Rest day before we start

Just hangin’ out at the hotel today. It’s good to take it easy and get some rest, but I’m a bit afraid it’s making me inefficient. I should be testing equipment & stuff. It’s really hot, though, and lack of a clear program kind of lulls me into complacency. So I’m netflixing (downloaded episodes, of course, given that the sluggish internet connection precludes streaming) and keeping my mind away from the endeavor ahead.

When we arrived at the hotel yesterday, Lauren (my guide) made a comment that there are a couple other places in town to stay, “but not nice, like this one.” And then at check in, the receptionist asked if I wanted my room sprayed with bug spray before occupying it. Good thing I agreed, as by this morning, a cockroach had scuttled out of a crack somewhere, to die on the floor as a wake-up greeting. The shower is a tiled box (four sides, about 80cm high) that doesn’t drain. There is a toilet, without flushing capability but with a handy bucket placed nearby. So I use bucket after bucket of water, valiantly attempting to create enough suction and pressure to wash everything down and prevent outhouse-smell-syndrome from occurring. I wonder what the “not nice” places are like.

There is a pretty garden planted in the somewhat-dilapidated courtyard, each room with a patio looking out onto it – palm trees, hibiscus, lush green bushes and red, orange, purple, pink flowers – varieties I can’t name. The people who work here are very friendly and interested in their guests. In fact, despite my super ragged, travel-weary and grimy look, they politely requested an impromptu photo session yesterday. So I posed dutifully with 4 or 5 different people- employees and other guests, smiling and trying to pretend I feel pretty enough to warrant all the attention. I guess when you sport blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin in this part of the world, that alone is considered exotic enough to compensate for all the other deficiencies. J

I’m pretty happy with my guide so far. Friendly guy, and manages a good balance between talking and quiet, providing me space without leaving me feeling alone. He asks for my input but also seems ready and capable of just taking care of things. It’s interesting to hear about his experiences, and I’m beginning to get an insight into why this undertaking is so astronomically expensive. He hands out cash all day long. Pays for the permit from the Indonesian government (which includes the cost of the permit an undoubtedly personal “processing fees”), then pays for the required stamp from the police chief in Nabire. In Sugapa, we will have to pay “airport landing fees” to some guy hanging out on the airstrip. And then new permit stamp fees and protection fees to the local police and military – who then provide a (useless) escort out of Sugapa to Suangame village. I’m sure there are then fees to the village tribal chief and henchmen, plus the cost of the porters (which is significant). And then there’s the matter of equipment. I was surprised to see all manner of newly purchased gear: knives, scissors, pots and tea kettle, tin dishes, plastic lunch boxes, etc. When I asked, the answer was that at the end of each expedition, much of the gear goes to the porters and tribal people – because it’s difficult for them to get a hold of such items. In all actuality, seems like another form of payoff to me. All in all, considering the huge number of people involved, the operator probably is not keeping all that much of a profit at the the end, even though I’m forking over a small fortune!