Jayapura and Baliem valley

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27 aug, 2013

Jayapura and Baliem valley

door Kathrin Pape

Again there was holiday time in Indonesia. The Ramadan came to an end and the school was closed for the days of Idul Fitri. I took the opportunity to visit a couple of the Muslim students and their parents at home with the Suster and a group of students who have not traveled home for the short vacation. The high school is Catholic, but indeed has a good reputation, so that more and more Muslim students take the opportunity to study at SMA Villanova as well.

On Saturday I also had the opportunity again to get involved in the activities of the Manokwari Scuba Diving Community before I started again to pack my bags on Sunday, because I should go on another great journey …

On Monday morning I taught the 10th grade English Conversation Class before I had been picked up and taken to the airport Manokwari Rendani from where it should go on to Jayapura in a 1.5 hours flight. Unfortunately, it was still very rainy and cloudy and I could not take any good photos from the aircraft during the landing approach to Jayapura. The runway there is right next to the Lake Sentani and normally you have a spectacular view. Anyway we stopped on the way to the hotel at a viewpoint over the Lake Sentani right at the time of the sunset.

The next morning we were supposed to leave for Wamena in the Baliem Valley with Trigana air. The Baliem Valley is the most touristy area in the whole area of Papua and known for its distinct preservation of cultures. We wanted to attend the three-day-long cultural festival, but our flight was canceled and due to the great demand it was difficult to get another ticket. After a long back and forth we managed to secure us two tickets for the following day and took the chance to explore the city of Jayapura and the area close by. First we drove to another viewpoint over Lake Sentani before we departed for “Jayapura City”. With a coffee and snack, we sat under the huge lettering “Jayapura City” and waited for the views of Jayapura at night. After enjoying the view we drove into the city, and sat on the beach with a view over the place where we have been earlier the huge letters “Jayapura city”.

Early in the morning we were on our way to the airport for our 40 – minutes flight to Wamena to complete. The previously heard air crash stories from a few years ago didn’t make us feel comfortable, but as we landed on the uneven runway of Wamena we were glad to have boarded the plane. The view over the valley was incredible and many locals wore already the traditional clothing for the festival. Before we could explore the area we had however to solve another problem: we now also had no return tickets and we were told that all planes were fully booked till the 27th of August. 2 weeks in the Baliem valley was not what we had imagined. But as so often in Indonesia relations were everything and we managed to buy two tickets for the Friday to get back to Jayapura. Now we quickly rented a scooter and headed to the direction of Kurulu. I enjoyed to ride a scooter again and we couldn’t stop looking at the valley, river and huts on the way and of course waved every few minutes at the locals. After about 1.5 hours drive we arrived at the festival grounds. It was crowded with people in traditional clothing, children, pigs and interested spectators. The program consisted of tribal warfare, traditional dances and songs, and of course there was also many photo opportunities. We enjoyed the atmosphere and had the opportunity to ask many questions.

Also on the way back, there were many interesting things to discover. We stopped in a small village with traditional huts and 3 children were willing to accompany us to a nearby cave. Just a few meters further on we stopped in another village to look at a mummy. The population was just starting to prepare a traditional barbecue. They made a hole which was filled with leaves and hot stones. On top of this they put the meat of the three slaughtered pigs and waited for several hours for the meat to be cooked in the now closed pit. Unfortunately it was already dark and we were not able to eat with them. Before returning to the hotel we bought fresh fruits and peanuts on the market and got involved in the discussions about the newest gossip.

On Thursday morning we took the scooter to “Pasir Putih” (White Sand beach) but but of course not the one in Manokwari but the one close to Wamena. At this location people are saying was the sea and all that is still left is only the white sand. As we drove back into town, we arrived just in time for the parade of dozens of student groups in traditional clothes or costumes. At noon we had the chance to taste the for this area well known “Udang Selingkuh”. Then we traveled around by scooter again and we stopped at a traditional bridge and drove to a more remote villagein which we reached a small waterfall after a short walk. Full of new impressions we boarded the small plane from Susi Air on Friday and landed after about an hour in Jayapura. On the way we had, despite the clouds, a good opportunity to take a few photos.

Saturday was the 17th of August and therefore the date of the Indonesian independence. This was celebrated in all the communities with many different games and we had a look at those for a while. Then we ordered us some lunch for a pick-nick at the city’s well known beach “G base” However there it was not as full as expected due to the rainy weather. On Sunday my friend and me flew back to Manokwari. In our luggage we had many good impressions, photos and fresh pineapples from the Baliem Valley.

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