Another one of the author’s discoveries on the Lakamora adventure was Pierucci’s rainbowfish,
described later as Melanotaenia pierucciae, in a small fast-running creek.
Among the new endemic species the author found in Lake Lakamora was a small, bright golden-yellow Craterocephalus sp.; adults measure a mere 6 cm ( 2¼ inches) SL.
A busy scene of washing, cooking, and
eating met our eyes. We rented two nice,
simple rooms with a spectacular view over
the crystal-clear waters of the Arafura Sea
and moved in.
That evening we walked along the
shore. The tide was low and there was
a beautiful sunset. The native people
were collecting invertebrates and fishes
trapped in tide pools or triggerfishes
surviving in patches of water left beneath
the coral. Some had already filled their
buckets in preparation for their evening
meal. In this tranquil and unspoiled
spot, time has paused. In former times, a
Dutch ship might call once a year or so,
bringing contact from the outside world.
Now a plane visits once a week, but little
has changed, and the concept of stress
has clearly yet to arrive.
Over dinner we engaged in conversation
with the hotel owner, who said he could
put us in touch with the owner of the
only longboat available, but naturally we
would have to buy the fuel. The boatman
would come the next day.
Sure enough, a 12-meter (39-foot)
longboat moored in front of the hotel
the following morning. This particular
longboat had no cabin or canopy, and
in the open sea we would certainly be
drenched in spray. We made a deal: US
$600 for five days’ hire, plus fuel. We
would leave the next day.
Traveling the High Seas
We were up, packed, and on our way
by six the next morning. At first the sea
was smooth, and the boatman steered
the longboat close to the shore at high
speed. The jungle came right down to the
sea, edged with deserted, sandy beaches.
After something like two hours, the end
of the peninsula and Bistsayaru Bay came
into sight. We became aware that the
boatman was keen to avoid the open
sea; he entered the bay and made for a
strait between mainland Irian Jaya and a
beautiful uninhabited island that brought
Robinson Crusoe to mind. We learned that
it was reserved exclusively for shamans,
and the local people ensure that this rule
Our passage in the boat had been
very rough. Everything was mercilessly
shaken by the continuous thumping and
crashing of the hull on the water, and
eventually the flash attachment on my
camera simply broke off. Now we passed a
native village on the mainland to our left.
It seemed likely that no European had ever
been there. The native inhabitants of the
Bomerai Peninsula belong to the Mairasi
group, and their language is spoken by as
few as 300 people. Communication with
them was impossible except through signs,
which was less difficult than expected.
Not far from the village and high up on the
cliff were some rock carvings, supposedly
40,000 years old, featuring hieroglyphics
that might never be deciphered.
That evening we reached a beautiful
bay, the starting point for our hike and
seemingly the closest point to the lake
that was our objective. There was a
family living in a hut on stilts at one end
of the bay. They were quite surprised
to see us. Our boatman managed to
communicate with the father, watched
wide-eyed by the mother who, with a
toddler at her side, was suckling a new
baby. Having just about conveyed the
idea that we wanted to walk to the lakes
they called Lakamora, Kamaka, and
Aiwaso, I made them understand that
we were hoping to find bearers to help
carry our equipment. The nearest village
where more people might be found was
Lobe, half a day’s walk away, so the
father set off immediately. The next
afternoon, he returned accompanied by
three natives from a different tribe, and
we decided to make the trip first thing
the following day.