This trek takes you into the heart of Papua’s deepest mysteries, one of the few remaining areas on earth where only a handful of intrepid adventures have dared to go.
The Mamberamo River is the Amazon of Papua. Weaving its way through vast territories of virtually unexplored terrain. Within it’s watery reaches there live tribes, who to this day remain almost completely un-contacted by the outside world.
Initially traveling by boat up through the rivers in Waropen, then trekking over the Van Rees Mountains and finally reaching the upper Tariku (eastern Mamberamo) River.
The river trip down the Mamberamo is undertaken
by motorized canoe. Small tributary rivers lead into the tribal villages where you will encounter some of the most isolated people on the planet.
With trips to Papua, especially when exploring areas like the Mamberamo you learn to expect the unexpected. Like raw nature it is a dynamic place of constant change.
So, it is essential for those to be open minded and flexible about the itinerary.
In this day and age of global communication, advanced technology and high speed travel, there are still pockets of humanity who have had no contact with the outside world.
According to anthropologists the best place and highest probability to make a
First Contact is indeed Papua, in fact there are unexplored areas which harbour truly stone age tribes. People who have never experienced anything from our modern world, who have never seen or used metals. This is a humanity totally emmersed in the forces of pure nature. Whose tools come from what their environment has given them, from wood, stone and bone.
This first contact trek is not just another adventure travel tour, but a full-on exploratory expedition. In this first contact expedition we will be exploring one of the most beautiful and pristine rainforests in the world. We will be traveling into area where there are no roads, air-fields or helicopter landing pads. Where the challenges and treasures of total nature are experienced.
In this manner, there is no describing what can felt and realized on an expedition such as this. This first contact expedition requires extreme sensitivity and thus the exploratory party will be limited to only four people.
Kelly is confident in extending his services to include first contact because of his personal experience in this regard; on solo treks to remote areas, face to face with humans of a completely different nature and time.
Many great adventures have climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, but few have reached this deep into humanities long forgotten past.
The “First Contact” expedition 2005 was a success. In August I led two westerners, one American and one Swiss on the “First Contact” expedition. They both had extensive adventure travel resumes. But, what they experienced was like nothing they had ever seen before.
We flew by a charter plane into our starting point. The airfield is just mud and grass.
We gathered up our porters and then headed out from there.
We had around 20 porters because we expected to be out for around two weeks.
We trekked for a few days and along the way we picked up 3 traditional warriors,
who were clad in only a leaf covering their penises.
There was one porter/guide who had spotted a man in the forest several months before and this is where we wanted to go. We set up camp along a small river. Our guide told us that on the other side of the river was another tribe’s territory — a territory where none of our porters had ever visited even though it is only a few days walk away from their village. This tribe still uses bone and and stone tools and has never seen a white skinned or Indonesian person. This new tribe, Waira is very territorial and outsiders are not welcome. If you want to see them, you have to go into their territory because they never leave the area. We proceded to make a basecamp there, cutting down trees and making a pondok (bush shelter) for our porters to sleep under.
Then suddenly in the late afternoon we heard a group of men calling out from the other side of the river. Some of our porters huddled in the pondok, and others grabbed bows and arrows and ran down by the river to see who was there. Then all went silent and remained silent for another hour, when suddenly they were calling out again, but this time they were behind us, on the same side of the river as we were.
Our guide, who is from a different tribe, said he could only understand a few words of what they were saying. But, he knows it isn’t good. And now it’s dark and we know that they are somewhere out there, and we can’t see them.
My guide and I discuss strategies on how we should deal with this potentially dangerous sitiuation. We decide that he should try to find their camp (village) and try to explain that we mean no harm and have gifts to give them. Two traditional naked warriors follow with him, just in case there is a problem. They proceed to walk about 2 minutes out of camp when suddenly the new tribe screams out and starts shooting arrows at our guide. He lies flat in the mud and then runs back to basecamp. He is visiably shaken, but decides to go back in another hour or so.
He again leaves to find their location and two men go with him. He finds their camp (village) and yells out in the night to them. They come out of their huts and say that they will kill him.
He tries to get them to understand we come in peace and have gifts. They tell him, to the best of what he can understand, that they will come back to our pondok (bush shelter) in the morning. And if we are there they won’t be too happy.
Needless to say it was a rather restless evening. Porters were on watch throughout the night and my clients and I woke up around 4 am.
I immediately broke down our tents and we put most of our equipment inside the pondok.
We all sat around waiting. It was just barely light out and the forest was alive with the sounds of insects and birds of paradise. It was a very eerie feeling, just waiting for them to come. How would they react to us? Would they attack us?
Then suddenly out of nowhere, they started yelling out and charged into our camp. Half of the porters just took off running into the forest. They were scared to death. The other half plus our 3 traditional warriors stayed and in a weird show of force, our guys would run up to them and break their arrows as they tried to pull back on the bow. It was like a cross between some strange dance and a rugby scrum.
My clients were standing in front of the pondok taking photos, as this might have been our only opportunity to get photos of them. I’m watching the situation and keeping an eye on the guys as they break arrows. Then suddenly the chief breaks through and comes running at us. I say to my clients, “Oh no, here they come.” Two porters catch him
and break his arrows as he is trying to pull back on his bow.
We turn and start running in the opposite direction.
After a few more minutes of struggling with them, they leave. And then about 20 minutes later they came back. We were all gathered inside the pondok or in front of it.
They trashed our camp. Broke our plastic cups, smashed our pots and
pans and filled our tarp with arrows. And just like that, they ran away into the forest.
Our local guide told us that we should wait for a while and then try to follow the trail to their camp (village). We took with us about 6 porters and the 3 traditional warriors.
All of our guys brought bows and arrows with them. We followed their trail and then it came out at a small clearing. There we could see where they live. There were 3 tall houses built in the trees and one long house on the ground. The houses rose up around 15 meters high and they looked like they were built next to or partially in the forest.
The men, around 6 of them, were in strategic positions in the area under their houses.
They were all armed with bows and arrows and ready to use them if need be.
The chief yelled out and we took that as a warning to stop and not come any closer.
We were about 60 meters from their camp. Our local guide tried to communicate to them that we brought them gifts and that we just wanted to see them and then we’ll go. We brought them 2 metal axes, a carton of salt and a carton of shag
(cut leaf tobacco). We showed it to them and left it where we were standing.
As we left they shot arrows off to our left, in a show that they were the winners and had scared us off. We went directly to our pondok, gathered up our equipment, and then started our trek back to where we started.
Our guide said that they would later come and destroy our pondok and every tree that we cut down to make a bridge accross the river. He said that if you make contact two or three more times with them, that they will probably let us enter their village and hopefully they can take us deeper into the jungle to see other people of their tribe.
In 2006, I will lead another expedition to visit the Waira tribe. And this will be a second contact trip. But, their reaction to us could easily be like it was on the “First Contact” expedition.
Also in 2006, I will be leading another “First Contact” expedition.
It is scheduled for October 2006.
West Papua is home to an amazingly diverse flora and fauna. The immense variety is determined by the sheer variety of ecosystems present: from shallow coral reefs, through coastal swamps, altitudinally differing rainforest and heigths rising to alpine glaciers.
The alpine high country is permanently covered with ice and snow and the tallest peak, Puncak Jaya, stands at 5,030 metres. Nothing grows at all until you descend to 3,500 metres where the fog forests predominate. These consist of gnarled, crippled trees covered with moss and epiphytes, making for a most eerie setting. Heather often covers the ground giving an almost European; alpine “carpeted” impression.
In the areas between 2,000 and 3,000 metres, mixed forests predominate and these swarm with climbers, ferns and orchids. This is the region of primal forest, or original growth, totally untouched by man.
In the low mountain region, between 1,000 and 2,000 metres the rainforests are at their thickest and most lush. Similar ferns and orchids grow abundantly in these forests in rich harmony with the many species of tropical hardwood trees. In the lower rainforest alone, there are 1,300 different species of trees with 80 known species of Epiphytes living symbiotically with them and to date, at least 2,770 species of orchid have been positively identified.
Savannah Forest, dominated by Australasian Acacias and Eucalypts, is found only in the south-eastern corner of West Papua (Wasur National Park), Similar Savannah occurs in the Port Moresby area of Papua New Guinea.
Moving lower brings us to freshwater swamps where swamp grass, sago palms and pandanus proliferate. Starch extracted from the Sago Palms forms the staple diet of many Papuans. Towards the coast the freshwater swamps slowly become saline and this is where mangrove and nipa palm forests dominate.
Naturally, given the rich diversity of the flora, West Papua is host to an equally diverse fauna. The pioneering Victorian naturalist, Sir Alfred Russell Wallace collected no less than 125,660 specimens in West Papua!
Birds vary from the huge, primitive, flightless Cassowary through to the most intricate and spectacular Birds-of-Paradise with an awful lot else in between. More than 600 species of birds have been identified in West Papua, many of them endemic.
Most of the interesting mammals are marsupials with Wallabies and Tree Kangaroos being the largest. The cus-cus is a beautiful, woolly tree-dwelling marsupial which is sadly prized by collectors. It has been heavily hunted and is now an endangered species. Echidnas or Spiny Ant-eaters are also found in West Papua with one species being endemic.
The coastal swamps are home to two species of saltwater crocodiles and both are very large indeed! Estuarine Crocodiles found in the Asmat region are known to grow to seven metres in length. Hunting wild crocodiles is now illegal and many crocodile farms have cropped up. Many species of snakes and lizards inhabit West Papua and include the docile, three metre Emerald Tree Monitor and perhaps the world’s most beautiful snake – the Green Tree Python.
The shallow water coral reefs off the north coast of West Papua are thought to house some 3,000 species of fish making for spectacular snorkelling and diving.
When a client confirms a booking, a full, detailed list of what to bring and travel tips will be forwarded and this list will be tailored to the specific trek which has been booked. However, the following section can be used as a general guide.
Passport must be valid for at least six months after your date of DEPARTURE from Indonesia.
Four additional passport photographs and two photocopies of your passport will be needed for the special permits as soon as we arrive in West Papua.
Credit cards are rarely accepted in West Papua so please plan appropriately.
Recommended inoculations (see your local travel clinic) and malaria prophylaxis.
Recommended clothing list for West Papua:
1 pair trail shoes ·
1 pair running shoes ·
1 pair sports sandals (eg Teva, Merrell, Nike) ·
5 pairs or more of synthetic blend socks ·
2 pairs of shorts (quick-dry synthetic material) ·
2 pairs of trousers (quick-dry synthetic material) ·
1 lightweight sweater, sweatshirt or fleece ·
5 short-sleeved t-shirts ·
1 long sleeved shirt (quick-dry synthetic material) ·
5 pairs lightweight underwear ·
A note about Footwear and Socks
Lightweight (synthetic/leather) trail shoes are the footwear of choice for West Papua. We recommend that you break in the shoes before the trip. Make sure that you can comfortably walk in them for up to eight hours. A synthetic trekking sock with extra padding on the balls and heels of the sock is generally recommended for West Papua. For higher altitudes and the associated low temperatures, we would recommend a synthetic/wool blend sock.
1 large backpack or waterproof duffel bag ·
1 day pack (for camera, water bottles) ·
sleeping bag (rated to 60 degrees) ·
Ziplock Bags ·
Nalgene water bottle (1 litre or more)
with water purifier ·
Camera and film · Sunglasses ·
Flashlight (torch) with extra batteries ·
Extra batteries for all equipment ·
Two bandanas ·
Broad-rimmed hat or baseball cap ·
Therma-rest ground pads and North Face tents are provided by Papua Adventures.
Medical & Personal Items:
2 bottles insect repellent ·
Aspirin, Advil etc or your other preferred analgesic ·
Anti-diarrhoea medicine and re-hydration salts ·
General Antibiotic ·
Cold/Flu Medicine ·
Assorted Fabric Band-Aids ·
Anti-fungal cream ·
Personal toiletries (soap, shampoo);
biodegradable if you can ·
Personal medications ·
In order to understand the current political situation it is necessary to examine recent history. What is now known as Indonesia was the key Dutch colony until the end of the Second World War. The struggle to achieve independence was hard fought and the Dutch were most reluctant to let go of their Asian jewel. After the Indonesians, led by President Sukarno, declared independence in 1945, the Dutch did not formally cede sovereignty until the end of 1949 and then only after considerable world pressure. All of the old Dutch East Indies became the Republic of Indonesia with the EXCEPTION of Dutch New Guinea or Irian Jaya (we will refer to this as West Papua from now on). Through a manner of rather devious tactics the Dutch managed to retain some sort of control of West Papua until the early 1960s.
The fiercely proud, nationalist Indonesians believed very strongly that West Papua was part of their sovereign territory and President Sukarno first tried a diplomatic solution to this problem by taking the case to the United Nations. This failed and Sukarno withdrew Indonesia from the UN in protest and started a military campaign to take West Papua by force, led by General (later President) Suharto. Finally in 1962, against a background of relinquished US and European support and an escalating military bill, the Dutch bit the bullet and West Papua was passed into UN control with the aim of an orderly hand-over to Indonesia. The transition was not easy and the Indonesian government clearly made many mistakes in their attempted “Indonesianisation” of West Papua. Some conflicts with the local inhabitants continued but by the early 1990s the process seemed to be proceeding more smoothly even if there were grievances that too little of the vast natural mineral wealth of West Papua was finding its way back to locals.
After the Suharto “New Order” regime was overthrown in 1997, the incipient West Papuan independence movement was re-born. It is that movement that has gained some momentum (although nothing like as much as in Aceh for example).
It is understandable if such unrest might put off potential travellers to West Papua. The purpose of this explanation is to allay those fears. We have excellent local contacts in each of the main areas of West Papua and we are always very well informed of local conditions and activities. If there is any obvious danger, then a trip will not be undertaken. Kelly Woolford is immensely respected by Papuan tribal chiefs and ordinary folk, and this alone is almost enough to guarantee the safety of anybody travelling with him. It should also be understood that the peoples of Wamena are the most welcoming and warm-hearted individuals – they love having visitors. Their grievances are with the Indonesian central government and most certainly not with western visitors.
In summary, through our unparalleled contacts and relationships in West Papua, please be assured that we will never take undue risks with any client’s safety.
Hello, thanks for considering a tour to Papua with us, Papua Adventures.
Papua is known as the “land of the unexpected”. This is because Papua is truly
an unique and amazing place. Full of pristine rain-forests and home to the most primitive people on earth.
This term, “land of the unexpected” also applies to many tour companies that offer trips to Papua. Some claim they are the best. Many claim
to take you to the “last wild places”. And yet others claim they’re the best because they have simply run a lot of tours. Our philosophy is, “quality, not quantity”.
For the past 13 years we have prided ourselves on leading treks into the more remote and unexplored areas of Papua. Places that other guides and companies simply don’t know about, or don’t know how to get to. We offer tours that take you into areas that are less remote and more accessible,as well. But, our forte is finding new and interesting places for our clients. We like to keep exploring !
Please take a look at our tour schedule for 2007. And then compare it to the schedules other companies. I am sure you will agree that we are the most adventurous company in Papua. We were the original company to offer a “First Contact” expedition in Papua.
We lead, the others follow.
You will see on some of our tour itineraries that we don’t always give you
the logistics of a trip. There is a simple reason for this. Other companies will use this information and they’ll try to follow. But they don’t know the logistics, they haven’t done their research in advance. And they don’t have the connections
that help assure a safe passage.
We’ve had plenty of satisfied customers over the years. And our clients come from all over the world. Austria, England, Finland, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Chile, America to name a few. Many have been repeat clients. And one couple we have taken 3 times to Papua with us. A reference list of past clients is available upon your request.
Over the past years we have been privileged to have guided some of the most respected television stations, magazines and newspapers in the world. If they didn’t think we were the right company for the job, they simply wouldn’t have chosen us to be their guides.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We hope you will have a little better understanding about our company and what distinguishes us from the others.
Many travelers come to Papua wanting a very memorable experience. Some are looking for something they know they won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Many will have the adventure of a lifetime.
Remember when going to a place as mysterious and remote as Papua.
Choosing the right tour company will be critical to your experience. Papua Adventures wants to help you get the most from your trip. So please, choose wisely!
FILM AND TELEVISION
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION(BBC)
Tribe: Kombai with Bruce Parry (BBC)
Going Tribal: Kombai with Bruce Parry
INDUS FILMS (England) for the BBC
First Contact Documentary
CHILEAN NATIONAL TELEVISION
THE NEW YORKER (America)
PARK AVENUE (Germany)
NEUE ZURCHER ZEITUNG (Switzerland)