Hello my dear internet friends!
Yesterday I got an email about my Papua trek in the Baliem Valley. Did I use a particular tour company or I arranged all independently upon arrival? Do I have any recommendations for a company or local guide for this excursion? Did I feel like 5 days was a good amount of time? Or was it too long/short? Did I meet any other tribes besides the Dani? Anything I would’ve done differently?
Ok, here we go with answers. Hope this information will help you organize your trip to Papua.
1. Did I use a particular tour company?
I didn’t use any tour, too expensive (although in Papua is everything veeeery expensive).
2. Did I arranged all independently upon arrival?
I didn’t book anything in advance. When I came to Wamena (the only major town in the Baliem Valley) I found the accommodation (READ MORE: here). In a hotel I’ve met few local guides who offered their help about trekking. Their prices are also overrated, but that is the only way to explore the valley.
It’s not hard to go on short treks by yourself, but everything is green and looks quite the same, so it’s very easy to get lost. Especially if you don’t know Dani language, many villagers don’t speak Indonesian (and none will speak English). Be careful if you decided to go on your own.
3. Did I feel like 5 days was a good amount of time? Or was it too long/short?
The local people around the valley are mostly members of Dani tribe. To see them you don’t need more than 3 – 4 days. So for ‘Dani trek’ 3 or 4 days is more than enough time.
4. Did I meet any other tribes besides the Dani?
Nope, didn’t have time. If you want to see Jali and Lani tribes who also live in the valley you’ll need more time (at least a week – 10 days).
My guide told me there is no big difference between Dani and Jali today, as they don’t dress traditionally anymore, live in linoleum huts… In general, nowadays few of them live like they used to before 10 – 20 years ago.
It’s hard to see ‘the real thing’ if you don’t go too deep in the jungle (which you can do if you rob a bank as it is so expensive). Plus, you need few months for such an expedition.
If you can (have money and time) you can visit the Korowai tribe, some of them are still ‘untouched’ by civilization. There is also Asmat tribe, they were once head hunters, now live like Dani and other civilized tribes in the valley.
5. Trek prices
Prices for one day of the trek are starting from 60, 70 dollars up to 120, 150 dollars (it depends on your bargain skills).
If you want to see a pig feast (which I highly recommend, READ MORE: here) you’ll have to pay app 400 dollars. You can split the cost if you find other tourists that are interested in this tour. I went there with some Polish group, we split the cost and didn’t pay more that 50 bucks.
6. What can you expect from a trek?
Al treks are quite the same, you walk around the spectacular, endless green hills, on your way you come across the villages where locals live, some of them don’t like tourists while others mostly want to make some interaction. If you take a photo of them you’ll need to pay, your guide can help you with that.
On a pig festival you can photograph as much as you wish as you pay for that ‘performance’.
7. Interaction with tribes
On treks you mostly walk from place to place and there is not so much chance for good interaction.
We slept in the local village night before a pig feast and it was the best interaction with local people. And the best part of all my Papua experience. I played with the children, cooked with Dani women, talked a bit, learned the Dani language (well at least tried to learn), sung some songs… It was unforgettable! Something you don’t see every day!
The trek was great, but it is more the ‘nature kinda thing’ not so about local people and their lives.
If you are interested in photography and in capturing interactions with the tribes you should go to a pig feast (best interaction with locals + photo opportunity + learn about their tradition, eat, sleep with them, spend one day with them).