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On the train near Iluga

Lake Archbold

In Wamena we tried to arrange a trek to the little-visited Danau (Lake) Archbold, but the guide we found decided not to go at the last minute. Fed up with the guide game, we decided to buy supplies and find our own way. Armed with an itinerary, we started for Wolo, an area we knew from our previous day-trip. Clive, an Englishman we had met in Wamena, accompanied us. That morning there was no transport from Wamena to Wolo, so we took a public bemo to the mouth of the Wolo valley and started the 10km walk. After walking halfway up the valley, a packed minivan pulled up, and we hopped on to get a ride the rest of the way, holding tightly to the roof while balancing on the rear bumper. After picking some tangerines in Wolo we started up the valley with a big group of Papuans, mostly children. One of the women insisted on carrying Anne’s pack. In addition to a noken stuffed with potatoes, she carried the pack sideways, placing the shoulder strap across her forehead. A young boy wanted to carry Eric’s pack, so we showed him how to put it on and adjust the straps. He marched proudly along with the others, the bottom of the bag hanging below his knees. Everyone was excited to accompany us. They giggled at our strange gear and antics.

Trekkers Homemade ladder

We arrived in Iluga just before it started to rain. The local health officer offered us a room. When we discussed our plans to go to lake Archbold, though, he discouraged us. He said that it was much too far to walk in one day and that the trail was very muddy after the pass. We questioned him endlessly in different ways on the conditions in order to make sure that his information was sound. Was there another way? How often did people from the lake area pass by? We asked him to find us a local guide who would be willing to take us, but they were mostly interested in how much money we would offer. Later that night we went to visit the “kepala suku”, the village elder. We stooped to enter a long, dark hut and shook hands with everyone present. The elder, sitting in contemplation next to the fire, didn’t seem to speak much Indonesian. After some small talk, we asked about the conditions ahead. He confirmed what we had already heard. We decided to sleep on it and see the next day.