Travel Diary: Wamena, Papua by Barry Kusuma

Making A Scene / TravelSlideshow

Written By
Annisa Puspa Andira

Edited By
Fazrah LR Heryanda

Photo Source

Wonderful Indonesia isn’t merely a campaign but justifies how this country truly is a hidden gem when it comes to wonderful places. The magnificent of Papua’s charm is a proof, especially Wamena where it still has distinctive appeals to attract adventurist and travelers to come. It such unfortunate events that happened in Wamena lately but it doesn’t mean it lessen its beauty. Located in Jayawijaya Regency, Wamena is known for its beautiful and exotic valley called Baliem. I can’t deny its beauty once I see it with my own eyes.

I was intrigued by Wamena’s outstanding natural beauty, and perhaps that’s why I have an urge to traveling there. However, with the sticky situation, I’ve decided to go Wamena when Festival Baliem or The Baliem Valley Cultural Festival being held, another thing made Wamena alluring. It’s been 30 years since the first event, and more tourists have participated. The Baliem Valley Cultural Festival highlighted the culture that rooted and passed down to generations of Dani tribe, the originated tribes in Wamena. In the festival, we can witness and experience the tribe’s culture directly, including their traditional ceremony and markets. The market itself sells a bunch of craft made initially been by the residents, like beads, woven craft, and many more. Beyond, there are staged tribal wars, pig race, traditional dance, and race which I had incredibly enjoyed when I was there.

Tracing back my memory, I have to say it’s quite challenging to get there. I remember it’s difficult to go because Wamena is located on the hill and to accessing it either we have to go with a small plane or Fokker. Furthermore, in Wamena, it’s hard to get access to electricity. So, during the day the electricity would be off and turn on when the night comes. Even then around 11 or 12 pm, the electricity would die out until 4 in the morning and on again at around 5 or 6 am. To traveling in Wamena, there’s a thing that must be considered is the safety of your own because of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) or Free Papua Movement that tend to be radical. Because of it, the tourist must be guarded to prevent violence cases. Even when I was hiking on the mountain perhaps around 15-30 km from the city, I have to be escorted because it’s dangerous to travel alone.

Another challenge the residents were ‘money-oriented’ behavior. A few weeks before I came to The Baliem Valley Cultural Festival, I took pictures in there. When I fly a drone in savannah, at first, there’s no one come out, but then the second I got the drone up, a bunch of people starts to overrun. The residents began to ask what was I doing with the drone. I explained to them that I’m doing research and they asked for some money for it.

However, I understand why people in Wamena act like this. For a long time, there are many tourists who were capturing Wamena’s tribal residents and using it for commercial sake, whereas they didn’t give anything to the residents. With limited sources and goods in Wamena, the people start to charging anyone who comes to their land even to only just taking a picture. Different from other Papua regions like Raja Ampat, Sorong, and Manokwari that’s more modern and convenient, Wamena’s resident lived in the mountains, so they pretty much relying on nature and hunt for survival. Even to send pigs or other livestock has to be posted by plane. The food is a bit expensive too; you also have to pay IDR50k just for regular fried rice. Looking at how it’s tough to get food, as well as the prices, is much expensive rather than other cities in Indonesia, I can relate why they become a sort of ‘money-oriented.’

It's a relief to see that culture passed down from generation to generation does not fade but instead grows even stronger.

What makes me love Wamena, even more, is the interaction between the residents and I. I was able to interact with them, and I’m thrilled to spend my day experiencing their culture. Once, they invited me to cook together with them. It’s part of the festival event. Different from most people cook whereas they’re using stones as the main utensil. Furthermore, the Wamena’s residents have a difficulty to understand what tourist said because the education is limited down there. The traveler or tourist that goes there often teach and educate the residents like languages. That’s why they are the thrill of welcoming visitors.

If anybody asks if I want to go to Wamena once again, YES would be my absolute answer. The picturesque of Wamena’s nature still stuck in my mind. To see such beauty is indeed a gift that makes me have a strong desire to travel back in Wamena. Moreover, it’s interesting to examining the culture of Wamena’s resident much closer. It’s a relief to see that culture passed down from generation to generation does not fade but instead grows even stronger.