Election flights

As part of Indonesia’s national parliamentary elections, I’ve been flying around some of the local delegates to various larger airstrips here in Papua. I’ve also been flying the actual election boxes and ballot papers into many of the more remote airstrips. It’s an amazingly logistical endeavour when you consider the geography of Indonesia and it’s mass of islands stretching across three time-zones. 

Local election candidate arriving in Pogapa airstrip, Papua

Pogapa airstrip seemed to be one of the major focal points for one of the parties. I took a number of people in there from Bilogai (located only 15 or so miles away to the east) to be greeted by a massive crowd of hundreds of excited people. I’ve never seen that many people on an airstrip before and it took quite some time to get them to vacate it so I could land and take-off safely. 

Huge crowds of people gather to listen to election speeches

After I’d dropped off one party of election candidates, they went straight into speeches which caused all the people to gather around the podium which overlooked the airstrip. I tried politely to ask them to move off the airstrip for a moment so I could depart but that fell on deaf ears. The only solution was to fire up the PT6 engine and drown out the speeches. Everyone then got the message I wanted to take-off and got out the way. Below is a selection of photos I took of various local people getting into the election spirit:

Most of the election boxes and ballot papers were already in an airstrip called Enarotali which is located in the central Papuan mountains on the edge of a massive lake at 5500ft. It’s a fairly large town and had a decent sized sealed runway allowing easy and quick access via aircraft to a number of smaller airstrips located in a 20 mile radius.

Loading up election boxes and ballot papers in Enarotali

Reckon we could squeeze a bit more in…

I ended up doing 17 flights on one day, all from Enarotali, to three different airstrips; Duma, Bogabaida and Dadou. I visited each of them two to three times to take the boxes, papers and a number of selected passengers. Certainly my most busy day so far flying in the mountains! I only returned to Nabire once to refuel, as there’s none available in Enarotali.

Unloading election boxes and ballot papers in Duma airstrip, Papua

It was a pretty busy couple of days but very enjoyable going to some great airstrips and seeing the excitement on most of the people when I arrived with the boxes was really great. I guess it’ll take a few days to get all the votes counted up and processed throughout the country and I’m happy to have been a part of it all.

Local tribesman greets a one of the passengers I dropped off in Duma, Papua
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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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing Matt.
    As much as the process is different across countries, elections are elections and it ends up the same everywhere.
    It much have been nice to have so many flights in a short period of time…

  2. Thanks for the update Matt. Can I ask a totally unrelated question? It is regarding the local wildlife. Have you had any encounters with snakes? Or have you heard of anyone who has?

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      I have had two snake encounters so far, one was about four years ago whilst climbing Mt. Cyclops in Sentani and the other was just outside Timika. Both scarred the crap out of me!

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