Traveling to Papua is rough, but highly rewarding. Still an off-the-beaten-path destination, Papua doesn’t see many visitors. Trekking the Baliem Valley is even more challenging, with barely 700 people hiking the mountains per year. If you are looking on how to Prepare your trek, see below our Guide to Baliem Valley Trekking.
Your Planning Guide to Baliem Valley Trekking
There are three options to trek the Baliem Valley – with a tour guide, or with only porters, or independently. In a few words:
- Yes, you can find food in the villages
- Yes, you can sleep there
- No, you don’t need a guide
- No, you don’t need a porter
- Your Papua adventure trek route goes from villages to villages, and not through the jungle at any point
- To tour Papua, you need to be in super good shape physically.
- Your bag is not too heavy, due to the constant up and down and unmaintained trails
- You speak Bahasa or are ready to spend a long time translating all communications via Google Translate!
- If you are planning on taking a path outside the villages, then you need a porter to at least show you the way, and help you cook the food, and create an emergency shelter if need be.
The most significant city in the Papuan Highlands, Wamena is the central hub for all activities and the departing point for all treks to the Papua trekking Baliem Valley. Given the remote location and the terrain around Wamena, there is no road access. Flying is your only option. More information about Wamena coming shortly.
Travel Permit “Surat Jalan”
You don’t need any travel permit to be in Wamena, or to visit the nearby villages like Soroba or Dugum about one hour away. But you do need one if you travel deeper into the Baliem Valley and Yalimo country.
You can easily get it from the police station not far from the Wamena airport. We read you can also get it directly from the airport, but we did not see anything about that.
Bring two photo IDs, and a rough itinerary of the villages you want to travel too as the police officer will list them on the permit. You can register as many as you want, which gives you the flexibility to adjust your final itinerary.
Once you have your permit and before you leave Wamena, make two copies to take with you. One copy will be for the army station on the road to Kurima, the other for the police station in Kurima.
Baliem Valley Trekking Preparations
I would not recommend this to be your first multi-day trek as it is somewhat challenging and rough. Provided you already are an experienced hiker, you know what types of gear you need for a trek. Think 3-season kind of clothes and equipment as the weather and temperatures can change during the day, including potential rain. Moreover, since you are in a notably remote region, you need to be self-sufficient with your most essential equipment.
In addition to the regular hiking items, I would highly recommend the following for any Papua trekking tours:
- Trekking poles: the trail is very up and down, and your knees will thank you
- Goretex Gaiters: Whichever route you choose will take you over high plateaux, mud, and wet trails.
- Water Filter: Because you don’t want to get sick in remote areas
- Large Tarp: for emergency rain protection or if you have to spend nights in the jungle. At least 4x6m (16″x24″)
- Water cover: for your bag but also potentially as a ground protection.
- Bug spray – make sure to take a product that protects against fleas, and with a strong DEET. If you prefer something without DEET, this Picaridin-based bug spray might be a better option.
- Sleeping bag Some of the camps are at over 3,000 m (10,000 ft) elevation and with high risk of rain, so you will want something to keep you warm at night
- Sleeping mat. We did not have our regular sleeping mat but regular construction insulation is a good and cheap alternative that you can find in material stores. Not the most comfortable or the most packable, but light and keeps you dry.
If you are planning to go through inhabited areas and spend a night in the jungle, make sure you or your porter have something to boil the water and cook, as well as a machete. Even if you brought your freeze-dried food, and hire porters, they will need to cook their food and boil water for coffee. Most porters usually have a pot and a kettle with them.
Food to buy in Wamena
You can find a lot of things around Wamena, even though it won’t be your regular trekking staple – no freeze-dried food here. Most of the items are available from the regular shops, but a few specific products were only in stock at the Ropan supermarket on the road to the airport.
- Regular stores: Instant noodles, coffee, and sugar, cigarettes, cookies
- Ropan supermarket: Instant oatmeal, instant soups, dried raisins
- Food Costs: Between these two stores, we spent about 300,000 IDR (about US$22)
Baliem Valley Trail Options
There are about 3 to 4 routes that will take you from Wamena to Angurruk. We used one of the southern ways going through Yogosem-Ballingama to avoid the shorter Elit ladders.
Map generated from the GPS data captured during the trek. The KMZ file can be downloaded here: KML file for Baliem Valley Trek
Our itinerary was set to be an 8-day trek Papua through Kurima, Hitugi, Yogosem, two nights in the Jungle, Balingama, Sobaham, two other nights in the jungle, and finally Angurruk.
That trail was challenging, tough and rough! We went through villages and jungle, met fantastic people and fantastic scenery along the way. We did not reach Angurruk due to the trail conditions, but we recommend the trek. For more details on the trek, our exact route, and trail information, read our post on Trekking the Baliem Valley and Yalimo Country.
How to Get to Baliem Valley
Wamena to Kurima
We used public transit, called Bemo, basically minibusses. Take them from the central market in Wamena. You need to change bemo once as the road has been washed out, and need to take a second bemo close to Kurima
- Main Bemo Wamena to Yahuhimo: About 45 minutes – 1 hour, and 20,000 IDR per person
- Small bemo to Kurima: About 15 minutes, and 10,000 IDR per person
Flight from the Baliem Valley to Wamena
About 4 or 5 small airlines -MAF, AMA, Susie Air, Demonin Air, and Trigana – fly between Wamena and the different villages. They usually don’t have a fixed schedule as they operate depending on the resupply needs. The good news is that there are enough of these bush airlines flying in/out nearby villages that you should be able to hitch a ride back to Wamena. The downside is that you don’t know in advance which community or which airline. The best way is to have someone in the village to radio the nearby airstrips and get an idea of the airplanes’ schedule for the next couple of days.
Many of these airlines are legacy or still sponsored by missionary organizations that deliver food and freight around Wamena. The prices tend to be more expensive leaving Wamena as the airplanes are generally full with goods. Returning to Wamena gives you a better chance to find space and at a lower price. All companies are charging about the same price. Note that there is potentially a weight surcharge for your pack and an airstrip fee. We paid around 600,000 IDR per person for our Sobaham to Wamena flight.
Papua Travel Advice: Safety in the Baliem Valley
As Westerners, we did not feel threatened by anyone during our 7-day trek through the Baliem Valley and Yalimo. Tensions do sometimes exist between villages and tribes, but people welcomed us wherever we went. However, people from Indonesia as in from Java, Sulawesi or Bali, might want to reconsider going there. Papuan feel strongly about getting their independence from Indonesia, and there is a definite hostility against Indonesian. As the situation might change quickly, check with your embassy and consulate for the latest Papua travel advisory.
On our end, we only encountered smiles and laughs, friendly people with a warm welcome. Though the language was a barrier, we had only the most amazing encounter with the local Papuan and loved every second of it.
What we found more challenging and potentially dangerous where the trail conditions. The further and deeper you go into the mountains, the more remote, and the less maintained. Having an accident there could be tricky as there would not be quick access to medical aid, and evacuation might require a helicopter pickup or going on the back of your porter.
Food in the Baliem Valley
The items below can be found on the trail, though they will be more expensive than in Wamena.
- Lunch pack made of rice and vegetable when we left Kurima: 10,000 IDR/pax
- Sweet potatoes 20,000 IDR x 2 (good for breakfast or snacks on the trail)
- Coffee: Hitugi 10,000 IDR (10 packs), Paligama 20,000 IDR, Yogosem 20,000 IDR (2 x 10,000 IDR)
- Sugar: Yogosem 60,000 IDR (1 kg), Paligama 80,000 IDR
- Rice: Hitugi 150,000 IDR (5 Kg @ 30,000 IDR/kilo), Yogosem 30,000 IDR (1 kg) 60,000 IDR (2 kg)
- Instant Noodles: Hitugi 30,000 IDR (3 packs), Yogosem 50,000 IDR (10 x 5,000 IDR each)
- Wood: 20,000 IDR / night – sometimes included in the lodging or the cooking costs
- Vegetables: when available at the villages, mostly cabbage, sweet potato leaves, or local greens.
- Note that the prices will increase the deeper you go into the mountains
- Average Dinner cost 30,000K for 2 (Hitugi)
- When you buy food in the villages, you usually end up sharing it with the local family that is hosting you. No meat is available unless you are willing to pay an extravagant price for a whole pig – between 40 to 70 million IDR depending on the pig’s size.
Coffee and sugar are the staples of choice, and you will never have enough. That, with cigarettes, is what people consume in a very high volume.
If you are getting porters, here is what we suggest taking per day per person:
- Morning: 2 packs of noodles
- Lunch: 1 pack (will be cooked along the way)
- Dinner: 1 pack noodle to flavor 1 kilo of rice (for 4 people) + vegetables from the local family
- Coffee: 100 g every 2 days for 4 people
- Sugar: 1 kg every 4 days
- Cigarettes: 1 pack / day
Baliem Valley Accommodation
If you stay in villages, most of them will have either a small guest room or share their men’s house with you. The accommodations are usually very simple, four walls and a wooden floor. The men’s houses are traditional houses, usually round and with hay as your mattress.
As a woman but a tourist, I was allowed to stay with my husband and the other men. Women would come to share dinner together though.
In any case, you will most likely sleep on the ground. There is usually no shower, no toilet available – Cost per night is roughly 250,000 INR for 2 people. Note that guides and porters sleep for free in the villages.
If you plan on trekking in areas without villages, make sure to carry a large sturdy tarp. A must-have given the cold and rainy conditions on the high plateaus.
Guide to Baliem Valley Trekking: Costs Breakdown
- Purchased in Wamena: 300,000 IDR
- On the trail: 630,000 IDR (for 4)
- Large solid tarp: 250,000 IDR
- Cigarettes: Wamena 70,000 IDR, Yogosem 80,000 IDR, Sobaham 200,000 IDR
- Bemo Wamena to Kurima: 60,000 IDR (3 pax) + 30,000 IDR
- Flights: Sobaham to Wamena: 2,400,000 IDR (500,000 IDR /pax flight + 100,000 IDR/pax airstrip fees)
- Guide Martinus:
- Initial deposit 1M IDR before departure
- On the 1st day: 2M IDR
- Porter Seth
- 300,000 IDR / day as porter only, 350,000 IDR / day after Martinius abandoned us and Seth acted as a guiding porter (total 3,000,000 ID for 9 days)
- 1M IDR (paid in kind with their flights back to Wamena)
- Hitugi 250,000 IDR, Yogosem 250,000 IDR, Ballingama 500,000 IDR
TOTAL COSTS: 11 Million IDR for 7 days (~830USD as of mid-2017)
- Hitugi 250,000 IDR, Yogosem 250,000 IDR, Ballingama 500,000 IDR
When to Go for your Baliem Valley Trek
The hiking season is at its peak from June to August. However, the area can also be hiked in May and September, with some rainy days. August might get quite busy, especially around the Baliem Valley Festival in Wamena. Avoid December to April as it tends to rains heavily. October and November can be rainy, but that’s the time the porters work in their gardens, so you might not find porters or have to pay more to make it their time’s worth.
Our Baliem Valley Experience
We went for an 8-day Baliem Valley trek starting from Wamena and flew back from Sobaham. See our trek Papua report day-by-day itinerary for more details, including Baliem Valley map and our own Baliem Valley itinerary.
Further posts to our Guide to Baliem Valley Trekking as well as lodging in Wamena, getting to Papua, and whether to travel with a guide or independently, are coming shortly.
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