Day #17 New Guinea Adventure

Jayapura, West Papua

Jayapura’s version of the Hollywood sign

Map of the region showing our heading - Google map link

During the night we have travelled west from Papua New Guinea to West Papua  and our destination, the city of Jayapura. You know when you are in Jayapura because perched on the top of a mountain in 16 metre high letters are the words JAYAPURA CITY.
The western half of the island of New Guinea is referred to as West Papua and is administered by Indonesia as two provinces, Papua and West Papua. Jayapura City is the Capital of Papua province and is the largest city in the region. It is situated on Yos Sudarso Bay and it’s population is somewhere around 300,000.

As we approach our mooring it’s quite a dramatic change to the villages and small towns we’ve been visiting in Papua New Guinea. There are hundreds of houses and shanty's clinging to the steep cliffs around the bay and ahead of us is an urbanised downtown area.
Jayapura houses and shanty's clinging to the mountain side

There’s quite a bit of excitement amongst the crew as a KFC sign can be clearly seen in the downtown area. This is something we experienced on our Gulf of Siam trip, whenever we docked at a town larger enough to be home to a KFC, the crew were quick to take shore leave and return laden with buckets of KFC.

As in other ports of call, large or small, the local performers resplendent in their costumes are waiting for the Orion to dock. This time it was pretty clear who the leader was!
Chief of the welcoming group

It’s a bit overcast this morning and it has been showering on and off during our arrival but all of the dancers and performers looked amazing with their bodies painted and beautiful bird feather headress's.
One of male performers

Looking at the performers the thing that struck me the most were the women, they looked quite different from the women in Papua New Guinea, being much more asian in their features.
One of the female performers
Despite the rain the team gave us another amazing performance signing and dancing on the wharf in front of the ship initiating us in local tradition with sago, gifts and spices placed on a honoured ancestral tray.

The whole group singing and dancing around the chief

By 08:30 we had disembarked the Orion and we had climed aboard some dodgy old buses for our visit to Jayapura. Our first destination is to an area called the Skyline Hills about half an hour from the wharf. Somewhere along the way we have picked up a police escort and we have motorbikes up front and a police car behind us. It’s remarkable how incident free our journey through town is!
Skyline view toward Sentani Lake

From Skyline in the hills behind the city, one gets a beautiful view of Jayapura, Yo Sudarso Bay and back toward the mountains and Sentani Lake.

At the top of the hill, Jalan Kotaraja, is an impressive Buddhist temple called Vihara Arya Dharma. It has beautiful gardens with lush vegetation and a large number of native plants.
Some of the local flora and fauna (but you have to look closely)

In addition to the gardens the temple is surrounded by lawns with very distinctive dragon sculptures running across them.
Dragon sculpture

We didn’t stop at the temple for very long just enough time to have a quick walk around the temple and gardens before getting back on the buses.

Yours truly assuming the photographer's pose

Leaving the temple we drove down the hill and headed east toward Lake Sentani. The drive to the lake took us through some of the outer suburbs of Jayapura. What we saw was in stark contrast to what we had seen in the towns of Papua New Guinea as there was a lot of economic activity going on, plenty of building and trade being undertaken everywhere.

We pull up en mass at a building on the shores of the lake. The building turns out to be an open air restaurant called the Yougwa which has a nice view, albeit through chicken wire, over the lake. Apparently we have the restaurant booked for lunch once we return from a visit to a village called Assei. I think the food at these restaurants generally is Chinese style, although from what I can see there maybe some western items on the menus. I think I heard someone saying it is the Indonesian President,  Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's, favourite restaurant in the region.
Main dining room of the Yougwa, with a view out over the lake

With only a quick pit stop we gather down on a small wharf and prepare to board these very narrow wooden boats for our trip across the lake to the village. The boats are powered by an outboard motor, seat about 15 people but you have to be pretty careful getting in because they aren’t very stable.

Boat ride across the lake

We are in the last boat, but unfortunately one of the boats that pulled away earlier has been having motor trouble, and everyone in it is stuck offshore so we wait at the wharf. Finally we are away and they have managed to fix the dodgy outboard motor on the other boat os it’s off we go across the lake.
View of the mountains from the lake

Lake Sentani is one of the biggest lakes in New Guinea and still virtually untouched by tourism. It seems the people who call the shores of this lake home still live in a traditional manner, and are renowned for their woodworking and pottery. We are heading across the lake to the Apayo island, and the village of Assei where we can look around the village, see and meet the local people of the Sentani tribe and buy some of their bark paintings or other crafts.
As we approach the village the shore is dotted with, what looks like to me, pretty flimsy and not too stable shacks.
Assei house on the waters edge

As we motor past the houses, we are certainly the centre of attention and a lot of the kids jump into the water, splashing and waving too us. Others just watch us go by with a cool detached look in their eyes.
Young man watches us pass his house on our way to the village

We pull up at quite a large wharf where, once again, young men and women in native costume are preparing to welcome us to their home.
Assei welcome party

As we, carefully, disembark the wooden boats, one of the young men sounds his welcome by blowing through a large shell.
One of the performers welcomes us to Assai

We follow the dancers along the wharf, past a memorial stone topped with a large cross into the village square.

360˚ Panorama of the stone memorial and cross

As we make ourselves comfortable more villages join in and the performance gets underway.
One of the village chiefs

After the performance and when the excitement dies down that’s when we get to the business of shopping. The village is the main centre for Sentani bark paintings. The paintings originally done only on bark clothing for women are now a Sentani art form. There is one building, just off the square where the performance took place, that is decorated in some of the intricate patterns the local artists use in their bark paintings.
Wall of bark painting patterns

There are so many wonderful artifacts to choose from, but we are particularly interested in a set of carved wooden paddles and these are what we end up buying.
Carved wooden paddles

It’s getting close to lunch time so laden with our purchases we head toward the wharf where our boats are waiting for us. We thank the villagers for their hospitality and wave goodbye. The trip back across the lake is smooth and uneventful; Andrew and Michael got to travel first class in their own, go faster boat, while we chugged along in ours.
Andrew and Michael speeding past us

As we were the last boat to leave the island most of our fellow passengers are seated and tucking into lunch by the time we get there but it doesn’t take us long to join them.

Lunch crowd at the Yougwa

The Orion is due to set sail at 14:00 hours so we’ve only got an hour or two until we have to be back onboard. After lunch we all get back on our buses and the expedition team advise us that we are going to stop at a spot called the Loka Budaya Ucen Museum.
Kelly back on the bus

The Loka Budaya Uncen Museum is owned and managed by the university Cenderawasih and the complex is located on campus in section of town called Abepura-Jayapura, about 8 kilometers from Jayapura city.

The weather has turned again and by the time we arrive at the museum it’s starting to rain again. We grab some umbrellas and make a dash toward the entrance. There’s a bit of slipping and sliding as the entrance tiles are really slippery wet with the rain; I’m amazed that no ones gone over. Once we are under the shelter of the entrance, guarded by the police who have accompanied us on our trip, we shake the water off our umbrellas and enter the museum.
Fran, one of the entertainers from the Orion, gets friendly with one of our police detachment

The museum itself, is a bit ramshackle and is in need of a bit of TLC. The museum was launched in 1973 and has a collection of over 1,800 ethnographic objects from various ethnic papua include kitchen appliances, a means to pay, sacred objects, transport equipment, works of art such as painting the skin, and wood carvings, and equipment associated with the eye livelihoods such as farming equipment, hunting, and fishing.
One of the many costumes on display

Though it may be in need of a bit of work, the collection is magnificent and it is well worth a visit if you are in Jayapura. There is one room, curiously the only one air-conditioned, that has a collection of amazing shields. Moomoo is in the room with me and I tell her they are native surfboards, unfortunately someone tells her I’m lying and she whacks me one!

360˚ Panorama of the museum room containing the shields

There’s a great shop in the lobby of the museum and we purchase a rather unique lime bowl and spoon before boarding the buses once more for the trip back to Orion. Once we are all back on board, Captain Frank gives the order to cast off and we start to move away from the dock.

Departing Jayapura

When we first entered Yos Sudarso Bay I saw these ships that looked to me, from a distance, paddle steamers with two large vertical funnels. On the way out of the harbour I got a much better look at them and it turns out that they are huge fishing platforms.

Fishing platform and closeup view of the platform

Back on board we’ve taken a break and freshened up and Kelly and I are sitting in the lecture theatre with a cup of coffee and a biscuit waiting for Michael Moore to give a presentation entitled, “Island Biogeography: Wallace to Wilson”. I’d never heard of the Wallace Line but it’s a fascinating boundary that separates the ecozones of Asia and Australia and west of it you will find organisms related to Asiatic species; east of it a mixture of Asian and Australian. For more information check out the Wikipedia entry for the Wallace Line.

We finish the night with a bit of room service and are looking forward to a bit of swimming and snorkelling tomorrow in the Coral Triangle.