We achieved major progress today and are now in the village of Bilogai in the area of Sugapa. We received notice that the airplan had left another airport to pick us up in Timika about 7 this morning so we hustled to the airport with no drama. There were people milling around but we had no issues whatsoever.
The single engine Pilatus Porter was loaded with our gear and half our team; Veronique, check Scott, discount Chuck, myself plus Franky and our helicopter pilot loaded up.
This plane is amazing in that it can take off in less than 300 feet and land in under 50 if needed! We took off almost vertically and soon were headed toward Carstensz so the helicopter pilot could have a look see. We followed the road towards the mine, an amazing engineering feet in itself being, carved out of the jungle.
The clouds started to build as we approached Carstensz proper with ice and snow visible on the upper flanks around 15,000 feet. We circled the peak and ridge line and took a flight over the mine. I was astounded at the absolute size of the crater and the surrounding building complex required to run the operations.
Suddenly a series of lakes appeared at the base of a slaby ridge and I could see tents, it was Carstensz Pyramid Base Camp. We knew there were already at least two teams there who had trekked in two weeks earlier. Word had it that one was refusing to trek back out, a commentary on the hardship of 6 days in the jungle.
The pilot flew the Pilatus like a race car and spotting a hole into the clouds, dropped as steep as I have ever experienced to save fuel that would have been required to circle. We dropped from 14, 000 to the landing strip at 7,500 in under a minute, clearing our ears every few seconds.
We were greeted by throngs of locals looking to sign on as porters hopping we would trek to base camp. Our bags were unloaded and the throng gathered around eyeing each one. One person made a move and a scrum ensured. I stood by as I watched my two bags be grabbed and scurried away. It reminded me of something I would see the animal world after kill. But these people were just looking for honest work.
Smiles around, they posed for pictures and we soon had a conga line walking the road about half a mile away to a simple wooded complex of several rooms run by the local Catholic Priest. We will spend the night here and hopefully fly by helicopter to base camp tomorrow morning. That would have us doing a summit bid maybe on the 22nd, Saturday.
This is another amazing spot on our planet. As once again, I am struck by how the local people with seemingly nothing are so friendly. The kids are all smiles and are simply kids running around and hitting one another. As we walked together, they looked at us as much as we looked at them, each wondering what the other’s world was like.
These are memories for life.