The West Papua adventure began in earnest when our expedition left Welarek. We planned to travel deep into the rainforset in search of the Mek tribe. The people who live in Welarek and the surrounding area are from the Yali tribe. They are the traditional enemy of the Mek people who live to the east, across a fast flowing river. Led by our mountain guide – the ‘Leg-endary Bob Pelege’ as he called himself – after two days of hard walking, we arrived at a long rattan suspension bridge.
The bridge is known locally as the bridge of suicide and spans the river that is the border between Yali and Mek people. In the past, women threw themselves off the bridge when their husbands died and many people have died in accidents. So we were all nervous when we crossed. But despite it being in a bad condition we managed to cross the bridge safely and by day three of the expedition we were in Mek territory.
The porters were now uneasy as they were not only in the land of their enemy but this was an area renowned for flying witches.
As producer of the shoot, I’d factored in risks like crossing bridges made of vines, but I’d made no allowances for flying witches in my health and safety plan.