Travelogue Irian Jaya/West Papua(part 1)
We have experienced that Indonesia is a great travel destination. Our trip (via Java) to Sumba and Flores in 2015 was a great success. Just like our other favorite travel destination: India, is Indonesia a special and differentiated travel destination. No island is the same. Nature and cultural differences per Island are enormous. There is a lot for us to discover and experience.
We both love adventurous traveling to less touristy areas where we can still experience anything from the original life of that area. Well, with that in our in mind, we will be fine in West Papua.
We visit Rama Tours in Amsterdam. A good small travel agency where one with personal attention and a lot of knowledge about the area in Indonesia compiled a wonderful trip for us. We travel as a couple. Rama tours has a lot of experience with organizing solo traveltrips to Indonesia. We notice that Papua is a very expensive travel destination. But then keep in mind that we will have to make a lot of movements by air travel because there are no through roads that traverse the island.
West Papua is located on the Indonesian half of the second largest island in the world. During this particular, active and especially adventurous tour we visit as first Biak, an island on the Geelvink Bay. Then we explore the surroundings of Jayapura, the former Hollandia, the capital of West Papua. High mountains with dense jungle separate the coastal areas off of the Inland. The Baliem valley is the largest and best accessible Valley of Papua. Cause to the hidden and isolated location of the valley, the tribes that inhabit the Valley were not discovered before 1938. Many traditions have managed to survive. The Valley is therefore our next travel destination. We make a multi-day hike through the Baliem valley and are introduced at the unique culture of the Dani´s. Afterwards we explore the jungle in the Arfak mountains at Manokwari in search of birds of paradise. We are closing our trip in a relax way at the Raja Ampat archipelago, the island of Kri, one of the most beautiful diving areas of the world where we will snorkel above the coral and between the sharks. In short, a trip full of variation.
When reading the travel report:
If you click a picture it will be enlarged. The pictures can then be viewed in succession as a slideshow. If you see a link, for example: Rama Tours in Amsterdam click on the link and it will be opened. When referring to a map, the map can be accessed by clicking on the link : map of Indonesië . The clips (images with an arrow) that are included are HD recordings. The clips can be viewed in a separate window that automatically opens when you click on the image with the arrow.
English is not our native language, so we apologize in advance for translation- spelling- and grammar errors.
Day 1: sunday September 4
We have adapted the start of our journey to the wedding date of our nephew Nanne with Kirsten. They married on september 2th. After their very successful wedding party we leave for Papua on Sunday september 4. First stop as always: Schiphol airport for the flight to Jakarta. No problems with the train so we arrive at the airport plenty of time.
Wedding couple Nanne and Kirsten leave the same day as us from Schiphol for their honeymoon to Sri Lanka. We meet them at the Airport and wish them a great trip.
We are leaving on time, with Garuda Airlines. At home we were able to check in, but to change chairs turned out to be impossible; There were only 2 places that could be reserved. Not even next to each other. Very annoying; It is a long flight. Luckily there appeared to be a very helpful lady at the check-in of the luggage. She managed to arrange two seats next to each other for us.
Our newly assigned seats are all the way at the back of the plane. Not at all wrong. Really a super place with plenty of space and adjustable seats. It's a long flight to Jakarta. More than 12 hours! We do not sleep much but with some music and a movie the time relatively quickly passes!
Day 2: Monday September 5
When we arrive in Jakarta we are greeted and brought to our hotel. We will fly further to Biak the same evening but we have a few hours waiting time in Jakarta. Therefore, it is very convenient that there is a large day room arranged for us so we don't have to stick around at the airport.
The tv in the room is already switched on as we enter the room. Apparently that is a custom here.
We stay at our room until 18:00. At the airport, we still have to wait a while, but it is a modern and clean airport. Enough chairs, spacious. No problem. Enough to see.
The plane is fully booked. We fly in a few hours to Makassar for a stopover, and then to Biak, Papua.
Day 3: Tuesday September 6
We have a night flight. Early the next morning therfore we arrive in Biak (see map) after a a smooth flight. We don't sleep much when we travel. But otherwise everything went well.
Biak has a very small airport. The luggage is delivered quickly via a small running strap. A bus is waiting outside the airport for us to bring us to the hotel. It's only a very short distance; basically just walking distance to the hotel.
The Asana Biak hotel where we stay opened in 1953 as hotel for KLM employees and transit passengers who stayed here while waiting for their next flight. Nowerdays the Garuda crew have accommodations here. And we .. of course. The hotel is a bit shabby, but still fine. The hotel has a beautiful landapsce garden and a nice swimming pool facing the sea.
Our room looks a bit old and dampy, but the beds are great and clean and the air conditioning is doing fine!! We can make the room delicious cold during the night. We also have a nice private terrace outside the room. Construction workers are busy renovating the hotel. Hopefully the old charm of the hotel remains retaining after renovation.
We walk to the city center and visit the local market. A lot of fish here. We draw some money out of an ATM. You can choose between banknotes of 50,000 or 100,000 rupees (about 3.50 and 7 euros). You are a millionaire here very quickly!
We drink coffee at a restaurant and go back to our hotel where we chill out by the pool next to the sea. Wonderful to start the holiday at such u quiet place and get the possibility to process the long journey.
In the hotel turns out to be a kind of "Holland bakes" competition going on, but then in Indonesian style.
Ladies behind about 40 tables are preparing a meal using anywhere the same ingredients. It's clearly a competition. Who makes the most delicious fried rice???
At the pool area are some relax beds. The hotel itself has no beach, but the pool is fine. Delicious chilled water and a beautiful view.
In the afternoon we take a power nap on the room. After that we spent some extra time by the pool; relaxing, swimming and reading. So we rest well!
There are only a few western tourists here; most here are Indonesian. There is no really cosy restaurant in the hotel. A large banquet hall serves as a restaurant. If there is no party going on, is particularly large, empty and bleak.
The local agent of Travel Papua brings us our travel schedule in English. It looks good.
You can order food in the room, and so does everyone. The empty plates after finishing dinner are placed on the corridor. There is a House cat that recognizes the sound of the bouncing plates and arrives immediately to see if there is anything of his liking left on the plates.
Our patio is nice. More Insects than we are used to, especially ants and small mosquitoes. But they don't really bother. We just add a little extra deet. They have here in the shop also an anti-mosquito fluid specially against the mosquitoes from here. We will get some the next day.
Day 4: : Wednesday September 7,
We slept well. The European breakfast they serve here is rather moderate; honey and peanut butter and some roasted bread. Tea and coffee are not fresh. But okay, we are now in Papua! And there are delicious eggs! The Indonesian breakfast with nasi and mie looks much better, but we still prefer it to start the day simply without a hot meal. .
We drive up to the Japanese caves (Gua Jepun). During the second world war Biak was occupied by the Japanese. The occupation lasted until June 1944. The Japanese Colonel Kuzume Naoyuki knew that the Americans would come.He had prepared the army for the moment the Americans arrived at Biak. He concealed himself with his army in the caves. The old women who first lived in the caves and offered resistance by refusing to leave the caves were beheaded in advance by Japanese.
Eventually the fight with the Americans started. The Americans were on the losing end. Only after the Americans began to bombard the caves with TNT and kerosene the Japanese were forced to surrender. With the bombardment their shelter turned into an inferno. The fight costed 400 Americans and 4,700 Japanese their life! The fallen Japanese soldiers are all ritual burned at the spot and their ashes were brought back to Japan. Each year, there is still a ceremonial commemoration held here by Japanese family members of the fallen soldiers.
Originally the cave was a large closed area. Due to the violence and the flames the roof has collapsed. The cave has become more a large open pit now. We walk down to the bottom of the cave. Impressive. There is an oppressive atmosphere. It must have been a horrible inferno here! The trees with their many whimsical roots, sometimes as wires to the bottom, are the lone witnesses from the past. Near the caves is a mini Museum with an exposition of small and rusted bombs, grenades and other military equipment
After our visit to the Gua Jepun we drive to the Taman Burung bird park. The park is known for its birds of course but also for its big varity of orchids. The orchids are unfortunately not in bloom; To see the blooming orchids you need be here in december.
There are beautiful birds held in the bird park with numerous bright colors such as bright green wings at the top and below bright red feathers . The birds are beautiful, but also sad. Such a beautiful island full of nature, and still they have to live in a small cage. That contrast is very large. You would grant them freedom.
The park is also famous for the Kazuari Gelambir Tunggal birds. The Kazuari is a very large flightless bird with a nice blue head, Orange bef and a horn comb. The Kazuaries walk loose in the park. We see several Kazuaries including a mother with chick. The look sweet, but watch out. They seem to be able to kick dangerously and fast.
We are in the tropics and Papua is a Green Island so ...... all of a sudden it starts to rain. Short but fierce. Truly a tropical downpour of a half hour or so. Cold, it doesn't get, but you really have to take care of your equipent so the equipment doesn't get wet.
We see mangrove forests and cottages on poles in the water of inner lakes by the sea
Then we arrive at a dying forest in a large salt water pool created by a major flood that put the area under water in the 1990s . Because the water could not float away the trees drowned in salt water. Bizarre landscape. A family is fishing as a group amidst the decayed trees. Nature is recovering slowly.
Many birds, including white cranes.
Along the coast with high cliffs groups of children are fishing at several places. Just with a spool of wire with a hook on it. And they are quite successful with their caught! We have diner at a Chinese restaurant. After dinner we drive back to our hotel in Biak. In a huge supermarket we buy some groceries and at the hotel we make the appointment with Matthew to make another excurtion by car to the beach tomorrow.
Day 5: Thursday September 8,
Tonight it rained long and hard! We slept well in our super cool room.
At breakfast we meet Matthew. We decide to cancel the program for today, because it's still raining and that would last for a while.
Now that the weather has improved it is time to take a walk in the area. Hot though! Sweating! We walk through a long Ribbon village. Houses on both sides. Children are just out of school. Everyone is enthousiastic when they see us! All say hello and are waving friendly to us. There are many mini shops. People living on the edge of the road trying to sell small merchandise. We don't think they see Europeans often here even though we are so close to the airport. Nice to observe this simple village life. There are small beaches with fishing boats. All very small-scale.
We return to the hotel and have lunch by the pool. Nice temperature. We are the only guests at the pool. There are many clouds in the sky, but it remains dry. In the evening we have diner in the restaurant. It is tasty. We are now fully acclimatized.
Day 6: Friday September 9,
The day starts radiant, so it is a perfect day to make a second tour on the island.
It is a broad, good road we drive on. On either side of the road small houses of wood or stone. People along the side of the road are waving at us. Finally we arrive at some beautiful beaches. In the ocean are mini Islands. We stop at at one of the beaches to go swimming. We lubricate ourselves well with anti sunscreen lotion for protection. At the beach are some open huts of wood, so you can sit in the shade. The water is delicious. Slowly we see the air getting darker though the temperature still keeps fine. After a while we go to the car and drive back to Biak.
Quite quickly it starts to rain. We also hear thunderstorms. By the time we are back again in Biak it is completely dry again and the Sun reappeared. We have diner in the restaurant. In the great hall/restaurant the hotel staff is busy with decorating the room. A white bow, white (art) flowers and piles of signs; There is clearly a wedding coming up.
After dinner coffee in the room (nice that there is a kettle). We pack our suitcases. Early tomorrow: half past 6 in the mornig, our plane to Yajapura will take off.
Day 7: Saturday september 10,
An early wake-up call today. 4 am. out of bed and 4.30 am. at breakfast. At 5 am. we are at the airport. Everything is going well. There is only 1 waiting room. We leave around 7 a.m. (half an hour delay). It's nice weather. The flight to Yajapura (see map) takes about an hour. Good flight. The plane is full, but we are the only tourists. Yajapura has a much larger airport. It's a bit busy at the Assembly line, but progressing runs well. We are expected. A driver is waiting for us outside the airport with a note with our name on it in his hand. It's a 1.5 hour drive to the city. It's hot. Swiss Bell Hotel where we are based is large and modern. Our room is not yet ready so we have to wait. Finaly we can go to our room. A very good room with a delicious shower! We unpack and go out for a short walk.
Yajapura is not an very exciting city. We had already understood that from the travel information we got at home. Crowded, hot and lots of mopeds and occasionally a whole new shopping centre. Not really an authentic vicinity or so. We drink coffee in one of the shopping malls and return to the hotel.
The afternoon we spent in the shade at the edge of the hotel's swimming pool .
In the evening we have dinner at hotel Yasmin. It was indicated in the lonely planet. When we enter the hotel all tables turn out to be occupied. Each table is occupied by only one old man looking at a local soccer match. Strange all these lonely spectators. Especially that they do not sit together. For us there is only place at the bar. But, to be honest, the food is very tasty. Nice old-fashioned atmosphere. Here you can still smoke your cigarette inside. We don't smoke ourselves and we are happy that smoking inside is abolished in Holland, but here, so carefree and without rules, it just belongs. At a fresh bakery we buy some sandwiches for the next day, when we will make a tour with a driver.
Day 8: Sunday September 11,
We had a good night and breakfast.
At 10 am we are picked up by the driver. For a short moment there is a misunderstanding about to with beach we would go to, but in the end we go to the beach that was in the itinerary; Tablanusu. It's about a 2-hour drive from the hotel. A nice ride through the forests. It's Sunday today. The women are nice dressed up for the Church. The churches are full!
The beach is a pebble beach. The sea water is so nice here! If only that was the same in the Netherlands ... cool without really having to come through.
If we leave the beach Ingid collects our waste en puts it together in a plastic bag. Looking for a trash can the driver takes the waste out of her hands. He takes the bag. A few metres further he just dumps the sack right on the beach! What a pity that they are so messy with nature, their beaches and the sea. Glass, plastic, everything can be found here on the beaches. So we have to be carefull; never walking barefoot here.
There are beautiful dark clouds, but it only rains very briefly. We see a cockatoo and sea eagles. Special! At the end of the day we are back at our hotel. We load all our batteries. and examine and select our baggage. With our flight to Wamena we can only take 10 kg luggage per man with us (all other flights are with Garuda and then you may take 30 kg luggage per person). We leave the big suitcases behind in the hotel. They will be transported to our next hotel for when we return from the Baliem valley.