Our Indonesia adventure continues. We were supposed to fly out today from Timika on the southern coast of Papua to Suagpa north of Carstensz, but a snag in the logistics foiled this plan. Before I go on, a bit of background.
Adjacent to Carstensz is one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world. It is the primary employer in this area and around 9,000 of the 12,000 workers went on strike on September 15 for higher wages. They make about US$2 to $3 a day, according to some press reports I have seen, and want $43. The strike was scheduled for 30 days but went past that deadline just as we arrived in Timika, the center of all the activity.
The tension resulted in significant violence with several deaths. The workers took control of the airport we are using in Timika but were allowing limited flights. The aviation fuel supply was cut off causing all flights to refuel at other airports or cancel flights altogether. Foreigners were warned to say off the streets. The hotel we were scheduled to use was closed to foreigners so we found another.
Our original plan was to fly into Timika from Bali, spend one night and fly on to Sugapa and then to the Lakes base camp; but with no fuel, there were no flights. Mountain Trip partners with a local agency and Franky, their owner, worked to find alternative flights. The end result is that now we are scheduled to fly out tomorrow, October 20th, weather dependent.
The logistics of these flights are very complicated. First a fixed wing plane, a Pilatus Poter will fly into Timika and pick up half our team along with our gear and the helicopter pilot. They will fly to Sugapa plus take a reconnaissance flight over our landing spot near Carstensz. The Pilatus will then fly back to another airport to refuel and back to Timika for the rest of the group. We will spend the night at this encampment at the edge of the jungle at 7,000 feet.
The next day, an Agusta Helicopter will make 3 to 4 trips to ferry all of us and our gear to our base camp on Carstensz. Once we complete the climb we will take the helicopter out and eventually leave Papua from Nabire back to Bali.
This complicated plan increased the cost of the expedition and is still very fragile; not to mention weather dependent. However, everyone feels quite good about and especially glad to leave Timika and get on with the climb.
That said, we have all felt quite safe and have enjoyed the hospitality of the hotel employees and the locals we have met. Some of the team rented small motorcycles and ventured into the rual areas outside the town this afternoon – not me.
I am supposed to be on the first wave out, a benefit of being one of the first to sign up for this trip, and will activate my SPOT tracker once I arrive in Sugapa. Of course, I will take a lot of pictures.
All of this is a stark reminder that climbing these high peaks is never easy, in spite of what you may hear. It is critical to have excellent partners, patience, flexibility and a sense of adventure. I continue to be reminded how much support it requires to accomplish a difficult objective, similar to what it takes to find a cure for Alzheimer’s: teamwork, patience, flexibility and commitment.
I was impressed while speaking at the Alzheimer’s Europe conference in Warsaw just two weeks ago to see all of these traits in full demonstration. Multiple speakers addressed the need for collaboration, commitment and increased investment to find improved treatments, diagnosis and a cure.
And that is what my climb of Carstensz is all about.
Memories are Everything