A couple of days in Wamena

As we had very little flying going on in Nabire and our Wamena aircraft went tech due to a faulty artificial horizon, I flew our Nabire Porter across to Wamena for a few days to help cover whilst the engineers waited for the replacement part. Having never flown from there before in the Porter, I would be guided by George, our resident Wamena pilot on some of the routes and airstrips.

Stunning mountain ranges to the SW of Wamena

The town of Wamena is located in the Baliem valley at around 5500ft elevation right in the middle of the Papuan highlands. That elevation makes for a rather pleasant temperature compared to the tropical heat of Nabire. Maximum day time temperatures are around 25 degrees but at 5am when we start the day, it’s actually pretty cold at around 15 degrees. I had actually been there before, over four years ago, when I was co-pilot on our Cessna Caravans so was vaguely familiar with some of the area but after such a long time, it was all feeling pretty new.

Cessna 185 that didn’t make it home

I really enjoy going to new places and the Baliem valley is simply stunning. It’s surrounded by some spectacular scenery including Papua’s second highest peak, Puncak Trikora, at just over 15,500ft. It was close to here that Cessna C185 met it’s end during the early missionary days before GPS. The pilots got caught out in bad weather and tried to turn back to Timika but sadly ran into the high ground surrounding the peak.

Flying up the South Gap, inbound to Wamena

The flying I was to be doing was one of our subsidy contracts from Dekai airport which is in the flatlands around 55nm to the south of Wamena. The route between the two is down a valley known as the South Gap. It’s a stunning valley with high, jagged, shear sides to it and has plenty of turns along it to keep things interesting. I was pretty lucky with the weather too as at this time of year the southern flatlands can be very cloudy and rainy. Instead my couple of days were bathed in sunshine.

From Dekai there were four different airfields on the subsidy contract, Angguruk, Ninia, Owitlep and Pasima. The first three are actually suitable for a Cessna Caravan but it’s still nice to go to new places and in such a beautiful setting. George came along on all the flights to help guide me around and give me pointers on the various airstrips. This is typically how we do things when a new pilot goes to a new area. It’s a great way to learn and it’s always nice to fly with more experienced pilots to gain a few more tips.

Lined up for departure at Ninia, Papua
Owitlep villages watch as the aircraft is loaded up for deaparture
Pasima airstrip in the “south gap” valley near Wamena

Once George’s aircraft was fixed I had to head back to Nabire as we had a couple of charters from there. I still love flying from Nabire and am learning every time I go out to the mountains and airstrips surrounding it. I’m sure I’ll be back in Wamena some time again whilst I continue to enjoy the flying from Nabire.

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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6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sure looks pretty sweet Matt! Keep up the good work and stay safe!

    Kind regards Niklas

  2. Anonymous says:

    Been watching the Channel 4 series (not sure if you will have seen it yet), it’s safe to say i’m infatuated with your job! Hence i find myself here stumbling across your blog. Great stuff. Keep on enjoying life, that’s what it’s all about…you may have just inspired a future pilot too!

  3. neoxman says:

    Watching the series has made me actually want to give this a shot once I get up enough hours and finish my instrument rating…I must be mad.

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