My Holidays in Papua (Irian Jaya)

Aug.23,2011. M.Sekine

Baliem Festival Wamena 2011A woman in the Baliem Valley

This time on my summer holidays, I journeyed to Papua. As usual, I was in search of spiders and if possible, spider-fighting. I took a flight to Jayapura in New Guinea Is., via Denpasar on Bali Is., and via Makasar on Sulawesi Is. I finally got to Jayapura with no lost baggage. Then, I had another flight to Wamena from Jayapura. At last, finally, I met Mr. Fuji (Fujiwara Kazutaka), who acted as interpreter and coordinated my journey. I really felt at home when I met him at the airport in Wamena.
My schedule was as follows: A local festival, the Baliem Festival, which was being held by the Dani people and other local inhabitants. I trekked to a salt pond. I went to the Flower Festival in Wamena. I was driven by 4WD to Lake Habema (3,300 m above sea level), and then I trekked to Kurima. Of course, I collected spiders in each place. I also looked for spiders at dawn and during the night. Wamena is a very calm and safe city. Because Wamena stands 1,500 m above sea level, it is cool and even cold at night. I wanted to escape the heat and humidity of Osaka. Wamena was very enjoyable.
Meanwhile, the local people were interested in everything. When I was looking for spiders, they came together around me and they said to me, "There's spider". I said to them,"PAGI,TERIMAKASIH (It's means hello, thank you, in the Indonesian language)". And, LABA-LABA means spider and ORAN means man. So I think the word "ORAN LABA-LABA" means Spiderman, like me.
In 1937, when a military airplane of the USA was flying above west New Guinea, they discovered people inhabited in the Baliem Valley. This was 'the discovery' of Stone Age peoples. Mr. Fuji said that the first place that the research team landed by hydroplane was Lake Habema. The land is covered with dense tropical rain forest. So I understand the reason why the hydroplane was used like in Indiana Jones' movies. On second thought, may be I'm move like Indiana Jones rather than Spiderman. I can imagine scene of me in an adventure movie.
Lake Habema is located in the Lorentz National Park; Usually foreigners are prohibited. In the distance you can see the snow-covered top of Mt. Trikora (4,743 m above sea level), which is the second highest mountain in New Guinea. Mr. Fuji made a yacht voyage from Japan to New Guinea, went up the Mamberamo River by rubber boats, and he and his team were the first to climb the north face wall of this mountain. In 1981, Mr. Fuji visited Wamena. It was his first visit to Wamana. "In those days, almost all the people in Wamena were naked," said Mr. Fuji. He told me many other interesting stories. I owe my wonderful experiences to him. He gave me a lot of valuable information, namely about Lake Habema and Papeda: a Sago Palm ball and soup made from carp, and "Tapa" (a Tahitian word): bark paint art at Asei Is. in Lake Sentani in central Jayapura.
But now on to our next topic, which of course was spiders, the dome-mesh web spiders, Cyrtophora moluccensis , living from 0 m to 2,500 m in height above sea level. But this species does not live in the tropical cloud forest (2,500-3,500 m), and over 3,500 m in height is the limit of the forest. At about 3,500 m above sea level near Lake Habema, I came across very interesting webs. One is "Tsuzumi" like shaped webs (literally,tsuzumi means a small drum in Japanese). Another web I found was a very large terraced web (45 cm~30 cm in width) on a moss covered cliff. The former is the hammock-web spider, belonging to the family Linyphiidae. The latter is the sheet-web weaver, belonging to the family Agelenidae.
In Kurima (1,500 m in height above sea level), I saw nephilid spiders, Nephilengys malabarensis, in the spaces under the porches. I also found bark spiders, many kite spiders and many jumping spiders. In Wamena, I came across an oddly shaped web. The web was tube-like. It looks like the sac of an Atypus spider's web. This spider is small and black in color, settles in a tube of a branch (2 cm in diameter, 15 cm in length) . The web are made on the upper tip of the branch. The sac is elongated about 10cm in length, and is about 2 cm in diameter.
Like A.R.Wallace who made himself immortal with Wallace's line, which was the boundary of the distribution of wild animals, I enjoyed everything to the full during my trip to Papua.
Let me say a big thank you to Mr. Nomura the president of JISCO Travel Co. for co-ordinating my trip, and Mr. Fuji and Mr. Cosman my guides in Wamena.

Click on the icon to get more than 30 photos of Papua with Japanese descriptions and English captions.

Photos of Papua

See also: Vertical distribution of Cyrtophora moluccensis in Papua [pdf file]