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West Papua, anyone?

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West Papua, anyone?

Post by the19trier » Wed, 18 Mar 2009 3:48 pm

Trek Planning

The flight to papua is on 27APR from Bali, and we will fly back to Bali on 9th May. That leaves us with about 12 days in Papua!

Beyond the notion of spending a week walking in the highlands of Papua little else is known. It is a question mark, an open space in the calendar. It first depends on the level of Indonesian we will have mastered. It is quite possible to do day hikes and even short over night hikes without a guide if we know some Indonesian. But otherwise or for anything more adventurous, a guide is recommended (could cost us a lot or very little, nothing is sure in Papua).

Part of me is still tempted to set off a longer trek into the highlands, perhaps south to Kurima. The valley narrows into a gorge with dramatic scenery and from there I could hike to Yali country. South to Kurima, is the easiest option. Or we could go north to Kurabaga by transport and hike back to Wamena via Wunin, Tagime and Pyramid a trip of 70 km. requiring 5 days. Yesaya points to a route from Kurubaga to Tiom. This is Lani country, it goes through villages, into jungle cloud forest and over the mountains. This would be a more challenging option, 100 km or more. It sounds like an interesting possibility, but speaking some Indonesian is again needed.

Besides, we will need three porters at least in that case, one each for our gear and one to carry pots, pans, and other household items. We also buy enough tobacco and cigarettes to share with our guides and folks along the way. Everyone smokes there, and we have to make the tribe happy before they accept us.

Some Context and Timeline

40,000 to 60,000 years ago, give or take a few, the first wave of hunter gatherer people made their way to Papua and Australia. Between 8,000 - 9,000 years ago agriculture was invented and centered on growing taro. Animal husbandry developed 5,000 years ago when pigs were introduced and became central to the culture. Owning pigs are a sign of wealth. Pigs are used in trade, to settle disputes and as dowries. The pig feast accompanied all important rituals and ceremonies.

The introduction of the sweet potato, 400 to 1000 years ago, provides greater crop yields with less work and allowed the population to expand into higher elevations. By the 1400’s the Europeans were sailing the seas around Papua. Columbus was looking for a short cut to the Spice Islands of Banda just a day or two from the south coast but instead stumbled upon America. Alfred Wallace the forgotten but remarkable naturalist was in Papua during the 1850’s and in a malarial induced vision forged a coherent theory of evolution that he wrote and sent to Darwin, before Darwin had published his version.

Still the Central Highlands went unexplored by the white man until 1938 when Richard Archibald flew over the Baliem Valley. The first expeditions were in the 1940’s and by the mid 1950’s the first wave of Christian missionaries made early out posts and air strips. In 1961 the Harvard-Peabody expedition of anthropologists and scientists studied what Margaret Mead called a “neolithic culture trembling on the edge of change”

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