I went trekking from Aragip, with about four young men. The first village we came to was just several huts on the pathway. When we arrived, people brought woven grass mats out and laid them on the ground. There was hardly anyone around but on command a boy came with a conha shell and blew on it. See photo in Flickr . Soon people came out of the nearby jungles were they had their gardens. You will notice on the photos in Flickr that the area was heavily grassed. This is a by product of subsistence farming. As the gardens use up the fertility of the rainforest soils, they are unable to grow anything but this tall grass. The villages tend to be closer to the rainforest and therefore probably just move around over time. After our meeting here we continued on up the mountain. One stage included walking up a set of stairs cut into the mountain-side. I was following the heels of the man in front. Every five minutes we all had a minutes rest. The view from the top of this stage was spectacular, looking down onto a river far below.
When we got to the next village, the cloud was level with us. The people here were all sitting waiting for us. I guess they spied us coming and got organised. I won a few kudos with the chiefs for having carried my own pack and keeping up with the other blokes, an outcome of a regular bike ride into work and a 10 k run including a large hill near Cairns, for a year before I went. They actually hadn’t seen white men doing anything without a group of porters to do all the hard work.
This village was quite unusual. It had clear pathways worked into the ground and they were bordered with variegated plants. All the huts were built up off the ground and the stairs were often just a post with cuts resting at an angle. In the middle of the village was a small hut with no windows. After talking with the crowd, we ajourned to a hut with the chiefs. There was some quite direct questioning. One chief, perhaps the oldest, seemed to be playing a key role. We spoke about the Baha’i view of different religions and the concept that all peoples of the world have a divinely ordained religion as ‘God does not leave His people alone”. This chief then began to talk about the religion of the people before Christianity. I concurred that this religion was also divinely ordained, relative to the requirements of the people and the age. The chief then brought out a roll of papers. In the roll was a newspaper clipping from quite some years previous. I can’t remember the date of the paper but I it carried a photo of this same chief at a younger age with a priest or minister. The headline read: “Bishop meets Pagan priest”. The upshot of the story was that, as a young man, before the Anglican Church had established a foothold in that part, he had a vivid dream or a vision in which the “Great Spirit told him that he must beautify his village and build a special prayer hut.” When the Bishop eventually made a trek there and heard this story and a photo was taken, the Bishop had told the newspaper that this pagan priest now had a proper religion. This had greatly offended the chief and, as it wasn’t a place of regular christian visits, he had continued to nurture the traditional religion with his own progressive thinking. One of the interesting aspects of this was in a discussion about death and souls. They told me that, some years previous the discussed the realisation that often, when an older person died, within a short while their spouse also died. They decided that one of the mitigating factors was the prolonged grieving period that accompanied funerals. So they decided that they would shorten the grieving period and they believed this had made an improvement.
We had one more climb in our trek to the highest part of the Dagga language group.