Friday, July 06, 2012

Way out west in Vanimo

Evening at Dali Beach, Vanimo, West Sepik province, on Friday, June 22, 2012.

Panorama of Vanimo.-Nationalpics by MALUM NALU
I am lying on the beachfront of the Vanimo Beach Hotel, waves lapping up to my feet, watching the hermit crabs scurrying along the white sand, and smelling the freshness of the turquoise waters.
To my right, the sandy stretch runs all the way to Aitape and on to Wewak in East Sepik, while to my left, it does all the way to Wutung along the border with Indonesia, and on to Jayapura.

Beachfront scene as seen from Vanimo Beach Hotel
As the waves rush up to my feet, I can’t help but think about the future of this country, especially with this being the season of elections.
The footprints in the sand remind me of one of my favorite poems, Footprints, of a man dreaming of walking along the beach with the Lord.
I spent three days in Vanimo recently, from June 22-24, enjoying this beautiful frontier town way out west to the border with Indonesia.

Endless white beaches along East Coast Road
The two-hour Air Niugini Q400 flight from Port Moresby takes in spectacular sunrise scenes and the breathtaking grandeur of the Gulf of Papua, Highlands and Sepik River before we descend into Vanimo.
After checking in and having breakfast at the Vanimo Beach Hotel, we drive up to Vanimo Hill – the Beverly Hills of the West Sepik capital – to catch million dollar views of the town.
Early morning at Dali Beach, Vanimo, on Sunday, June 24, 2012

On top of the hill, where local MP Belden Namah is building a plush new residence, a big crowd is gathered to hear their leader address them.
After that, we take a scenic drive along the West Coast Road to Wutung Border Post, on the border with Indonesia.

Start of the West Coast Road from Vanimo to Wutung
I have travelled hither and thither in the country; however, none matches the natural beauty of the road from Vanimo to Wutung.

Natural forest camouflage along the drive to Wutung
Mountains, natural unspoilt forests, streams and ocean meet along this drive to the border.
One thing I notice in Vanimo and all the way to Wutung, is the number of election banners, a costly exercise elsewhere in the country, but very cheap here because they are done up by Indonesians at the border.

Wutung in the background as seen along the drive from Vanimo
At Wutung, we check with PNG Customs at the border, and are given the green lights to walk through the 1km long “no man’s land” to the Indonesian side of the border, on to the Indonesian side of the border and through to Batas Market.

Wutung mountain grandeur
The original plan was to have travelled all the way to Jayapura; however, this was not to be.

Wutung Border Post
One of the perks and priviledges of Vanimo is that you can travel from here by road to Jayapura, starting at Wutung, where you hire a vehicle.

The Indonesian side of the border
A visa can be easily acquired at the Indonesian consulate in Vanimo.
Batas has, over the years, become a mecca for shoppers from all over PNG to buy cheap Indonesia food, clothing, electronic goods and other items, however, in recent times, it has become the hub for trade of illicit goods into PNG.

Clothes on sale at Batas Market
Clothes, food items, cigarettes, alcohol, electronic goods and all manner of goods are sold here.
The Indonesian sellers are very aggressive and approach you with their sales pitch, “papa, papa”, as they ply their trade.

PNG customer checking out electronic goods at Batas Market
One of the hottest-selling items here are male sprays, which the salesmen say will, “keep you hard all night and make her very happy”.
I’m man enough to say that I don’t need one right now!
Pornographic movies, sold in SIM cards, sell like hot cakes to PNG customers as well as sexual toys for both men and women.
The clothes and toys are cheaper and of better quality than that sold in other Asian shops in PNG, and I end up spending some K300 on clothes and toys, both for my kids and myself.
After that, my escort and I walk back across the border, stopping for a chat with Indonesian border guards, who we find are just as good salesmen as their countrymen and women at Batas Market.

Goodbye Indonesia
The next day, Saturday, we take a drive around Vanimo town and see that there is not much by way of market as the place is inundated with Indonesian goods from the border.
We take a drive along part of the East Coast Road, which leads on to Aitape and then Wewak, before turning back to town for lunch.

 Along the East Coast Road towards Aitape
After lunch, we take another drive to Wutung, stopping along the way at picturesque Lido village, home of some of the best surf in PNG, which draws in surfers from all over the world here in search of that fabled “perfect wave”.

Children surfing at Lido village
 Lido is a neat, well-kept village, and children are swimming and riding the waves, elderly women fishing, oblivious to all the politics that has divided their village as well as Vanimo.
Splinters is the first feature-length documentary film about the evolution of indigenous surfing in PNG.
In the 1980s an intrepid Australian pilot left behind a surfboard in the seaside village of Lido.

Picture-perfect beach scene at Lido village
Twenty years on, surfing is not only a pillar of village life but also a means to prestige.
Next year, Lido will host an international surfing tournament, which surfers from all over the world will attend.
After Lido, we drive on to Wutung, where we leave our vehicle at the border post and walk across the border to Batas Market to do some more shopping.

Motorcycles loaded with goods from Batas Market on the PNG side of the border
Loaded with bags, we walk back across the border, and take the drive back to Vanimo. Evening in Vanimo is absolutely spectacular, pretty as a picture, as the sun sets.
That’s why West Sepik is called Sandaun (Sunset) province.
And the sun sets on one of the most-beautiful places in PNG.

Wutung lighthouse along the border


  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

  2. Whoa...very nice post. I felt like I was actually there.

  3. Why did the original plan to travel to Jayapura not eventuate, what happened?