National Geographic : 1973 Feb
FOG SPREAD LIKE A VELVET CLOAK over the Matamuhari River valley on the cold December morning when I first climbed to Menjongpara, one of perhaps 200 villages that shelter some 20,000 Mrus. Its 21 bamboo houses gripped a ridge with spider legs of teak and bamboo; livestock was penned under each home. Suspicious of outsiders, the Mru men glowered at me and the women hid. The headman, Menjong, suspected I would undermine his authority and spread a new religion. My Bengali translator-guide assured him that my "weapon"-actually my camera tripod-"would keep robbers at bay." Gradually I was accepted. Rumroi taught me how to split bamboo (below), a skill needed to produce most items in the Mru culture. On my last visit Menglong, the brother of the headman, insisted, "You will live in my house and not in the visitors' hut as before."