National Geographic : 2012 Feb
• Pasu Aiyo carries his pneumonia-stricken wife, Lidia, 15, on the two-day trek to the nearest health clinic. "The life of a nomad is hard," the group's leader, John Aiyo, tells a translator. "Traveling across the mountains is very tiring." red and black stencils of human hands. ese are the prints of John's forebears. He doesn't know how old they are---they keep no record of time---but many of the prints have almost disappeared. Like the skulls, the hand stencils seem to be saying, Stop, turn around, leave now. John leads me past the paintings to an eight- inch-wide crack in the ceiling. He stands be- neath it and solemnly says that he will now tell the story of Kopao, but when he is done, we must leave immediately, quickly and silently. In the beginning, Api, the Earth spirit, came to this place and found the rivers full of sh and the bush full of pigs, and many tall sago trees, but there were no people. Api thought: This would be a good place for people, so he cracked the cave open. e rst people to pull themselves out were the Awim, and then the Imboin and other groups, and nally the Meakambut. ey were all naked and could barely squeeze out into the light. Other people were inside, but a er the Meakambut came out, Api closed the crack, and the others had to stay behind in darkness. e Awim and the Imboin and the Meakam- but spread across the mountains and lived in rock shelters. ey made stone axes and bows and arrows, and the hunting was good. ere was no hatred, no killing, no disease. Life was beauti- ful and calm, and all people had full stomachs. n Society Grant Nancy Sullivan's work was funded in part by your National Geographic Society membership.