Another day mainly traveling, made more interesting by the fact that we were heading towards a tribe of head hunters (admittedly ex-headhunter) rather than the more sensible away. Firstly most of us went with Natasha for her last breakfast and it soon became obvious that she had spent most of the night dreaming about shopping malls and shoes and other wonderful things denied to her while on holiday. After picking up our washing, minus two pairs of Eleanor's pants, we jumped into a mini-van for what turned out to be a scary drive. Our van lacked for many things, but most missed were seat belts. Our driver lacked for many things, but most missed was concentration. Now I'm told that women multi-task better than men but it seems that phoning a friend, checking the MP3 player, fixing your make up and keeping your eyes on the road is exactly one too many tasks. This would be no story unless it was the last item that dropped off the list and indeed we were soon skidding with all wheels locked towards the now stationary van in front of us. Thankfully we stopped a few inches short of shortening our bus but hearts were in mouths.
Our first stop was at a market to buy some supplies for the tride we were going to see, they like presents and since they live in the jungle tobacco seems to go far. For a special treat w also brought a pigs head which apparently goes down well. I had imagined the head of a pig complete with skull and bone so was a little surprised we got nothing more than the skin of the pigs head with bits of jaw attached. We also had time to make a stop for snacks and fruit at the next market and almost everyone recognised the scurvy potential of this trip and went for some source of vitamin C and were grateful for it. With our near accident out the way the driver took a more cautious approach to driving, must to our relief, and we were safely dropped off at the river to jump in some shallow boats for the trip up river to the tribes long house.
Since the river was very shallow our guides on the boats often jumped out to push but they refused any help in this - probably not trusting stupid foreigner to hop in and out without some calamity. So we were escorted up the river like lords, laying back while all the real work was done around us. Arriving at the long house it was easy to see how it got it's name. Up on stilts so it is six feet or more off the floor was a long wooden building. Inside the building came in two halves, a long veranda which is the communal area and then a series of rooms at the back. Each room housing one family of which there were 14. As a new family requires a room to the structure is extended at one end to accommodate them. The many cracks in the floor made for a perfect bin, as the rubbish dropped below to be scavenged by what ever animals were lurking around. The head man welcomed us in and had been one of the guides on the boat (to ensure his tide didn't get peckish on the way?). Over a drink he explained that all the families are related to him and marry into his tribe. Shortly we were taken into the kitchen room (at the end of the building) to have our even in meal.
If you need to check the date at the top but I assure you that it is new years day and we were wondering if the locals realised this, or even celebrated it even if they did. At 9pm there was no sign of anything on the horizon and with some flagging after the busy few days they may have thought that this was no bad thing. We tried to get the hint out by celebrating Sydney new year but without success. With Siam trying to keep the crowd entertained with some stick puzzles the moment we all shouldn't have been waiting for arrived: the pigs head came out. Now cut up into bits and boiled it closely resembled bits of skin coloured rubber, and tasted much the same. Lucky boy Steve even got a chunk of jaw complete with teeth - hard to chew! We soon passed this onto the locals who tucked in like it was caviar and champagne. Each to their own I suppose, and it was much better than them eating our heads.
To wash away the taste of the pigs head the rice wine was finally opened and soon the locals were sliding over to join us. We were encouraged to down a couple of shots and it wasn't as bad as before but still rice wine is rice wine so there's no point pretending it was a classy drink, just not quite as rough as before. While trying to fill the locals glasses I was stopped by a guy in a yellow checked shirt who sat me down and filled up both our glasses full to the brim. He promptly downed his and indicated I should do the same. Through my watering eyes I spotted him filling my glass again! I tried to politely refuse but it turns out that because I had lost the 'race' I had to down another cup full. Yikes! Things are blurry for a while and I was regretting my tendency when self medicating to up the dose just in case. Soon there was music and my friend the yellow checked guy was up dancing pulling people up to join him and we were soon all dancing in a circle. For any FrayedNotts reading this, I did try to teach the guy Steve's dance and had a few locals onto but I'm not sure they were so impressed as I was seriously struggling to hop. The final dance started with a few volunteers laying down (including me) and the first person dances over them and then takes their place at the end of the line and the next person repeats. ow I'm sober it seems like a stupid thing to do, precisely because we were all drunk and indeed one lady did swing her foot over me, only to catch my left testicle with a rather too firm strike. Eyes watering from drink and pain I managed my dance and was happy it was all over.
Still shy of midnight we were nonetheless pleased with the party progress when everyone got up and disappeared into their rooms which seemed like a regressive step. While they are in there I should mention one guy who was very chatty but seemed like the local drunk. We asked him if there were any crocodiles in the river and he looked a bit confused and said no. This started an evening of asking him about crocodiles as he got more exasperated with our fascination with being eaten by them and he left us with 'you no worry about crocodiles'. Back to the action and everyone re-appeared with food, rice wine, spirits and a chicken. It was all quite ceremonial and we thought the chickens were for the chop but on the stroke of midnight they just had a feather plucked from them and the food was blessed and they were on their way mopping their metaphorical brows. One little girl also had her birthday party with a cake and we all sang happy birthday to a bewildered small child. Now that midnight had come and gone the party started to get into full swing and the alcohol started to flow freely. Wes, Steve, TJ and Liona were monuments to western alcoholic excess while the rest of us were fading fast. Having dropped off to sleep ten feet from a karaoke machine pumping music out at 110Db it was obvious I wasn't going to last much longer. The head man took pity on us and offered us the kitchen area to sleep in and most of us gratefully accepted.