Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Eye Books (15 April 2004)

ISBN-13: 978-1903070260

Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.4 cm

First Contact

Mark Anstice

£9.99

First Contact is a true story of modern-day exploration and the discovery of cannibal tribes in the 21st century.

In 2001, two British ex-army officers set out to climb the unscaled face of Mandala – a remote mountain rising 15,400ft above the jungles of New Guinea. This is the extraordinary story of their trek through some of the world's most unexplored terrain.

In the course of their 150-mile journey by dugout canoe and on foot through the largest swamp on Earth, Mark Anstice and Bruce Parry dodge police, encounter disgruntled ex head-hunters and are pursued by a previously undiscovered clan of the Korowai tribe.

That is before they have even begun their arduous journey into the mountainous interior of the island to the unclimbed south face of the mountain. Mark Anstice tells the story of an expedition far more tougher than either had imagined: one that would test the explorers, their friendship and their equipment to the limits.

Extracts

As I sit down now to write up the events and thoughts of the last week, it is with a heavy sense of resignation. I have lost my diary of our journey to date – forever it seems. It only amounted to some eighty pages and I can, I suppose, piece together from memory the trials and tribulations of the last five weeks. What really irks me, though, is that the first diary I have ever succeeded in writing diligently is not truly lost. I know exactly where I left it, where it is now, and who is now fingering the pages.

The young Korowai tribesman called Yakop, surely by now returned from his pig-hunting trip, will be in his hut sheltering from the rain and wondering whether or not those bizarre white men will return for the book. His own language has no word for ‘book’ but Yakop, unlike the other men from his tiny village, has had some dealings with the outside world and speaks a little ‘Bahasa Indonesia’. He also understands the value of money so will probably also be wondering if it is worth as much to me as the price of a steel parang(machete) for him.

Alternatively, he has discovered that paper makes excellent tinder…

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Extracts

As I sit down now to write up the events and thoughts of the last week, it is with a heavy sense of resignation. I have lost my diary of our journey to date – forever it seems. It only amounted to some eighty pages and I can, I suppose, piece together from memory the trials and tribulations of the last five weeks. What really irks me, though, is that the first diary I have ever succeeded in writing diligently is not truly lost. I know exactly where I left it, where it is now, and who is now fingering the pages.

The young Korowai tribesman called Yakop, surely by now returned from his pig-hunting trip, will be in his hut sheltering from the rain and wondering whether or not those bizarre white men will return for the book. His own language has no word for ‘book’ but Yakop, unlike the other men from his tiny village, has had some dealings with the outside world and speaks a little ‘Bahasa Indonesia’. He also understands the value of money so will probably also be wondering if it is worth as much to me as the price of a steel parang(machete) for him.

Alternatively, he has discovered that paper makes excellent tinder…

There was a marked difference in the methods of Catholics and Protestants. The Protestant missionaries set about tearing down the fabric of the communities they came across, determined that the people should eschew everything in their lives and customs that was morally and biblically indefensible. The Catholics followed a more benign, pragmatic approach. Of course, there was quite a lot going on that had to be stopped - such as headhunting and wife-swapping - but there was much to be built upon. The rituals and beliefs of the Irianese, they realised, were vital to the stability and spiritual health of each community. They should therefore not only be encouraged but, where possible, adapted to Christianity - the cathedral I was sitting in had been inaugurated in the same manner as a longhouse, the political and spiritual hub of the village. The Catholic fathers and brothers saw that their first duty, before saving souls, was to attend to the earthly welfare of the people around them. They administered medicine and became the tribes-people’s only representatives before the Indonesian authorities - saving lives, and risking their own to do so.

In mid-afternoon - thank God - we reached a small shelter built near the Eilanden. The feeling of weightlessness you experience when you finally drop a heavy load, was bliss.

‘These boys don’t know it yet,’ I said, ‘but Father Christmas is in their midst, and this is his sack.’ I kicked my rucksack.

‘What are you going to give away?’ Bruce asked.‘Lots. The pleasure gained from trekking is inversely proportional to the weight carried, and I am carrying too much.’

I was rather pleased with that statement. Soon the contents of my pack were strewn over the ground but, depressingly, I couldn’t see much to give away. The spare bar of soap, two shirts, a pair of shorts and two pairs of thick socks that I could dump would make barely any difference to the load. There was nothing else I would not miss: the mosquito repellent might be a lifesaver, the bivouac bag would be vital on the mountain, the hammock would be a Godsend on the impossibly steep and overgrown foothills. The rest was camera equipment, and the satellite phone we had brought to keep in touch with our sponsors. Only one item begged closer scrutiny. I went very quiet. Superman’s breathing picked up a pace.

The following morning I felt no grief at the loss of the sleeping bag, and those few pounds made all the difference. As if in confirmation, Bruce had a tough day, setting an excruciatingly slow pace through the forest. Sensing the possibility of more goodies, the porters watched him closely, like wolves trailing an old, infirm member of a caribou herd.

quotes

“Excellent first book by Mark Anstice shines bright among the on West Papua and similarly among other travel adventure books.”

reviews

First Contact is an excellent first book from Mark Anstice detailing the trials and tribulations of an expedition to climb Gunung Mandala with friend and fellow adventurer Bruce Parry. His writing is refreshing and emotional and brings to life the many difficulties, high points and discoveries of their journey. His account is honest and insightful and it is interesting to discover the changing dynamics of their relationship - to each other and to their surroundings and the thrill of making `first contact' with a previously undiscovered (and undisturbed!) tribe in the heart of the jungle. As Bruce Parry is now most widely known for his series `Tribe' it is interesting to learn more about his earlier encounters as well as the length's a writer will go to in order to retrieve their journals!The accompanying film `Cannibals and Crampons' is brilliant but it is Mark's writing which brings the adventure to life and adds depth to their experiences in a way which can never really be captured on film.Read the book, watch the DVD, then re-read the book again!

(4* review)

I was first drawn to reading Mark Anstice's First Contact after having seen Cannibals and Crampons on TV. I was instantly intrigued by this footage and wanted to know more. To a good degree, the book fills out what one can see in the televised documentary (which is included with this book) and both complement each other nicely.Anstice's writing is witty and humble, not afraid to show his shortcomings or admit his innermost fears on what he claims has been one of the most challenging experiences of his life.It really is a truly remarkable story and, even after having first seen the film, the book does not seem repetitive. It is informative and insightful, and one can learn a lot about exploration, the regions they trekked through, and even pick up a little Indonesian along the way!

(5* review)

This was a great read. I had watched the BBC documentary.

(5* review)

If bought new from the publisher, Mark's brilliant book does come with a DVD of the film, "Cannibals and Crampons" about the journey. The film was produced in the UK by Ginger

(5* review)

extras

Cannibals & Crampons/First Contact

 
 

ABOUT

Mark Anstice

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Mark Anstice developed a passion for adventure and the Earth’s wilder places at an early age. He joined the Army three years after leaving school. At the same time, he began planning expeditions, squeezing them in between operational commitments in the Gulf, Central America and Bosnia.

Leaving the Services as a captain in 1995, he set up a company offering extreme sports holidays. It was a not a financial success, and the spent the subsequent few years abseiling from London’s taller buildings, fixing and cleaning them to pay off his debts. Despite his business mistakes, however, he had managed to undertake 12 major expeditions to deserts, mountains and jungles around the world.

Mark has made two films for television including the award-winning Crampons & Cannibals, which accompanies this book. He has also written many articles for adventure magazines and is a motivational speaker.

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