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Blog Archives: Entries for 2015

Country 99, Papua New Guinea

Tony is now in country 99, Papua New Guinea. He crossed into the country from Jayapura, Indonesia on Wednesday 4th March. Since then it has been an interesting and eventful journey. Tony is couch surfing on this trip but was unable to contact his first host in PNG. After crossing the border he took a PMV, public motorised vehicle, to Vanimo, the first large town in the country. This lies on the north coast in Sandaun Province, the westernmost province in PNG. The PMV driver dropped Tony at the Catholic Mission Guesthouse where he was accommodated for one night and relaxed. Next morning, Tony’s couch surfing host finally located him and took Tony to his house up on a hill over looking Vanimo. A wooden structure, simple but comfortable. Tony met Wasa, the host’s house boy, Andrew who is blind in one eye, and another boy, Michael, who is totally deaf. You can imagine the scene! Tony later met the neighbours and chatted while enjoying local food of rice, fish and vegetables.

The next morning Wasa and Tony headed to the beach for Tony to take a banana boat to Aitape to change to a PMV for Wewak, his next destination. These boats are long wooden canoes with outboard engines, there is no cover and passengers sit in the sun, rain, wind and get wet by the splashing waves. Once out of Vanimo Bay, the fun began. Waves crashed against the left side of the boat soaking Tony continuously. Tony removed his left hearing aid for protection. The canoe rolled, twisted, bumped and turned all over the Ocean. The wind eventually dropped and the soaking lessened. However, the sun beat down and Tony was badly sunburnt, something he only noticed later. After three hours of bouncing, rolling and twisting with yet again more drenchings by the sea, the boat finally arrived in Aitape. It was mid-afternoon by then and all the PMVs had left. Therefore Tony spent a delightful weekend recovering with the family of the boat captain, his name Gabriel. A lovely kind man in his 50s and owner of Riverside Transport. Tony was looked after by his wonderful adult children. Raylin, Maryan and Alexander, plus Lazarus, Otto, and several others. Tony was introduced to a priest on the Saturday, Martin, who resides in Wewak. Gabriel’s family are Seventh Day Adventists. I listened to their daily family service and enjoyed the singing.

Before departing for Aitape with Gabriel and the priest, Tony was taken to see the World War II American plane, a B27, which resides outside the high school just outside of town. After viewing the plane the journey to Wewak was begun. A long 9-hour bumpy journey over gravel roads with many potholes. At one point the large 4 by 4 vehicle became stuck in mud when crossing a river and the party was left stranded until Gabriel’s son arrived with a larger truck to pull them free. Tony finally arrived at Gala Guesthouse on the outskirts of Wewak at 3 am.

Baliem Valley, Indonesia

Tony visited Wamena, capital of Baliem Valley, with a couch surfing friend, Raymond. Raymond is from Wamena, and Tony stayed with his lovely family just outside the town. The Baliem Valley is home to many cultural tribes most noticeably Dani, Lani and Yali. Raymond’s family are Lani.

The only way to reach Wamena is by plane. Trigana and Wings have several flights a day from Jayapura. Almost all produce is flown in by transport plane, hence it is an expensive area. Petrol is three times the price compared to Jayapura. Once Raymond and I had landed, we visited the local police station to obtain a Surat Jalan, a pass allowing me to visit the region. A passport photocopy was required plus two photographs.

We rented a taxi for a half-day visit to a couple of local villages. The main stop was at Jiwika. This village is home to a 371 year old mummy. I was allowed to take photos with the mummy for a fee! The bones felt like wood and he has a large mouth and no teeth! This is a tourist village and the locals take off their clothes when tours arrive. People used to live naked in the mountains but modernity has come to the area in recent times. For 10,000 Indonesian Rupiah per person, approximately 50 pence, I could have my photo taken with the naked villagers, men, women and children. Raymond gathered about 20 people and I had a quick feel of one naked women – she was very nice!

After this we headed to Raymond’s home about one kilometre from downtown Wamena. I met his family, sister, and his aunt and uncle plus their three daughters. We sat on the grass chatting, Raymond translating. I said ‘Halo’, Indonesian for hello, and shook hands. His house is a simple affair with a front room where I slept on a mattress then several other rooms leading to a simple bathroom. The toilet is a hole in the ground and flushing is by putting water into the hole afterwards. The shower is a bucket of cold water over the head! It rained every evening and on my first night there I met a local priest. He was impressed that a blind man could travel the world and prayed for me. We ate sweet potato and cooked vegetables. I played with kids who spoke some words of English. Everyone has tight curly hair like African people.

On my second day, Raymond hired a motorbike and we explored some of the valley. Visiting local villages and taking photos of the rocky mountainous and tree-lined terrain. Grapes, watermelon, bananas and many other fruits line the roadside and the grass had a coffee smell. We attempted to drive to the mouth of the Baliem River but had to turn back due to dense grass. The water was sighted and also the old Iron Bridge across the Baliem River. Eventually we reached an area called White Sand. A beach-like place with many rough rocks and some trees. The sky was blue with clouds forming. Local kids took photos but we had to pay to visit the area! We raced the rain clouds but they soaked us before we reached Wamena.

My second night was spent by the fire in Raymond’s small honai – a local traditional sleeping house. In the villages, the men and women have separate honais. More sweet potatoes and cooked veggies were eaten and I tried a local delicacy, Red Dragon Fruit. It is somewhat spiky and oval in shape. It is full of oil and your fingers and lips become red when eating it. They boil it on the fire and this creates a pan of thick oil which is drunk with seeds being spat out. It tasted thick and heavy to me, oily and not too delightful!

The third day was spent visiting more old villages and hiking to Napua Waterfall through the forest. This was fun. Raymond lead me and we had to cross the river twice. The second time I removed my shoes and socks and went bare foot. The water was cool and inviting. The ground was very muddy with recent rain and I slipped several times. We climbed down the trail and finally reached the waterfall, a wonderful sound to my ears. After 15 minutes rest Raymond pulled me back up the steep incline of muddy steps to the trail and we retraced our steps. Recrossing the river, Raymond made a video of me walking through the river. Naturally I fell and swore. I made it to the other side and Raymond helped me up the bank, where I once again fell over with Raymond landing on top of me. Ten minutes later we exited the forest and rode back to Wamena.

My fourth and final day was Sunday, everything was closed and most people went to church. Raymond and I relaxed. The previous evening I had bought pork and we shared it around the fire. In the early evening we visited a village where Raymond was born and where his Grandma had recently died. The villagers were overwhelmed to see Raymond and fascinated with me! Again it rained. To leave the village in the dark Raymond had to take the bike up to the road because the fields were muddy. I had to walk in the rain and climb over two fences! That night we had chicken and rice Nasi Aiam at midnight. The following morning we flew back to Jayapura.