Moving about and visiting friends
|Visiting friends from the UK!|
The hardest part of having visitors out here in Papua is I’m never totally sure where I’ll be when people arrive. Normally I’m stationed in Nabire but with additional contracts in Timika for an extra aircraft and talk of new bases being opened, it was a case of see what happens. Thankfully my friends were happy to be super flexible and things actually worked out well as they arrived in Biak in the middle of the week.
|Spot colour Garmin G950 equipped PC-6 cockpit|
As we’re not flying very much out of Nabire, I was able to meet them off the company Cessna Caravan that flew them in from Biak which wash handy and despite the jet-lag and lack of sleep from the night flight to Papua, Simon came with me to Turimo that very morning. For me, Turimo is a pretty uninteresting airstrip to land on and about three times as long as a Porter needs but for someone who’s never been to Papua or flown in a Porter, it was awesome. I guess one gets used to the more crazy airstrips and it’s easy to forget how it all looks for the first time. The village is actually quite pretty and interesting, located on a river and surrounded by dense jungle it’s home to three missionary families who are always keen to chat about the village and show newcomers around so it was a great start to the tour of Papua.
|Locals of Sinak checkout Gill’s photography skills|
Over the following few days there wasn’t much flying but I did at least get a couple of charters to another pretty long airstrip, Sinak, so was able to show both Simon and Gill the highlands of Papua and the scenery there in. We then got pretty lucky as one of the aircraft in Timika suffered a flat battery so I was instructed to fly the Nabire based Porter immediately over there to make sure we could continue to fly our obligations in Timika. I think my friends felt pretty privileged to have their own pilot chauffeur taking them on a tour of Papua!
|Morning clouds on the southern Papua ridges|
I was only in Timika for a day but it was fantastic to get to show my friends some proper Porter flying and also to meet plenty of highlands people in the various villages we went to. I think Simon was most impressed with the views of Puncak Jaya (the highest and snow capped mountain in Papua) which was fortunately clear on our flight between Timika and Beoga.
By the time the day’s flying was over in Timika, a new battery had been sent in and fitted to the forlorn Porter so I was surplus to requirements and flew, with my friends, back to Nabire. The weather was much clearer on our return trip so had fantastic views of Lake Paniai near Enarotali which is another stunning natural sight in Papua.
|Local man in Jila helping children over the swollen river|
Once back in Nabire I was again back on standby and awaiting any charters that came in. The only one that did sadly got cancelled due to civil unrest at one of the destinations and as the aircraft had less than ten hours remaining on it before it’s routine 100 hour inspection, it was decided to take it to our Biak maintenance facility a little earlier.
This was yet another spot of luck and Biak is a beautiful island with some fascinating World War II history and surrounded by crystal clear waters. My friends had a good look around the Japanese Cave whilst I flew a few hops between Biak and Serui. It’s a harrowing bit of history and something I saw over three years ago but worth checking out if you find yourself in Biak.
|A spot of diving off Biak, Papua|
Once the aircraft was in maintenance, and I was relieved of flying duties for a couple of days, it was time for one last treat before my friends headed back to the UK. I’d dived the waters off Biak last year and checked out the WWII PBY Catalina flying boat wreck so knew it was well worth doing the same with my friends. So we chartered a boat and dive gear for the day and went exploring.
|One of the reefs off Biak’s remote islands|
The wreck was as amazing as ever (no photos as I had camera problems again) and the second dive off one of the tiny white sand islands surrounding Biak was stunning. It’s nice to see plenty of sea life out here as the area was heavily over-fished in the past anywhere near populated areas and much of the reefs decimated. Thankfully the remote islands were teeming with life and it was great end to my friends’ time in Papua. Hopefully their visit might inspire others to come out and visit as although it’s a very long way from anywhere, it’s well worth making the trip!