5-Day Trek in the Central Highlands of Papua

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December 12th 2016
Published: February 6th 2017
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Here were the 2 most common questions I was asked when I told people I was going to Papua:

• Isn't it really expensive?
• Do you think it's safe?

The answer is more or less yes to both questions. The areas that are unsafe to visit in Papua would not be on a typical travelers itinerary to begin with, and my experience with Papuans was that they are overwhelming warm, hospitable and excited to see travelers passing through their corner of the planet. The first question is trickier and depends on a myriad of details. If you want to see the iconic spots in Raja Empat, get your pocketbook out. But, I will break down my trip to the Central Highlands which was not that expensive. I should note that being able to speak Indonesian well and traveling with a fluent speaker made this all the more easy. Prices will be quoted in Indonesian rupiah (IDR) with the rate at the time being around 1 USD = 13,300 IDR.

The ticket from from Jakarta to Jayapura is the real stinger. Expect to pay between 5-7 million return from the rates I've seen published (I traveled on, so only bought a one-way for 3 million). From Jayapura to our starting point in Wamena on the other hand was only 500,000. It was a beautiful flight as we passed over great stretches of forest and a watershed the size of Java! We stayed at the Baliem Pilamo hotel where you can get a room for as little as 250,000 per person if sharing a room, breakfast included. The main thing to remember when staying there though is to try the local, river crayfish, which are giant and delicious!

Choosing a guide: I did a lot of research before this trip and was quoted some astronomical figures for a 5-day trek, from 12 to 20 million! Due to this, my trekking partner and I had already decided to try and organize it on our own. So, when we arrived, we asked our hotel to put us in touch with a guide. Wendi (+62-812-4705-1829) was the first guide we spoke to. He speaks English and his quoted rate was 700,000 per day at the time of writing. I believe he was quite fair, especially since after hearing of our plans, budget concerns and ability to speak Indonesian, he recommended that we didn't need a guide, only a cook and porter! This was excellent advice and saved us a bundle with daily rates for a cook being 300,000 and a porter 200,000. I can highly recommend Pramuka (085254239726) as a cook and more. He has been working in the Central Highlands for many years now and his knowledge of water sources and connections to local communities was invaluable. We used a Steripen to treat our water and knowing whether or not a community lived above the many streams was very important. He lives in Wamena would be a great point of contact for anyone who speaks Indonesian. Sepi (085244124641), our porter, was a lively character, always keen for conversation and does speak just a touch of English. He may be harder to contact and his availability is subject to his holidays from a local school in the mountains where he teaches.

The trek: You'll need to rent a taxi to get to the trailhead. Expect to pay between 300,000 to 400,000 as I remember, it's about a 45 minute drive from Wamena. The walking is moderate to difficult. I would definitely recommend sturdy boots and flip flops for camp. I only brought some runners and chacos and found my bottom a few times on the trail. I wrecked the runners which made a nice gift to the porter since soles are easy to mend here. Lastly, consider bringing an umbrella! We had some rain every day, and I was glad to have it for the sun as well. They also made great gifts at the end of the trek. Lodging will mostly be in their traditional houses called honai. I would suggest bringing a thermarest or something equivalent. We payed an average of 300,000 per night for the two of us. This included firewood for cooking and some local produce to supplement our food rations. Being able to buy fresh food on a remote trek was fantastic and included: sweet potatoes, taro, sugar cane, cabbage and bananas. Also, don't forget to bring an ample supply of Gudang Garam kretek cigarettes! Regardless of whether you smoke or not, offer these to villagers you mingle with, when asking directions, or any other favor. Finally, some stationary or sweets for the kids if you are inclined, I know it's not without controversy, but it got some huge smiles and laughs everywhere we went. To view the full photo album, click here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10155214170169305.1073741860.779974304&type=1&l=889e91a0c4

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