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Iblis

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There were eight of us on the trek in the Baliem Valley, and about 11 porters. Some carried food, other carried our bags. It is the first time, I think, that I have been portered [nope - we had porters in Lombok], and it was very welcome. I did not learn the names of all our porters, but one name that I and everyone else knew was Iblis. ‘Iblis’, as I have mentioned before, means ‘Devil’ in Arabic and in Indonesian. So it is a nickname; I believe his real name is Paolo.

It might have been that his name was given because of his face. He looks dangerous and packs a lot of muscle.

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In fact, we were given to understand in broken English, the nickname was given because he is a pyromaniac. Certainly, Iblis delighted in starting fires en route, even when not at all necessary. And wherever there was a fire, there was Iblis, entranced and grinning manically.

Iblis wore a leather jacket with a yellow Suzuki on the back. At one point he sat more or less in a bonfire, and the jacket protected him from the flames.

Appearances were deceptive. All our porters were wonderful; they would do absolutely anything for you, and would try to anticipate all your needs, even when they weren’t needs at all. They helped us all over the Peak District stiles and slippery log bridges. They pulled members of our party for miles up and down the treacherous paths. They supported us and even carried us across rivers.

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But Iblis went even further. With all his might, he twisted the water from our wet laundry, including even Dirk’s socks, so redolent of Danish cheese. He washed Maurits’s feet. A truly sweet man.

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When we left at the airport, I told Iblis in Indonesian that I thought he was a good man, and he grinned with his betel-stained teeth and shook my hand for about a minute. It was a tad moving.

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Posted by Wardsan 17:11 Archived in Indonesia

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