Waniyok is the first village in West Papua‘s Yalimo that you arrive in when trekking from the Baliem Valley via Ninia. Noticeably more people here than at any previous point on the trek from the Baliem Valley wear traditional (un)dress, consisting for men of a koteka (penis gourd) and sometimes a series of rattan hoops around the waist and pigs’ tusk coming out of the nostrils or for women bark or grass skirts. In 2007 people in this area were still so unused to seeing outsiders that at every village I entered a crowd of sometimes up to 100 people would gather around me and just stand there staring at me wide-eyed and smiling while I rested then follow me when I headed on out of the village.

Man of the Yali tribe in Waniyok village, the Yalimo, Central Highlands, West Papua

Yali man in Waniyok, Yalimo

I reiterate however that though the Yalimo is still very traditional, don’t come here expecting to see villages of naked “Stone Age” savages! Probably about 90% of people wear T-shirts and shorts these days, although they all live in traditional thatch huts, speak their indigenous language and the way of life is still pretty untouched. They hunt with bows and arrows, still strongly believe in many of the pre-Christianity spirits and demons and can tell interesting stories about the times, still well within living memory, of cannibalism and tribal warfare.

The path towards the Baliem Valley crosses 12 hours of uninhabited territory before passing through Sobaham, Ninia, Moning, Kiroma, Yogosem and Kurima.

The path to Angguruk runs 3 easy hours in the opposite direction. From Angguruk it continues to Kosarek on the other side of the Yalimo before crossing into Mek country.

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