Well getting an hotel room in Vanimo turned out to be not a problem at all. Guess one of the conferences was canceled like many things get canceled in PNG. Next thing to get was a visa for Indonesia. This was also a real easy thing and a nice surprise as we even got a 60 day
visa which we didn’t expect to get. So we don’t need an extra flight out of Indonesia and back in again which saves us precious time and money. Just to sum up our experiences of PNG, it’s a
beautiful country with amazing scenery, bird life and a lively culture. The people are really friendly and helpful but it’s not an easy country to travel in. Although you hear a lot of stories of how unsafe it is to travel and to walk in the streets we haven’t felt uneasy at all. Then again we didn’t wander the streets in the evening but there is not a real reason to go out at night anyway. You need lots of time and money to organize something and independent traveling is non existent in PNG.
Apart from ex pats and missionaries we’ve seen a handful of tourists. All in all we had a great time but it is time to start a new chapter: Indonesia. We took our last PMV ride to the border with a few military stops on the way. Customs on both sides went smoothly and as we met a Papuan in the PMV who was also going to Jayapura, we shared a taxi with him. Within minutes you see the differences between the two countries. The roads in PNG are quiet compared to Indonesian Papua. A few private cars and the PMVs and that’s it in PNG. In Papua there are cars and motorcycles everywhere. Closer to the cities you even have traffic jams. This means more noise and thick air of all the traffic fumes. The air is definitely fresher in PNG. Little shops and markets are abundant in Papua and everybody seems to be doing business. In PNG people seem to be just walking down the streets. We don’t have to eat in our hotel anymore as in PNG there aren’t a lot of options, some Kai bars (sort of fast food shops) but that’s about it. Like I said walking at night in the cities is not a very good plan in PNG. In Jayapura it’s fun to go out at night. Everybody seems to get out here at night as night markets pop up and having a nasi goreng in a small warung is a treat. People really live on the streets, just a little too many cars and motorcycles and too much noise. In Jayapura we spent a few days to organize a trek in the Baliem Valley in the center of Indonesian Papua.
Before heading off to Wamena we spent a day in Sentani which is a little more relaxed and less crowded than Jayapura. Our flight to Wamena was the first one ever where no safety regulations were explained. Oh well we’re in Indonesia. Wamena is the only major town in the Baliem Valley. Here the majority of the Indonesians are actually from Papua. In Jayapura the majority are immigrants from other Indonesian Islands. On the day of the start of our trek we met up with our team, a guide, cook and three porters. The trek we did was to the south of the valley where the Dani tribe lives. The hike was great. Beautiful green mountains with traditional villages dotted on the slopes. Walking through the sweet potato fields where people were tending the fields and crossing the rivers a couple of times on wobbly bridges.
Some of the hiking was quite strenuous with slippery and very narrow paths on steep slopes.The afternoons we spent in the villages where we stayed. Our guide explained us some of the traditional way of living of the Dani and how modern life is weaved into their lives. The Dani still live in their traditional circular wooden houses. On a compound you have several round huts where they live. Men and women live in separate huts. A rectangular hut is the kitchen. Sweet potato and the sweet potato leaves is their main diet together with yam and some other vegetables and fruits.
The huts are heated by small fires they make in the evening inside the huts. These huts have no ventilation shafts so the heat but also the smoke stays in the huts which you can imagine is not very healthy. If only they would use blankets to keep them warm at night but that is something our guide told us is not in their culture to use. They live on the lower floor and sleep on the upper floor where it is warmer. The older men here still wear their traditional penis gourds. Actually that is the only thing they are wearing!
This tradition is slowly disappearing as the younger generations are wearing shirts and pants. Polygamy is still in practice here even though the Dani are converted to Christianity by the missionaries since the 1950s. They still have their own spiritual believes that they mix with Christianity. Tribal fighting is getting less and less here but they still practice their own laws next to the national laws. All in all our 4 day trek was a very interesting mix of hiking and getting to know more about the Dani culture. Definitely a highlight of our trip so far. After a day of relaxing in Wamena it was time to head back to Sentani for our flight to Sulawesi. Getting back to Sentani was quite an experience. All flights the day before were canceled so everybody had to get on a plane the day we wanted to leave as well. No computers here, just a guy with a list and boarding passes. First the people from the canceled flights the day before were checked in until the list was full. Then you just have to wait until the next plane arrives and the guy returns with a new list. Would we get on this time?
Yes we were lucky we got one of the last seats available. Again no safety regulations but we arrived safely in Sentani. Here ends our time on the Island of New Guinea. Next stop will be Sulawesi but more on that in our next blog.