Mountain ahoy!

December 29, 2018

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Let’s get cycling!

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After a couple of days in Sorong arranging permits and getting the bikes ready we leave on an unknown trail to Manokwari. As far as we know, nobody has ever cycled this route before and people warn us for long distances without asfalt, small villages, extreme temperatures and steep uphills in jungle terrain. Luckily I found some maps and gps files with the help of the local cycling community. The first day goes well as we set off together with the local police. They have organised a cycling event and very coincidentally it is at the same day we planned to leave too! We get off the asfalt road after 50km not to see it again for another 350 km.

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Into the unknown

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It is a big guess what we’re up to while we’re slowly advancing more and more through the jungle. The first night we see an abandoned wooden hut and decide to sleep in there. We also get to see the torrential rain that can occur here and were warned not to continue cycling then. There would be river crossings coming up and with rain like that we could easily be swept away.

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On day 2 we continue pushing our bikes uphill and realise this will not be an easy ride… Our bodies need to adapt to this new type of exercise, but I’m really happy to experience this beautiful land from the inside. For months I’ve been seeing all these islands from the outside, and now I can finally explore more of it. George gets some flat tires and the spare tubes were awful quality… The same day, my rack breaks and we need to decide that George will truck hop from there on to Manokwari. The good thing is that he takes part of my gear, so I can cycle the whole way with a less heavily loaded bike.

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Breaking down

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Because the Indonesian government is making a trans-papua road, we pass by many different camps of road workers and regularly get transport for George by truck or jeep. We don’t know exactly when we will find the next village, so we try to be careful with our food and drinks. The good thing is that we find water everywhere: we cross many rivers with clear water. Because there is no phone signal, communicating with George to know where to meet up is difficult. If he goes too far, I can’t reach him by the time it gets dark – and you don’t want to be cycling in the jungle in the dark here.

Sometimes I’m faster than him anyway, because the trucks often get stuck in the thick mud, or break down on the steep uphill. Other times I envy him for being on a truck because the suffering is pretty hard these days, with little food, a hot and wet climate, and very steep roads.

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Hard reality

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The first city (Manokwari) we pass by, we take a rest day. I can definitely use it and by then I discovered that it will be impossible for me to get to Carstensz Pyramid (CP) on human power only. My goal was to walk from Enarotali to CP, but recently a separatist movement killed 16 government people and the Indonesian army is after them. The situation here is very fragile: things can seem clear today, but be very different the same evening. That’s the way it goes and for now I can’t get there human powered. To climb the mountain I signed in on an expedition and this is still on schedule. Only to get to the base camp, the group will get helicoptered over. I realise that that’s my option to get there. I have to skip 70km of papuan jungle – for now. Because one day I want to walk that last section, but at least I will have done the climb now. So far I covered +24.000km by bicycle, rowed +4000 km to get here.

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Never give up!

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Despite knowing I will not make it completely, I decide (for myself) to get as close as possible to the mountain as I am allowed to. So I continue to Nabire with George. Some locals heard about the shootings and are very worried about us. But when we look at the map this happened quite far away from us, so we don’t worry too much. We don’t cycle at night and keep our eyes open. When we reach Nabire after 2 weeks of extreme cycling, we are very happy to have reached our goal. From there George flies back to England and I go more land inward to Enarotali.

Getting there seemed like an easy trip at first, as there would be an asfalt road the whole 270 km. But things turned out differently! Although it was asfalt, the up and downhills got quite extreme with a crazy 8000m elevation gain in 3 days, more than 270km! Despite that, I really enjoyed it and got to see more of Papua, which by now is a magical place to me. I love the mountains and the people here, although I was warned a lot about the Papuans in advance. But that didn’t seem to be correct. One time I got stopped and was offered money to buy drinks. Another time someone stopped me to give me orange juice… I was happy to see people working and living in their traditional clothing, not intended to amuse tourists, but as a very real thing.

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Mountain ahoy!

After Enarotali I get back down and start to prepare and rest for climbing. I’m extremely exhausted and my girlfriend is coming over to see me. We take some time to rest, eat well and prepare for the expedition. While writing this I’m ready in Papua to fly over the jungle by helicopter with the team and go climb the mountain. If everything goes well, we leave tomorrow (30/12/18) and will reach the summit on the first of January! Let’s hope for good weather!

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