Person: 43 years old german male. Normal fitness.
Physical requirements : Normal fitness. Ability to walk long hours in very hot climate and high humidity
Mental requirements : Readiness to get dirty, very dirty indeed
Dangers and discomforts : The Jungle itself never felt dangerous as such. There is of course a large variety of enviromental hazards. During our trip none of the participants experienced any severe health troubles.
Guide: Pedr Jahoda. Jungle trekking experience in papua of more than a decade. As familiar with the place as a non kombai person can possibly be.
Our trip to Papua in december 2011 was long anticipated. So expectations were high. They were not only met but excelled.
I´ve been in the Baliem valley in Papuan highlands in 2007 . A magnificient place as well. There I first met Pedr Jahoda, who just came back from a jungle expedition.
Finally in 2011 I went to the jungle myself, with a group let by Pedr Jahoda . Everything was well organised and went very smooth. Although everythings depends on the weather conditions, which can never be controlled.
The flight in a small chartered airplane over the central mountain range to the southern lowlands was a proper start – as it felt like the entrance into the lost world.
Arriving on the airstrip of a deserted missionary station we were instantly surrounded by Kombai people living at the place. As I understand there comes a plane once every few months to this place. So every landing is quite a sensation. Some of the people spoke basic Bahia Indonesia. So after some negotiations Pedr Jahoda was able to recruit some men as porters. Then we started right away. Never been in a jungle like that the hiking itself was quite impressive for me. At dusk we reached the perimeter of House, which we were allowed approach only after what felt like hours of negotiations ( one hour in real terms ).
The encounter with the kombai people, still literally living in stone age, was the most impressive travel experience I´ve ever had. One of the most isolated groups on the planet the kombai haven´t had any contact with the outside world until very recently. A fact which is still very palpable.The further we proceeded into the jungle the lesser artefacts of the modern world would be visible. The people live entirely of the forrest all tools weapons housing are handmade by the kombai themself. Stone tools were still in use. Though metall ones are progressing ever so slowly .
At homesteads – consisting of only one or to houses – we were at first met by an agressive show off of strength. With the men pointing there always ready bow and arrows at us. The men would would carry bow and arrows with them at all times. Once allowed to approach the kombai tunred out to be very friendly people, who allowed us a view into there lives. The material wonders of the outside worlds as tents, cookers, cameras and so forth didn´t appeal to them. Apart from bush knifes which were of immediate value to them.
We were trekking from one place to the next like everey second day leaving ample time to see the everyday life of the kombai people.
One backflip of the uncontrollable weather conditions is the necessity to have a time buffer of several days towardes the end of the jungle trekking. This is to ensure that yo always get out of the jungle in time to reach your flight home. If everything goes according to plan ( as in our case ) this means some days in the baliem valley and in sentani. Compared with the fantastic jungle experience these days can fell rather dull.
Conclusion : Though demanding and expensi ve this trek was well worth the effort. The notorious „once in a life time“ trip. If you feel inclined to see the stone age you should go – as long as it´s still there.