Travel To Baliem Valley
BALIEM VALLEY, THE STUNNING VALLEY OF THE DANI TRIBE
High up in the mountains of central Papua at an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level, hemmed in by steep green mountain walls, lies the stunningly beautiful Baliem Valley, home of the Dani tribe. Baliem valley is 72 km long, and 15-31 km wide in places. It is cut by the Baliem River, which has its source in the northern Trikora Mountain, cascading into the Grand Valley, to meander down and further rushing south dropping 1,500 meters to become a large muddy river that slowly empties into the Arafura Sea. The first outsider to discover the valley was American Richard Archbold, who, on 23 June 1938 from his seaplane, suddenly sighted this awesome valley dotted with neat terraced green fields of sweet potatoes, set among craggy mountain peaks. This is Indonesia’s own Shangri-La.
By trekking, you can witness traditional ceremonies, traditional markets and the way of life of the Dani. There are a very limited number of restaurants inside the Baliem Valley. Your tour guide can bargain with the Dani people to provide you with simple meals.
It’s strongly advised that visitors bring their own meals and snacks during trekking through and around Baliem Valley. Meals and snacks can be bought at grocery stores in Wamena. To make your trip easier and to get the most value, it is advisable to find a packaged tour offered by several operators.
The only access to the Baliem Valley is by flying to the town of Wamena. There are a number of carriers from Jayapura to Wamena: (For more info, ask the officers at Sentani Airport Information Center). From Wamena into the interior of the Baliem valley you can rent a car or travel by public bus.
The Baliem Valley, also spelled Balim Valley and sometimes known as the Grand Valley, of the highlands of Western New Guinea, is occupied by the Dani people. The main town in the valley is Wamena. The valley is about 80 km in length by 20 km in width and lies at an altitude of about 1,600–1,700 metres, with a population of over 200,000.
As far as the outside world was concerned, the discovery of the Baliem Valley and the unexpected presence of its large agricultural population was made by Richard Archbold’s third zoological expedition to New Guinea in 1938. On 21 June an aerial reconnaissance flight southwards from Hollandia (now Jayapura) found what the expedition called the ‘Grand Valley’. Since then the valley has gradually been opened up to a limited amount of tourism.
The following is copied from the back cover of Peter Matthiessen’s book Under the Mountain Wall:
“In the Baliem Valley in Central New Guinea live the Kurelu, a Stone Age tribe that survived into the twentieth century. Peter Matthiessen visited the Kurelu with the Harvard-Peabody Expedition in 1961 and wrote Under the Mountain Wall as an account not of the expedition, but of the great warrior Weaklekek, the swineherd Tukum, U-mue and his family, and the boy Weake, killed in a surprise raid. Matthiessen observes these people in their timeless rhythm of work and play and war, of gardening and wood gathering, feasts and funerals, pig stealing and ambush. Drawing on his great skills as naturalist and novelist, Matthiessen offers a remarkable firsthand view of a lost culture in all its simplicity and violence — on the brink of incalculable change.”