It’s been a long dream to go trekking in Papua to meet the local tribes. When I had finally decided to travel Papua and to go trekking in the Baliem Valley, I did not find much on the internet to get a feeling about the safety in Wamena or how to find a trustworthy guide. Also, it was really hard to figure out what a reasonable price for a trekking tour including over night stays in the villages is. After some exciting days in the beautiful Baliem Valley, I want to share my experience and encourage experienced travelers & trekkers to go and see this remote place.
Baliem Valley is famous for its ancient tribes like the Dani People, where the elderly men are not wearing anything but a „koteka“ covering their penis and the women wear nothing but grass skirts. Wamena is the only city in Baliem Valley, which you can easily fly to from Jayapura several times a day. From there you can do all kind of trekking tours reaching from one day to several weeks to meet the Yali , Lani and Korowai tribes, which live several days walking away. These longer trekking tours are much more of an adventure and you should be experienced in both trekking and jungle tours plus you really need a trustworthy guide for such a long trek.
When flying to Wamena, make sure you buy your return ticket upfront, as I was told locals sometimes buy all tickets to resell then at crazy prices at the airport (booking tickets via www.tiket.com worked well for me allover Indonesia. When booking directly at some local airlines, non Indonesian credit cards are sometimes not accepted). Wamena is basic and it took me some hours to feel safe, as it is very different from the rest of Indonesia. When arriving at the tiny airport, all sorts of betle nut chewing men stared at me and I felt relieved my guide picked me up. However, after a couple of days in Wamena and the Baliem Valley, I felt really safe and saw the beauty in the people.
Where to stay
There is a resort „The Baliem Valley Resort“, which is placed beautifully in the highlands. To me, the prices where really high and when communicating via email with the owners, I did not experience the hospitality I would have expected from a premium place. The cheepest alternative are homestays, which you can look up on Tripadvisor. I decided to stay at the Hotel Baliem Pilamo and found it a great choice. It is a „3 star“ hotel, not perfectly clean, but safe and a good place to recover after some days of trekking including a good launry service.
Around Wamena you will be walking in the highlands, which makes it an easy trek compared to jungle tours. However, since it is a mountainous area, trekking up and down is still challenging and depending on the distances you plan to walk per day, you should be in shape and feel ok with some scary and steep paths. Staying in the village was also rather comfy and easy, as I slept in a tent in a separate Hut for myself. Some guides do not bring tents, but you can also just sleep in your own hut on a mattress and your own sleeping bag.
How to find a guide and what to expect to pay
If you are an experienced traveler and trekker, I would highly recommend to NOT book a guide upfront through a travel agency. These are usually really expensive ranging, from what I found 200 € to 300 € per day including car, porter, cook, food and village fee. I would recommend to go to Wamena without any plans, check in the Baliem Hotel Pilamo and then use the first day to find your guide. You can get good recommendation from either „Mr. Fuji“ the Japanese owner of the Papua.com Internet Café or ask at the Hotel Baliem Pilamo. Do not ask one of the guys waiting for you at the airport when you arrive. Or you can contact Itung Weya my guide, which I was happy with (firstname.lastname@example.org, +62-812-48222599). I ended up paying 135 EUR for a day trip (including car, guide, porter, lunch to see the Mummie and to do a 3 hour trek to a salt lake). After feeling safe with the guide and porter I booked a 2 day one night trekking tour from Wamena to Kilisie (lunch break), Wamarek (overnight stay) and back at 135 EUR a day including everything (car, guide, porter, cook, food, village fee). Although Wamena is much more expensive, then most places in Indonesia, the price still seemed too high to me, but I could not negotiate any better as I was probably too lazy to search for another guide to compare to.