Jayapura is just a few hours sail (or motor) from Vanimo, PNG, but itâs a world apart. We are clearly in a new country, a new culture- and although the delineation seems arbitrary, a new continent as well.
Thereâs infrastructure. From no utilities of any kind in PNG, radio towers and power poles now sprout everywhere, and thereâs a dramatic increase in houses and buildings- built from durable materials, even. The harbor is dotted with large fishing platforms. The roads are paved, and most even have sidewalks, although they are frequently missing slabs make it more treacherous than La Paz (our last winner for the Most Dangerous Sidewalk award). Looking up is risky!
The harbor is filthy. In Papua New Guinea, there was little in the way of plastic goods sold- things are reused to an extreme degree, and any garbage usually washed up from somewhere else. Here, there is a ton of cheap plastic junk for sale, and no system to collect garbage other than chucking it outside. Raw sewage flows into the bay. We ask someone where to take our bag of garbage, and they actually recommend we throw it over the side of the boat into the bay.
The military presence is palpable. Itâs a dramatic contrast to PNG, where official encounters were rare. Here, there are so many branches of the military I cannot keep count. We see armored cars, uniforms of every color, busses decked out for riot gear, transport wagons with caged enclosures. We seemed to see police of one stripe or another on every block.
Itâs noisy. In the early morning hours, we listen to the calls to prayer float over the water as dawn breaks across the sky. Every neighborhood has a mosque, and each one has a different voice. Itâs not too loud, though. The more irritating sound is the power station alongside the bay that drones over everything. In the evening, churches get in on the broadcasting action- and the sheer noise competition is a little too much.
Itâs a little overwhelming, but I cannot wipe the smile off my face. It is still feels so good to be back in Indonesia, and I love every minute of the new assault on the senses.