Adventures of a former overseas missionary, pilot's wife, and mom of 4 girls

Tour of Wamena June 7, 2011

Filed under: Kids,Wamena Life — junglewife @ 12:12 pm


Warning – this post has LOTS of pictures! This post is especially for my friend Britney, who is living overseas herself, and had some questions about Wamena and where we live. Hopefully you will find it interesting, too!

The other day I took the girls out for some quick errands and decided to take my camera along and take some pictures along the way so you can see where we live.

The entrance to the MAF base is on a little gravel road. After coming out of the base, you can either make a right or a left turn. On my way out I made a right turn, and then that little road Ts into a paved road. I turned left off of our gravel road onto the paved road.

This is what I see driving down the road just outside of the MAF base:


As I continue down this little road, pretty soon there are some shops on the right:

…and a little pasar (market) on the left:

This market is actually within walking distance of the base. A couple of days ago I needed some avocados and the cars weren’t available, so I took Natalie (Dan was home and Claire was napping) and we walked down to this little market and bought some avocados and walked home 🙂

Continuing down this road, we pass a school. Lots of little vendors waiting outside the school for the kids to come out and buy a snack!  The road gets quite busy when school lets out!

Shortly after the school we make a right onto another road.  They recently did major construction on this road, and made it quite a bit wider with raised sidewalks covering the ditches on either side. Notice the white lines in the center of the road? We are really up and coming here in Wamena!!!

Keep driving up this road and you’ll see quite a few little shops. These kind of shops are the majority of shops here in Wamena. Most people do their shopping day-to-day: buying what they need for that particular day and that’s it. So the shops are little because they don’t have to carry large quantities of anything. At these little shops you can buy everything from brooms and mops:

…to groceries and even fresh-cooked food (at the little restaurant on the left)…

…to clothes and hardware!  I have not explored most of these little shops. I am sure there are treasures to be found, but most of them all carry the same kinds of things, and it takes a lot of my energy just to drive the roads and go shopping at the bigger stores!  I am not sure I would want to go exploring all these little stores with two kids in tow!

Now, up on the right we finally come to our destination (less than 2 km from home… not too far to go get groceries!) This store is called “Agro Segar”. “Segar” means “fresh” but I am not sure what “agro” means. I am sure it is close to what it would mean in English… you know, the root of “agriculture” and all that…

It is not a very big store but I can find most of what I need here.  They even sell fresh-cooked food right inside the store… Look, we have a deli! We’ve never bought any of this food but Natalie likes checking it out!

And Claire shows me what she wants to pick out for a snack – these are little jelly snacks, kind of like the lychee jellies that were popular in the States some years back but parents got up in arms because kids were choking on them. Yeah, those… don’t worry, no choking here yet! 🙂

More shopping… Natalie’s checking out the snacks!

You can even get spices and such here… let’s see, there’s some onions and garlic, ginger, little packets of spices, etc.  It’s all sold by the kilo. You pick what you want and then they weigh it for you before you check out.

And even a little refrigerated section. They have apples, sometimes red and green peppers, sometimes cheese and butter, etc. They even have a couple big chest freezers with things like whole frozen chickens, chunks of frozen beef, etc.



And that’s it for the store!  When we’re done shopping, we go back down the road we just came up (turning left out of the store.  I love the scenery here. I never get tired of the mountains that are all around us!


As we continue down this road we get into the main shopping section of town.  Lots and lots more little shops. Are you noticing a trend yet with the colors of the stores? Yeah, they didn’t really have a choice in that. Before we went on furlough the local bupati (local government official of the Wamena area) decided that all the stores needed to have the same storefront and color scheme. So everyone had to build these big cement fronts on top of their stores, and paint them green. Those that didn’t comply aren’t allowed to keep their stores open. It kind of seems like a waste of money to me, since I think the end result is pretty ugly, but at least you can tell where the shops are!

We’re going to make a little detour off the main road because Natalie wants to go to the bakery. Yes, there is a bakery here. They sell white bread ($2.50 for a small loaf) and lots of little rolls and stuff. Lots of interesting flavors of breads/rolls – cheese, shredded dried beef, sausage, lemon, chocolate, etc. It all sounds a lot more tasty than it really is, so I don’t buy much from there.  Natalie likes the “blueberry bread”, though – a little roll with a tiny bit of blueberry syrup/jam inside it. So, we’re going to the bakery, turning right off of the main road.  See that colorful m*sque up ahead? The bakery is right next to that, on the left. It’s actually on the corner of this road and the one that this Ts into (see the brown pillars and archway at the end of the road? That’s a police compound, we can’t go in there :-))

After we’re done at the corner bakery, we head down the road to the hangar. Lots of construction here! This building was under construction when we moved here 3 1/2 years ago!  I am not sure what it is going to be… rumor on the street is a mall, but I am sure it would just be more of the same little shops that are already on the street!



Slowing down to cross a busier road. Looking down the road we are crossing… Do you see anyone that looks out of place? Yes, those are two of our Dutch friends (in the pink and blue shirts) riding their bicycles 🙂

Have you noticed anything missing?  Like stop signs or traffic lights?! Yeah, we don’t have those here.  At every intersection you just slow down and see if anyone else is coming, and then if you think you can make it through without getting in an accident, you go for it! Generally the bigger vehicle has the right-of-way, but I usually try to let the bicycle rickshaws go on through when I can instead of making them slow down for me, because I know it takes a lot of leg power to get those things slowed down and started up again!

Crossed the busy road and now onto the little street that will take us to the hangar. Yep, it’s pretty little!  I’ll have to pull over on the gravel shoulder-slash-sidewalk to let the other car go past when we meet on the road up ahead.

Now at the hangar. That’s MAF’s big hangar on the left and those round-roofed buildings farther up are the main airport terminal.

I go in the gate and around to the “back” of the hangar – the open area that faces the runway.  The girls are happy to see Dan, who is doing maintenance today!

Then they discover the airplane seats that have been taken out while the maintenance is going on 🙂

This is the view Dan gets to enjoy every day at the hangar!

Well our visit at the hangar is over and we’re headed back home. On the way we pass another store I frequent, but we won’t go in today. This is by far the biggest grocery store in Wamena – they’re in the process of expanding and I think when it’s all done the store will be about double the size it was. We’ll see if they carry any new products, though!

Then back up to the base.  On the way we pass some construction. No orange cones here! Just have to avoid the construction and the piles of rocks as you drive!

These guys are hard at work!

Now driving back up the little gravel/dirt road to the base, from the opposite direction we went when we left to go to shopping at the beginning of our trip.

There’s the base complex!

And in the gate we go. We’ll park the car under the covered area on the left, get our groceries…

… and walk home! You can see the girls were ahead of me and already going in the door of our house 🙂

So that is your little tour of Wamena!  Now, Britney, I know I didn’t answer all of your questions, so I’ll answer them below:

1. How big is Wamena?

I’m not exactly sure how big Wamena is. My guess would be about 8,000-10,000 people or so, with more in the surrounding areas. I know I have mentioned it here before, but Wamena is the biggest “city” in the world that is supported completely by air. There are no roads from here to the coast, so everything comes in on a plane.
2. Are there a lot of cars?

There is a good amount of cars here but not nearly as many as you would see in other cities in Papua. Or motorcycles for that matter. Lots more bicycle rickshaws. When I said everything comes in by plane, I meant EVERYTHING – including cars!
3. How many grocery stores are there? Do you typically shop at them?

There are 3 “grocery stores” that I usually shop at – two of which I pictured in this post and one that I didn’t. The stores aren’t very big but at least I can get most of what I need at them.  I try to do a lot of my shopping on the coast. Even though we have to pay freight charges to ship it up here, it usually ends up being cheaper. In fact as I type this post I am also instant-messaging with a friend in Sentani who is going to make a shopping trip for me this week!

4. Do you have constant electricity? Is there a public power plant?

No, the electricity isn’t constant, but it’s a lot better than other places in Papua. We do have a generator here on the base so if the power is off we usually turn it on.  The reason our power is more stable here in Wamena is because we have a hydroelectric power plant nearby.  It has been a while since we have been up to the hydro, but if you would like to see some pictures, click here (I think it is the only post my dad ever made on his blog! :-)) I thought I had more pictures of the hydro but I can’t find them on my blog. I know I have more but I guess I never blogged them!

5. Do you have public water or only use what you collect?

We don’t have public water. I am not really sure there IS public water!  We collect rainwater off our roof and it works well as long as the gutters aren’t plugged! I think that if we had NO rain, what is in our tank could probably suffice for about 2 weeks, more if we were careful.  But the thing is that you never know when there is going to be a long stretch without rain!  So if it it has been a few days and it hasn’t rained, you start being a little more careful with the water!  Usually we don’t even have to worry about it, but when we were in the States last summer, there was a LONG stretch with no rain, and the folks back here ran out of water and it was not good.

6. How do you get drinking water?

Our drinking water is from the rain water as well. It is rainwater, so it should be clean, right? Well, the water is only as clean as the tank it is stored in, and I am not sure how clean our tank is! So we filter our water before we drink it. There are places to get bottled water here (the big blue, 5-gallon, “culligan”-type bottles) and it is not too expensive, about $2 for the bottle, but we have seen people filling up the bottles from their hoses! So we don’t really trust the big blue bottled water. 🙂

7. Are there any local dishes that you eat? Or have tried?

I am not too fond of the food here, unfortunately!  The “local” food is mostly sweet potatoes, and  that’s not something you would find in a restaurant. The restaurant food is stuff like fried rice, fried noodles, etc.  Lots of fried and grease!  There are some pretty good dishes but the thing is that all the restaurants serve just about the same things, so it’s hard to get excited about going out to eat! Still, we like the chicken satay with peanut sauce, yellow coconut rice, and stuff like that.  We really enjoyed the food when we were in language school. Our house helper cooked Indonesian food for us just about every day, and it was delicious. But here it seems like nothing is quite as good as it was back on Java!


Well, if you have made it to the end of this very long post, that is quite an accomplishment! And it has also taken me a couple hours to write this post so I think I better get off the computer now!!!


9 Responses to “Tour of Wamena”

  1. Dear Sarah,

    Thanks for the very informative post. It certainly represents the ingenuity you have used in baking and fixing your own food with limited food sources! I’m so surprised to see how quickly Natalie is growing. She is looking so much older, is such a beautiful,little girl. And Claire–always has a smile, seems like such a happy little girl. They are learning a lot of resourcefulness from your model of homemaking in less than an ideal circumstance, but your soul satisfaction as well as Dan’s provides them with the security they need for happy, growing children.

    Marilyn L.

  2. Gracia M. Says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It really is a beautiful area, and it’s great that you can buy most of what you need there. The green is at least distinctive. Reminds me of Santa Barbara where you have to have a red tile roof on your house.

  3. grannykaren Says:

    finally i was able to access your blog the problem was that the address i had did not have the / at the end so now that i have the correct address no problem. i enjoyed the tour of wamena, it looks about the same as it did in your xanga blogs except the road looks better. the girls are looking very grown up do they always wear layered clothes with skirts over pants? do you homeschool them or do they go to a missionary school on base? it seems natalie is really looking like dan. i miss you guys and was glad i got to visit you in washington before my illness. no more traveling for me now.

  4. Britney Says:

    Sarah, this is awesome! You were so very thorough. THANK YOU!! I love it. It’s fun to see how other people live, and I feel like I understand your life a little better.

    When you say there is a generator on base, does that mean you have a generator at your house or there’s one that runs the entire base? How often do you think it has to be turned on?

  5. Brent Jones Says:

    Very nice. Very interesting.
    Uncle Brent

  6. Charlotte Says:

    I really enjoyed this tour of Wamena! I am a first time commenter, but have read your blog for a while and keep your family in our prayers. In the early 90’s I stayed for 6 months with my cousins who were missionaries in Manokwari and one trip we took was to Wamena and Senggo.

    And I don’t think you can ever post too many pictures. 🙂


  7. Hey Sarah, Love this! It always amazes me how similar the world is. . . If I changed some of the signs it would look so much like home to me!

  8. Oh Sarah, I’m homesick now! I met you once in the hangar in Sentani, and freaked out your husband by knowing who you all were! Anyway, I’ve been lurking, reading your blog and this post made me comment! I love it! Thanks so much!

  9. Kim Says:

    It was fun to “see” your city and read about some of the details of life. A lot sounds very similar to what we encountered in Uganda. Even though Argentina has some differences, it’s much more like the U.S. and I appreciate that 🙂

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