Pianemo Islands in Raja Ampat present a stunning vista. Every bit of Raja Ampat is amazing but Pianemo a little more dazzling than everything else. To truly appreciate the beauty you need to climb up to a vantage point. And there lies the fun!
When we started from our base at Raja Ampat Diving Lodge in Mansuar Island, our hosts asked to choose a speed boat. People interested in photography were asked to go to one boat and people interested in hiking to the viewpoint, in a civilized way, went to another. I usually don’t think of myself and ‘photographer’ in the same sentence but I somehow ended up boarded the photography boat!
The speedboat started chugging at its sedate pace and I fell asleep on my seat. I woke up when a voice asked us which 5 of us would like to trek up the hill for the photography viewpoint? I was late in raising my hand and 5 other people were designated to go up the hill. if you wish to hike, you have to get out of the boat and land on the hill as the hill is in middle of the water!
Two people backed off after looking at the hill and I managed to fill a spot. In the end four of us, Bressiona (Indonesia) Genta and Najji (Japan) and me went up the hill with our guide Zakarias Wader!
The hill is made of coral rocks. The rocks are damn sharp. The ascent was steep. I had no inkling that my itinerary included a hill trek, I was wearing floaters. It was still alright as the floaters had a grip. Genta was in flip flops and did well, Zakarias too.
For me, I manage to break my floaters when I stuck my foot in a gap. When I tried to go up, the strap came out first. I always find going up tiring but easier as you are with the gravity. Coming down is a different matter. It is not tiring but my knees hurt and I always have to think where to put my next foot. The hill at Pianemo was no different.
It was a short trek up but I was dreading the thought of going down with a broken footwear. But all that comes later.
Video Credit- Zakarias Wader our Guide to the Hill
Before that comes the beautiful vista, that was the reward for trekking up the hill. I can’t remember when I witnessed something so beautiful. We took pictures, we made videos and we generally admired the view. I said to Bressiona, “but there is a perfectly civilized staircase on the other side with the same view. She waved it off and emphasized, “but that is so mainstream!” I will have to grant it to the youngster, she had a point.
However, the hilltop was a narrow ledge and after a while I certainly wanted to get down. A shower came in between threatening all our camera gear! Luckily Najii had 10 liter dry bag, all the cameras safely went in. The rain went away as quickly as it came! My cell phone tried to slide down the hill on its own but I caught it was able to pull of the feat!
Zakarias went off the hill, hitching a ride in another boat to look for our boat which had gone off to drop the other people to the ‘mainstream’ vantage point. I kept shouting “we are stranded!” That was uncharacteristic. I kept saying Hollywood movies start like this, everyone is happy, they have a great view but they get stranded and miserable later!
However, Zakarias came back with a boat for us, we were not stranded. Now the task was to get off the hill, the coral hill with sharp rocks all around in a broken floaters. I somehow managed it. Zakarias gave me one of his flipflops, and walked barefoot (one foot) holding my broken floater. I had a floater on one foot and a flip flop on another but all my energies were channeled on getting down without breaking a limb. And I did that, I got off with my limbs intact. Only I tend to sit down when I find an unusually sharp step down. Only this time as the rock was so sharp, it tore my shorts!
If would have been easier to go off the cliff, do cliff jumping again but for the sharp rocks at the bottom of this hill!
So with torn shorts and broken footwear I came down the hill in Pianemo Islands. And I tell you what, it was all worth it. The scratches and cuts all over my legs and arms too, I would do it again if I can sneak into a group of five which dwindled down to four!
PS I was invited on the Trip of Wonders to Indonesia by the Indonesian Tourism Board.
How does one even start describing a place like Raja Ampat? Words, and particularly mine, feel so inadequate! Pictures might do some justice but ever since I have come back, I am plotting to go back, either to Raja Ampat or Komodo, which I hear is even more beautiful. However, I refuse to believe that anything can be more beautiful than Raja Ampat.
It is difficult to figure out, what captivated me more, the stunning vistas or the people. Raja Ampat is a group of islands in the Indonesia’s West Papua province. It is an amazing diving destination, known over the world for its stunning marine diversity.
The people of the island villages are gentle and used to visitors. They demonstrate immense grace and dignity, be it adults or children! Most of the kids would not speak English, like the ones I met at the Saundarek Village. But the girls of Sawinggrai were an exception.
We landed for the sunset at Sawinggrai, this was my second trip to the village. The girls met me at the jetty. I asked if they spoke English and they confidently said yes! We chatted for a while. They were not learning the language at school.
Two foreigners were staying at their village and they would teach English to the children after school hours! Now that is what I call impact! I am not too keen on speaking to strangers but I called out the couple, confirming if they were the English teachers? When they said yes, I clapped for them and shouted, “good job!”
My first trip to Sawinggrai was early in the morning, a day earlier, when we had a date with the Birds of Paradise. I only got a record keeping shot of the bird, but then I saw it with my eyes and heard them make their sweet calls. I am lucky!
We had the privilege to interact with the children of SDN 2 Waisai School at Raja Ampat. It was because Nila Tanzil has opened her Rainbow Reading Library in the school. She was with us on the trip, a fellow vegetarian! You should have seen the excitement, of both the kids and us while we interacted with each-other.
I promise you the library will be a full post in itself but for the moment I leave you with a Indonesian school girl singing a Bollywood song.
The sunsets at Raja Ampat would like to put on a grand show! Vast open spaces made sure there was drama in the sky! In the end, I left my camera and went into the water, or I would keep clicking the sky till we left for our accommodation at the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge.
Raja Ampat is know for its diving! There are plenty of snorkeling opportunities too. And now that I have a GoPro I can click underwater pictures too.
I visited the village of Arborek for half a day, maybe a little less. We were given a grand welcome by the people of the village complete with dance and music. I could not talk much to the kids as they did not speak English but, sign and body language conveyed the warmth, I hope on both the sides!
Once again it was difficult to decide what was more amazing, the people or the landscape! Actually both were great and it is such an awesome combination.!
As I was invited by the Ministry of Tourism on the Trip of Wonders to Indonesia I was traveling in a big group. We were an awesome group and our Indonesian bloggers were fabulous hosts. I always got vegetarian food. The egg you see on the plate is there because I eat eggs. You will have more choice if you eat seafood and meat but you will have enough as a vegetarian too!
I spent only one afternoon at Arborek so I do not understand the significance of the body art. I noticed a church at the village so I know the population at Arborek is largely Christian. The internet was weak at Arborek but it was significantly better at Sawinggrai! You can see, I am plotting to go back already!
I had a chat with the fabulous people of @Mountainculturemedia at Arborek. They are from Canada and they came with their kayak! They were kayaking from island to island at Raja Ampat, I sure do envy them!
Who could have thought that a piece of hollowed out wood could be so much fun? Other kids were playing with thermacol or life jackets but this kid was the king, he had a boat of his own! He would jump in after pushing it hard and then row using his hands! He flipped in the water so many times, but the fun he had! And the fun I had watching him play!
All good things come to an end, so did my trip to Raja Ampat Islands. I was heading to Bali next but I somehow knew that Raja Ampat in West Papua was truly special!
Raja Ampat was the highlight of my Trip of Wonders to Wonderful Indonesia for which I was invited by the Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia!
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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