Three days into my search for Jack and the train has disappeared.
I noticed before my arrival in West Papua that the Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise was emblazoned on the flag of Papua New Guinea. On two sides of the same tropical coin, I’d heard good things about that country, but that wasn’t the place that I was visiting. West Papua was semi-war torn. I was told by a suspicious airport clerk that I would be safer booking a flight home that day, that coming to this country was a mistake and that no journey into the dark country of this country was worth finding one bird, or even a friend for that matter.
My search for Jack had started in England. I knew that he’d been posting on this blog, so I thought I might be able to trace down his location by searching through the access log of this website. I called the marketing company in Liverpool who had been hosting the website for us, but they had recently taken on new staff and no one there could help me with enquiry. They mentioned something about GDPR and told me that it wouldn’t be ethical for them to tell me about the personal data of their clients. Worth a try, I guess.
Going into this journey I was prepared to be doing a lot of leg work, the country wasn’t massive, but I’d never conducted manhunt before and I wasn’t entirely sure where to start. From his writing I knew that Jack’s own search had begun in Manokwari, but he had soon grown tired of the settlement and worked his way in to the dense jungle that was the home of his elusive Bird-of-Paradise. How he entered the jungle and the whereabouts of this ‘Manu’ who he had taken on as a guide was a mystery, one that I would have to solve if I was to track him down.
The streets of Manokwari were cleaner that I’d expect. I’d imagined a humid shanty town with a vast array of satellite dishes, but that wasn’t quite what greeted me. What struck me first was how much of the dense jungle foliage had made its way into the urban environment. It felt as if the settlers here had simply given up on trying to fight back the forest and had allowed themselves to be swallowed up by the jungle.
Plant life wasn’t the only thing that had invaded the town of Manokwari. As I hiked further into the settlement in search of boarding I was greeted with all sorts of birds and mammals, seemingly unfazed by the traffic and construction work that kept the place humming with activity. I spotted a number of rare creatures that I’d only seen in television programs rummaging through trash bags and toying with aerials on cars.
By the time I’d arrived at the guest house my shirt had fixed itself to my back and a thick layer of grime clung to my brow. I’d arrived at the last known location of my friend, but my arrival in Manokwari had only intensified my feeling that he was a small needle in a very large haystack.