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

“Excellent first book by Mark Anstice

shines bright among the on West Papua

and similarly among other travel adventure books.”

First Contact is a true story of modern day exploration and the discovery of cannibal tribes in the 21st century. It will appeal to anthropologists as much as it will to adventurers and those with a thirst for excitement and humour. From the very start the team found far more hurdles than those just the jungle could throw at them. In the course of their 150-mile journey by dugout canoe and foot through the largest swamp on Earth they dodged police, encountered politically disgruntled ex head-hunters and were pursued by a previously undiscovered clan of the little known Korowai tribe.

This was all before they had begun their arduous journey into the mountainous interior of the island and the previously unclimbed south face of Gunung Mandala, the reason for their expedition. An expedition far more extraordinary than they had ever imagined, one that would stretch them, 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 and lost no time in seeking them out as soon as he had left school in 1985. Realising he was not cut out for the 9-5 existence he joined the army 3 years later and immediately began planning expeditions, squeezing them in between operational commitments in the Gulf, Central America and Bosnia.

Leaving the services in 1995 as a captain, he set about making a living from adventure – a spiritually rewarding but financially disastrous route that culminated in ‘Maverick Travel’, a company offering people extreme sports holidays. The following few years were spent abseiling from London’s taller buildings, fixing and cleaning them to pay off the resulting debts. As he says of the time, “I was good at the adventurous aspects of it but not at business side of things – I made every mistake in the book.” He had, however, still managed to undertake 12 major expeditions to deserts, mountains and jungles around the world.

Mark has made 2 films for television including ‘Crampons & Cannibals’, the award-winning film that accompanies this book, has also written numerous articles for adventure magazines, and is a motivational speaker. He is currently working in Iraq, leading a local force of 800 men defending a 200-mile pylon line against saboteurs.

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