BIRDING AROUND THE WORLD

Subtitle

Irian Jaya, Indonesia: 18 July – 11 August 1991

 

Mike Archer, Simon Roddis and I visited Indonesia in March/April 1988, birding in Sulawesi, Sumatra, Java and Bali. As this was a great trip we returned to Indonesia in 1991 to visit Irian Jaya, the western half of New Guinea. Initially the only first hand advice came from Stephen Nash at WWF in Jayapura, but reports were eventually obtained from Phil Hurrell, Alun Hatfield and especially Dave Gibbs, giving valuable details on their birding trips to the Jayapura, Wamena, Manokwari and Batanta areas. We chose to visit the first three but substituted Merauke for Batanta as Stephen advised it would provide more new birds as we had never been to Australia. Unfortunately, we only had 3 weeks holiday time and very little local help so the itinerary was very ambitious in this country of excessive bureaucracy, few roads, elderly aircraft and unpredictable weather. Amazingly, although we had a few narrow squeaks, there were no serious delays and we succeeded in completing our plan, seeing at least 327 bird species including 16 birds of paradise and 3 new species for Indonesia, without any use of play-back. This adventure must have been the cheapest 3 week New Guinea trip ever as we spent only $500 on all flights from Jakarta and back, using the 8 stop Garuda airpass, and some £300 each for everything else including chartering a flight in the Arfaks (which cost £16 in total!). The only real problem was heavy rain for several days in the mountains, even though it was supposed to be the dry season.  

I wrote a comprehensive report including maps on this trip, one of my most enjoyable and pioneering escapades, but only have it as hard copy now. As birding trips to these parts now abound, with at least two bird tour operators based in Sorong, I am just re-typing the itinerary and species lists, and attaching my subsequent contributions to Periplus’s “Birding Indonesia” and “Trekking Indonesia”, which I still have (although I don’t think the latter was ever published).

Jon Hornbuckle

ITINERARY

 

July   18-19 Manchester– Bali via Frankfurt and Jakarta. Overnight at losmen in Kuta.

         20 Fly Bali – Sentani airport, Jayapura via Ujang Pandang. Losmen at Sentani.

         21 Fly Jayapura – Wamena. Hire porters etc, taxi to Ibele Bawah, walk to Ibele Atas. Night in school house.

         22 Walk to Daelah, birding there. Night with rats in school house.

         23 Local birding. Night in school house.

         24 Walk back to Ibele Atas, taxi to Wamena. Afternoon trip to Jiwika. Losmen at Wamena airport.

         25 Fly to Jayapura, taxi to Nimbokrang 1, found Jamil. Night with rats in school house.

         26 Jalan Korea and sawmill with Jamil.

         27 Birding with Jamil. Night at sawmill with plague of mosquitos.

         28 Sawmill area then taxi to foothills, back to Nimbokrang, then Sentani. Night at losmen.

         29 Airport for flight to Merauke, cancelled so tried to enter forest on Cyclops Mts but too steep so had to make do with birding around Lake Sentani. Night at losmen.

        30 Fly to Merauke, visit WWF office where Janet Cochrane and Michelle were very helpful. Birding by taxi along Trans-Irian highway. Night at Hotel Asmat.

         31 Day trip by taxi along coastal road to Ndalir. Hotel Asmat.

August 1 – 3 Camping trip by Landcruiser to Tomerau in Wasur NP, arranged by WWF’s Ian Craven.

           4 Early birding in mangroves, fly back to Sentani then to Biak via Timika. Hotel Irian at Biak airport.

           5 Fly to Manokwari, taxi to lowland forest at Maruni. Night at Losmen Mulia in Manokwari.

           6 Early MAF charter flight, arranged by Ian, to Mokwam. Hired porters and trekked to Nggribou en route to Arfak Ridge. Night in shelter made by porters.

           7 Steep climb to ridge then walked down in rain to Binibei. Night in smoky hut.

           8 Long walk down to the road at Warmare, bemo to Manokwari (45 mins). Night at Losmen Bihar, Era Ria.

           9 To airport, flight full so visited Gunung Meja Reserve briefly then returned to airport for 10.30 flight to Biak via Numfor. Afternoon by taxi to Bosnik. Night at Hotel Irian near airport.

           10 Local birding then 10.30 flight to Jakarta. Discovered our Garuda flight home had been cancelled as we had been unable to reconfirm it at the required time and was now full. Took taxi to coast then back to airport to await our wait-listing fate. Cleared at 20.45 and left on time an hour later. 

 

PROBLEMS

1.     Bureaucracy – a lot of time was wasted obtaining Surat Jalans (travel permits) at police stations and having them checked, but that was all – no difficulties arose.

2.     Frequent heavy rain made the trails very slippery on both treks and impaired birding. It also led to our return flight to Jayapura at Wamena being full due to cancellation of the previous two days’ flights. We were lucky to discover a freighter was leaving that morning and get tickets for that. As it happens our booked Garuda flight the next day to Merauke had not run for months so we had to go a day later anyway.

3.     We had hoped to trek to Lake Habbema from Wamena but that was always going to be too ambitious in the time available. The porters we hired were lazy and so we did not get very far, but the weather was poor as well. Nowadays you can drive there, a much better option, but the road had not been built when we went.   

4.     We tried to hire Seth Wongga at Mokwam, a renowned bird guide, but for unknown reasons he failed to join us even though he was in the village. The 3 day hike was possibly the hardest I’ve ever done and although I missed a few good birds, I did remarkably well for specialities, eg Long-tailed Paradigalla, Arfak Astrapia, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Flame Bowerbird and White-striped Forest-Rail.

5.     Our record-breaking 3 day Arfak Mountains trip would probably have failed had we not had Ian Craven’s help in chartering the MAF flight to Mokwam. A road goes there now but walking was the only option then. Very sadly, Ian was killed in a light aircraft crash in Irian a few years later.

6.     Two harrying flight experiences we had were getting on a flight at Manokwari, to Biak – despite having a confirmed booking, our names were not on the hand-written list, full, so we had to await the next flight which fortunately was only a few hours later, although unscheduled. Our final flight from Frankfurt to Manchester aborted its initial landing attempt, fire-engines raced along the tarmac, and stewardesses sped down the aisles checking we were all belted up and emergency doors clear, but made it on the second attempt – it turned out one of the instruments had given a false alarm!

Max numbers per day per site

Jayapura

Wamena

Arfaks

Biak

Lesser Frigatebird

 

 

 

8

Little Pied Cormorant

1

 

 

 

Rufous Night-Heron

1

 

 

 

Great White Egret

4

2

 

 

Intermediate Egret

2

 

 

 

Striated Heron

 

 

 

1

Black Bittern

1

 

 

 

Spotted Whistling Duck

2

 

 

 

Pacific Black Duck

2

 

 

 

Crested Baza

3

 

 

9

Long-tailed Buzzard

2

 

 

1

Whistling Kite

1

 

 

 

Brahminy Kite

6

1

2

 

White-bellied Sea  Eagle

 

 

 

 

Black-mantled Goshawk

 

1

 

 

Grey Goshawk

2

1

 

1

Grey-headed Goshawk

1

 

 

 

Collared Sparrowhawk

 

 

 

1

Gurney's Eagle

 

 

2

 

Little Eagle

1

 

 

 

Brown Falcon

1

2

 

 

Nankeen Kestrel

 

1

 

 

Oriental Hobby

2

 

 

 

Peregrine

 

1

 

 

New Guinea Scrubfowl

 

 

1

 

Red-billed Brush Turkey

 

 

H

 

Brown-collared Brush Turkey

H

 

 

 

Brown Quail

2

 

 

 

Red-backed Button-Quail

1

 

 

 

Buff-banded Rail

 

1

 

 

White-striped Forest-Rail

 

 

1JH

 

Rufous-tailed Bush-Hen

2

 

 

 

Dusky Moorhen

1

 

 

 

Comb-crested Jacana

3

 

 

 

Common Sandpiper

1

 

 

 

White-throated Pigeon

 

 

 

 

Slender-billed Cuckoo Dove

F

F

 

F

Black-billed Cuckoo Dove

 

 

10

 

Great Cuckoo Dove

1

1

 

 

Stephan's Pigeon

2

 

 

 

Victoria Crowned Pigeon

2

 

 

 

Wompoo Fruit Dove

2

 

 

 

Superb Fruit Dove

1

 

 

 

Coroneted Fruit Dove

4

 

 

 

Pink-spotted Fruit Dove

 

 

1

 

White-breasted Fruit Dove

 

2

 

 

Yellow-bibbed Fruit Dove

 

 

 

10

Claret-breasted Fruit Dove

 

 

 

4

Orange-bellied Fruit Dove

3

 

4

 

Dwarf Fruit Dove

 

 

1

 

Spice Imperial Pigeon

 

 

 

3

Pied Imperial Pigeon

 

 

 

2

Collared Imperial Pigeon

1

 

 

 

Pinon Imperial Pigeon

10

 

10

 

Zoe Imperial Pigeon

1

 

1

 

Papuan Mountain Pigeon

 

 

12

 

Brown Lory

10

 

 

 

Biak Red Lory

 

 

 

2

Rainbow Lorikeet

20

 

20

10

Western Black-capped Lory

10

 

 

2

Red-fronted Lorikeet

 

 

 

4

Pygmy Lorikeet

 

5

 

 

Papuan Lorikeet

 

 

5

 

Plum-faced Lorikeet

 

5

 

 

Yellow-billed Lorikeet

 

C

20

 

Orange-billed Lorikeet

 

F

 

 

Palm Cockatoo

3

 

 

 

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

7

 

10

3

Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot

4

 

 

 

Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot

 

 

2

 

Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot

 

 

5

 

Double-eyed Fig Parrot

10

 

 

 

Large Fig Parrot

 

 

10

 

Salvadori's Fig Parrot

F

 

 

 

Modest Tiger Parrot

 

1

2

 

Red-cheeked Parrot

20

 

10

2

Blue-collared Parrot

 

 

5

 

Eclectus Parrot

10

 

10

10

Vulturine Parrot

H

 

 

 

Moluccan King Parrot

 

 

1

 

Brush Cuckoo

3

 

H

6

Chestunt-breasted Cuckoo

 

 

4

 

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

 

 

1

 

Rufous-throated Bronze Cuckoo

 

 

1

 

White-eared Bronze Cuckoo

 

 

1

 

Asian Koel

2

 

 

 

Channel-billed Cuckoo

2

 

 

 

Greater Black Coucal

H

 

 

 

Biak Coucal

 

 

 

1

Lesser Black Coucal

4

 

1

 

Greater Sooty Owl

 

 

1?

 

Moustached Tree Swift

12

 

 

6

Uniform Swiftlet

C

 

C

C

Mountain Swiftlet

 

C

20

 

Glossy Swiftlet

25

19

C

5

Papuan Spine-tailed Swift

15

 

 

 

Common Paradise Kingfisher

 

 

1

 

Biak Paradise Kingfisher

 

 

 

2

Rufous-bellied Kookaburra

1

 

 

 

Sacred Kingfisher

F

F

 

F

Mountain Kingfisher

 

H

 

 

Dwarf Kingfisher C.lepidus

1

 

 

 

Little Kingfisher A.pusilla

1

 

 

 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

5

 

 

 

Rainbow Bee-eater

25

 

5

9

Dollarbird

12

 

10

6

Papuan Hornbill

10

 

8

 

Red-bellied Pitta

1

 

 

 

Pacific Swallow

10

5

5

3

Hooded Cuckoo Shrike

 

6

 

 

White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike

8

 

3

 

Stout-billed Cuckoo Shrike

 

1

 

 

Common Cicadabird

 

 

 

1

Black-shouldered Cuckoo Shrike

1

 

 

 

Grey-headed Cuckoo Shrike

1

 

 

 

Black Cuckoo Shrike

4

 

2

 

Black-bellied Cuckoo Shrike

 

 

3

 

Boyer's Cuckoo Shrike

1

 

4

 

Black-browed Triller

2

 

1

 

Pied Stonechat

2

12

 

 

Blue-capped Ifrita

 

1

 

 

Rufous Babbler

10

 

3

 

Island Leaf Warbler

 

15

2

 

Emperor Fairy Wren

3

 

 

2

White-shouldered Fairy Wren

5

10

5

 

Orange-crowned Fairy Wren

 

 

2

 

Rusty Mouse Warbler

 

6

 

 

Mountain Mouse Warbler

 

2

1

 

Pale-billed Scrub Wren

2

 

 

 

Perplexing Scrub Wren

 

2

 

 

Large Scrub Wren

 

 

2

 

Buff-faced Scrub Wren

 

10

 

 

Vogelkop Scrub Wren

 

 

6

 

Papuan Scrub Wren

 

2

 

 

Grey-green Scrub Wren

 

 

8

 

Grey Gerygone

 

 

10

 

Yellow-bellied Gerygone

1

 

 

 

Green-backed Gerygone

 

 

2

 

Fairy Gerygone

1

 

1

 

Brown-breasted Gerygone

 

5

2

 

Black Thicket Fantail

2

 

1

 

Dimorphic Fantail

 

 

4

 

Black Fantail

 

3

6

 

Friendly Fantail

 

5

10

 

Northern Fantail

 

1

1

 

Willie Wagtail

6

 

F

10

Black Monarch

 

1

 

 

Black-winged Monarch

 

 

1

 

Golden Monarch

1

 

 

 

Frilled Monarch

2

 

1

 

Shining Flycatcher

1

 

 

1

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

 

 

1

 

Black-breasted Boatbill

 

3

3

 

Torrent Flycatcher

2

 

 

 

Canary Flycatcher

 

3

3

 

White-faced Robin

 

 

1

 

Garnet Robin

 

 

1

 

Black-sided Robin

H

 

 

H

Black-throated Robin

 

 

1

 

Blue-Grey Robin

 

2

1

 

White-eyed Robin

 

2

 

 

Dwarf Whistler

 

 

3

 

Common Golden Whistler

 

10

 

 

Sclater's Whistler

 

 

2

 

Regent Whistler

 

 

7

 

Lorentz's Whistler

 

3

 

 

Vogelkop Whistler

 

 

2

 

Rufous-naped Whistler

 

1

1

 

Little Shrike Thrush

 

1

3

 

Rusty Pitohui

3

 

 

 

Hooded Pitohui

2

 

 

 

Black Pitohui

 

 

2

 

Papuan Treecreeper

 

 

1

 

Mid Mountain Berrypecker

 

1

2

 

Fan-tailed Berrypecker

 

1

 

 

Olive-crowned Flowerpecker

 

 

3

 

Red-capped Flowerpecker

F

C

 

C

Tit Berrypecker

 

 

1

 

Black Sunbird

10

 

 

F

Olive-backed Sunbird

C

 

C

10

Biak White-eye

 

 

 

10

Western Mountain White-eye

 

C

10

 

Slaty-chinned Longbill

 

2

 

 

Red Myzomela

 

 

1

 

Mountain Myzomela

 

 

5

 

Red-collared Myzomela

C

 

2

 

Mountain Meliphaga

 

 

1

 

Puff-backed Meliphaga

 

 

2

 

Mimic Meliphaga

4

4

2

 

Tawny-breasted Honeyeater

1

 

 

 

Meyer's Friarbird

5

 

 

 

Helmeted Friarbird

C

 

C

 

Rufous-sided Honeyeater

2

 

5

 

Grey-streaked Honeyeater

 

2

 

 

Vogelkop Melidectes

 

 

1

 

Belford's Melidectes

 

3

 

 

Ornate Melidectes

 

10

 

 

Western Smoky Honeyeater

 

 

10

 

Common Smoky Honeyeater

 

C

 

 

Streak-headed Mannikin

4

 

6

 

Black-breasted Mannikin

 

C

 

 

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin

 

 

 

3

Singing Starling

3

 

3

10

Long-tailed Starling

 

 

 

C

Metallic Starling

6

 

 

C

Golden Myna

20

 

4

 

Yellow-faced Myna

30

 

2

 

Brown Oriole

6

 

2

 

Mountain Drongo

 

 

1

 

Spangled Drongo

5

 

3

3

Torrent Lark

 

 

2

 

White-breasted Wood Swallow

6

 

 

 

Great Wood Swallow

 

2

8

 

Hooded Butcherbird

5

 

4

15

Black Butcherbird

3

 

2

 

Lowland Peltops

1

 

 

 

Mountain Peltops

 

1

 

 

Vogelkop Bowerbird

 

 

2

 

Masked (Flame) Bowerbird

 

 

2

 

Fawn-breasted Bowerbird

4

 

 

 

Glossy-mantled Manucode

1+

 

 

 

Jobi Manucode

1

 

 

 

Crinkle-collared Manucode

 

2

 

 

Long-tailed Paradigalla

 

 

2

 

Short-tailed Paradigalla

 

4

 

 

Magnificent Riflebird

 

 

H

 

Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise

F

 

 

 

Buff-tailed Sicklebill

 

 

1

 

Pale-billed Sicklebill

1

 

 

 

Black Sicklebill

 

 

5

 

Brown Sicklebill

 

4

 

 

Arfak astrapia

 

 

1

 

Splendid Astrapia

 

3

 

 

Superb Bird of Paradise

 

C

 

 

Western Parotia

 

F

 

 

King Bird of Paradise

H

 

1

 

Magnificent Bird of Paradise

 

 

1

 

Lesser Bird of Paradise

2

 

2

 

Brown-headed Crow

5

 

 

 

Grey Crow

6

 

 

 

Torresian Crow

 

 

F

F

 

Merauke and Tomerau, SE Irian Jaya

July 30 - Aug 4 1991

 

Little Black Cormorant

Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

common, 40-200 daily

Little Pied Cormorant

Phalacrocorax melanoleucos

common, 750 daily max

Darter

Anhinga melanogaster

15 max

Great Egret

Ardea alba

100 max

Pied Heron

Egretta picata

200 max

Intermediate Egret

Egretta intermedia

100 max

White-faced Heron

Egretta novaehollandiae

2 at Wasur

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

50 max

Striated Heron

Butorides striatus

5 max

Rufous Night-Heron

Nycticorax caledonicus

2000 roosting near Tomerau

Black Bittern

Ixobrychus flavicollis

3 singles at Wasur

Black-necked Stork

Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus

up to 5 daily near Tomerau

Australian Ibis

Threskiornis molucca

50 max

Straw-necked Ibis

Threskiornis spinicollis

50 max

Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus

40 max

Royal Spoonbill

Platalea regia

50 max at Tomerau

Magpie Goose

Anseranas semipalmata

15-25 near Tomerau

Spotted/Wandering Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna guttata/arcuata

2+ at night near Tomerau

Radjah Shelduck

Tadorna radjah

100 on coast, 10 near Tomerau

Pacific Black Duck

Anas superciliosa

20 max

Pacific Baza

Aviceda subcristata

few

Long-tailed Honey-buzzard

Henicopernis longicauda

few

Whistling Kite

Haliastur sphenurus

10 daily

Brahminy Kite

Haliastur indus

5 daily

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Haliaeetus leucogaster

few

Swamp Harrier

Circus approximans

1-2 daily near Tomerau

Variable/Brown Goshawk

Accipiter hiogaster/fasciatus

2 singles

Collared Sparrowhawk

Accipiter cirrocephalus

1-2 on 2 dates

Brown Falcon

Falco berigora

few

Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Megapodius reinwardt

common

Brown Quail

Coturnix ypsilophora

1 near Tomerau

Brolga

Grus rubicunda

10-20 near Tomerau, 4 near Merauke

Purple Swamphen

Porphyrio porphyrio

2 crossing road

Australian Bustard

Ardeotis australis

10-25 daily near Tomerau

Comb-crested Jacana

Irediparra gallinacea

12 max

White-headed Stilt

Himantopus leucocephalus

500+ on beach at Ndalir, 10max Tomerau

Bush Thick-knee – unrecorded in Indonesia

Burhinus grallarius

heard at night near Tomerau, 100% certain

Australian Pratincole

Stiltia isabella

60 max near Tomerau

Masked Lapwing

Vanellus miles

50 max

Mongolian Plover

Charadrius mongolus

10+ Ndalir

Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa

100 Ndalir

Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica

2 Ndalir

Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

20 max

Far Eastern Curlew

Numenius madagascariensis

30 max

Marsh Sandpiper

Tringa stagnatilis

10 Ndalir

Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

10 Ndalir, 9 near Tomerau

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

7 on coast

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

1 Ndalir

Great Knot

Calidris tenuirostris

200 Ndalir

Red-necked Stint

Calidris ruficollis

250+ peeps Ndalir

Gull-billed Tern

Sterna nilotica

100 max

Great Crested Tern

Sterna bergii

5 Ndalir

Whiskered Tern

Chlidonias hybridus

150 max

Rock Dove

Columba livia

1 at Merauke

Peaceful Dove

Geopelia placida

5 max Wasur

Bar-shouldered Dove

Geopelia humeralis

200-250 near Tomerau, few Wasur

Wompoo Fruit-Dove

Ptilinopus magnificus

1 near Tomerau

Beautiful Fruit-Dove

Ptilinopus pulchellus

1 near Tomerau

Torresian Imperial-Pigeon

Ducula spilorrhoa

14 max

Little Corella

Cacatua sanguinea

100 Tomerau

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Cacatua galerita

350 max

Dusky Lory

Pseudeos fuscata

At least 1 flock over Tomerau

Rainbow Lorikeet

Trichoglossus haematodus

200 max

Red-flanked Lorikeet

Charmosyna placentis

1 near Ndalir

Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot

Clycopsitta gulielmitertii

9 by Trans Irian Highway

Red-cheeked Parrot

Geoffroyus geoffroyi

1-2 Wasur

Eclectus Parrot

Eclectus roratus

10 max

Red-winged Parrot

Aprosmictus erythropterus

20 by Trans Irian Highway

Brush Cuckoo

Cacomantis variolosus

few

Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx basalis

1 near Tomerau

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx lucidus

1 near Ndalir

Australian Koel

Eudynamys cyanocephala

1 near Tomerau

Pheasant Coucal

Centropus phasianinus

8 max

Lesser Black Coucal

Centropus bernsteini

1 near Tomerau

Barking Owl

Ninox connivens

1 near Tomerau

Papuan Frogmouth

Podargus papuensis

5 Tomerau

White-throated Nightjar

Eurostopodus mystacalis

1 by Trans Irian Highway

Large-tailed Nightjar

Caprimulgus macrurus

2 Tomerau

Azure Kingfisher

Alcedo azurea

1 by Trans Irian Highway

Blue-winged Kookaburra

Dacelo leachii

10 max

Spangled Kookaburra

Dacelo tyro

5 max daily

Rufous-bellied Kookaburra

Dacelo gaudichaud

1-2 daily

Forest Kingfisher

Todirhamphus macleayii

10 max

Sacred Kingfisher

Todirhamphus sanctus

5-6 daily

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Merops philippinus

100 max

Rainbow Bee-eater

Merops ornatus

150 max

Australasian Bushlark

Mirafra javanica

10 near Tomerau

Tree Martin

Cecropsis (Hirundo) nigricans

3000+ roosting near Tomerau, 50 near Merauke

Fairy Martin – first for Indonesia

Cecropsis (Hirundo) ariel

At least 1 with Tree Martins over Tomerau

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Coracina novaehollandiae

10 max

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike

Coracina papuensis

10 max

Cicadabird

Coracina tenuirostris

4 max

Zitting Cisticola

Cisticola juncidis

1-3 daily

Golden-headed Cisticola

Cisticola exilis

5 max

Clamorous/Australian Reed-Warbler

Acrocephalus stentoreus/australis

1-2 singing

Willie-wagtail

Rhipidura leucophrys

10 max

White-bellied Thicket-Fantail

Rhipidura leucothorax

1 in mangroves at Merauke

Mangrove Fantail

Rhipidura phasiana

4 in mangroves at Merauke

Leaden Flycatcher

Myiagra rubecula

2 pairs

Restless Flycatcher

Myiagra inquieta

1 near Tomerau

Shining Flycatcher

Myiagra alecto

3 max

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher

Microeca flavigaster

1 by Trans Irian Highway

Olive Flyrobin

Microeca flavovirescens

singles near Ndalir and Tomerau

Mangrove Robin

Eopsaltria pulverulenta

1 in mangroves at Merauke

Black-tailed Whistler

Pachycephala melanura

2-4 in mangoves at Merauke

Rufous Shrike-Thrush

Colluricincla megarhyncha

2 pairs

Grey Shrike-Thrush

Colluricincla harmonica

1-2 near Tomerau

Grey-crowned Babbler

Pomatostomus temporalis

10 max

White-shouldered Fairywren

Malurus alboscapulatus

10 max

Fairy Gerygone

Gerygone palpebrosa

6 near Tomerau

Large-billed Gerygone

Gerygone magnirostris

4 near Tomerau

Mangrove Gerygone

Gerygone levigaster

4 in mangroves at Merauke

Black Sunbird

Leptocoma sericea

common

Olive-backed Sunbird

Cinnyris jugularis

common

Brown Honeyeater

Lichmera indistincta

20 max

Dusky Myzomela

Myzomela obscura

1 near Ndalir, 2 in mangroves at Merauke

Red-headed Myzomela

Myzomela erythrocephala

4 feeding fledglings in mangroves at Merauke

Puff-backed Honeyeater

Meliphaga aruensis

2 in mangroves at Merauke

Graceful Honeyeater

Meliphaga gracilis

1-3 at Merauke

Varied Honeyeater

Lichenostomus versicolor

4 max

White-throated Honeyeater

Melithreptus albogularis

4 max

Plain Honeyeater

Pycnopygius ixoides

1 by Trans Irian Highway

Meyer's Friarbird

Philemon meyeri

1 by Trans Irian Highway

Little Friarbird

Philemon citreogularis

5 in flowering trees near Tomerau

Helmeted Friarbird

Philemon buceroides

few in parkland at Wasur

Noisy Friarbird

Philemon corniculatus

10 max

Brown-backed Honeyeater

Ramsayornis modestus

8 max

Rufous-banded Honeyeater

Conopophila albogularis

4 near Tomerau

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Entomyzon cyanotis

12 max

Olive-backed Oriole

Oriolus sagittatus

4 max

Green Oriole

Oriolus flavocinctus

2 near Tomerau

Spangled Drongo

Dicrurus bracteatus

15 max

Magpie-lark

Grallina cyanoleuca

4 near Tomerau

White-breasted Woodswallow

Artamus leucorynchus

1 near Tomerau

Black-backed Butcherbird

Cracticus mentalis

5 daily in Wasur

Black Butcherbird

Cracticus quoyi

3 near Tomerau

Australasian Magpie

Gymnorhina tibicen

5 max

Trumpet Manucode

Manucodia keraudrenii

6 max, other sp. may have been involved

Fawn-breasted Bowerbird

Chlamydera cerviniventris

4 by Trans Irian Highway

Torresian Crow

Corvus orru

40 max

Yellow-faced Myna

Mino dumontii

4 near Tomerau

Crimson Finch

Neochmia phaeton

30-40 near Tomerau

White-spotted Munia

Lonchura leucosticta

8 max

Gray-crowned Munia

Lonchura nevermanni

1 in reeds near Tomerau (photo)

Black Munia

Lonchura stygia

20 near Tomerau

 

“BIRDING INDONESIA” - Irian Jaya  -  J Hornbuckle

ARFAK MOUNTAINS

Isolated from other mountain ranges the Arfaks are home to some of the most spectacular birds and butterflies on earth. These natural wonders were first discovered by the Italian naturalist / explorers d’Albertis and Beccari a century ago and can now be enjoyed by the determined trekker, with local assistance.

The starting point is Manokwari, an effervescent but down-market port at the east end of the Vogelkop, where, some fifty years ago, two missionaries were slaughtered for trying to penetrate the Kabar district to the west. The church triumphed in the end as most of the Arfak peoples have been converted to Christianity now and the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flies its Cessnas to many parts of the region, giving the intrepid trekker a wide choice of routes. The simplest option though is to trek to Mokwam from Warmare, an hour’s bemo ride from Manokwari.  

A Naturalist’s Paradise

The Arfaks rise steeply to 2200m south of town, higher further inland, and are blanketed in rich tropical rain forest. Fitness and willingness to endure a soaking are needed to witness the spectacle of birds of paradise, birdwing butterflies and huge moss-covered trees. With porters to carry supplies and gear, Mokwam can be reached in a long day’s trek by the direct route, or in two days at a more gentle pace, with a night of camping. A couple of nights in the WWF hut at Mokwam will give time for recruiting a naturalist guide and exploration of the village and neigborhood. A good guide can show you the natural wonders in the surrounding mountains: display courts of Magnificent Birds-of-Paradise, the Black Sicklebill with its majestic train of a tail and Curlew-like bill, the incredible bower of the Vogelkop Bowerbird - built like a rondevaal and containing piles of brightly colored fruit and flowers to attract a mate - and the beautiful iridescent green butterflies with 20cm wingspans, only found in this region and now a source of income for the local butterfly ranchers.

Some stunning and little-known birds, including 9 birds-of-paradise, await the birder with 3 or more days to spend in the pristine forest.  Most of the region’s specialities can be found a short distance into the mountains, but as the walking is strenuous it is necessary to hire porters and camp up on the Nggribou ridge.  The area/ terrain consists of mountain ridges, blanketed with primary forest, and divided by deep valleys formed by fast-flowing rivers and streams. 

            The biggest prizes are the spectacular Black and Buff-tailed Sicklebills and Arfak Astrapia, which are most readily seen early or late in the day. The Buff-tailed is a particularly shy bird that will take luck to find or perseverance in following up its Whimbrel-like call. The endemic Arfak Bowerbird is much duller but builds an extraordinary hut-like bower which it decorates with separate piles of red and blue objects, mainly flowers and berries but even biscuit-wrappers or cigarette-packets will be included if of the "right" colour. Several bowers can be found along the ridge trail, which is also home to an exceptional variety of robins, including Ashy, Smoky and Black-throated, and the skulking Spotted Jewel-Babbler and Lesser Ground Robin. Look and listen for mixed species flocks as they often contain such gems as Garnet Robin and Tit Berrypecker.

            The next night or two can be spent in the large but basic hut at Binibei (1500m elevation), if still standing. This is a comfortable day's walk away along the ridge, nearly to Gunung Nggribou, with a final steep descent of a few hundred metres. It is the site to find the very rare Long-tailed Paradigalla, "rediscovered” in this region in 1989 and sometimes seen in trees just below the hut. Early morning here can be a hive of activity, with parotias, honeyeaters and difficult species such as Black Pitohui, all in evidence. It is possible to walk down to Warmare from here in a day but better to take two days as some interesting birds are only found at lower elevations. These include the gaudy Flame Bowerbird, White-rumped and Green-backed Robins, Dwarf Whistler and Black-winged Monarch. On reaching the road, the porters can be paid off as a lift back to Manokwari should be easily obtained.

 

                                    KEY SPECIES

(a) Baliem Valley                                  (b) Arfak Mountains

*Salvadori's Teal                                     Gurney's Eagle

  Meyer's Goshawk                                  Wattled Brush-Turkey

*Chestnut Forest-Rail                             *White-striped Forest-Rail

*Snow Mountain Quail                              Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot

*Painted Tiger-Parrot                               Black-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike

*Archbold’s Owlet-Nightjar                     *Mountain Owlet-Nightjar

  Mountain Nightjar                                  Spotted Jewel-Babbler

*Alpine Pipit                                          *Wallace’s Fairy-Wren

*Greater Ground-Robin                            Orange-crowned Fairy-Wren

*Lesser Melampitta                                *Vogelkop Scrub-Wren

  Blue-capped Ifrita                                  Perplexing Scrub-Wren

*Papuan Whipbird                                   Black-winged Monarch

  Papuan Thornbill

*Mountain Robin                                      Lesser Ground-Robin

  Lorenz's Whistler                                   White-faced Robin

  Black Sitella                                          Garnet Robin

  Streaked Berrypecker                            Ashy Robin

  Crested Berrypecker                              White-rumped Robin

  Olive Straightbill                                    Smoky Robin

  Slaty-chinned Longbill                           Black-chinned Robin

  Black-throated Honeyeater                     Green-backed Robin   

  Yellowish-Streaked Honeyeater            *Vogelkop Whistler 

*Orange-cheeked Honeyeater                   Black Pitohui

  Sooty Honeyeater                                 Tit Berrypecker

*Short-bearded Honeyeater                      Marbled Honeyeater

*Snow Mountain Munia                            Cinnamon-browed Melidectes

*Black-breasted Munia                           *Vogelkop Melidectes

  Mountain Firetail                                  *Western Smoky Honeyeater

*Archbold's Bowerbird                           *Vogelkop Bowerbird

  Short-tailed Paradigalla                        *Flame Bowerbird

  Brown Sicklebill                                   *Long-tailed Paradigalla

*Splendid Astrapia                                *Buff-tailed Sicklebill

*MacGregor's Bird-of-Paradise               *Black Sicklebill

  Loria's Bird-of-Paradise                       *Arfak Astrapia

*King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise          *Western Parotia

Superb Bird-of-Paradise                        Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise   

Noisy Friarbird

Brown-backed Honeyeater

Rufous-banded Honeyeater

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Olive-backed Oriole

Green Oriole

Spangled Drongo

Magpie-lark 


PRACTICALITIES

As with anywhere in Irian Jaya, a Surat Jalan (travel permit) must be obtained, detailing the proposed route. The main police station in all big towns, including Manokwari, can issue these in an hour or two, although if arriving in Irian at Sentani Airport, Jayapura, it is most conveniently arranged at the police/immigration office just outside the terminal. Two passport photos and two copies of the inside pages of the passport, including the entry stamp for Indonesia, must be provided.

            There are hotels, losmens and restaurants to meet all pockets in Manokwari, but virtually no accommodation or food in the Arfaks. However, the porters/guides are adept at building waterproof shelters, and so it is feasible to manage without a tent. At Mokwam it may be possible to stay in the WWF hut, if prearranged with WWF, a valuable source of information and possibly assistance, in Manokwari.

            There are several flights a week between Manokwari and Sorong, Biak and Jayapura/Timika, some of which may be unscheduled. Do not rely on reservations confirmed by computer; it is essential to ensure your name is on the handwritten list for the specific flight!

            Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flies every week or two to Mokwam, but more frequently to Minyambou which is an easy few hours walk away from Mokwam. They will try and schedule a flight to suit your timing if given several days notice but it is very difficult to contact them other than in person; WWF or a travel agent may be able to help. The cost is very reasonable and depends on the total weight of the party and luggage. It is unlikely to exceed $US50 a journey! The address is Kantor TEAM, Manokwari  98311, tel. 21155. The alternative is to walk up to the Nggribou ridge from Warmare and back again, without visiting Mokwam.

            Porters are readily hired in Mokwam to carry luggage, food and cooking utensils, all of which should be brought in. Competent guides such as Seth Wongger, Vosim or Yafet can be found by askingaround for them in the village. The guides can show you good birds around Mokwam, eg Long-tailed Paradigalla and Western Parotia on Siobri, and the spectacular bowers of Arfak Bowerbird.

            There does not seem to be a dry season in the Arfaks as rain occurs most days, especially in the afternoon and evening. It is warm to hot every day but can be quite cool at night on or near the ridge. Leeches and mosquitos are present, but only in small numbers. The normal health precautions need to be taken, with nothing special.

 

TREKKING INDONESIA - Irian Jaya  -  J Hornbuckle

ARFAK MOUNTAINS

Isolated from other mountain ranges the Arfaks are home to some of the most spectacular birds and butterflies on earth. These natural wonders were first discovered by the Italian naturalist / explorers d’Albertis and Beccari a century ago and can now be enjoyed by the determined trekker, with local assistance.

The starting point is Manokwari, an effervescent but down-market port at the east end of the Vogelkop, where, some fifty years ago, two missionaries were slaughtered for trying to penetrate the Kabar district to the west. The church triumphed in the end as most of the Arfak peoples have been converted to Christianity now and the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flies its Cessnas to many parts of the region, giving the intrepid trekker a wide choice of routes. The simplest option though is to trek to Mokwam from Warmare, an hour’s bemo ride from Manokwari.  

A Naturalist’s Paradise

The Arfaks rise steeply to 2200m south of town, higher further inland, and are blanketed in rich tropical rain forest. Fitness and willingness to endure a soaking are needed to witness the spectacle of birds of paradise, birdwing butterflies and huge moss-covered trees. With porters to carry supplies and gear, Mokwam can be reached in a long day’s trek by the direct route, or in two days at a more gentle pace, with a night of camping. A couple of nights in the WWF hut at Mokwam will give time for recruiting a naturalist guide and exploration of the village and neigborhood. A good guide can show you the natural wonders in the surrounding mountains: display courts of Magnificent Birds-of-Paradise, the Black Sicklebill with its majestic train of a tail and Curlew-like bill, the incredible bower of the Vogelkop Bowerbird - built like a rondevaal and containing piles of brightly colored fruit and flowers to attract a mate - and the beautiful iridescent green butterflies with 20cm wingspans, only found in this region and now a source of income for the local butterfly ranchers.

Anggi Lakes

An easy five hours walk to the large settlement of Minyambou will give ample opportunity to observe local customs and agricultural methods on the way. Most people are clad in western-style clothes, perhaps a little ragged, and are keen on education and the church. The men have plenty of time for talk, as the tradition of women doing most of the work dies hard. A hard day’s trek, or better still two days, takes you to Anggi Lakes, where the Sougbs live in their traditional stilt houses, with men sleeping communally on one side and the women having individual compartments on the other. The peaceful waters of the lakes are only disturbed by the paddles of outrigger canoes, or rain drops. The panorama of jungle, lakes and mountains visible from the many trails connecting the small villages around the two major lakes, is well worth the trip.

This lake district was only opened up to the outside world in 1955 when a mission post was established at Sureri. The area is relatively wealthy now due to the air-freighting of vegetables, such as carrots, celery, onions and garlic, birdwing butterflies, orchids and smoked fish. This may be your first opportunity in Irian to sample the delights of the introduced carp, known locally as “goldfish”. Another possible treat is to see a traditional dance performance, a lively affair put on from time to time. There are flights to Manokwari from Anggi village, so it might be possible to avoid the walk back, but don’t count on it as they are usually full and frequently disrupted by bad weather.   

Rugged Trekking in Rain Forest

The return journey from Mokwam starts down the steeply sloping airstrip, aacross a deep ravine, through Kwao village and down to the River Prafi. Here, as you cross over the rapidly deteriorating bridge or get wet feet, you can watch the Torrent-lark, a handsome thrush-sized black and white bird, wagging its tail and flitting between rocks in the swiftly flowing water. A tough scramble up 1000m to the ridge between Gunung Nggribou and Gunung Umtjin then follows, with occasional fine views over the numerous ridges of the Arfak Range.

On reaching the Nggribou ridge, you must decide whether to continue up the ridge to the right to Gunung Humeibou, a further 800m but not particularly steep climb, requiring a night's camping on the ridge, or to drop down 500m to Binibei where there is a single-roomed hut. If rain is falling, as is usual, in the afternoons at least, the hut might be preferable as the porters will light fires inside for drying out and boiling up a vat of rice and vegetables, but you may have to share with a local family and their livestock!

The hut is precariously positioned in a small clearing on the steep mountain-side. The clear early morning view down to Manokwari and the ocean is spectacular and there is usually a hive of bird activity all around. The rare but duller birds-of-paradise, such as Western Parotia and Long-tailed Paradigalla, are often in evidence along with various honeyeaters, pitohuis and robins. Botanists too will have a field day, trying to identify the many species of orchids, trees and unique plants. 

You may wish to take a day off to explore the ridge, but if not it will be a long and challenging day to walk back to Warmare - mostly downhill and tough on the knees. The vegetation changes noticeably as the altitude drops, trees becoming bigger but less clothed in mosses. Be sure to tell the guide to go the long but easier way round, up Gunung Umtjin, to avoid the steep and slippery short-cut favored by the bare-footed locals. You may see a flash of brilliant orange - a Flame Bowerbird, or a Mountain Peltops - a large pied flycatcher with a red rear, or even glimpse the shy Jewel-Babbler, a terrestial thrush-like bird. The final hour or two is spent in deforested land where crops such as maize and cabbage are under cultivation. Pay off the porters when you reach the main road near Warmare; it should be easy to hitch a lift on a passing vehicle back to Manokwari. 

BALIEM VALLEY

The first serious attempt to explore the interior of Irian Jaya from the south, by the British Ornithological Union Expedition in 1909, ended 18 months later with 16 men dead and 120 disabled from disease and accidents, after failure to find a route through the coastal swamps. It was not until 1938 that the Baliem Valley was first seen by Western eyes when the American explorer Archbold flew over it and then landed on Lake Habbema in his sea plane. He then became the first white man to trek from there to Wamena, an opportunity only recently opened up to all by the construction of a new road.

Archbold was followed by the missionaries, after the second world war. Although still active, they have had a tougher time here than elsewhere in New Guinea, with a number killed over the years, and possibly eaten, for upsetting the tribal customs of the Dani inhabitants. Religious strife is rare now and the area generally safe, but a group of naturalists was held captive for several months in 1996 by West Irian separatists.

The Grand Baliem Valley, the largest area of flat land in the highlands of New Guinea, lies at about 1600m. The Baliem River runs through the Snow Mountains, forested between 1800m and 3000m, and above which lie the alpine grasslands and ultimately the snow-capped peaks of Irian's highest peaks.

The whole area is a visual paradise for trekkers.

The Valley is the home of the Dani and the Yali tribes, who mostly live in round, thatched huts in compounds surrounded by a strong wooden or earthen fence. The highly picturesque landscape along the valleys is a patchwork of agricultural fields, terraced gardens, compounds and villages, connected by tracks and trails. This was unchanged for centuries until recently when the Indonesians came in and started to build roads and square, tin-roofed houses. The higher hills above the valleys are still clothed in rain forest, and so the scenery has an almost "classic" beauty.

Day trips can be made to a number of villages near to Wamena such as Pugima and Jiwika, but the best way to enjoy the culture of the region is to undertake treks of several days. Three worthwhile areas are Lake Habbema to the west, Karubaga to the north, and the Baliem Gorge to the south.

Lake Habbema - Sensational Scenery

To retrace Archbold’s historic trek, one of the finest in the province, charter a jeep in Wamena and with food, guide and porters, take the 90 minute drive up the new road to Lake Habbema. The lake lies in alpine grasslands at 3000m, with a wonderful panorama of rugged, snow-capped mountains beyond. The trail back to the Baliem Valley crosses a 3200m pass and then follows the Ibele Valley down to the village of Dyela. Flowering shrubs at the pass are attractive to colorful birds such as Goldie’s Lorikeet and Painted Tiger-Parrot, but the most interesting possibility here is the rare MacGregor's Bird-of-Paradise, a striking black bird with brilliant gold wings which feeds in fruiting trees.

Beyond the pass the trail goes initially through conifer-dominated forest before entering the stunted elfin forest, less than an hour’s walk away. There is a simple hut in a clearing (at Pos III) that can be used for sleeping. Alternatives are to camp or continue for another three hours to a forest hut below the trail at a clearing called Yabogema. From Yabogema the trail follows a narrow river, which you may have to wade across if rainfall has been high, along a spectacular gorge to a ridge, before dropping down to the village of Dyela, a trek of some 4 - 5 hours. This is the eerie world of the dripping moss forest, where the trees are covered in hanging lichens and creepers, the habitat of some unusual birds such as Wattled Ploughbill, Brown Sicklebill and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise. The large but secretive Sicklebill proclaims its presence by a staccato machine-gun-like call, and the King of Saxony "sings" from a high bare branch, displaying its long pale blue head-plumes.

Dyela is a good place to see the Danis at home. Although their Stone Age culture has been partly modernised, most men still wear only a holim (penis-gourd) and the women only a youngal (fiber skirt). 

The holim is said to be only removed for one purpose! The all too common sight of smoke may indicate a funeral pyre - anyone reaching their forties is regarded as “old”!  It is a pleasant 3-4 hrs walk through picturesque farmland from Dyela to Beneme where transport back to Wamena can be arranged.

Festivities in the North

Colorful festivals take place at several centers, with much dancing and merriment. On a short visit you would be lucky to encounter such an event but in the northern villages you can commission one for yourself, and help the finances of the local community. Of the various options for trekking here, possibly the most interesting is to head for  Bokondini and Karubaga.

Take a bemo up the east side of the Baliem to Jiwika, where a stop can be made to see the mummified remains of a renowned “Big Man”, or ancient warrior, and the nearby brine pool - still in use as a local source of salt. Continue north along the river as far as the bemo will go, which may be Wosi or even to the Wolo River  if the trail to Bugi has been upgraded to a motorable road. The walk up the Wolo Valley to Bugi and beyond makes a good day trip, with spectacular cliffs, photogenic agricultural scenes and several caves to investigate.

The longer trip starts by crossing the bridge over the Wolo River and following the Baliem until it turns west. Continue northwards to Tagime, an easy 4 hour walk from the Wolo, where the steep climb to the pass over the northern range starts. The pass, which may take 3 hours to reach, is the New Guinea island divide: all the rivers beyond here flow northwards to the Pacific Ocean, whereas the Baliem flows south to the Arufa Sea. The breath-taking view southwards reveals the Baliem Valley in all its glory, a just reward for much sweat and toil.

The descent to Kelila is also steep but should take no more than 2 hours. Kelila is a mission station, as the West Dani in this region have largely been converted to Christianity. Finding a house to stay and eat in should not be difficult. A comfortable 3 to 4 hour hike brings you to Bokondini, a small, partly westernised town which houses a MAF base and school for missionary children. Drop down and cross the Bogo River, where your feet will certainly get wet, unless you settle for the indignity of being carried by a porter. A short climb leads to a pleasant flat section through grassland and farmland, before the day’s major climb up the mountain separating the Bokondini Valley from the Karubaga Valley.

The trek up the mountain and then down to Wunen is one to savour as it is largely through pristine forest. Here there are special birds to look and listen for: the Superb Bird-of-Paradise, with its extraordinary shield of irridescent blue feathers, the skulking but beautifully colored Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler, and the Hooded Pitohui, a black and rufous bird whose feathers have the rare distinction of being poisonous. You may even be lucky enough to spot a tree-kangaroo or a cuscus, which looks like a small arborial bear but is actually a marsupial like the kangaroo. In any case, you will undoubtedly find a number of beautiful orchids and butterflies. 

An hour beyond the top is a lake that is well stocked with carp and tilapia, a potential treat for the night’s meal. The final stretch to Wunen is easy walking and you must then decide whether to stay in the westernised, tin-roofed village or a honai, men’s house, in a Dani compound. In the honai you will sleep on the grass-covered floor and be warmed by the central fire and multitude of bodies, an advantage over the “modern” accommodation at this altitude of 1460 m. The drawback is the possibility of fleas or ticks and the smoky atmosphere. With time and money to spare, Wunen is the place to request a festival. The guide can quickly organise this if you pay for a few pigs to be slaughtered and steam-baked. The tribesmen will “fight” a mock battle and both sexes indulge in riotous singing and dancing. You can have your legs rubbed with oil and crushed red onions, or have a swim in the Warom River below town, while awaiting the start of proceedings.

It is six pleasant hours to Karubaga. Start by crossing the Warom and then a bigger river, on a solid bridge this time - a rarity in these parts. A climb to a plateau is followed by two hours of level walking to a village of thatched huts. The trail descends from here to the major river below Karubaga. The two hours this takes will be spent in a mosaic of gardens and forest patches before reaching a fine rattan and cable bridge, an easy crossing if not many planks are missing. A final climb takes you to Karubaga , at the head of a wide verdant valley.

Karubaga is the administrative center of the region, covering a population of some 20,000 Western Dani. Although there are at least 50 churches in the neighborhood, all the pastors are now Dani and some traditional beliefs, in witchcraft for example, are tolerated, as is the wearing of holim and youngal. The main attractions here are the markets and the rumah tamu or guesthouse. The highly colorful markets are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and attract a large gathering of Dani buying and selling local products such as peanuts, pineapples, onions and noken, or bark-string bags. The guesthouse is unbelievably luxurious, compared to other recent accommodation - with sit-down toilet, mattresses and bedding, chairs and a fully equipped kitchen.

The options for returning to Wamena are to fly - Karubaga is served at least once a week by both Merpati and MAF - or to trek on rough trails to Tiom and then down the Baliem Valley to Pyramid, where transport should be available. It is even possible that a driveable road will have been completed by the time you visit.

Wild Beauty in the Baliem Gorge

In 1968 Australian Stan Dale and American missionary Phil Masters were killed by angry tribesmen in the Seng Valley east of Ninia, near the Baliem Gorge. It was said that the only reason their bodies were cremated and not eaten was because of local fears about the consequences of eating whitemen’s flesh. Now you can walk in the area with impunity and fly back from Ninia, or Holuwon further south.

The Baliem Gorge is a much more forbidding world than the Grand Valley. The river has been forced to cut through the mountain and consequently been squeezed into a raging torrent. It is a harder life for the tribesmen around here, as the sun rarely shines, the trails are narrow and slippery, and the soil layer is thin. The hardy trekker is rewarded with some fabulous scenery: huge cliffs, innumerable waterfalls, villages and gardens scattered amidst the mossy forest.   

Take a bemo as far south as it will go from Wamena, preferably to Sugomo but if the road is bad possibly only to Hetegima or even Hepoba, 15 km from Wamena. Start trekking along the west side of the Baliem through farmland to Kurima - from Sugomo the trail crosses a long and narrow suspension bridge over a deep gorge and on to the River Yetni. The level of the Yetni varies markedly with the rainfall and as there is no bridge, if the water is high you might elect to be carried across by the small but burly porters. The next settlement, where it is possible to overnight, is Kurima which straggles along the trail.

Continue along the west bank of the Baliem, up a short, steep hill to a level stretch which follows the contour line through gardens hanging on the steep hillside, retained by countless stone walls. On the far side the sheer cliff drops directly to the river far below. Ignore the first suspension bridge at Wamarek, an hour and a half out of Kurima, and you will come to an open vista where the Moki River joins the Baliem. Here you must wind down the almost vertical hillside, a descent of 250 m to the village of Tangma, from where it is a further 90 minutes to the Wet-Pasema suspension bridge. The river is at its most spectacular here, with ferocious rapids and water spraying onto the bridge, if the rain has been heavy as usual.

Now you must decide whether to return to Kurima or risk the bridge and meander up the east side to the heights well above the river, before branching off to Soba. It takes two days from Kurima to Soba, so you will need to choose a settlement to stop in at an appropriate time. Ninia is a further day from Soba, over a dramatic high pass, and you can then return to the Baliem a day later at Holuwon, the southern end of the gorge. From here there is a breath-taking view down to the humid lowlands, and you can be proud of having explored the entire Baliem Valley. Flying back to Wamena is the obvious return route, and so you will need to liaise with MAF before starting the trip, in order to avoid a long wait.     

            Rain is a possibility at any time but there is said to be a drier period from March - May, with July also relatively dry. The temperature is generally pleasant during the day but it can be cold at night, particularly at the higher altitudes. As the trail can be very muddy and slippery, heavy-duty walking- boots are recommended.

 

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