Tari, located in the Southern Highlands Province, is the centre
of the Huli people, one of Papua New Guinea's most colourful and
interesting tribes. The image of a Huliman, adorned in traditional
head-dress and war-paint, is one of this country's most famous.
The Huli are also known as the Wigmen, because of their custom of
making wigs from human hair. As young men they enter what is known
as the Bachelor House, an enclave, off limits to women, where they
grow their hair with "magic water" for about 18 months.
The hair is then carefully cut and moulded into a wig. The tightly
packed hair retains the shape into which it is moulded. Into the
wig are placed feathers, "everlasting flowers" and other
paraphernalia; individuals compete with each other to make the most
magnificent wig. Many initiates stay in the confines of the Bachelor
House for years, as the more wigs you have (for formal and casual
wear!), the more prestige is gained.
There is no more magnificent sight than a group of Huli marching
down a path in full regalia! You may be pleasantly surprised when
one of them pipes up in perfect English, because Huli have a tendency
to dress in both Western and traditional dress. Traditional dress
includes the laplap, a fan of leaves from a certain tree that is
tied round the waist to cover the behind. When the leaves begin
to wilt, they merely pluck more leaves, and throw the old laplap
away! You will also see people of all ages sticking ferns in their
hair - no specific reason, it just looks fun!
The Huli are a warlike tribe, and many villages have fights over
land rights. Fierce battles often flare up, and do not be surprised
to see small troops of warriors, bow and arrows in hand, on the
sides of roads. They are of absolutely no threat to Westerners,
and proceedings are usually suspended as you pass by in your minibus.
A wave to you, and back to work! Differences are settled with "compensation",
whereby pigs, cloth and other trading goods are handed over. Councils
decide on the correct amount to be given. Despite their warlike
aspect, the Huli are very friendly people, and as you walk through
their lands you will find old men come to shake your hand, and hordes
of children run along paths with you. They are genuinely interested
in you, and are totally non-threatening.
Tari is set some 7000ft in the Highlands, and as a consequence,
the climate is cool and pleasant. This makes trekking an agreeable
experience. At night the temperature drops considerably, and we
therefore recommend you have warm clothing, such as a sweater or
sweat-shirt. Long trousers or tracksuit bottoms are ideal when you
are walking. Trekking is a perfect way to encounter the Huli culture
and the surrounding area. You will have the opportunity to see people
go about their daily lives, as well as see some of the splendid
wildlife that lives there, including the Bird of Paradise. 10 species
live in forests of the Tari Gap, a pass between Tari Valley and
the outside world. You will see their feathers adorning the Hulis'
Accommodation in the Tari area goes from one extreme to the other.
Incongruously, Ambua Lodge is an oasis of luxury in a sea of wilderness.
Set on an escarpment overlooking the Tari Valley, backed by dense
high-altitude rain forest, Ambua is Papua New Guinea's answer to
an African game lodge. A central building houses the reception,
dining area and saloon, with panoramic views across the valley;
exotic carvings furnish every available space. Accommodation is
within individual thatched bungalows in local style, with en suite
bathrooms. Each bungalow has semi-circular windows that look out
onto well-tended gardens and the valley below. Against the cool
nights, electric blankets are provided on the beds. Day trips to
the Tari Gap afford you the chance to see Birds of Paradise in their
natural surroundings. Tours to the Bachelor House are also offered.
For the more energetic, we can arrange a trek of any duration in
the Tari area. We provide all your equipment, including backpacks,
food, porters and guides. We recommend that you stay in local village
accommodation as opposed to tents, as this will considerably lighten
the load your porters bear. All you need carry is your camera and
a small day pack for water and food. The trekking is easy, along
gravel roads or dirt tracks. Your guides, who are drawn from the
local area, and speak English, will tell you about the people and
their customs. In the evening you will be the guest of a local village,
and will be told stories by the headman. With no written language,
all folklore is related by word of mouth; the Huli can trace their
lineage back many generations, and they will tell you their history
back to the original "spirit" that founded their village.
Your trek will start with a PMV (Passenger Motor Vehicle) from Tari
to Lakwanda, a village about 45 minutes from Tari. Here you will
stay one night to ready yourself for the days ahead. From Lakwanda
you will trek right to the heart of the Huli homeland. You will
visit the Bachelor House and the Medicine Man, another local character
of great note. You will then return to Lakwanda or Tari. After your
trek we recommend you go to Ambua for a couple of nights to freshen
up and relax!