West Papua's

IRIAN JAYA OVERLAND

by Fabrice Naps, France (June 06)

 

So it's from Wamena to the southern coast, through mountains, jungles and rivers.

First of all it's advisable for that kind of trip to have at least a basic knowledge of indonesian (speaking it fluently would be ideal) in order to be able to communicate a bit with the locals and learn things from them and in order as well not to be dependant with the wamena english speaking guides. One needs time as well, with a one month visa it's hardly doable and instead of having to charter a boat for a fortune or ending up overstaying one's visa it's better to do the thing with a two months one.


How to get there?

Coming from Australia there are cheap tiger airways flights from Darwin (as low as 130 oz one way if booked in advance) to Singapour. Then you take a ferry across to Batam, then an air asia flight(200-250000 rps) to Jakarta. Once there buy a batavia or an express air ticket to Jayapura(around 1500000 rps), it's expensive but it will save you 7 days in a pelni boat! Then finally board a Trigana plane to Wamena (400000 rps something).
Same story from Singapour if you come from se asia mainland... You could also fly from Darwin to Kupang (with merpati,like 250 usd one way)) or to Dili (with airnorth,around 190 oz ow) and then kupang-bali-jayapura but it think that it would be more expensive.

2 months visas are available in Penang, Darwin and Dili (but there you have to wait one week and write a letter to the immigration boss in order to get 60 days). I heard that it's now possible to get 60 days in Kuala Lumpur as well but it has to be confirmed.


What to bring?

In Jayapura,stock things like tea/coffee,sugar, cookies, cakes, dry fruits, chocolates, sauces and so on according to your taste, mosquitoes repellent, anti malaria drugs (fansidar is the best as a curative treatment for the neurologique malaria falciparum, 3 pills in one time only) since you won't find much in Wamena and nothing anymore further inland. Don't forget as well plates, glasses, spoons and cooking pots!!!  It's possible to buy in the villages rice, instant noodles, sweet potatoes and some vegetables.

If you intend to stay long time in the mountains you will need some warm clothes and depending your itinerary a tent or at leat a "terpal" (kind of water proof material that can be used as a roof,buy it in Jayapura) because you will have to overnight sometimes in the wild since some villages are far away from each other. But don't overload yourself too much because once you will have passed the mountains all those things will be of no use.

For the lowlands a mosquito net hammok with a roof is the best of course but the terpal can do the job as well if you don t mind sleeping on the ground (your papuan guide can make a cosy leaves bed:-)))). You need good maps as well, the ones from the periplus guidebook are ok, otherwise ask the maf office to photocopy their.

Of course the classical stuff: torch and batteries, a sheet for sleeping, a mat or a plastic to sleep on (recommended for the locals houses whose floors are plagued with bugs),an aluminium blanket... Last but not least:p lenty of indonesian cash, there are no banks in the interior. You may be able get horrible rates in some places (like the big settlements along the river in the southern part)but don't rely n it.


Permit (surat jalan):

Easy,you have to do it in Jayapura,it's not available in Wamena. List as many places as you can, even if you are not sure to go there. Actually they don't care about in small villages but they do in larger places.


In Wamena:

Guides are very expensive (200000 rps per day for an english speaking guide,100000 rps for an indonesian speaking one). Some of them must be ok, but there are many crooks who will cheat you as much as they can by taking commissions on food and accomodation in all the place you will go through. I heard as well stories of thefts and stories of guides threatening to leave you in the middle of nowhere unless you pay more than what had been agreed previously. Yep, in Wamena they are used to see white faces, you will have been forewarned...  Actually there's no need to take a guide from Wamena because in the beginning trails are easy to follow, there are many villages and people passing by. You can start to take a guide after one or two days walking, from let's say Yogosem or Tangma depending your itinerary.


Costs:

A guide in a small villages costs 50000 rps per day and it s a nice idea to pay for his trip back. I guess that one would be able to bargain it down but it would be a bit a slave driver attitude to my opinion . It's better to change guide after each village,in order everybody to take advantage of the money and to be sure that the guy knows the way well. One night in a local hut should not be more than 10000 rps but make things clear from the very beginning because some have a tendancy to believe that they own a 4 stars resort and may ask a ridiculous price when you leave in the morning.


Attention!!

Papuans walk VERY fast and what takes one day for them may can take two,if not three days for us. Most of them don't have a good notion of time, so if they say two hours usually it doesn't mean much. Bear in mind that if for a reason or an other you need to go back quickly to Wamena by plane you can't expect to get one when you want (except if you are in Dekai) unless you are very lucky. You may have to wait one week or more and even if you decide to charter a five seat one it's not sure that it will come the the agreed day,whatever tell you the locals.


Let's go!!!!

If you plan to go through Holuwon don't try to follow the Baliem Valley all the way ,even the hard dying papuans say that it's very hard and dangerous (ravines, landslides,s ometimes there's not even a trail), it s much better to go through Ninia. To go to Ninia you can go either through Yogosem and the mountains, or through a more direct road that goes along the Baliem first and then crosses the river at Tangma (i think that it's a bit a pity because in this case you would miss the mountains that are the nicest part of the trip, but it s up to you).

From Wamena's station take a public transport until the pos that is a bit before Kurima, you will start to walk from there. Pass the Seima bridge if you are going to Yogosem (which is what i did). With my friends we actually walked alone until Yogosem and took guides from there. From Yogosem you can go either to Angguruk (quite hard and most likely at least a night camping) or to Ninia (a bit easier but a night camping as well). I recommend for those trips Yanus or Simeon Pahabol, two friendly, reliable and hard working guides. From Angguruk you can keep on going towards east through Nalca, Eipomek etc, or go back to Yogosem.

In Ninia i recommend Pak Yeremias, a proud papuan who knows the trails. In Ninia you can sleep by the Kepala Desa (the village's head), a former tribal war chief and a funny character. Ask him to tell you stories of the good old days before the missionaries came!!!

To go from Ninia to Korupun it seems to be rather hard work. According to the locals even at their speed it takes like one week because there are many passes, it goes very high and very low, then very high and very low again and so on.

So now you can choose your itinerary...

If you have chosen the Holuwon-Dekai route you will go through Uam where you will have to organise by radio a boat to wait for you in Sulum and to bring you to Sumo unless you want to do Sulum-Sumo by foot which would take long time (it's jungle and swamps only, no villages). Eventually from Sumo you will arrive in Dekai (if you have survived the swamps and the leeches:-))) where you can sleep by Pak Peter the teacher (pak guru), he charges 50000 rps full board for a comfortable house compared with the ones you will have passed through since you left Wamena.

From Dekai there are wooden boats to Timikai but i don t recommend to do it in one row. I think that it's a pity to do it so quickly, moreover that it takes 3-4 days, that those boats are small, that the sun will soon have grilled you and that the sea can be bad between Atsj and Aimika. There are as well some perintis(cargo boats) to Merauke via Atsj once in a while, but sometimes they go from Binem only. Charterising is very dear, for exemple Dekai-Binem 3,5 or 4 millions (Benzine costs currently 20000 rps a liter in Dekai and 10000 in Binem).

If from Yogosem you have chosen the Angguruk-Nalca-Eipomek etc route you will not go through Dekai but most likely end up after the mountains on the Eilanden river. From there you can paddle down to Binem or maybe even go by motorised canoe for some parts if you are lucky (but don't hold your breath) and that a merchant passes by (in this case remember that it's not a charter, just negociate a seat).

Try to avoid if you can to sleep in Mabul, people there are not very friendly, very money oriented and even dishonnest (they stole money from my friends bag). Sleep instead in Sepanap (around one and a half hour paddling downstream)and sleep by Pak Warma, he is a nice man.he has a motorised boat and goes sometimes to Binem and even as far as Jinak for some buziness. In all this area, always try to find a merchant who can give you a ride rather than charterising boats because you will soon discover that it's pretty heavy on the wallet!!!


The Korowais:

Here we are, that's where everybody wants to go!!

First of all let's be realistic, we are in 2006 and in many places they are already christianised. They all know iron and most of them money, cannibalism seems to have dissapeared. They had contacts with the exterior, if not with white people, at least with indonesian merchants looking for the infamous kayu gaharu (a very fragrant-and expensive-sandal wood )that is found throughout this region. Actually,according to the missionaries and the kayu gaharu businessmen there are only two areas left where they are not christianised at all and still live extremely primitivly, but i don t think that it's a good idea to go there, keep on reading and you will understand why...

So with my two friends we decided to go to one of those places. We arrived in a first korowai village where they were not christianised but where they had already clothes and were not living in trees anymore. The next day we had to go deeper to the last villages, but i didn't feel very good so my friends went alone to the furthest villages and me i was supposed to rest one or two days and then go to some closer ones, in order to compare our experiences afterwards unfortunatly i got a bad falciparum neuro malaria (really strong) and couldn t do anything until my friends came back. Then we didn't have that much time left, we still had to go all the way to the south coast by erratic boats and then out of the country. It's a bit frustrating to have been so far and to collapse so close from the goal, but c est la vie:-(((

So here is what my friends told me: those korowais live for sure nearly completly naked in tree houses, but they know iron and kids under 15 years have already clothes. They were quite scared to see white people(some ran away whe they saw white faces) and actually my friends haven't been able at all to communicate with them, the korowais never came close to them and each ethnic group was observing the other from a distance. In a village they haven't be allowed to sleep, in an other they have been forbidden to climb the tree houses and actually the conclusion is,a s said one of my friends the day they came back: i wonder what the hell we were doing there, we should have never come to disturb them...

Anyway, there are only few isolated villages left, the "progress" and the "civilisation" are coming and soon there will be nothing left.actually if you want to see the korowais i think that it's better to go in the region around Yaniruma. Of course they are christianised and are used to see white people since it's where nearly everybody goes, but at least you will be welcomed and they are sill very traditionnal.just beware of prices because that's where up market tours go as well and locals have a tendancy to think that we are a gold mine so make everything very clear for food and accomodation and stuff.

For boats from Senggo,if you have time try once more to get a ride from a merchant who goes for exemple to Yaniruma for his buziness, because charterising is of course very expensive. And anyway it's more fun to do so!!  Try not to be on a too tight schedule to go until the south coast because there are not boats every day, and even if locals tell you that there are "banyaaaaak!!" (many) don't believe them. From Atsj to Timika it's relativly easy to get one though, but you may have to wait few days.


Conclusion:

It's a nice trip, very special. There are no safery concerns, apart from malaria. It's not very hard physically, i started it with an infection on one foot that eventually became a wound that didn't heal until the end of the trip so for me it has been hard at times, but for my two friends it has been easy. You just need time, some money but not that much, a good mental condition and of course patience for the second part of the trip when you wait for boats...

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I am a backpacker like you and I am not sponsored by anyone. I meant these snorkeling files as an help to my fellow travelers. If you follow them you will save some money, time and energy. So in return it would be nice to send some updates. If you have been to some remote places that are not listed here, it's always nice to get some info Let's share the underwater beauty of Indonesia! Thanks in advance. Fabrice.

 

 

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