"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

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Journal of Matthew Stirling
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September 2, 1926 : Overland Trail/Upper Rouffaer/Nogullo River ; Rouffaer River

September 2

Starting this morning we went over some very difficult country, twice climbing high up the mountains up steep cliffs and down again using our hands as much as our feet hanging {*} on to roots and projecting rocks and finding such precarious footing as possible. It is a miracle almost, the way the Dyaks carry their heavy packs up and down these places. The mountains here open out somewhat, and on the reverse sides of the bends in the river, are broad, level park-like {*} areas and broad beaches of sand, making very pretty scenery indeed. When the current of the river swings against the side we are travelling, then we must resort to cliff-climbing until the next bend is reached when there is a breathing space through beautiful open woods. In one of these places we saw another pygmy shelter under an overhanging rock. The front of this cave had been closed with a shelter of cassowary tree branches on a framework of poles. The rocks of the cave were blackened from smoke of the fires which had been made therein.

"It is a miracle almost, the way the Dyaks carry their heavy packs up and down these places."

After traversing this broad level bench which was longer than the others, we came to the camp of Jordans. It {p. 233} is an idyllic spot with a fine waterfall just behind the camp which serves as a fine natural shower bath albeit a strong one. Great tree ferns grow all around making it a fine picture. Across the river, entering from the east side is a small river and from this camp we can look up its boulder strewn canyon. However, best of all, this morning the camp was visited by ten pygmies. Jordans reported their attitude very friendly and for a few trifles got two bows and about thirty arrows. The bows and arrows are much smaller and entirely different construction from those of the Papuans we have seen. The arrows are very neatly made and those with hardwood heads are carved in pleasing patterns, the incisions being filled with a white pigment. We settled down for another afternoon of rest and enjoyed the luxury of a cup of lemonade each. Jordans has an injection on his foot but otherwise is in good health as are the Ambonese and Dyaks. In the evening we were visited by a friendly red and white fox-like dog.

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