Our flotilla of Zodiacs sped upriver in the direction of the small Asmat village of Ewer, on the edge of a huge flooded mangrove forest with little change in elevation for miles and miles. The village seemed quiet, but when we looked with binoculars, it became clear that there were hundreds of people lining the shore watching our approach.
Then, without warning, wooden longboats shot out from the shore, paddled by men dressed in straw skirts made from sago palm. Their bodies and faces were decorated in white, and they wore headdresses ornamented with fur and feathers. While they banged their paddles against the sides of their longboats, they came alongside us, with the lead man on each boat leaping onto the front of each of our Zodiacs, all the while gyrating to the rhythm of the chanting.
Soon they led us into the small inlet that hosted their community, and brought us to a rickety pier where we left the Zodiacs behind and headed into the village itself on foot. There was no doubt that we had arrived in the Asmat.