Some time ago I traveled to West Papua in Indonesia to visit the Arfak Mountains. This turned out to be exactly the kind of adventure I was looking for. If you have an inner adventurer and enjoy visiting remote and rural areas, this is something you should try.
There is something utter fascination about visiting remote areas where people have a different way of life. At least, that is how I feel. For a while, I had a dream to visit Papua island, and when I met a friend of a friend who was born there, I was very interested to know more. Papua is a very big island and hosts many tribes and areas that are vastly different.
This friend had a cousin situated in the town of Manokwari, near the Arfak Mountains. This cousin had some sort of connection to the chief of one of the villages up there and was able to arrange for me to visit. I was so excited and I had no idea what to expect!
The trip through the forest – a bumpy ride
In order to access this area, one must find someone with a four-wheel drive that is willing to drive up the mountain and through the forest. The trip takes around 5-6 hours and it is a very bumpy ride and somewhat expensive. There is no actual road going there, most of the way takes place on a cleared path in the forest.
Occasionally through small rivers and other obstacles. If I haven’t made it clear yet, this is a very remote area. After driving for what can feel like a very long time given the conditions, you will see a clearing and a lake. The remoteness of this place in a way reminds me of my trip to Bolivia.
The village life in the Arfak Mountains
The traditional houses of the mountains there are built on poles. They go by the name of thousand-foot which paints a good picture of their design. The locals are very friendly and welcoming. Life is primitive giving the remote nature of the place, but the Indonesian government had built more modern houses for the people there.
Only problem: they don’t want to use them because of the cold.
Yes, the Arfak area is quite cold as we are around 3000 m above sea level. Bring a sweater and prepare to be without cell reception. Walk around the lake, observe what the locals do or ask if you can help them harvest their delicious pineapples.
Make sure to have a bit of time to visit Manokwari as well. They have a delicious street food market near the harbor and high-quality durian fruit – if that is something you want to try.
I suggest you visit Indonesia’s official travel guide regarding West Papua.
How to get to West Papua from anywhere in the world
In order to get to the Arfak Mountains, you must land in Manokwari from where you have to find a driver. You can fly to Manokwari from several major airports in Indonesia counting Jakarta, Surabaya and many local airports within Papua.