Leaving Butui, one of the better accessible settlements of the Mentawai on Siberut Island. The Mentawai people never wear shoes but we-the people who cannot walk-need such aids, and many more. A handrail along the slippery tree trunk, for instance, to facilitate access to the house and to leave it, especially at night when somebody had to follow the call of nature.
Tree trunks are very often laid on muddy trails, where the mud can get quite deep. Good balancing skills are required on them, especially on round, slippery bamboo. One plus: falling in the mud does not hurt!
Rivers cannot be followed all the time, and hills in between can be quite steep. They can be better walked uphill than downhill, for us with sticks as walking and balancing aids. Left lane for overtaking!!
Trees had been felled by the local people to grow bananas, and are now part of the trail.
Mud walk. Here the ‘normal’ forest mud, greyish and odorless, but very sticky and difficult to walk with shoes.
Lunch break during a seven-hour trek. Food is always being shared, but most important is that everybody gets a portion of tobacco.
Cigarettes are fuel for the Mentawai people.
Mud walk, here in a sago area. This mud is less dense, has a reddish-brown colour and smells of fermented sago. As with the Inuit who have many different words for snow we try to figure out how many words the Mentawai have for mud. The generic word ‘lati’ has been one of the first Mentawai words we have learnt.
Beauty contest after a sago mud walk.
We sometimes face the dilemna between balancing on a tree trunk and going through the mud. As shown above, mud can get quite deep. Two persons were necessary to free our fellow traveler from the mud trap, and they had to be very careful not to slip and get stuck themselves.
The river between Atabai and Butui had swollen due to heavy rains and some passages could not be negociated without getting totally wet. Backpacks had to be passed over heads, and a ‘bridge’ made of round, slippery bamboo to be put across for the sikerei, who felt safer at balancing on it than at swimming.
- Take flight from Sukarno Hatta air port, Jakarta to Tabing air port, Padang-west Sumatra (flight served every day)
- Trip from Teluk Bayur port, Padang to Mentawai island by Ferry
Based on the visitor experience, the local people’s housing is the best choice to stay. Having interactions with local people and staying in unique architectures give the visitors distinctive way to blend with the culture. But, there are also common accommodations available.
To access all the beauties offered, you can use boat owned by local people. You can find the boat a long the beach and the rate depend on your bargaining power.
Boost your taste with exotic and fresh sea foods that you can found in the local restaurants run by local people. If you are lucky enough, you can pick and cook your own sea food, but make sure you know the secret recipe/spices from Mentawais people. For those who are not sea food lover, you can find regular meals for your dining.
Other Things to See or Do
- Sight seeing
- Learn how to perform the Traditional dances (war dance and gratitude to nature)
- Traditional ceremonies
- Mentawai is one of the best place to conduct an Ethnographic study since its one of the oldest tribe in Indonesia
As the habitat for rare primate, the natural rain forest of Mentawai will be the perfect place for research or other educational purpose. Here, you can conduct research about
- Snub-nosed monkey/Simakobu (Simias concolor) monkey family eat leaf as primary food
- Joja or Lutung Mentawai (Presbytis potenziani) easily identified for the long tail, white face and black hair head
- Bokkoi atau Beruk Mentawai (Macaca pagensis)
- Kloss Gibbon/Bilou or Siamang Kerdil (Hylobates klossii) famous for the beautiful voice, different compared to general monkey
More info about Mentawai Island, please click here.