. He asked if we wanted to stay with him, but we said we should talk to the chief first, who usually has priority for taking care of visitors. Church had just ended. The whole village crowded around us, watching and asking questions. What was our purpose here? “Give me a cigarette!” said one man. To the amusement of the villagers, Anne told him that he should ask politely, and made him repeat his request until he got it right. He also had to be taught to say “thank you”.
We felt like continuing our hike, but across the lake was some good forest. Perhaps we could go fishing? One of the men said he would take us to his house on the other side. After buying some fresh vegetables, we walked to the shore and climbed gingerly aboard his narrow outrigger canoe. The water was clear and cold. Halfway across the lake, it started to rain. We landed on the shore and pulled up the boat, then walked up the path to a modest traditional house made of sticks and bark. Our host could not speak much Indonesian, nor was he much of a conversationalist. We had to repeat our questions two or three times before getting an answer, usually a gruff monosyllable. Taking the boat, we rowed to a nearby spit of white sand. The weather was far too cold for bathing. Later we walked through the thick cloud forest, looking for orchids and pitcher plants. Eric took a long walk through the woods, enjoying the cool air, mossy trees and exotic plants.
The house was a one-room affair with hearths on each side. The men stayed on one side and the women on the other. A baby pig was tied up in one corner. Nobody seemed to do anything but sit around the fire. Was it because today was Sunday? After sunset the temperature dropped. The doors were closed for the night. The fires were stoked to provide warmth, filling the house with smoke. We decided that our mosquito net would not be needed. After cooking some pasta, we gave away the leftovers. They offered us some boiled sweet potatoes. Anne was about to throw the empty pasta box into the fire, but our host asked for it and gave it to one of his children, who used it as a toy. The colorful box provided a bit of gaiety in the otherwise drab surroundings. As we settled down to bed, they started to sing and chant. The house was filled with alien, guttural sounds. After a few prayers, they curled up on the floor in front of the fire wearing all of their daytime clothes.