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Where the h— is Irian Jaya? Jun 16

The place name came to me the other day—I think I heard a reference to it back in high school or something, and it just popped into my memory as I was thinking about travel. I didn’t remember where it is, so I figure you don’t remember either.

It would be a nice place to vacation, if you go for the really out-of-the way. It’s the western half of Indonesia. It’s mostly covered by some of the wildest, most impenetrable tropical forest in the world, and the population density is less three people per square kilometer.

I think Irian Jaya became a vacation spot of sorts because the US had a naval base there in WWII, and Gen MacArthur’s office is still there. GIs brought word of this beautiful place with white beaches home, and enough folks went back for a visit to encourage some tourist trade. I have to figure that more Aussies than folks from the US visit there. By the way, they call the place West Papua nowadays.

Personally, I recommend you stick with the organized tours. They have minibus trips to a glacial lake not too far from the capital (Jayapura,  in the northeast corner), and you can watch the normal daily lives of the natives. (Apparently they don’t mind tourists poking around.) The center of the island has a string of mountains high enough to be snow capped year around, and their foothills feature nice meadows, lakes, and rivers that continue on into the jungle, swamps, and alligators. Stay in the foothills. You can catch the weekly flight into Wamina or you can charter your own light aircraft.

If you go for more “normal” pursuits, some of the islands on the west end of the peninsula feature more great beaches and scuba diving. However, most of the interiors are unexplored. Here’s a view of one of the islands:

photo (c) Ken Knezick, Island Dreams

You get definite bragging rights for visiting this place!

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Category: Adventure
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