It appears that somewhat all of a sudden, 2015 is upon us, so Happy New Year everyone! A friend of mine has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of the Jungle…I think she just might be onto something!
As the date of our impending departure from Australia looms, it’s high time for me to complete the second instalment of my Site Visit post. I last left you having just arrived in the town centre of Tembagapura – a 2000km journey from our home town of Townsville which took just on 24 hours via two planes, a chopper and a bus.
To demonstrate the geographical extremes of our origin and destination, here is a shot (thanks to the photographic skills of others) of our current home city in North Eastern Australia:
And here is a shot (again, thanks to the photographic skills of others) of our future home town in central West Papua:
Those of you with keen powers of observation may notice a number of differences between the two…!
Following my arrival in sunny downtown Tembagapura, I meet up with Jen – an Aussie Mum who has called this town home for the past 3 years. She has graciously agreed to show me around, introduce me to a bunch of other awesome expat women and give me the ‘good, bad and ugly’ run down on life up here on the mountain. One thing I notice right away about this interesting place is that there is an obvious community feel here and I feel very welcome. It’s as though the lovely expat families already living here are excited to welcome some newbies into the fold.
Jen is in the process of walking her kids to the Mount Zaagkam International School – a place I’m very keen to visit. MZIS is a Pre-school to Grade 8 facility with a current campus enrolment of around 70 expat children. The school day runs from 8am to 2:30pm with the option of After School Activities (ASA’s) or Swim Club most afternoons. Classes are conducted in English and there are a number of Bahasa Indonesia language classes per week. Today is ‘hot lunch’ day – where a group of mums get together to plan, cook and serve a hot lunch to all of the school kids. On today’s menu are chicken chimichangas with salad and some yummy cake for dessert. Lucky kids! The school runs an international curriculum called the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) for 3 to 12 year olds. The PYP seeks to develop academic, social and emotional well-being, focus on international-mindedness, strong personal values and nurture independent learning skills while incorporating local and global issues into the curriculum. Once again, the school feels like a very welcoming place offering experiences that I hope our kids will both enjoy and benefit from.
Here are some shots of the school’s common areas:
After our tour of the school, we take a short walk over to the ‘Family Shopping’ centre.
The shopping complex houses a grocery store, banks, post office, pharmacy, cafe, craft shop, hair & beauty salon, department store (loose definition!) and an awesome gym. It’s also the central transport hub for the town buses.
The gym is a popular spot with expats and a place I plan on spending quite a bit of my new-found spare time. It has a well-equipped free weights/cardio machine room as well as a spacious group fitness room. Happy days!
Jen and I stopped for a coffee at the Cendrawasih (bird of paradise) Cafe where I was delighted to discover that the coffee was (thankfully) delicious and just the pick-me-up I needed after my early morning start.
With caffeine onboard, the time had come to visit our house. We have been allocated a low set three bedroom two bathroom home with an additional maids quarter in the suburb known as ‘West’. It’s downhill from the centre of town and so is pretty much a five-minute uphill walk to anywhere we need to go. Which is just as well as I won’t be driving at all while I live here – only mine employees are issued with drivers licences. The home’s living areas and bedrooms are spacious, however the tiny kitchen and bathrooms will take a little getting used to! I’ll post more photos once we’ve moved in – suffice to say, it will feel much more like home once our furniture arrives.
Once the house viewing was complete, it was time for some socialising – something I’m told there’s a fair bit of up here! I had the real pleasure of meeting a bunch of wonderful expat women for lunch at the Lupah Lelah Club, or ‘The Lupe’ as it is known around town. Aussies, think of it as something resembling your local RSL club without the pokies and TAB’s – no gambling allowed here!
The Lupe houses a bar, a restaurant serving Western and Indonesian food and a variety of function areas. It hosts a variety of social functions throughout the year and their Sunday brunch is apparently very well patronised. Lunch at The Lupe is really enjoyable and the women regale me with tales of their lives in the jungle. I am particularly amused by their ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ stories of learning to home-brew wine and make sausages from scratch. Wine is incredibly expensive – the Muslim faith, and therefore alcohol abstinence, is practiced by many of the Indonesian town residents. Sausages are almost never seen in the grocery store (neither is pork or lamb) and hence many expat families make their own. Indeed it sounds as though the food supply situation in general is very challenging…something else I’ll tell you more about once we’re living here.
After out social interlude for lunch, it’s off to the local Hospital for a look-see before the kids finish school for the day.
Hopefully we won’t have the need to become too familiar with the workings of this place, but it’s good to know that a well-equipped hospital staffed with quality expat doctors is on hand and capable of handing most situations.
From the hospital, we head back to the school for pickup time after which it’s off to swimming training with the Tembagapura Torpedos swim club, a largely parent-driven association. The kids are collected from school in a school bus (similar to the one pictured below) and driven up the hill (back up towards where the chopper lands) to a suburb called Rainbow Ridge where the indoor heated pool is located. The facilities are fantastic and it’s a great after school activity for the kids.
After swimming training, the kids are dropped home by around 4:30pm and by this time, I’m beginning to feel somewhat overwhelmed by this little town and the life challenges it presents. In saying that though, the people I’ve met have been so welcoming, encouraging and supportive that it’s hard to stay down for long.
Hubby John and I spend the next day settling him into the house, grocery shopping, cooking and creating a to-do list for me to return to Australia with – for when I get back home, it’s time to start packing.
I think that moving to Tembagapura in the jungle of West Papua will be the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Indeed, if I was looking for a ‘step outside your comfort zone’ kind of new year’s resolution, then I think I’ve found it!
(See you later)
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)
Well, it’s official, we are now full steam ahead on a journey which will see our little family relocate to Tembagapura, West Papua. Following a long, arduous process of recruitment, John has finally been notified of his deployment date to the PTFI Freeport Indonesia Grasberg Mine. He will be departing Australia on 10 November to start work as one of their Operations Managers.
Shortly thereafter, I will travel up there solo to conduct my site visit, find out where we will be living and to see for myself, this little piece of green on the top of a mountain in the midst of the West Papuan jungle that we are soon to call home.
I will then return back to Australia to pack up the house, gather up the kidlets and bid farewell to our friends and family before taking two plane rides and one helicopter flight to kick-start our adventure in a little place called Tembagapura…wish me luck!
Oh and here’s a snap from our pre-departure family photo session in one of our lovely local gardens, let’s consider it a ‘before’ shot shall we?
(See you later)