Irian Jaya – Papua Barat

scan0012.jpg Irian Jaya – Papua Barat

There is some political tension in Papua Barat because of an independence movement by some of the Papuans. The whole transmigration thing annoys them.

The island of Java has a fairly high population so the government transplants Javanese throughout the island network of Indonesia to ease the population pressure at home and to help maintain control of the country.

Therefore the camat (chief) of the districts is usually Javanese and itĀ  gives the placeĀ  a colonial feel.

scan0006.jpg Papua is exceptionally rich in minerals and ore and the like so there is no chance that the central government of Indonesia in Java will permit Papua to become independent. Massive mining firms like Freeport operate there. Tourists are not permitted access to the mines.

A surat jalan (permit – walking papers) is issued to travel anywhere else where travel is permitted.

Wamana is a primary tourist destination. The Dani and other tribes live in the area and are famous for wearing penis gourds. Some of the tourists shops sell them in Sentani but the ones for sale are often to big to be practical, but they satisfy the ego of western tourists.

scan0008.jpg There is some real wild country in Papua. I have found the people to be a beautiful lot. Helpful and kind. Sharing what little food they have with you.

In the interior they raise a sweet potato on steep hillsides that seems to be a staple of their diet. They have a lot of different greens they steam and mix in. Pigs are a common sight and a sign of wealth. The hills are pretty steep and muddy and there is no place to buy food and water if you go to the outback.

Water is a primary concern if you are trekking. The locals know what running water is ok to drink and at night you can boil water or you can purify it with tablets of whatever. I wouldn’t drink water that is too near a village without purifying it because of the pigs wandering about.

scan0007.jpg If you want to explore Papua try to organize a 2 month visa so you are not under time constraints. If you qualify for a cultural visa for 6 months that would be great but these usually take connections.

The VOA or visa on arrival is usually around 30 days non extendable. You would have to leave the country at the end of a 30 day stay and return if you want to explore further.

Pelni ships are a good way to get to major ports or you can fly into Jayapura quite easily. A surat jalan should be organized at the police station. A simple procedure. Then take a bus over to Sentani and catch a flight to Wamana.

scan0005.jpgThe pressure from guides there will be very high. I recommend not committing to anyone but rather get a hotel room and ask around before you make your choice. Take a day to sort things out. Most tourists get a guide and several porters that haul equipment, food, etc and it is quite a safari. These safari groups are really cool and look like they are in a Tarzan movie made in the 1950′s.

The porters could carry bottled water and everything for you if you need. There are also jeep tours that can be organized that show a lot of the country if you don’t feel like, or have difficulty walking. There is a canned war dance and festival put on for the visitors on occasion complete with pig roast.

scan0004.jpgPeople that have done a lot of hiking in the woods and are confident of their abilities can set out on their own. This area has trails everywhere and doesn’t have the dense jungle of the lowlands.

The temperature is pretty comfortable but the hills are quite challenging and you just can’t carry enough water.

It gets cool at night. If you get lost you will run into someone sooner or later that can point you in the right direction. This is probably not the best option for those on a tight schedule and not used to “roughing it”.

scan0099.jpgAnother option is to hire a boat and follow the coast. This requires a bit of time to organize.

The villages are tight knit and you will be kind of invading their space but you can find places to camp on beaches away from them. Sometimes they will wonder what you are doing there and will regard you with suspicion.

The people you travel with will have nets and other fishing gear so you will be able to catch enough fish to feed the group.

scan0009.jpgRice, ears of corn, and bunches of coconuts will be organized before you take off.

A lot of these natives carry firearms and prefer that you don’t take pictures. Naturally, honor their wishes.

The corals along the coast are of an amazing quality rarely seen now days. The kids make goggles out of wood with cut plastic pressed into them for the lenses. If you have your own it would be much better.

What to do with money and passports etc while snorkeling? For me what worked was leaving the lot with a respected village elder.

In the future I hope to post new info with better pictures.

Irian Jaya – Papua Barat

Mar 10, 2006 www.dutchpickle.com

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