Site Visit – Part 1
Late last month I travelled up to Tembagapura to conduct my official Site Visit – an experience during which future residents seek to become familiar with the facilities on offer and life in general on the mountain.
Suffice to say, my visit was an eye-opening and somewhat overwhelming experience! Here is an abridged version of events leading up to my arrival in Tembagapura, the top of a mountain in the middle of the jungle.
Following my morning flight from Townsville to Cairns and a four-hour stopover, I boarded my chartered Airfast Indonesia flight to a place called Timika which is a coastal town in the south of West Papua and is en route to Tembagapura. The jet seats around 150 people, but there were only 4 of us on board – one for every crew member! I’d say that flight almost qualified for private jet status!
The above map shows West Papua’s proximity to Australia, our entry point of Timika on the central south coast, the residential company-run town of Tembagapura and the Grasberg mine site.
Following arrival into Timika (and a thorough rummaging of my luggage in Customs!), I was transported to the company resort the Rimba Papua Hotel. The resort was previously a Sheraton and is more than comfortable. It is necessary to overnight at the resort both to and from Tembagapura due to the connections between chopper/bus and charter flight.
The only downside about transiting at the Rimba is the 4:30am wake up call, necessary for catching the 5:15am hotel minibus for a short ride to the airport for the chopper/bus ride up the mountain. The chopper flight is entirely weather dependent and the morning I woke at the Rimba, it was raining. So, with doubt in my heart I arrived at the airport hoping for a 25 minute chopper flight, but preparing myself for a 3 hour winding road bus trip. However, the weather cleared and I happily boarded the Airfast 26-seat military-style armoured aircraft. Inside the rather ‘cozy’ interior, each passenger is equipped with earmuffs and strapped in for the surprisingly smooth journey up the mountain. Due to weight restrictions, all luggage is transported separately by bus to arrive in Tembagapura around midday. Indeed, prior to boarding each passenger is individually weighed…another first for me!
Once in the air and clear of Timika, it is thick, dense jungle as far as the eye can see. There are tiny groupings of shacks along many of the riverways, signifying the existence of native West Papuan tribes. The first glimpses of Tembagapura through the clouds really is a sight to behold. It is hard to believe that there could be anything resembling civilisation up here, let alone a township of around 10,000 people and the world’s biggest gold mine.
It’s a pretty incredible view don’t you think? Not that my iPhone photography skills do it any justice! The helipad is located a short bus ride from Tembagapura, a few hundred metres down a relatively steep coarse gravel road. I’m told that walking this road is a popular form of exercise for the locals and something I’m keen to master.
And with all of that, it appears that I have finally arrived in downtown ‘Tembag’, around 24 hours after leaving home! In Part 2, I’ll take you through the town (or ‘Jobsite’ as it is also known) and tell you a bit more about the place I’ll soon be calling home.
(See you later)