South Baliem Valley : From Wamena to Angguruk

ORIGINAL PLAN

I wanted to go to Angguruk by the Gunung Elite pass and then go back to Wamena by Ninia and Soba.

South Baliem Trekking Map – Blue dots should be ok, orange are approximative. Green are outdoor spots not village

Eventually, I walked to Angguruk and took a small plane to come back. I made an article with practical tips to organise your trek in Southern Baliem valley. The rest of the article is a day to day report.

FIRST DAY : WAMENA TO KURIMA

I think Wamena is the worse city I’ve visited in Indonesia. Accommodation are shitty and expensive. Least expensive I could come up for a single traveller was 250,000Rp. Racism from Western Indonesian towards native Papuan is very strong and the economic segregation is obvious

Economic segregation in one picture – Indonesian immigrants own every shop while native papuan sell some vegetable and betelnut on the sidewalk

But you shouldn’t spend more than one night in Wamena. Straight from the plane, hop on a becak and go to the main police station (Polres) for 10,000Rp. You can also walk for 15-20min, it’s not that far.

Even though no one will ask for it, you’re supposed to request a travel permit (surat jalan). Provide 2 pictures, your passport and an approximate travel plan. It should take you 20 minutes to get it. It’s free.

Take another becak to Misi market (pasar Misi). From there take a minibus (bemo) to Kurima.

Actually you will have to take a first one for 20,000Rp. Then you have to cross a bridge over a stream and take a second one for 10,000Rp.

After the river, you can either walk or take an ojek for 20,000Rp. Ask to be dropped in front of the police station and get your travel permit stamped. If you ask kindly, the police officer will let you sleep on the floor of the police station.

The police station also has a small shop selling rice, biscuits, noodles, sugar …

DAY 2 : FROM KURIMA TO HITUGI

The trail to Hitugi and then Yogosem is very simple and don’t require any guide. I recommend that you look for a guide in Yogosem. On my side, I met a guy I had a good feeling with in Hitugi and decided to go with him.

You will pass a few other small villages on the way : Iginem, Mugi and Ugem.

Ugem village

From Ugem you can either take the upper trail that will take you to Hitugi or the lower one that pass through Nyogoseh village and then up to Hitugi.

Arriving in Hitugi village

It’s possible hike from Kurima to Yogosem in one day but rain was coming and I decided to stop in Hitugi at noon on the first day.

I had time to discuss with inhabitants, wander in the village and get my first sight at Papuan highland culture.

There is no “naked cannibal” to photograph (unless you pay for it so they arrange a “show” for you) but the local way of living is still quite preserved.

The traditional thatched-roof round house (honai) are now side by side with more modern building with tin roof. Sometimes you see a naked kid running out of the honai and sometimes a pig.

Men and women live in separated house. Kids live with women up to a given age.

The remnants of the former war-mongering way of life are still present. This old man joined us in the kitchen to seek shelter from the rain. He was really thin and looked a little bit senile. He wasn’t speaking Indonesian so the discussion wasn’t easy. I was puzzled by his missing eye and asked how it happened.

He eventually showed me many scars from battle injuries. His eye has been lost to an arrow years ago. He also had chopped a chunk of its ear in the wake of the death of a relative. Like many men, he has a hole inside his nose even though he doesn’t wear bone anymore.

I had a good feeling with a villager that offered to take me to Angguruk so I decided to hire him for 200,000Rp a day starting the next day.

Walking time : 2h50.

Accommodation : 100,000Rp

Food : 0 (they told me it was included with the accommodation).

DAY 3 : FROM HITUGI TO YOGOSEM

I started the day by wandering in the village.

Then we started walking. It takes about 1 hour to reach Yuarima.

Keep walking after Yuarima and take the bridge on your right.

It took us 3h40 to go from Yuarima to Yogosem.

Yogosem is a good place to look for a guide to take you to Angguruk even though it’s possible to reach Kiroma on your own. But Kiroma is quite small so it might be easier to get your guide in Yogosem.

I was sleeping in the village head house where I catch a surprising sight : kids watching TV (a common sinetron with Indonesian actors). It didn’t last long though because the battery quickly ran out of power. Then everyone went out to play outside.

Yogosem has an airstrip and is visited at least twice a month by plane to bring the onion production to Wamena.

It surprised me that villagers were not breeding chicken or rabbits. They explained to me that dogs would kill them.

Walking time : 4h40.

Accommodation : 100,000Rp

Food : 50,000Rp for 2 meals for 2 people

DAY 4 : FROM YOGOSEM TO WONGGUL

After 1h45 you will reach Kiroma.

It’s very important that you buy some food in Kiroma if you are running short of it because there won’t be any supply available before Peliam.

On top of biscuits and noodles, we bought some ubi [local name for yam] (15,000Rp for about 10 pieces).

From Kiroma, the trail gets harder. It takes about 2 hour to reach Mulugbaik, a place where you can find a honai to spend the night.

Mulugbaik honai

From there we spent the next 2 hours hiking in the river.

We decided to spend the night in Wonggul, which is the name for a shelter in the mountain. To my opinion it might be better to spend the night further up in Sugulhalma (another 1h45 hike from Wonggul) which is a more protected from the wind.

It’s adamant that you gather enough wood to fuel a fire throughout the night because it’s going to get quite cold.

For the dinner, we had ubi and fire-cooked noodles :

Fire-cooked noodles : fill the bag with water and then tie it up with a blade of grass. Then let it cook near the flame. Water inside will prevent the bag from melting

Walking time : 7h20

Accommodation : free (stargazing included)

Food : 40,000Rp for two (price of the food bought earlier).

DAY 5 : WONGGUL TO PELIAM

This day is rough. Long hours walking in the mud or water.

After 1h45 you will reach another shelter called Sugulhalma. After another 2h10 you will reach the beginning of a large plateau that reminds me Dead Marshes in the Lord of the Rings. This place is called Mahdik. The plateau is called Holokkaka.

Reaching the end of the plateau takes another 1h30.

The place called Mahdik, about 10h from Kiroma.

It’s now time to climb down Mount Elite. It will take about 1h30. Then another 3h are necessary to reach Peliam village. It’s also possible to walk to Pronggoli.

I think the area around Peliam had the nicest landscape I saw during my trek.

Walking time : 9h40
Accommodation : 100,000Rp

Food : 0 (we ate Ubi and food I bought on the previous days).

DAY 6 : PELIAM TO ANGGURUK

I spent some time in the morning in Peliam village before leaving to Angguruk.

You will soon realise that the local way of life has not changed much since centuries. Rice has been introduced in daily meal on top of ubi, steel machete have replaced stone axes, rupiah bills the shell money.

But most of the villagers still go barefoot, climbing up and down everyday to work in the garden. There is no animal to help, and not much mechanical gear. I saw some guys going with a hunting rifle, one chainsaw and 2 portable lawn mowers in Yogosem.

Boys play with slingshot. You can meet some old Papuan wandering with bow and arrow to go hunting for birds or fish. Women always carry their characteristic net bag on their head. Sometimes it’s filled with ubi leaves, sometimes with wood for fire, sometimes with a baby or even a small pig !

A woman carrying her nokem (the net bag).

There is no light at night but a few torchlight. People will gather in smoky honai and talk or sing.

Of course no medical care is available. They still deliver the baby at home by themselves. If you break your leg, you tie it to a piece of wood and wait for the pain to stop.

In Peliam they told me the villagers were entitled to cash benefits from the governement. About 10 or 20,000Rp but you would have to be in Wamena to get it. In almost every villages you can see some buildings funded by the government (it’s written on it).

We left a bit late this day (8h45) because I got told we would need only 4 hours to go to Angguruk. For a Papuan maybe but for us it was closer to 8 hours.

The trail go through fields for the first 45 minutes and then enter the forest. We reached the first village around 13h30.

Papuan character is very different from the rest of Indonesia. After 4 days together, my guide complain in a very shy manner that I was giving out cigarette to everyone but him. On the first day I bought him 2 packs of raw tobacco on his request and I thought he preferred that to industrial cigarettes. Turned out he was just too shy to ask.

I think giving gifts and sharing is very important in their culture. My guilde would always roll and give a cigarette to anyone we would meet on the trail. It happens a couple of time that we gave a few ubi or were given ubi without anything in return by someone met on the trail.

From the first village after the forest, another 3 hours will be necessary to get to Angguruk. This is the final bridge, maybe 15 minutes before Angguruk :

In Angguruk, the accommodation sounds like a 5 stars hotel. Rooms, beds, mattress and even blanket.

Angguruk is one of the largest village of the Yalino.

Walking time : 7h45

Accommodation : 100,000Rp

Food (bought in the local shop) : 55,000Rp

DAY 7 : ANGGURUK TO WAMENA

I wanted to see Angguruk’s market. It’s every Friday and Monday. Good luck for me we were Friday. People come from different villages nearby to sell stuff. It’s the only place where I saw women dressed with grass skirt. There was maybe 100 or 150 people attending.

Recently I came across those exceptional pictures from 1994. At the end of the article you’ll find some pictures taken at the exact same place than right below, but 23 years earlier.

People sell fruits and vegetables (bananas, passion fruit, shallot, chilli …), tobacco leaves, thread to weave nokem, grass skirt but also rice, cigarettes, lighters, shampoo  …

The latter item are a bit surprising especially knowing that Angguruk has one of the busiest airstrip of the region. So how the resellers can make money ? Simple, they buy in Wamena and bring everything back by walking (even 40kg bags of rice).

Retrospectively I think I should have stayed longer just to explore the surrounding villages or walk to Kosarek. I could maybe have waited Sunday and have the chance to see a communal feast.

But back then, my mood was more like :
– My sneakers (definetely not recommended) are wet, full of mud and my feet are ruined after 3 days walking in the water.
– I’m tired of sleeping on the floor (even though it wasn’t the case in Angguruk).
– For sure there is a plane leaving today, the next one might be on Monday (so 3 days later).

So I decided to take the plane instead of taking the risk to be stuck for a long time in Angguruk.

According to the airstrip “office” there is a flight everyday from Monday to Friday. Nonetheless, the AMA (the airline) office in Wamena told me otherwise. It’s not a regular flight but a charter. It’s just that cargo shipments to Angguruk are really regular.

The price is 600,000Rp. I also paid the ticket to my guide even though we had agreed before to stop in Angguruk and return to Wamena separately. I couldn’t decently take the plane alone and let him walk back for 4 days.

All Missionaries Airlines (AMA) has unfortunately a poor safety track record. Just one week after my visit, one of their plane crashed killing all 5 passengers.

FINAL BUDGET

Costs of the 7 days (excluding costs of the last night in Wamena and the meals taken in Wamena).

  • Guide : 1,400,000Rp (4×200,000Rp  + 600,000Rp for the plane ticket).
  • Accomodation : 400,000Rp
  • Food : less than 250,000Rp (I didn’t keep track of everything I bought in the shops)
  • Misc : about 300,000Rp for gifts (cigarettes, lighters, balloons, pencils …)
  • Transport : 70,000 from Wamena aiport to Kurima, 600,000Rp for the return plane ticket.

So about 3,000,000Rp for 7 days. Could have been less by sharing the guide with others.

 

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