Biak & Padaido Islands
Early in the morning, I'm leaving the Baliem Valley for my next destination in West Papua province. Nina decided to travel along with me to Biak where the main purpose of my visit is to go snorkeling at the Padaido Islands. I heard that these islands own very rich sea gardens with typical fish that rarely found in other seas. Together we departed with the second flight to Jayapura, hoping to be able to have a connection the same day to Biak. We don't want to waste a day in Jayapura.
On arrival in Sentani airport, both of us are ready for a nice lunch and we think the Sentani Indah hotel owned by Merpati Airlines would be a good choice. At this time we still have no idea if we could have a connection to Biak. My ticket is actually scheduled for may 9, two days from now. Also I got another ticket with Berlinda's name on it since the plan was that she would have been escorting me throughout my Papua adventure if everything would have been going well. With her ticket, we will try to let Nina fly so that I don't waste any money. After we finished lunch, I noticed Merpati air crew at the hotel lobby. I think this might be the right person who could inform us if there's any flight available yet today for Biak. According this crew, we wont have any problem to use these tickets for us today but the problem is that todays flight is fully booked already. With our minds already in Biak, this is a real boomer and we are willing to try everything to make it today still to Biak.
We decided to try our luck and went back to the airport where we noticed immediately that we would have a big chance to leave today. This is a typical example of Indonesian bureaucracy. You better check everything 2 or 3 times from different sources before you believe anyone or make important decisions. Minutes later we're on the small plane, Nina using Berlinda's name and changed traveldates for both of us. No problem.
After some hotel checking, Nina decided to stay at the Titiwaka Hotel, a simple but decent and popular hotel while I had a pre-booking (for different dates) in the Arumbai Hotel which is definitely the best available accomodation in town. It has the only swimming pool on the entire island while the location can't be better in the centre of Biak Town within walking distance of the major places. Top of the bill was the unexpected 50% discount which was on offer just this month.
Today it is saturday which means to me: Tasting of local nightlife ! After a very nice dinner at 99 restaurant where one can choose between Small, Medium and Large each time you go for a fish plate. I had a crabsoup and a "small" fried fish since I came alone. Even the Small size is way too big for me but it is one of the best seafood meals I had in time. After dinner, I am told that X-Box is the place to be on saturdaynights. I have no idea what is inside but it's exotic name made me curious.
Once inside the dark place, I noticed a small bar where I sat on a stool and ordered my first cold beer since long. For those who wanna know... X-Box is a popular Karaoke bar, Indonesian style. One after another are singing(?) slow songs. It makes me feel sleepy and I hardly can keep my eyes open.
Being a bit disappointed of the place, I walk around the block in 10 minutes to Mapia Club (located at the same Mapia Hotel). It is pitch black outside as I try to find my way to the establisment. I did'nt noticed a huge hole in the pedestrain about 1 square meter along the whole width of the walkway. Almost, almost... just on time I could avoid the open sink.
The Mapia Club is my style. It is packed with locals, dancing and drinking, and every now and then there's even an english song finding its way through the terrible sound system. Being the only foreigner, I feel like being watched from every corner. There are not that many tourists in West Papua, let alone Biak. Immediately I have company to talk with.
Yesterday, I already made a deal to hire a boat with Lexi who works for Biak Diving Center. By typical outrigger canoe we find our way to the open ocean with destination Rurbas and Owi islands for some snorkeling. Together with Nina to share the cost which is 550.000 rupiah for the day.
Padaido slands group consists of Ouri, Supiori and Rani all offer spectacular diving and snorkeling arena. There used to be a luxurious diving ship based in Biak serving tourists to dive insurrounding islands but unfortunately it has recently with drawn from operation due to less visitors.
Only certain tour operators such as Biak Diving Center have diving equipment to rent. No lodgings applicable in the islands so that the only place to stay overnight is at the local people's house or your own tent. It is necessary to bring your own food material and other equipment during the tour.
We noticed a great diversity of colourful fishes. Bright blue, yellow angelfish and many other species. On Rurbas island is also a beach where I found beautiful and bog shells. Even a perfect shaped giant clam.
Our wooden outrigger moves further over the smooth blue ocean for our next destination Owi Island where again snorkeling is the main and only activity. There are no facilities on the Padaido Islands. If you need to change, it is behind a palm tree. To complete a perfect day, on our way back to Biak a school of dolphins is following us for a while. According to Lexi, a unique event rarely seen here.
I had a perfect day and I feel good here in Biak. There's nothing going on but at the same time it has such a charm because of the lack of tourists. Everywhere I go, I'm greeted by locals young an old.
Today, Nina and I want to rent a car with driver to visit the Natural Reserve, hoping to see some tropical birds or any other wildlife. The manager of the Arumbai Hotel can arrange a car with driver for me at a hourly rate of 50.000 rupiah. We plan to go to Supiori which is at the other side of the island, some 4 hours one-way by car but the drive will take us through lovely villages and greenery. Also, we plan to visit the Nature Reserve which is in the same area of Supiori.
Because our destination is 4 hours one-way we will be driving on unpaved roads most of the time for 8 hours at least. We decide to go anyway. Shortly after our departure, we are driving through green foliage, sometimes between palmtrees, crossing wooden bridges while the drive goes from one to another kampung - Indonesian villages. Children are welcoming us everywhere we want to make a short stop for a picture. We noticed children walking on side roads everywhere we go. Our driver drives dangerously fast and very often we have to tell him to reduce speed.
Most of the time the road is like a rollercoaster, not being able to see what is on the other side of the hill. Often we climb up a hill to decend shortly after. This keeps going for long through foliage of all kinds only cutted by the road we're on. On both sides little kids are playing right on the roadside. Throughout we have to attend our driver to reduce speed. We are afraid something might happen. In countries like Indonesia, it is always the foreigner who will be blamed for a possible accident, even he's not driving the vehicle. That is a written law !
In one of the villages a young puppy is playing on the road untill it is hit by our car. We stop to check and there's nothing we can do for the poor young dog. Villagers are surrounding our car. Our driver who is of course compltely responsible of this incident tells us that we have to pay 10.000 rupiah to the owners of the dog. 10.000 rupiah is less then a dollar but we refuse since our driver is the one responsible. Some discussion starts and I paid to be able to continue our long journey ahead.
A little later we arrive in Warsa, nothing special apart from a nice waterfall were we will take a short break. We took a few pictures from the falls and some people doing laundry in a shallow small river after we asked permittion. As appreciation for the picture, we gave the women 5000 rupiah for the picture and walked back to our car. An elderly came after me holding a guestbook under his arm. I wrote my name and adress inside. He told me to pay 100.000 rupiah for the pictures taken from the falls !!! Of course this is complete nonsense and we step inside the car. Shortly after, a bunch of people are all around our car and there's a lot of Indonesian discussion among them. We tell the driver to proceed the trip which he refuse. Our notable hired man is co-operating with the locals and we were told if we refuse to pay he has to bring us to the police station. Because Nina's travel permit is not 100% approved, we are ready to pay 10.000 rupiah but the problem is we don't have smaller notes then 50.000 rupiah. Of coourse nobody has change. We pay the 50.000 and continue our trip yet again.
While the nature gets more beautiful behind every curve we ask ourself where the driver will bring us. We are about 5 hours away from Biak Town now but no sign of any nature reserve to be seen.
Then all of a sudden, the driver stops the car in front of a military post. "We arrived" he said. I try to explain our driver which english is very poor, that this is not what we requested. We did'nt want to see soldiers, I told him but tropical birds. Probably pretending that he does'nt understand me, he lift his shoulders.
It is 3.30pm now and we need to get back to Biak town soon because without illumination on these tracks, we try to imagine how dangerous it would be. Myself, I did'nt care much. I had a nice drive through nature while visiting local villages every now and then. I like that. But Nina, that is a different story. She is very dissapointed indeed so I prepare myself for a unpleasant drive back to Biak town.
After yet a few long hours, we finally arrive in Biak exactly 8 hours after our departure this morning. According our deal, we have to pay 400.000 rupiah. Of course, the driver wants 700.000 rupiah. I smile this time, giving him 400.000 rupiah and proceeded to my room for a shower...
Because I arrived two days before my initial plan here in Biak, I would like to return to Bali two days earlier as well. When I noticed a proffesional looking travelagency, I walked inside and ask for possibilities to fly to Bali on the 11th of may. Promptly I am answered that the only flight is tommorow or I got to wait till the 13th. Well, tommorow I like to spend another day at the Padaido Islands because coming here for just two days is not really worth the flight I thought. It looks like I got to wait untill the 13th.
After yet again a delicious dinner at "99" restaurant, I found my way back into X-Box to enjoy a couple of beers again. But before I approached the entrance, I noticed illuminated airline sings a bit further which was clearly another travelagency. Nothing to lose, I step inside and make the same request as I did earlier today with the other ticketing office. To my surprise, it is not a problem at all to fly back to Bali on the 11th and even had a perfect connection without wasting time in Jayapura. Yet again, this is a typical example that you need to double check things at different sources before make final decisions.
Later that night I managed to get to X-Box again for a few beers. Suddenly another foreign guy comes to sit next to me on the bar and we start to conversate. "Hi, I am Timon" and shook his hand. Since one rarely see foreigners here besides yourself, it might cause the reason why he promptly want to talk with me, I thought. "I'm Eddy" I replied. After an hour or something, the guy ask me where I came from. "Belgium" I replied. "Belgium !?" he surprisingly answered with a questioning tone. "Yep, Belgium". "Gosh ! I am a Belgian too !" his eyes wide opened. "Are you flemish- or french speaking ?" he then asked. "I am from Antwerp, so flemish is my native language" I said in flemish. Unbelievable but Timon lives some 20 minutes away from my home all the way back in Belgium. Besides Nina, who I met in Wamena before, Timon is the second foreigner I met and since Belgians are well-known in Europe as heavy beer drinkers, we decided to keep our culture high.
With a hangover from last night, I woke up a little late after being an early bird for the past week or so. I had an appointed with Timon going together to Bosnik beach trying to find a fisherman who's willing to bring us by boat to Ureb and Masurbabo Islands, another cluster of coralreefs nestled in the midst of the Padiado Group.
After bying some fried bananas & bottled water, it is about 11.00am already when we all step on board for my last trip here in Biak.
Snorkeling was yet again superb in the shallow waters of coralreef and our day ended back in Bosnik just before sunset, a perfect way to end my West Papua adventure.
I had requested a wake call at 4.00am this night to get on time for my flight. However, I woke up myself without having any phonecall from the front desk. It was 4.20am. I quickly packed my stuff and went downstairs to the reception to get my transport to the airport and noticed that the responsible guy who should have called me at 4.00 was in dreamland himself. When I told him, "this is your wake-up call" he opened one eye, closed it again and that was it. Be informed, bring your own alarm to Biak.
A few hours later, I landed in Bali again where I stayed 4 additional nights before I made my way back to my second home in Asia.... Phuket - Thailand.