Down to Earth: Native Plants, Native Medicine


| February/March 2003


Ever since I was in fourth grade and read a National Geographic article about New Guinea, I have wanted to visit that area. I have always been fascinated by primitive cultures, by people who rely completely on the plants they grow or find in the wild.

It was a fortuitous meeting for me when I was introduced to Kelly Wolford, a man who grew up in Missouri as I had, but who now lived in Bali, one of 8,000 islands that make up Indonesia. He travels back and forth from Bali to West Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea that belongs to Indonesia). He works as a guide for small groups of Europeans and Westerners, taking up to six people at a time into the jungles of West Papua. The groups he takes are generally botanists, entomologists, or anthropologists. Kelly is very protective of the Papuan people and I appreciated that enough to sign on with him for a personal trip across that pristine land.

We flew into the central part of West Papua in early morning, arriving by small, old cargo plane, dodging between mountains and flying down stunningly beautiful valleys.

As soon as we had stored our supplies and hired porters to carry our small amount of gear, we headed eastward along a small path that led up onto the side of a small mountain. We walked for hours, along crystal clear mountain streams, through valleys lined with coffee bushes growing beneath star fruit and cashew nut trees. Shallow water in ditches was covered with the tiniest water lilies I had ever seen. The leaves were the size of a dime, and the flowers, which stood above the leaves like any other water lily, were pale yellow or pink and about the size of a nickel. In damp areas, large patches of red hibiscus plants grew. We stopped and chewed a few of the leaves for their thirst quenching power (just as we use sorrel here in the United States).

Each night we camped near a Papuan village and cooked our meals over an open fire. Around the fire, Kelly would interpret for me so that conversation continued between the Papuans and me. They wanted to know about my life and I was interested in their views of the world.

One afternoon we arrived at a very remote village, deep in the jungle and were greeted with a mock battle. Papuan men, by tradition, wear only a penis gourd for clothing, and feathers and fur on their head. So it was a surprise for me when we rounded a bend in the path and were greeted with twenty fierce-looking men holding spears and bows and arrows. Evidently they knew we were coming and had prepared a dramatic welcome for us. These mock battles for occasional visitors are how the older men teach the teenagers about battle and about the customs of the village. The battle lasted for about twenty minutes with lots of arrow shooting and spear throwing—all for practice, of course. No one was injured. Afterward, there was a feast of roasted pig and sweet potatoes, cooked in an open pit.





mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE



Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265