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The Baliem Valley, also called Shangri-la by American pilots that spotted the valley’s population in the 1940`s. Before then, this part of the highlands was thought to be unhabited by people, but it wasn’t before the pilots saw people here aiming with spears and arrows, they was just in for a surprise that this was a quite “developed” area of the highlands. Developed, as in having many innovative organizational and material innovations, however ofcourse being within their traditional culture.
The Dani people are one of the most populated tribes of West Papua, and today number over 220.000 people. Around 100.000 of these live in the grand Baliem valley, the rest of them to the north, south and west. The Dani people neighbour the Yali, Nduga- and Damal people. There is one city in the Baliem valley, Wamena, that is a strange mix between Papuan and Indonesian society.
I most likely have visited the Baliem valley more than 10 times over a period from 2003-2010, having lost count because of the frequency during a period when I lived in West Papua. Most of the visits to the area was primarily dedicated to trekking in the area, sometimes, among others, as far out of Dani territory as to the Yali- and Mek tribal regions in the east.