"Little town in the middle of the jungle" Wamena by Glorija

Wamena Travel Guide: 14 reviews and 51 photos

Highland first contact place

When missionaries began to penetrate the Baliem valley, it was necessary to build an airport which would provide them with supplies. This is the reason why the Indonesian village of Wamena was founded.

Today, Wamena is a city which provides Papua with contact to the rest of the world. The road which would connect the Baliem valley to the shore, has not yet been built. Wamena, with its large airport, became a strategic place for providing supplies and keeping the whole area in contact with the world. All the cars, building machinery, oil and petrol came to Wamena by air – in large by Hercules planes, or transport Trigan planes, or by planes of other cargo companies. That is why Wamena is expencive in everything. In the city itself, many brick buildings sprang up, and several hotels and a modern Christian church were not long to follow. There are large shops, local market and a lot of cars on the streets but very few tourists.

The capital town of the Jayawijaya district

It is the largest town in Indonesian Papua's highlands, in the Baliem Valley and has a population of around 10,000.

Tradition: Only occasionally will you meet an almost naked native dressed in only a koteka. These are a reminiscence of the old, but paradoxically very recent times.

The city: Wamena is the most important business centre and place where aborigines from different tribes meet to trade with one another. In many cases they have to walk for a week to get to Wamena. Therefore, the old Wamena full of aborigines is definitely a thing of the past. The time-machine has steamrolled the small city, and soon it is going to do the same thing to the Baliem Valley and rest of Papua.

People, Wamena & Baliem Valley

From the airplane, as it prepared to land in Wamena, one can see the verdant scenery indicating the fertility of the land. In 1938, Richard Archbold became the first Caucasian to set foot there. From the air, he saw the valley's neat geometric gardens and irrigation ditches. In his notes, he wrote Wamena was "like the farming country of Central Europe". Perhaps this opinion was not exaggerative. Although regarded as a culture still living in the stone age, several researchers believe "agriculture at the Baliem valley had been developed since at last 9,000 years ago".

The first contact with the inhabitants of the Baliem plateau by outsider was made 56 years ago. In the following years, missionaries, explorers, researchers and people compiling documentation on the Dani people came there. In fact, as in the case of many foreigners studying th Dani culture, many interesting things can be learned from them. How they adapt themselves to the cold air at an elevation of more 1,500 meters above the sea surface alone is full of factors which ought ti be lauded. At night, when the temperature reached 15 C, or colder, they comfortably walk around very scantily dressed without feeling the coldness.

  • Last visit to Wamena: Jun 2008
  • Intro Updated Jul 18, 2008
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Reviews (3)

Comments (2)

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2008 at 5:56 AM

    Wamena and the Baliem Valley are one of the last frontiers on this planet, hope you will share with us more photos and information in the future!

  • Rinjani's Profile Photo
    Jul 18, 2008 at 3:40 AM

    Hi Glorija, wow...I always wanted to be in Papua, seems trekking is great there. Diella

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