by Rob D'Eon
July 2018
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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. 

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