With a team of carriers Lütken and Grønkjær went on an expedition
through one of the world’s biggest jungles. Weeks of travelling to get to the
tribal people who live as the last of the world’s remaining cannibals.
Weeks of hiking through swamps and rain forest, up steep mountain slopes
and down deep valleys, across decrepit “Indiana Jones bridges” and through roaring
rivers in order to seek tribal people some of whom had never seen white people
Out in the jungle a cultural exchange took place when the Danish duo
took part in the every day lives of the locals and in return entertained with
magic shows and Jodle Birger songs (Famous Danish Yodeller).
AND NOW TO THE FAIRYTALE...
A magic meeting in the jungle
It was mostly a joke, when we started
talking about that our first journey together should go to the most impossible
place to reach on the planet. We wondered if there would be any place on this
planet, where it would be impossible to by a Coca-Cola, and the answer is yes!
This destination was deep in the jungle of Irian Jaya in the western part of
New Guinea in Indonesia.
Directly from the office chair and the
magic stage at home in Denmark we left for our destination –blue-eyed-with a team
of eight carriers, a chef, a interpreter and a leader, who would guide us into
one of the greatest and wildest jungles. We wanted to reach the small tribes,
which we had heard of. They should still be living as we did thousands ofyears ago and the word was that some of
them would practice cannibalism.
We crossed wild rivers, walked through
swamps, rainforest, jungle, crossed Indiana Jones bridges, climbed steep mountains
and descended the valleys bellow. The muscles in our legs cramped and our feet
turned into big, bloody lumps filled with blisters. Even our blisters ended up
Besides all the other belongings we carried Thomas'
traveling guitar and Jespers magic suitcases. This didn't make things any
After a few days traveling into the map-less wild with
nights spend under the stars, we started to see little cozy cottages on the
sides of the mountains. The tribes are usually at war with rivaling tribes
about women or pigs, so they build their houses on the mountainside, so they
are able to see if any strangers are approaching their community.
Our first meeting with a true warrior was frightening for
both parts. We had never seen anything like this. The men were small, dark and
almost naked – only clothed in a hat of feathers, a tie of pearls and the
legendary penis sheath, which covered their private parts.
Sometimes they wore teeth from wild boars in holes in their
noses. In stead of apenis sheath
the women wore bast skirts around their waists. If we were startled to see
them, they were equally frightened of us.
One place some of the women ran into the jungle and hid
there, because they had never before seen a white man, and they didn't want
anything to do with this. When we had looked up and down each other for a few
minutes, or first job in the village was to visit the chief in his cabin. To
show our good intentions we had brought gifts. The carriers had provided us
with extra sugar, salt and tobacco, which are three things, that are very
important to them. Even though we didn't have a chance to communicate, this
often made them open their homes to us. This meant that we could sleep in their
cottages, wich had some rat issues! When we crawled into the sleeping bag the
first night a big, fury rat ran over our legs. We both screamed and gave each
other the illusion, that the rats had the size of big dogs, and had to
recognize, that all we had to defend ourselves with, was our toothbrushes!
Women breastfeed piglets
The cottages were separated, so that there
were one for the men, one for the women, a kitchen-cottage and one for the
pigs. Their pigs are their only commodity, which means they are extremely
valuable. If the old sow wont feed the piglets, it is the job of the women to
feed them, which meant that their breast weren't always the prettiest of
Neither were their hands. A way to
illustrate that a woman is mourning - if they have lost a child, a husband or
another member of the family - it is costume to cut of a piece of their finger.
To cut of the blood circulation to the finger, they first tie a bamboo string
tightly around her finger, and afterward they begin whipping her on the body
with a stick to remove the awareness of pain. Without any amnesia and only with
the help of a rock they cut the finger of the woman. Often they will need to
cut again and again.
Speaking of pigs and women, it is possible
to buy yourself a wife for every five pigs you own. This says something about
the value of things.
Povl Kjøller, balloon hats and penis
Some places they still have a tendency to
eat other people. Sometimes because they need to triumph over the enemies that
they have killed in combat. But on the bottom line they were full of laughter.
When we put on our shiny silver jackets, they knew that this meant
entertainment. They came from every corner to see magic, balloon animals and
listen to songs from danish folk artists such as Jodle Birger and Povl Kjøller.
With our European eyes they were very
primitive. In one way they didn't understand much of the magic tricks, but they
seemed to think that it was obvious that you could change a yellow silk scarf
into a red on. Something as magic as a silk scarf was bound to be able to
change color as well! Something that did impress them was when we learned them
to blow bobbles of soap. They blew and blew every time we gave them the
The most magical in their eyes was a thing,
that we had brought from our world: A magic tool which usually is named a
lighter! Imagine to be able to start a fire with just a small move with your
thumb! For them starting a fire means working two pieces of wood, and therefore
a lighter was a magic sight to them. Another big impression was the balloon
animals. At first it could seem like an insult to make a balloon animal for a
proud warrior, but when the men with a love for finery started using them as
hats it quickly became a fashion. Every one wanted one, and they walked around
with them for several days. When the balloons broke the warrior came back with
tears in his eyes, humbly asking to get another one.
The fact that they have a love for finery
was also stated in their penis sheaths. Like we in the civilized world have
different kind of pants to every occasion, these men had different kinds of
sheaths: A regular one for daily use, a bigger one for war and a real party
sheath, when they really wanted to dress up. This one had small pearls all over
it and a little piece of fur in the end.
Other travelers have often fought their way
through wild territories with their suitcases stuffed with antibiotics to cure
sick people, glass pearls to buy land or the bible to mission. We traveled with
music and magic tricks in the hope to exchange smiles across borders and
evolutionary steps. We don't travel just to get experiences, we travel just as
well to give experiences to others.
Thomas Lütken and Jesper Grønkjær in Indonesia (continued)
Jeep-ride in Bali
After the expedition in the jungle, we needed to get some
strength back, both physically and mentally. The weeks with the cannibals had
been tough on both our bodies and minds.
We went towards Bali, which every one talked so fondly
about. This might be a fantastic place, but when we came back from the jungle
with our heads stuffed with new experiences from meeting the tribes in the jungle,
we were not ready to cope with the touristy paradise, that Bali is. This was
especially remarkable in the beginning of our journey, when we went from city
to city with bars, massage-girls, pick-pockets, sunbathing on the beach,
Australian windsurfers, Europeans with pale beer bellies and more like that.
The first days went with covering our craving of junk food, booze and candy.
Quite a contrast to the previous weeks, where we had eaten only fruits,
vegetables, rice and soup. The reaction came immediately: Diarrhea and vomiting
– the walls of our bungalow practically seemed painted in vomit from the times,
that we didn't make it to the bucket. With our heads full (and our stomachs
empty) we went around the island in a small jeep. We went to small nice villages,
where it was easier to be ourselves and process the experiences from the
jungle. During these road trips we had some amazing visits at temples, we saw
local artists, rice fields, amazing waterfalls and of course we visited some
schools. When we arrived at the schools, we quickly got a deal to perform
there, which ended up with us and several hundreds of nice kids in uniforms in
a classroom. In the beginning they were usually very sweet and polite, trying
NOT to laugh at out gags as a way of showing respect. But soon they figured out
that laughing was the whole point, and then there was just no stopping them.
Every time a balloon flew from Jesper they laughed so hard, that the teachers
covered their ears, and the passersby on the streets stopped to look.
Furthermore we were audience at “the Sunday sports”, when
we saw a legendary cock fight, where two cocks with sharp knifes bound to their
feet fight for their lives, while men bet money and cheered along. Blood
everywhere, the men cheering, money changing hands and beer getting drunk – it
was almost like a 6th division soccer match in Denmark!