Gold Mines and Glaciers

We recently visited Timika, home to one of MAF’s bases on the western side of Papua. One of the unique things about Timika is its proximity to the Grasberg Mine, the world’s largest gold mine. Before and after Christmas, MAF helps fly Papuan mine employees to their home villages. Besides local employees, there are a large number of expats from all over the world that come to work at the mine.

From Timika, we flew into the beautiful and remote village of Pogapa with two MAF families, the Bergstrazers and the Paps and a local pastor from Timika. This little village is home to members of the Moni tribe.

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The airstrip at Pogapa is a tricky one and there are two wrecked (non-MAF) planes sitting off the airstrip to prove it. MAF is known for it’s very strict safety practices and it really makes us glad to be flying with the best when we go into rough airstrips like this one! I was still a little scared landing in a place with two wrecks.

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After our safe arrival, we hiked down to the river to see a swinging bridge. The hike back up was tough but it was nothing for the local guys carrying logs on their shoulders and the kids that tagged along with us. Many Papuans living in remote places hike long distances daily to their gardens and to gather wood. It’s incredible how nimble and fast these villagers are barefoot on the trails!

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There was a chicken-roast that evening to mark the final stages of mourning for a woman that had passed away a couple weeks before.

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We left Pogapa the next morning to head back to Timika. It was a very clear day so we were able to see the mine as we flew over the mountains.

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Most of the mine’s 20,000 employees live in a secluded alpine town of Tembagapura in the mountains, a spot chosen for it’s comfortable temperatures. Only mine employees and invited guests are allowed to visit this fancy highland village but we did get a little peek from the air as we flew by.

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We also flew by a glacier!

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On our last day in Timika, we went to the river to swim and see some locals panning for gold in the river runoff from the mine.

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These tough little river kids were practicing their spearing skills with reeds.

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We had a great week experiencing the sites around Timika and meeting new friends. We continue to be amazed by the diversity we experience at every new place here in Papua. What a land of adventure!

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