Irian  Jaya
(West Papua)
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Irian Jaya is the western half of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world and Indonesia's eastern most province. The island is a relative youngster, as far as geologists are concerned, and is continually being remolded by the forces of nature. Intense rainfall gives birth to mind blowing varieties  and quantities of life while fierce flowing rivers sculpt and reshape the land at every turn.

Imposing mountain dominate the landscape with snow capped peaks and two glaciers, Carstensz and Meren, glisten in the morning sun. Three major tectonic plates jostle occasionally just northeast of the island adding to the continual changes of this amazing environment.

Another major attraction in Irian Jaya is the variety of flora and fauna with steamy mangrove swamps in the lowland coastal areas rising to tropical rain forest in the island's heart. Hundreds of rivers dump staggering quantities of silt in the lowland plains making them prone to flooding as well as creating a home for some fantastic species of birds. Splashes of colour flash  by while other-wordly sounds resonate from the lowland jungles, also home to one of the island's most documented tribes - the Asmat.

Travelling ever higher, forest gives way to grassland and later to rock outcrops and the hars environment of a mountain wilderness. In many places these mountain peaks rise above 4,500 meters and even from the coast they dominate the landscape with an awesome power. Early morning views are spectacular with glaciers sparkling against deep blue tropical skies and mist rising from heaving jungles.

The People and Way of Life

The indigenous people of this province are Melanesians with black skins and curly hair. They generally have a root crop subsistence agriculture based on sweet potatoes and taros.

The people of Papua obtain their starch from the sago palm which gives and extremely generous yield for remarkably little effort. Feral and domesticated pigs on the island is originally came from Southeast Asia was an event which has had vast cultural and ritual significance for its people. Pigs are often treated as members of the family and are sometimes suckled by women.

While many other people of the world were still hunters and gatherers, Papua people had begun to garden. After fairly recently, many of them lived with a simple Stone Age Culture wearing little clothing and decorating their bodies with paintings, shells, pig tusks, feathers and skins. There is a plethora of language in the province, perhaps some 250 in all, each representing a tribal group which mixes little with the others. Some of the more remote groups still have virtually no contact with the outside world.

 

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