Kwerba Village, Sarmi District, Papua Province, Indonesia
November 6, 2008
This morning, the helicopter Bell 412 lumbered down onto the grassy Kwerba airstrip as the mist began to burn off and the sun began to make its presence felt – we were just a couple of degrees south of the Equator. Within minutes we had loaded the helicopter with scientists, village naturalists and gear and it roared off into the building clouds on the flanks of the Foja Mountains.
|The Ehiri camp. © Bruce Beehler/CI|
Despite bad weather in the interior, two more sorties followed and the entire team was in place atop the Fojas, ready to finish the Rapid Assessment work that had been initiated back in November 2005.
Our hill forest team was next in line for heli-rides. Black clouds loomed as the Bell headed south to a clearing in the upper Manirim River.
Unfortunately, just as the loaded helicopter reached the landing zone, a flood roared over the rocky beach and the sky opened up, forcing the craft back to Kwerba. Looks like the team will be doing a lot of hiking instead.
I knew about these difficulties first-hand, as I had just returned from a reconnaissance of the foothills of the Fojas in order to establish camp locations and routes into the uplands on foot. One forgets how difficult conditions are out there, where a small distance on a map can take eight hours of hard trekking.
|"A wall of water the color of wet concrete would roar downstream, boulders crashed against each other and the men shouted banjir!"
(right) Watching the flooded river.
© Bruce Beehler/CI
On that trip, as I made my way up the River Ibem, towards a promising ridge of the central Fojas, the rainy season kicked into full gear. Rains in the mountains caused flash floods and filled the Ibem’s rocky gorge, threatening us and our camps.
A wall of water the color of wet concrete would roar downstream, boulders crashed against each other and the men shouted banjir! (flood!). We had to pack our things in the dark and pelting rain as we looked for a safe place above the level of the raging river, which had risen eight feet in less than half an hour.
This is a ready reminder of just how unpredictable conditions are out there.
– Reported by Bruce Beehler
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