by Rob D'Eon
July 2018
to CONTACT me:

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Preamble

In June 2018, my wife and I went to Papua for a 6-day trek in the Baliem Valley. What shocked me prior to going, was the absolute vacuum of detailed information – especially critically important things like maps! – on trekking in the Baliem Valley. I, perhaps like many, got the idea of hiking in the Baliem Valley from reading the Lonely Planet guide, but sadly, the guide does not provide the detail required to actually plan an independent (i.e., unguided) trip. That said, I, probably like everyone, turned to the internet. Again, shockingly little out there, with the exception of a few sources (see “credits” section below).

Long story short: after having done our trip, and having had an amazing experience, and GPSing our route, I feel obliged to share what we learned. So that’s what this is about. This is a detailed account of exactly what we did, with maps and GPS coordinates, along with tips and advice someone planning an unguided trip might find useful.

That said, this is not intended as the complete guide to trekking in the Baliem Valley (that would be somewhat presumptuous), but rather, is intended to be very helpful to a person planning an independent, unguided hiking trip to the Baliem Valley. Specifically, you should be able to repeat our route very easily given the information below (and it’s a good route J). 
Rob D'Eon, July 2018.

EPILOGUE: Below is a trip report from a couple who completed a multi-night hike in the Baliem Valley in September 2019. It illustrates the "interesting" local situations one may encounter.
We started our trip on a Sunday which was probably not the best day as there were no taxis that could drive us to the starting point Kurima. But after a while we found some really nice guys with a van who drove us to Kurima. On the way was a landslide which covered the street but the guys were really cool walking through the ‘river’ to guide the jeep to the other side. 

In Kurima, after sharing some cigarettes, we started hiking to Tangma. The first part was so amazing - all the flowers (it was way more colorful than we expected) and the views. Then, it started raining and the trail got really slippery. The descent to Tangma was so difficult. We hiked together with the parents of my boyfriend and although they are quite fit, they reached their limits. 

Arrived in Tangma we were the attraction. The whole village came to see us and everybody wanted to help but no one spoke English - except for this one guy who then translated everything. He also offered us a place to sleep and we got plenty of food (rice and some kind of pumpkin, I guess). He travels to get books and teachers for the schools in the Baliem Valley.

The next day we started early towards Wesagalep. The first part was easy, then it became steeper and steeper downward to the river. We were so happy that the rain has stopped. But it was very hot. I loved the bridge over the Baliem River. And then we walked up again. The view was wonderful. We stayed the night in Heipa (a small village before Wesagalep). The mood was tense in this village. They told us about a fight in Wamena between the Papuans and the police, and that the airport was destroyed - luckily this was not true, but we were so shocked and had a really bad night. 
The next day, the parents of my boyfriend arranged porters which could only helped us until the top of the hill as they are in a fight with the people on the other side. They were really afraid of going too far and carried a bow and arrows. Most of the way was through the rain forest which was so green and full of live. Also the shadow was pleasant. On the top of the hill we had a really nice break with them and said goodbye. 
The way down to Wemasili (a village before Wuserem) was steep but with nice trails. We met two friendly people who talked us into staying in Wemasili instead of Wuserem. It was already late and they told us about another landslide so we stayed there. Here we got many ubis (but we were prepared with our spices) and slept in a church which was cool.
Then, we decided to shorten the trail and so our next village was Sykosimo. On the way were many landslides which made the beginning difficult but the second part was easy to walk. So we arrived in Sykosimo early. It was relaxing to arrive around noon. The people there were so amazing. They offered us two! rooms with mattresses! and showed us there art (necklaces, bracelets, headdresses). We played a card game and the whole village watched. I think I never got used to all the people watching us but it was fun though. Dinner was rice, pumpkin and ubi and we tried communicating with our little Bahasa Indonesia. 
The next day, we crossed the footbridge over the Mugi River. This bridge is built only of liana and looks amazing and more trusting than the other one. We walked a lot uphill and it was so hot again. Then we saw a plane and then another and our mood got better and better. And after Inkinim we walked downwards until Seima where we spent the last night. The woman was friendly and we got lunch and dinner, also bacon and had coffee with her family. The funny thing was that her husband is pastor in the close by churches and we met him earlier in the other church. They showed us pictures of their parties on their smartphones. This is so surreal that the people mostly live from the things they plant but have smartphones (and no signal). 
The last day was only a short hike to Sykomo where we took a car to Wamena. We were so nervous what to see from the fights and it was really bad. The whole market was burned down. Everywhere were burnt mopeds, cars and houses. The Indonesian people were flown out, our hostel host was Indonesian so we arrived at a closed hostel where we had left the stuff we did not need for the hike. After a few hours, however, we could get out stuff and spent the last night at a fenced in house of a Dutch man. The next day we got our delayed flight and we really looked forward to spend some relaxed days in Raja Ampat.
Anna, March 2020.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: So what's it all about?

So what exactly does “Trekking in the Baliem Valley” mean, and what does it look like? Just a snap shot here, to put an image in your mind of what this is, which is the context for everything that follows:

Trekking in the Baliem Valley, as used here, means multi-day, village-to-village hiking along traditional footpaths established and used by local people in the Baliem Valley. There is no electricity, no phones, no commercial development, and no combustion engines (i.e., no vehicles of any kind). Similar to a wilderness backpacking trip, you carry everything you need, including the majority of your food. Accommodation in villages is basic, and can be described as a “homestay” where you are staying with local families in their dwellings. The general area is sparsely populated, with small villages distributed hours apart, with little to no human development in between. The terrain is steep and mountainous, with most days involving climbs, descents, and river crossings.

Word to the wise: I would describe unguided Trekking in the Baliem Valley as “adventurous”, and requiring good gear, reasonable fitness, and experience to enjoy as an unguided trip. If you are an experienced wilderness backpacker, you'll have fun. If this is your first time carrying a pack, might want to rethink it, or at least make sure you are with someone who has done this kind of stuff before.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: About us

The following description about us is not provided to satisfy some narcissistic craving, but rather to provide you, the reader, with a profile of what we are about and where this information is coming from. So when I say, “this is a long day”, it might mean something. If you are like us, great!, it all applies. If not, well, gauge for yourself if you would hike more or less each day J

We are a Canadian couple. Me (Rob): male, 53 yrs. My wife (Amy): female, 41 yrs. Until 2 years ago, we both spent most of our lives in Canada, and many years living and playing in the mountains of British Columbia. Two years ago we moved to Bogor (just outside Jakarta), Indonesia to live and work. We are relatively fit and active, and have spent a lot of time in Canada, and now in Indonesia, climbing up and down mountains. We have travelled extensively in developing countries, and are not afraid of a little adventure and unknown. We have good gear, take recreational pursuits seriously, and like physically demanding trips (like, for example, hiking in the Baliem Valley J).

Importantly, we have a deep-seated hatred for guided, organized trips, especially the kind that occurs in Indonesia – hence the references to planning and doing an “unguided trip”. This is all about sharing info so we can do it ourselves.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Trip summary

A very detailed route/trip description is provided in the “What we did” section. This is just a quick encapsulation of what our trip was about, so that you can gauge whether or not you are interested in reading the rest of this.

We did a 6-day/5-night , unguided, village-to-village, backpacking trip within the Baliem Valley, south of Wamena, along the Baliem and Mugi Rivers. We hiked along established (although unsigned/unmarked) local trails for about 6 hours a day, and overnighted in local dwellings in villages along the way. We were virtually self-sufficient for food and gear, and carried everything in our backpacks – although we did not have a tent or stove. Hot water and some food (sweet potatoes) were provided by the people we stayed with (more on that in the “food section”).

We flew in/out of the town of Wamena, and used a homestay in Wamena as a base to store luggage during our trek (which is detailed in the “Wamena” section). From Wamena, we easily arranged a drive to the start of the trek (and then back again, upon returning to the pavement).

OK, that’s pretty much what we did. If that interests you, then read on.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Surat Jalan

OK, there is a ton of jabber on the internet, blogs, and other sources about this “Surat Jalan” (AKA: travel permit), and that you must have one for trekking in the Baliem Valley – and the myriad suggestions for how you should go about getting one. That is not entirely accurate.

Long story short: We did not have one, and no one ever asked for it, and we came and went without a mention of it.

Now, I am not saying you don’t legally need one. What I am saying, is that in our case there was no physical mention of it in writing (i.e., no posted signs or things like that), or verbally (e.g., no announcements upon arrival), and no one stopped us along the trails to ask for it. The only place we every saw or heard about it, was on the internet!

Now, I have been informed by a fellow traveler (thanks Gabi!), that in July/August, 2018, he was approached in the airport upon landing, and asked to show his Surat Jalan, which he did. He was there for the infamous Baliem Valley Festival, which I suspect has something do to with it. i.e., perhaps security was ramped up for the festival. 

From all accounts though, the Surat Jalan can be obtained in Wamena without issue. So, perhaps the optimal plan of attack is to get it in Wamena, if in fact, there is a need, i.e., someone wearing a uniform asks for it.

Your call.

Hot tip:

·       If you are asking my opinion: don’t waste your time/effort getting a Surat Jalan. If I went back, I would do the same thing (i.e., not worry about it) – at least for the route we took. If I got stopped in the airport, or elsewhere, I would smile and gladly go to the police station in Wamena and get one. The exception might be if you are specifically going to the Baliem Valley Festival, which our friend Gabi has informed us, might be a case of heightened security.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Wamena

Move along folks, nothing to see here J.  Seriously, while not offensive or overly terrible, you didn’t come to see the sights of Wamena – there are none (with the exception of the gigantic cross…you’ll see what I mean). Fortunately, Wamena does provide a good base to launch your Baliem Valley mission. There are places to stay, places to eat, and stores to buy things. All basic, nothing worth writing about, but nonetheless adequate for what you need as a base to launch from. If you want to spend a couple/few days in Wamena, you could. Either way.

First, there’s an airport (new as of 2016), and thus conveniently providing an easy flight into the heart of the Baliem Valley – which is critical, obviously. The town is relatively small, about 30,000 people, which in Indonesia is pretty much a village. The best thing about Wamena is that it is entirely walkable. In fact, we walked from the airport to our accommodation in 10 mins, with our roller bags!

Places to stay: From all accounts on the internet, most places to stay in Wamena are overpriced, and low quality/value. I can’t say, because where we stayed was awesome! (see tips below). And obviously, I have no firsthand knowledge of any other place. So ya, I won’t go on, because I am simply going to strongly recommend you stay where we stayed. I cannot imagine a better place to stay in Wamena for launching your trip.

Places to eat: not much going on in terms of the restaurant scene, but again, if you are hungry and looking for a basic Indonesian meal, just poke around until you find something. Again, pretty basic, but you won’t starve.

Grocery stores: if you must do your grocery shopping in Wamena, you could, and survive (but see “food” section). There are basic little Indonesian shops here and there, and one “bigger” grocery store called “Ropan Market” (google maps knows it), which is as close to a grocery store as you are going to get.

Banks/ATMs: there are a few ATMs in town, so if you are out of cash, you should be able to get it. That said, I brought all my cash with me and never used one. So, your call. I would play it safe and just bring all cash with you. But don’t panic if you need to do it in Wamena. There are definitely ATMs.

Alcohol: it is very important to realize, that alcohol is banned in Papua. So, you cannot buy alcohol (booze) of any kind anywhere in Wamena (and certainly not in the villages). If you want a little wine with your meal, or little drinkie-poo before bedtime, bring it from wherever you are coming from. I am not telling you to do this, given the illegality of it, I’m just sayin’ J.

Hot Tips:

Hogorasuok Guesthouse
·       Stay at the Hogorasuok Guesthouse (; email: It’s a basic, yet homey, hostel-style place, with a nice interior courtyard, full kitchen, hot water/shower, 24-7 coffee/tea, decent beds, laundry, luggage storage, and includes breakfast. We paid 375,000 Rp/night (about 26 USD). Google maps knows it. Address is: at the end of Jalan Diponegoro. The place is run by a young Christian woman name Rut. She’s very friendly, speaks basic English, runs a tight ship, and the place is spotless. Her mobile# is: +62.852.5431.2442. If you use Whatsapp (the only thing that matters in Indonesia), contact her via WA, and she will be very responsive. It was perfect for what we needed. The obvious scenario: from the airport walk or taxi there, spend the night, leave for your Trek the next day, store any additional luggage, then return for a night or two before you fly out, and get your laundry done before heading off. Seamless!

·       If you stay at Hogorasuok, the full kitchen means you can buy (or bring) a few groceries and make your own food, which will almost certainly beat the food available on the street J.

·       The street market on the main drag downtown (Pasar Wamena) is a fantastic source of fresh veggies. The ladies are friendly, and you can get everything you need to make a fresh meal.

·       If you can avoid being there on a Sunday, that’s preferable because it’s old school, and everything is closed on Sunday (very Christian part of the world). We started and ended on a Sunday, which sucked. Try not to do that J.

·       If you want to drink (i.e., alcohol), bring it with you from wherever you are coming from. Although, be aware that it is technically banned in Papua, and therefore illegal. Be discrete.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Getting in/out

Ground zero for hiking in the Baliem Valley is the town of Wamena. You just have to get there to start your trek. Fortunately, Wamena has a brand new airport (as of 2016), which is very civilized, and flying in/out of Wamena is easy. While some blogs and other sources talk about the horrors of trying to get flights, and being delayed for days, etc, that is all bullshit.

From our experience (June 2018), flying in/out of Wamena is just like flying in/out of any airport anywhere. Everything is on-line, everything is booked/paid for in advance, electronic tickets are emailed to you, you show up when you are supposed to, check-in, go through security, and board the plane. Just like anywhere.

We flew from Jakarta on an overnight flight to Jayapura (capital of Papua) via Batik Airlines, arriving at 8 am. I’m pretty sure you must fly to Jayapura first, to get flights to Wamena (but don’t quote me…pretty sure though). We then flew via Trigana Air, at 10:20 am, arriving in Wamena about 11 ish (30 mins flight). Perfect. Everything was seamless and went according to plan.

As far as I can tell, at least three airlines fly Jayapura-Wamena: Trigana Air, Wings Air, and NAM Air. All of them have websites and you can book tickets on-line. We flew Trigana, in a Boeing 737 (OK, it was a bit old, but fine), and it was seamless. And return, on the way out. No issues whatsoever either way.

Hot tips:

·       No need spend any time in Jayapura (unless you want to for some strange reason). Book a connecting flight to Wamena right after your flight to Jayapura.

·       If you have more than a 1-hour stopover in Jayapura airport, go to the Garuda lounge on the second floor. For 80,000 Rp. (5 USD), you have a decent all-you-can-eat buffet, drinks (no alcohol), comfortable chairs, air conditioning, and you can charge your phone. Great deal!

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Gear

In a few words, the gear you want/need is the same as that for a wilderness spring/summer/fall backpacking trip (I’m from Canada, so interpret that for your own situation). While the villages offer hot water (i.e., boiled), and shelter from rain, that is pretty much all villages offer. You are on your own for everything else.

Standard room in wood house
So, the usual stuff applies: good footwear, good backpack, we use poles (which have become indispensable to us), and good hiking/camping clothes and gear. We hiked in quick-dry shorts and t-shirts every day, which I would recommend. Nights cool off, so having a change of warmer clothes for evening is good. Amy brought, and used, a light down jacket in the evenings. I didn’t, but put on a long-sleeve layer once in a while. No gloves or toques (Canadian for “winter hat”) required. Be prepared for rain. We got rained on one day, and several evenings. Bring a good rain jacket.

Hot tips:

A few things I would say you should bring, that may not be obvious:

§  Good hiking footwear in good condition (your feet are almost always wet, and footwear in bad shape will disintegrate)

§  Sleeping bag (rated to 0oC)

§  Sleeping mat

§  Rain jacket

§  Head lamp with lots of batteries

§  Small thermos (see “food” section)

§  Hiking poles (if you are like us)

§  First Aid kit, and any meds you might want (there is nothing in the villages)

§  2 litres worth of water bottles

§  Your own personal mug/eating dishes (dishes are generally available, but can be sketchy)

§  Toilet paper + personal hygiene items

A note on communication: there was no cell coverage on our route, and no land lines of any kind. i.e., no telephone communication while out in the villages. So, cell phones are useless as a phone. If you are one of those satellite phone people, bring it.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Weather

This is not a description of the “climate”, since that would mean I actually know what the climate is. However, I do know exactly what weather we experienced, which is what I will describe. Recall, we were there in June, so gauge your season. But given that Papua is a few degrees south of the equator, there really isn’t a lot of seasonal variation, particularly in temperature. The main driving factor here is the elevation, which is between 1500 and 2500 m – meaning you are at mid to high elevations.

Interestingly, we never saw a temperature gauge/thermometer, so I am guessing at the temperatures. That said, I am fairly confident that the weather we experienced can be described as warm days, say mid 20s (22-27 oC), and cool nights, say mid, or even low, teens (10-16 oC). Humidity is not a factor, which will be a very pleasant change for those of you travelling through SE Asia. In a nutshell, I would say the weather was perfect for hiking in the mountains, and then sleeping at night.

In terms of rain, we had one day of rain (i.e., we hiked in the rain for the afternoon), and a few evenings of light rain. So ya, be prepared for rain. But, for the majority of the time, the weather was nice and sunny, and/or mixed cloud and pleasant. All in all, no complaints about the weather J.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Accomodation

Once you leave Wamena, there is nothing resembling a hotel or guesthouse or formalized accommodation (at least along our route). You will stay in peoples’ houses. Now, when I say “house”, there are two options: (1) a thing called a “honai”, and (2) a small wooden house.

Honai - traditional house
A honai is the traditional dwelling that is basically a large grass hut with a dirt floor and a fire in the middle of it. They make up the majority of what you will see in most villages. DO NOT STAY/SLEEP IN A HONAI. More on that to follow.

The second thing you will notice, is that some people have a rectangular wooden house with windows, door, and a roof, i.e., a somewhat normal western house. STAY IN ONE OF THESE. The usual situation we found, was that people with a wooden house always also had a honai immediately beside their wooden house. The honai is used for cooking, socializing, and is clearly the center of family life. The wooden house is basically a few rooms with little to no furniture, that is used almost exclusively for sleeping. i.e., it’s their bedrooms. But: no hot water, showers, plumbing, electricity. It’s a wooden box with windows and a door.

So that’s key. A honai is basically a smoke house. There is no ventilation. Really, no chimney, no hole in the roof, no windows, nothing. Recall the “fire in the middle thing” that is used for cooking. We were invited in, as you will be, and we lasted less than 10 mins and had to get out. The smoke was tearing our eyes, and breathing was difficult. It’s incredible that they traditionally (and still do) sleep in them. Hence the advice not to sleep in one of them. However, obviously you should experience the inside of a honai and eat sweet potatoes and chat with your host family. It’s all part of the fun J.

Wooden house - your choice
For sleeping however, the best basic strategy was, upon arriving at your destination village, look for the nicest wooden house in the village. Find the owner and ask for a room (kamar tidor). They will simply clear out their clothes and personal effects, and give you the room they, or one of their family members, usually sleeps in. You will get a room with little to no furniture, a wooden floor, and maybe a sketchy thin mattress with used bedding. All good, except for the smelly mattress and used bedding J We brought sleeping mats and sleeping bags, and used them every time (i.e., we just pushed aside whatever was there).

Price: we paid 100,000 Rp (7 USD) per person every night except one, where the lady in charge refused to go lower than 150,000 Rp (10 USD). No idea why, but perhaps she has been to Harvard Business School and knew damn well we had no choice (it was the only wooden house in the village; next village hours away). All good though. The sweet potatoes were exceptionally tasty J.

Oh, key point here. There is no electricity in the villages. Therefore, nothing that runs on electricity other than the odd tiny solar light in some houses. Speaking of light, after dark, (i.e., after 6 pm), it’s well, dark. No lights anywhere. They literally have no lights. It’s like camping. So bring yer headlamps, and extra batteries.

Hot tips:

·       As mentioned above, go to the nicest wooden house in the village, and ask for a room (kamar tidor). Be sure to ensure that they will provide hot water. Just for fun, ask them to provide “ubi” (sweet potatoes). Really, if you don’t eat one a day, you really haven’t been there. J

·       Bring your own sleeping bag (rated to 0oC is fine), unless you like dingy used blankets

·       Bring a sleeping pad, unless you are OK with dingy used mattresses

·       Bring a headlamp and extra batteries to last you. You will use it from 6 pm till you go to sleep every night.

A word on camping: we didn’t carry a tent, so didn’t camp. But, if you’re a purist, and prefer tenting/camping, and don’t mind the extra weight in your pack, you could. In my opinion, it would be entirely possible to tent/camp – either on your own out in the wilds, or beside someone’s house in a village. In between villages is basically no-man’s land/wilderness, so I really can’t imagine anyone caring, or even knowing about you pitching a tent. Safety would not be an issue in my opinion (really, what’s a guy in a penis gourd going to do to you? J). In the villages, there is lots of green space to throw up a tent – you could negotiate a small fee, which would probably include hot water. If that’s yer thing, go for it!

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Language

From what we gathered, the first language of the locals in the Baliem Valley is “Bahasa Wamena”, which translates to “Wamena language” (i.e., that’s what they told us). Given there are hundreds if not thousands of languages in Indonesia, and places like Papua where different villages speak different languages, that is entirely possible.

However, the obvious and most useful language for us foreigners in the Baliem Valley is “Bahasa Indonesia”, which translates to, you guessed it, “Indonesia Language”, AKA Indonesian. Virtually everyone speaks Indonesian, except for, in our experience, the very young and the very old (you guessed it again: neither has been to school, where Indonesian is taught).  All kids of school age and middle-aged adults we met spoke fluent Indonesian. English (or any other language for that matter) will get you nowhere and is basically useless. It’s Bahasa Wamena or Bahasa Indonesia.  Your choice J

Because we have been in Indonesia for a couple of years, we speak basic Indonesian. That was invaluable. If you speak Indonesian, even a bit, you will use every word you know, and be way ahead of the game. So I guess that’s the advice: learn as much Indonesian as you can, and/or bring an Indonesian phrase book/dictionary. You will definitely use it.
OK, question for you non-Indonesian-speakers wanting to do a self-guided trip: Can we do an unguided trip without speaking Indonesian? In my opinion, sure, why not. We have been to plenty of countries where we didn’t speak a word of the language, and managed just fine. It’s a combination of facial expression and charades, then pointing to the thing you want (we’ve all been there, you know what I mean). So, don’t let the language thing keep you from doing an unguided trip. The people are wonderful, and will definitely help you, whatever language you speak.

Hot tips:

·       If you don’t speak Indonesian, definitely bring a phrase book and/or dictionary. You’ll use it!

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Water

There is no bottled/treated water along the trails or in villages (recall the “no stores” thing). Like it or not, unless you are going to carry 6 days worth of water in your pack, you are going to drink the water in the creeks. Fortunately, for the most part, the water in the creeks (i.e., the small streams that fall almost vertically down the mountain slopes; some might call them springs) is clean and drinkable. We are from the mountains of Canada, so drinking water from creeks comes natural to us, and just made sense. No problem.

Now, that said, you definitely want to have a water strategy.  I would never advise “just drink the water as-is”, because someone out there is going to get sick and I’ll get hate mail. So, the following options apply (pick one):

·       Bring water purification tablets – usually 1 tablet = 1 litre of water. A very easy, light-weight, effective system. The truth is, we brought 50 tablets, and only used 2 of them. i.e., we just drank the water (and obviously survived fine).

·       Bring one of those fancy water filter things (a bit heavy and gear-intensive, but effective)

·       Bring one of those even fancier UV wands (I would be tempted to get one of these)

·       Drink only water that has been boiled (which in theory you could do, but is obviously painfully impractical)

Hot tips:

Look for this kind of set-up
·       Every village we went to, has a source of “drinking water”, i.e., the place where people in the village fill up their water jugs. Ask where that is, and then obviously fill up there. Some of the villages have relatively sophisticated drinking water systems where the water was coming from a natural spring high up on the mountain (see photo). These are primo obviously.

·       Bring two 1-litre water bottles. Fill them up in the morning, and carry them through the day. We found that lots to get us through the day (but opportunities to fill up through the day are almost always available). 

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Food

In three words: bring your own.

Ubi - breakfast (and lunch and dinner) of champions
As you will quickly find out, the villagers have virtually nothing in the way of food, other than sweet potatoes (AKA “ubi”) and the associated greens from said potatoes. We were quite shocked at the complete absence of anything other than sweet potatoes, despite what seems to be good growing conditions for whatever you wanted to grow (although, I am not an agricultural specialist, so I could be wrong).  We brought a ton of food, and very very glad we did.

In theory yes, if you are staying with a family, they will/should feed you. As mentioned though, we quickly found out that “food” means sweet potatoes. And, when I say sweet potatoes, I mean they will literally hand you a boiled sweet potato, and you simply eat it like an apple. Needless to say, by the second or third day, it was all we could do to each choke down half a potato each and then graciously decline any more. By the last days, we simply didn’t even ask for food (it was like eating chalk towards the end, even with the sweet Thai chili sauce we brought).

Virtually nothing is for sale in terms of food, anywhere. You may pass the odd woman selling a few bananas (which happened once), or some such thing, but really, assume you will not be able to buy any food along the way (other than the sweet potatoes your host family will give you). There is nothing resembling a store out in the villages.

The saving grace, is that they will provide you with boiled water, meaning you can do tea/coffee/soup/instant meals, etc. So, do yourself a favour, and bring tons of your own food. Pretend it is a backpacking trip in the wilderness (bring yer nuts, fruit bars, granola, all of that stuff). You will be very thankful to have real food.

Hot tips:

·       If you are coming from home, obviously, bring all of your food from your home country

Instant noodles - do it!
·       If you are travelling (i.e., SE Asia/Indonesia), bring all of your food from where you are coming from (e.g., Jakarta, Bali)

·       If you must, and have no other option, you could survive by buying your food in Wamena. There are shops, and 1 “bigger” grocery store (see “Wamena” section above) – but don’t think yer going to be eating anything fresh, or dried fruit, or resembling good camping food.

·       Instant noodles: OK, we never eat these at home, but wow, did we crave these. We brought one package each per day. When we got to our destination, the first thing we did was ask for boiled water, and had instant noodle soup. Delicious! (and highly recommended J).

·       Bring a thermos. When you ask for hot water, you will invariably be provided with a large kettle full of hot water. Fantastic, except that it just cools off in the next 30 mins. Having a thermos would allow you fill up your thermos and keep the water hot for the next rounds and into the evening. We didn’t have one, but wished we did. 

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Money

Outside of Wamena, there is no source of money (i.e., no ATMs/banks). So, bring all the cash (Indonesian Rupiah, obviously) you will need for the entire trip. However, because there is almost nothing to spend money on, you don’t need much. You will have to pay for accommodation (100,000 per person per night), and then hey, maybe you’ll buy a necklace off a guy with a penis gourd or something like that. Literally, that’s it. So, if you have 200,000 Rp per person per day plus emergency money, you would be fine. I always bring tons, just in case (money doesn’t go bad).

Hot tip:

·       Bring all of your cash (Indonesian Rupiah) with you from whatever large Indonesian city you are coming from. That way you don’t have to worry about it.

·       Try to have small bills/change, so you can pay with exact change. The guy with the penis gourd, he has no change on him J.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Guides and Porters

As mentioned repeatedly, our hatred for guided tours meant we did not have a guide, or porters. That said, almost all adult men you meet will offer to guide you (for a fee obviously). Truth be told, we used one guy for about an hour once, to take us to the next village when the trail we were on disappeared because of a series of huge landslides. We gave him a few rupiah and a snickers bar, which he seemed quite happy with.

So, if you do find yourself stuck, or lost, or confused, or unsure, fear not. It is quite feasible and easy, to find a random person (typically adult men, but also kids could do it; women are too busy working J) who will show you the way, or simply guide you for as long as you require the services. I am quite sure, that would be far cheaper, and much more efficient, than arranging a guide in Wamena for the entire trip (which is also easy to do, if you really really want/need a guide).

As well, while we did not hire any porters, I am also quite sure it would be very easy to hire random people to carry your pack(s), again for a fee obviously. We were regularly asked if we needed guiding/porter services. It would not be a problem to arrange any/all of this on the fly out in the villages.

In terms of guide/porter costs, I have no first-hand knowledge. But, a Dutch couple we spoke to in Wamena, paid 400,000 Rp. (28 USD) per day for a guide, that was pre-arranged in Wamena. However, they also had to pay for groceries (to feed themselves and him), and cigarettes for him (really, that was part of the deal). They said the trip turned out OK, but the food was a disaster (they ran out), and the guy smoked all the cigarettes in the first two days. Again, just sayin’ J

Hot tips:

·       If you really feel you need a guide/porter(s), you can arrange it in Wamena, no problem. Rut, at Hogorasuak Guesthouse (see “Wamena” section) can arrange it for you, for example.

·       A do-it-yourself option if you are unsure, is to arrange guides on the fly. As you will find out, most of the trails to most of the villages in the main valleys are obvious and easy navigated. If you get into a situation that makes you nervous, find a random guy, and almost for sure this person will be happy to show you the way to your destination village for a few rupiah.

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Garbage and Hygiene

It’s funny being a Canadian in a place like Indonesia. If you are like me, you find yourself walking the streets with a plastic wrapper in your hand for an hour or two, because there just isn’t anywhere to put it, other than on the ground. Well, that is exactly the situation in the Baliem Valley. There are no garbage (i.e., rubbish (UK)/trash (USA)) bins anywhere, even in villages. Anything you leave behind, whether it is in a house, or on a table, will almost certainly end up on the ground somewhere, as someone is forced to simply toss it out the door.

So, yet again, your call: leave it behind to get tossed into the forest, or just hold onto it for your trek. In Canada, we call it “pack it in, pack it out”. Because I just can’t get myself to throw a piece of plastic on the ground in the forest, we packed it all out. But really, how much does a wrapper weigh? Anyway, not telling you how to live, just sayin’, anything left behind will end up on the ground. So bring a garbage bag or something like that if you opt for the “pack it out” option.

In terms of hygiene, the obvious applies: bring all personal hygiene products you desire – for example, toilet paper and related matters.  There is no resupply out in the villages J

Hot tips:

·       Bring a plastic bag for garbage and pack it out (if you go that route)

·       Bring toilet paper and related hygiene products – there are none in the villages

(click on "older posts" for more)

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Malaria and things like that

OK, this is another one of these “your call” things. If you do your research, which I am sure you will, you will see that Papua is one of those places where you are supposed to take precautions against malaria, among a bunch of other things.

Long story short: we didn’t, and yet again, survived.

So, like the water thing, I’m not saying “don’t”. I’m just saying we didn’t, and to my knowledge neither of us has malaria or any other disease/virus. A key point here is that Wamena is at an elevation of 1660 m, and you will be hiking at elevations between 1500 and 2500 m (if you go to the area we went). The area can therefore be described as “the highlands”, and therefore not a high-risk malaria zone.

In terms of mosquitoes, we were not bothered by them, other than one evening in Wamena when there were some mosquitoes around. I’m not saying there are zero mosquitoes, just very few to the point that I don’t remember any during our trek. Put it this way: we brought mosquito repellent, and didn’t use it once.

Hot tips:

·       Bring mosquito repellent. It’s the least you can do. It weighs nothing, and will give some piece of mind. If you don’t use it (we didn’t), who cares.

·       If you are nervous about the malaria thing, then hey, take the pills, and sleep soundly.

(click on "older posts" for more)