Like the Dani, the Lani are expert farmers utilising
a highly effective and efficient irrigation system to
produce abundant crops of Sweet Potatoes (Ubi),
Tobacco, Beans, Taro, Spinach, Sugar Cane and Bananas. Much of the Lani lands lie in a beautiful oasis interspersed
with checkerboard patterned sweet potato gardens.
The Lani are more stockily built than the medium-bodied
Dani and their lands are more densely populated.
They tend to congregate in largish villages rather than
the small compounds which dominate Dani territory.
was once dubbed
Shangri La and it is
easy to see why.
The Valley is incredibly
lush and fertile
and is surrounded on
all sides by towering
peaks of 2,500
to 3,000 metres. The fertility is such that the valley has been farmed for 9,000 years
but it was only discovered by westerners in 1938! There are three mains tribes
inhabiting the Baliem Valley: The Dani in the base, the Lani to the west and
the Yali in the south-east. Each tribe has a distinct culture. One sure and
interesting way to distinguish between the tribes is from the Koteka,
or penis gourd, sported by the male members. The men of each tribe tend
to the growing of the gourds with the three tribes each cultivating a different style.
The Dani use a long, thin Koteka, the Lani sport a medium sized,
wide cannon-like gourd, and the Yali wear the longest of all.
Entering Dani territory involves a journey into a deeper reality.
The inevitable pig-feast on arrival is your rite of passage into their unique culture
for an engrossing a four or five hour intense experience. You will find yourself in
a simple, traditional compound surrounded by fully greased and painted
Dani tribes-people wearing their ceremonial best.
can ever capture. Here you will be warmly greeted by the amazing Chief Yali,
our adoptive father who is legendary amongst the Dani for his kindness,
generosity and skills in the art of co-operation and avoiding conflict. With this unique
and privileged connection you will receive the full weight of Dani hospitality.
trekking along the river amidst the terraced farmlands and
wondrous forests is a trekker’s paradise. Trails are usually clear and maintained
as local people travel them and this makes the trekking pretty comfortable.
The Yali tribe lives high up along the valley ridges in the Jayawijaya mountains.
The land here is rugged and thinly populated. The tribes-people live in
wooden huts with roofs made of tree-bark and they are grouped into small
compounds. A vegetable garden and dense rainforest will surround each compound.
but it is perfect for the fit trekker who wants to experience truly virgin rainforest
and the unique people who live amidst it.
The inhabitants of the valley are essentially peace-loving agrarians who
welcome visitors wholeheartedly.