Papua has a few problems that I started to realize as soon as I arrived. The first one is that some Papuan men drink too much and get into trouble and fight. When I was in Sorong I stayed at the police military base, which was next to a big sports field. From where I slept, I heard fighting and then, all of sudden a lots of people were inside the military police office. I was scared, but the military police handled it nicely.
Also in Papua, there is Free Papua movement that wants Papua to be separate from Indonesia. They also cause problems. From what I experienced in Papua, if Papua separated from Indonesia, it would be hard for them. This is because, in my humble opinion, there is a political agenda behind all of this. The Indonesian government has been trying hard to develop Papua, but the Papuans have been resisting and I am not sure why. I talked to many Papuans and I think, overall, they like to be part of Indonesia. I think those who want to be separated think that it is cooler to be supported by Western people and that Papua will do better because of their support. A lot of people from other ethnicities, like Javanese, Minang and Bugis, have been living in Papua for generations and feel Papua is their home. So for these people, an independent Papua would cut them off from the rest of Indonesia. I see some Free Papua groups in social media and it make me sad and angry because most people who support this movement online have never been to Papua and don’t know what the real situation is. I wish people didn’t get provoked so easily.
The second big problem is Malaria. Yes, malaria is really high in Papua. I asked 10 or more people if they ever got malaria. Only one answered “no”, the rest had already had malaria. They talk about it like it is something normal for them. People are also worried that I sooner or later will get malaria too. A few bikers who visited Papua had to go back home and could not continue their journey because they got malaria. I was freaked out and because I only noticed this problem when I already in Papua, there was not much I could do except to take whatever malaria prophylaxis drugs were available. The best choice was doxycycline. The problem with this drug is that I had to take it twice a day while I was in Papua and a month after leaving. I didn’t like doxycycline because made me feel really sick for an hour after I took it, but what else could I do? The other thing that I tried was doing my best not to get bitten. I always slept under a mosquito net and used repellent all day. And I think it is working because so far I haven’t gotten malaria.
Papua is big Island and there are not many roads in Papua and people mainly get around Papua by ferry or by plane. The hardest thing about developing Papua is to free the land. This is because a lot of land in Papua is tribal land. If one of the tribe, e.g. a father, sold the land, the children will often claim it is still their land or the land of a random uncle. Other family members feel they can claim back the land and will often go to court because they feel they never sold the land. Even when the court decides against the family, the village can support them and make it impossible to do anything with the land. Therefore, from Sorong, I had to take another ferry to get to Jayapura. This ferry was extremely full and I had never seen so many people packed together before. They were celebrating the first time the Christian missionaries landed in Manokwari, Papua. As such, many Papuans, most of whom are Christian, were making the pilgrimage to Manokwari. I could not even walk in the corridors because so many people were sitting there. This was the most extreme ferry that I have ever taken (including the ferry with the goats and cows) because, in this ferry, there was a pick pocket and people fighting and some people even peed in bottles and left bottles of urine lying around and spilling on the floor… it was horrible.
Because I got a special pass, I stayed in the security room and felt safe there until some random guy with mental problems came in. He claimed other people tried to bully him outside and that he felt unsafe. It turned out to be just his paranoia and, after talking to him, I realized he is not in touch with reality. When I checked my phone, he asked me if email I got was saying bad things about him. I told him I don’t know him and no one had emailed me. The security kept asking him to leave but he didn’t want to and stayed there with me. There were two couches there and I slept in one of them and he slept in other one. Later at night, he pooped in his pants while he was sleeping. The security got so angry at him and made him clean the mess but there was still a stain on the couch and the whole room stank really badly. The security kept spraying everything, from disinfectant to perfume, but nothing help much.
Before I left Sorong, something had gone wrong with my bike battery. I had not been able to fix it in Sorong so, as soon as I arrived in Jayapura, I went to mechanic‘s shop. There, I met one of bikers from Jayapura and, as usual, the news of my arrival spread really fast. Before long, the whole biker community knew that I was in Jayapura and I got invited to the house of one of the bikers, where I ended up staying the whole time I was in Jayapura.
I spent five days in Jayapura. On the first day, I went to the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. At the border there was a celebration. I am not sure what this celebration all about but it involved Papuans from Indonesia and Papuans from Papua New Guinea.
I also went to Sentani, Mc Arthur statue and all over Jayapura.
The bikers came to visit me and they also brought my bike to the workshop and we changed my back tire there. I told them I was traumatized by the official workshop after they glued my carburetor piston… but this workshop eased my fears because they treated my bike so well.
In Sentani, I stopped at the military base and asked them if I could join their plane to go to Merauke. The army regularly transports Papuans between towns so they agreed to take me and my bike as well. So from Jayapura, I flew to Wamena and spent few hours there, waiting for the military Hercules to return from its errands and take me the rest of the way to Merauke.
In Wamena was the first time I saw an airport that looks like bus station. I found it so funny and interesting that people were riding their bicycles and kids were playing on the runway and that, when the airplane was about to land, they all moved over to the side. At the moment, the only way to access Wamena is by aeroplane, because Wamena is up a Mountain and there is no road from other provinces yet. The government keeps trying to build the road, but I am not sure when it will be finished. Because all goods are transported to Wamena by airplane, the local prices are really high. Most locals cannot afford a motorbike and still travel by foot.
The army told me not to go too far, because I am a woman and also because the rebels are active in this area. So I just drove around the town. In the market, some random guy slapped me really hard on my butt and he also want me to pay him for taking pictures of him… but in the beginning, I didn’t want to take picture of him – he was the one wanted to pose for me! I think he was just drunk so I left. After a few hours, the Hercules returned and I was so glad to leave Wamena.
I was so excited when we arrived in Merauke because this is the official end of Indonesia. So from Merauke airport, I drove straight away to the border. It was 80 km away and it took around two hours to get there. As soon as I passed the town and outlying villages, I entered the Wasur national park, where you can see musamus (mountain-like ant colonies). It quite interesting and I saw a lotus pond beside the road, which was beautiful.
When I finally reached the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, I was a bit disappointed because I thought there would be another village but there turned out only forest with a small trail leading off into Papua New Guinea’s jungle. I don’t know where it goes. But it’s ok – at least I finally reached the end of Indonesia, the place that I hear every time the national anthem is sung (“Dari Sabang sampai Merauke” – “From Sabang until Merauke”). I am feeling so proud of myself. Yay for me!