National Geographic Orion tied up on a remote dock in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. After boarding some especially colorful buses, we began a journey over narrow roads leading into the highlands of an ancient volcanic landscape.

Upon our arrival into the village of Watublapi, it became clear that our ascent into the highlands had also taken us on a journey back in time. Beaming with pride, the villagers shared their dance, music, songs, cigarettes, handicrafts, food, and even coconut wine. The highlands have been home for these Austro-Papuan cultures for the last 40,000 years. They’ve made full use of the palms for thatch, the bamboo for construction, the rattan for binding, and the plants and animals for sustenance.

The delicate process of weaving and dying cotton ikat into shirts, cloaks, and hats has been mastered by the women of Watublapi. The colorful dyes are also derived from forest plants, including indigo leaves and kebuka roots. The greatest skill, care, and pride have been poured into this process for generations. After sharing an afternoon with this generous tribe, it was quickly obvious that they’d also mastered the art of having fun and spreading joy.