Off the Grid

This is the second in a series of posts about my recent foray into the interior of Papua.

As you probably know, Papua makes up half of the world’s second largest island. And as you probably also know, it has a population density of about 10 people per square kilometer. There are thousands of remote villages scattered throughout the mountainous, heavily forested interior.

The end of the airstrip in Anggeruk - good for slowing down on the way in, and picking up speed for the way out.

In the 1960s, missionaries would do fly overs, find a village that looked like it had enough clear space for an airstrip, and then hike in from the nearest established post. They would make contact with the people, become trading partners, build an airstrip, and teach people about God. Once they had a working airstrip and a house, they would fly in their families, build schools, and translate the Bible into the local language. (The local languages weren’t already written, but the missionaries transcribed them and taught the people how to read.)

Airstrips need to be a certain length to function properly (makes sense) but when doing a fly over, the target space looks a little different than how it looks from on the ground, yes? So they tend to be just barely long enough, and can be a little on the steep side. As my pilot friend said on the way into Anggeruk, on a lot of these airstrips it looks like the pilot is trying to fly you into the side of a mountain. Which he is.

This is the other end of the same airstrip. Sort of takes you off the edge of a cliff there.

For all but two days of the trip, we were basically off the grid, and I was in heaven. No electricity, no cell phone reception, no computer. Just me, a bunch of books, and my notebook. I slept, read, wrote, taught, listened, sewed (long story) and drank a lot of hot beverages.

The climate is totally different up there in the mountains. And by different, I mean COLD. My main method for staying warm was wearing a hoodie and drinking hot bevs around the clock – two activities which just happen to be at the top of my list. While we drink a lot of hot beverages in Jayapura, I rarely get to wear sweatshirts, and certainly not on a twenty-four hour basis.

Although I didn’t know exactly what form it would take or where exactly I’d be going, I had been anticipating this trip all year. I was nervous over the past month or so that it wouldn’t work out at all. When it was finally taking shape over the two weeks before we left, I was afraid that it would be too much to go away for two weeks just a month before the end of my time in Papua. However, it ended up being a great time free of distractions to just reflect and calm down. I think if I’d been in Jayapura my stress level would have easily gotten away from me what with trying to wrap things up here and the whole looking for a job thing. So it was a huge blessing to have that time of peace and reflection before my last two weeks to say goodbye.

And oh, to sleep with a blanket again. Delicious.

2 Comments on “Off the Grid”

  1. WOW. I thought flying in Zambezi on an old cement airstrip was impressive, but your pictures of the interior airstrips make Zambezi’s runway look like Boeing Field.

    That trip sounds amazing! What a great way to wrap up. Don’t worry, it may be summer in some places, but you can wear your hoodie in Seattle right now. In fact, I just happen to be doing that exact thing at this very moment. Can’t wait to see you in a month! Much love.


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