The Jakarta Post Travel recently visited the scenic Mentawai Islands, located a few dozen kilometers away from West Sumatra’s coastline, to witness the locals’ daily lives, which are still imbued in tradition. Using a long, narrow wooden stick covered in thorns, the sikerei (shaman) solemnly grated the medicinal leaves that he had just gathered from bushes around the backyard of his uma (Mentawai traditional house). He then put the watery solution on top of another pile of leaves. The patient, a child trembling with pain, was lying on the uma's wooden floor with a pillow under his head, which was caressed by his anxious mother every now and then. With a cigarette resting between his lips, the sikerei whispered prayers and made the child drink the herbal medicine. He did this over and over again while gently touching the child's head and stomach. Such scenes of traditional healing can still be found in remote villages on Siberut Island in Mentawai Islands regency, West Sumatra. Diseases believed to be incurable or cases of people writhing, screaming and staring blankly ahead as if possessed by spirits – known locally as kesurupan - bring people from outside the region to visit the sikerei, who are said to be able to communicate with spirits. “There are about 350 tribes in Mentawai Islands and more than 200 [individuals] are sikerei,” Minarsih, a representative from the Mentawai regency administration, told The Jakarta Post Travel earlier this month in Siberut. Villages in Mentawai offer scenic landscape as well as fascinating culture. Many of the locals cling to their animism beliefs, speak the local Mentawai language, eat sago as their staple food – as opposed to the usual Indonesian habit of eating rice - and hunt monkeys. Many of the men wear loincloths made from the bark of gum trees while the women wear nothing on their upper bodies. Nevertheless, some of the islands’ traditions are slowly fading away. The tattooing tradition is one of them, as the younger generation says it is too painful for them. Others include traditions to honor the deceased, with the sikerei keeping a dead body in a house located on higher ground. Nowadays, it is more common to bury the deceased in a public cemetery. Tourists, mostly foreigners, can be found visiting villages such as Madobak, Ugai, Butui and Matotonan and spending their nights at uma, sleeping on bamboo mats on the houses’ open porches after bathing in the nearby river. Local guides can be found at lodgings such as the Manai Koat Guest House with prices starting from Rp 350,000 (US$36) per day. The total cost for a three-day trip by motorboat for 3 to 4 people can reach Rp 7,000,000. The price of gas here is around Rp 10,000 per liter, thus making it the largest part of the total. In comparison, as of April this year the fuel price imposed by the government is Rp 4,500 per liter for private cars. The regency consists of 95 islets and four large islands from north to south: Siberut (the largest), Sipora, North Pagai and South Pagai. Tuapejat in Sipora district is Mentawai’s capital, about 153 kilometers away by sea from Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra. For an adventurous sea trip, plan your trip according to the ferry’s schedule since Mentawai can only be reached from Bungus Port in Padang and ferries are only available on certain days. A small airport is available in Rokot in the northern part of Sipora but only for charter carriers, such as Susi Air.