More Kotekas than usual

Maybe it’s all the sunshine we’ve been having here in Papua these past couple of weeks or probably just coincidence but whatever the reason, there seems to be a lot more traditionally dressed folk about the mountain villages currently. That said, it’s still very much worn by the minority. With the continual onslaught of progress of the world, it seems the traditional Koteka, or penis gourd, is slowly disappearing in favour of more western style clothing.

Locals of Pagamba geared up for something

Despite all the sunshine, there’s still a fair amount of rain falling each night which is keeping many of the airstrips quite soft and damp. Certain airstrips seem to be worse off than others. Whilst the softness and slope of Kegata always seems to give me trouble when turning around it’s Duma, on the southern side of the main ridge of mountains, that continues to be a problem to even get into.

The weather in on the southern side is continuing to be very cloudy and rainy, as it usually is throughout July and August. Of the six or so attempts I’ve had to get into the Duma valley over the past couple of weeks, I’ve only succeeded three times as the visibility through the valley simply hasn’t been enough to safely navigate along it to the airstrip. The last place you want to be when flying in Papua is in a valley and not able to see where you’re going.

Local child helps unload the rice from the Porter at Duma

When I have been able to deliver the subsidised rice, the locals have been rather relieved to finally receive it and certainly make light work of offloading 850kgs of it. However, that soft ground at the top of the airstrip has got me stuck a couple of times as I try to turn 2.4 tonnes of PC-6 around on it. The total lack of grip means one tends to end up side on to airstrip as you simply can’t lock a wheel and get the tail to turn up the strip. The normal method of keeping the speed up and flicking the tail round usually works but just occasionally it’s simply too soft and you just keep sliding straight rather than turning. With ditches either side, you don’t really want to be going too fast and end up in one!

Village elder investigates the Pilatus Porter

Pagamba is another airstrip where they’ve been very keen to receive their share of the subsidised rice. The locals there tend to start offloading it as I’m still undoing the various cargo straps inside the aircraft and it’s best to get the heck out of the way until it’s all out, unless you fancy getting trampled!

It’s not that often I get a Koteka wearing passenger

Even though I’ve been flying out here in Papua for nearly two years now, last week was the first time I’ve actually taken a chap wearing the traditional Koteka. He was travelling from Nabire to Timepa and showed up to the aircraft wearing a jacket over the top. He removed the jacket as soon as he got into the aircraft and seemed quite content to sit in the back of the draughty Porter at 10,000ft; hardy folk!

Tail fin mounted GoPro shot, flying down the Freeway in Papua

As there’s been plenty of sun lately and minimal clouds around, I’ve got back into shooting more GoPro footage. As it’s a small camera with a tiny sensor, it doesn’t work that well in darker conditions and tends to get quite grainy. Bright sunshine is just perfect though and I’m loving the new angles I’ve been experimenting with, especially the one on top of the tail fin. Stay tuned, as the next video is due out in the coming weeks hopefully!

Flying towards Panaia Lake near Enarotali, 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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1 Response

  1. Nice visibility angle than ever!

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