Our next stop is at the village of Yentchen. The village is famous for its Puk Puk (or crocodile) Dance and our guide has told us that the villagers will perform the dance for us.
This village is on the banks of the river, but there is of course no place for the pontoon to tie up. These villages only see a pontoon once a week if the tourists go by, other than that there is little or no river traffic. We try and find somewhere to land where the bank is not too steep or muddy. The floods have receded here, but everywhere is a mess. We tie up to a tree and clamber up the muddy bank. We try and envisage the last group negotiating these banks, but if they couldn’t haul themselves out of an arm chair then there is no way they could do this.
We on the other hand being young slim and fit (Ed, be quiet) have no trouble. The first thing we notice is that there are only children to greet us.
But again we notice the difference to the Huli villages. There the children would be waving to greet us. Here they are shy and reserved. They are interested but not excited to see us. I’ll settle for interested – it is more than I usually get
The adults have no way of knowing we are coming . Remember there are no utilities, let alone phones and if there are cell phones here nobody has them turned on! But as soon as they hear the pontoon they come running, and I do mean running. This is not because they are excited to meet the Intrepid Ten, it is because we offer them a chance to make money. They rush to the path laden down with their carvings and start laying them out on the muddy ground.
Our guide meets with the Tribal Elders and after some negotiations they agree to perform the dance for us, but it will take some time for them to get ready.
So we take the pontoon across the river, tie up to a tree and have a relaxed picnic lunch!
It takes two hours for the village to prepare for the dance and once they start we understand why. It seems like the entire village is involved and even the youngest of children are there. They are all in costumes and two of the dancers have amazing crocodile outfits that put Broadway and the Lion King to shame.
The drums beat out a rhythm while the dancers perform.
I don’t have to tell you what the fabulosity meter is doing while this goes on. There is one delightful woman dancing who speaks broken English and keeps coming up to me and saying “that’s my son” as she points to one of the crocodiles.
Proud mothers are everywhere. When I say to her that he is very handsome, she cackles with laughter and shakes her tail feathers at me. I think she might be flirting. But she has chosen the wrong man to shake her tail feathers at. At the end of the dance they make a circle of dry reeds and set it alight.
The dance is a traditional Iatmul dance to recognize and make sacred a newly carved finial that will be placed on top of the Spirit House. If there was a finial it would be placed inside the ring of fire. But on this occasion the dance is performed just for ten tourists who are amazed and delighted by the spectacle. We show our appreciation by clapping and cheering. These villagers are in the middle of an inaccessible jungle cut off from the rest of the world, but they are like performers everywhere. They love the attention! They line up so that we can take photos and meet them
This is the first time we have seen penis sheaths.
We did not know about them before today, But this, apparently is the land of the Penis Sheath. They look so cute on the children, but later on we will come across adult ones and the term “cute” can no longer be applied. They are of a different scale altogether.
Suffice it to say that Penis Sheath envy must be alive and well in PNG. They could definitely become the new must have accessory for men.