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Mountain of fear

  • Source: Global Times
  • [22:20 February 11 2010]
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By An Baijie

The fear of being tracked down and killed by Indonesian aborigines still haunts Wang Qiuyang one week after she and her mountaineering teammates escaped from danger in a treacherous mountain region of the Pacific.

"It seems like that my life was hanging by a thread," Wang told the Global Times, recalling the ordeal she survived, along with her climbing partners, after they were abandoned and menaced by primitive natives in the Indonesian jungle on February 2.

Wang, the 41-year-old director-general of the Apple Foundation and executive president of the Antaeus Group, a Beijing-based property development company, was an amateur climber when she reached the peak of Qomolangma (altitude 8,848 meters), in December 2007. Two years earlier, the adventurer trekked to the North Pole on foot and nine months later, set foot on the South Pole.

Wang had always relished the challenge of the so-called "7+2" mountaineering goal, aimed at climbing the highest mountains on seven continents and reaching the two poles on foot within two years.

She gathered six other Chinese mountaineers into a climbing team and, in January, they set on an expedition to reach the peak of Puncak Jaya (altitude 4,884 meters), the highest mountain of Oceania, at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

In late January, the team hired three guides and two cooks from an Indonesian adventure company which also hired 27 aborigines from different tribal villages to serve as porters.

Half- civilized tribes

Making their way from a base camp to the foot of Puncak Jaya, they encountered five crude checkpoints made of wooden fences and guarded by aborigines with iron spears.

Some of the primitive tribesmen were naked except for "penis cones", hollowed-out gourds that formed a protective tube over their penises, while their topless women wore only skirts made of straw.

"What impressed me most is that all of the aborigines walked freely on bare feet," Sun Bin, a member of the mountaineering team, told the Global Times.

The climbers were allowed to pass the checkpoints after offering $10 to the aborigines, and they finally reached the peak of Puncak Jaya on February 1.

The guides could speak both English and native languages and served as interpreters for the mountaineers and the aborigines. They told the mountaineers to keep their distance from the porters and respect their customs.

The guides told the Chinese mountaineers that the porters expected to earn $800 during the 12-day-journey, higher than the local average income of $150 per month.

"But judging from their equipment and living standard, I doubted whether they could get that much money from the adventure company," Sun said.

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