From Nabire back to Timika

And so my couple of weeks in Nabire came to an end last week and I now find myself back in the familiarity of Timika. As you may have gathered, I’m quite keen on Nabire as a base because the airstrips we fly to from there are a notch up on the strips we go to from Timika.

Lined up for departure at Youtadi, Papua

Amazingly the weather played nice all last week which made for much easier days although the morning fog at Bilogai was always a threat. Bilogai is one of the larger airstrips in Papua located towards the eastern end of “The Freeway” (a valley running east-west from Nabire to Mulia airstrip in the central Papua Highlands) which we often drop into on the way back to Nabire from one of the more remote villages to see if we can collect any passengers.

Bilogai’s location is odd in that everywhere surrounding the airstrip can be totally clear of clouds/fog but the actual airstrip itself can be totally covered. It usually comes and goes pretty quickly although I did get stuck on the ground there for forty minutes or so waiting for it clear so I could depart; all the while listening to three other aircraft overhead waiting to land. One had to divert due to lack of fuel for holding and the other two got lucky, managing to land just before opting to RTB (return to base).

Foggy at Bilogai, Papua

The grass at Modio has been getting increasingly long, so I had a word with the villagers to ask them to cut it back. They explained that they needed more petrol for their strimmer (yes they use a little bushwacker as they cannot afford a proper lawnmower!). So I flew some in the next time I visited and was told no problem, it’ll be done before I return. However, I think there must have been a little misunderstanding as the only part of the entire airstrip they actually cut was a small square, about the size of a Porter, at the very end of the airstrip where I usually park up:

Cut grass at Modio, Papua

Hopefully they’ve actually done the rest of the airstrip by now as I haven’t had a chance to go back since then. Long grass is a pretty common issue at many of the airstrips. The combination of nutrient rich soil, sunshine and plenty of rain is just perfect for growing things. I do prefer a nice grass airstrip over tarmac ones with the Porter. The little bit of slip grass offers allows for a nicer roll-out after touchdown should you hit an undulation on landing. Tarmac tends to grab, especially when it’s not totally flat, which can require a quick jab or two of rudder to keep things nice and straight (Bilogai is terrible in that respect).

Tribal dancing in Nabire, Papua

On my last day’s flying out of Nabire I landed to find this small group of locals having a bit of a dance. I’d like to think it was for me but it seems they were welcoming some big chief who’d flown in from Biak on one of the larger commercial turbo-props.

Sun rising above the clouds

Aside from the flying in Nabire, I miss the sunrises. From Timika we rarely get airborne before 6am by which point the sun has already risen over the mountains. Still, looking at my current roster, I’m due back in Nabire for a couple of weeks from mid-July. Can’t wait!

Matt Dearden

Matt Dearden

English born professional pilot, writer, blogger and columnist. Currently flying the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter in Papua, Indonesia.

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