A Travellerspoint blog

Papua New Guinea

Tari - Mount Hagen

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

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View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I feel pretty rough when I wake up this morning, I’m glad we are moving on today, as hiking would have been totally out of the question. We are travelling in one of the mini-buses with the Americans’ luggage to the airport this morning. The Americans themselves are following later in another bus. That suits us fine. We were initially booked on an Airlink flight later on this morning, but there has been some sort of mix-up, so Bob, the owner of Trans Niugini, is flying in with his little Baron six-seater aircraft to take us to Mount Hagen.

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Getting to the airport is proving a little ominous though. During clan disturbances in the night, a bridge was burned on the main road, so we have to take a diversion through the outlying villages and some rather narrow, rudimentary tracks. Again we pick up a few police constables for protection during our journey. David and I are both enjoying the change of scenery and a different route, and view the whole thing as an adventure, but Peter is once more fearful for our safety. Obviously we are far too naïve to realise the dangers we are in.

At the airport, Peter is concerned when we meander around chatting to the locals, and makes us enter the locked and barbed wire protected airstrip enclosure until the plane arrives.

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The departure 'lounge'

Getting into the plane alone is quite an escapade, we have to climb on top of the wing and crawl through a small door. David sits in the front with the video and the pilot while Miles and I have a seat each in the back. There is plenty of room with just the three of us.

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The flight is stunning. In Papua New Guinea all flying is done on a visual basis, in other words: if you can’t see the top of the mountains, you can’t fly over them. For that reason we fly just above the tree line and around the mountains whose tops are shrouded in cloud. It’s a very exciting flight. Just below us are swathes of virgin rain forest with undulating hills, dramatic cliffs and breathtaking waterfalls. At times the flight is bumpy, but always spectacular and very thrilling.

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After about half an hour, we land at the much more modern strip at Mount Hagen. It’s almost a shock to get back to civilisation, I feel a little disenchanted and almost deprived to have been taken away from the primitiveness of the culture and the sizeable, undeveloped expanse of nature we have just come from. Mount Hagen is by no means an urban jungle, but they have all the modern comforts such as telephones, electricity, shops, roads and traffic.

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We are met by Mike who is taking us to Haus Poroman Office. We are confused – what is Haus Poroman and why are we going to their office? We are staying at the Highlander Hotel, which I believe is just a hop-and-a-skip from the airport. Has there been a change of plan? Nobody seems to know what is going on, but as far as they have been told, we are to be taken to the Haus Poroman Office and that’s what they will do. We just go with the flow, I’m sure we will find out what’s going on sooner or later. From the office we change vehicles to a Land Rover and head out of town. The roads are more as we know them from Tari, and one stretch is partly blocked by a land slide. Where are we going? This chap doesn’t seem to know any more than the others, he’s just been told to collect us. It appears we are staying at the Haus Poroman Lodge tonight rather than the Highlander Hotel, and when we arrive at the lodge we are absolutely delighted. What a super place.

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The main cottage houses the dining room, lounge, bar, gift shop and reception (all one room with an enormous fireplace in the middle) and the guest rooms are scattered around the rolling grounds of the hotel. Each room is a thatched, woven reed cottage on stilts with wonderful views of the valley. Every one has a little balcony and they are all set in beautiful flower-filled gardens with the most enormous trumpet-flowers I have ever seen. Lizards abound in the grounds and the room, so David is in his element.

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We enjoy a beer before ordering lunch from the menu (all the food is included). The dining table is a large slab of wood, very uneven and at an angle, but incredibly rustic and romantic. The stools are chunky logs, fun but not very comfortable. David chooses a toasted sandwich with chips while I have an omelette.

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We decide to opt out of the afternoon walk planned for us, as I am suffering badly with my chest infection. It turns out to be a smart decision, not just because of my coughing fits, but David has a dreadful stomach upset and the weather turns to torrential rain later. We lounge on the bed listening to the magnificent peals of thunder, praising ourselves lucky that we are not half-way down some muddy slope at this moment in time.

We are both well enough to join the other guests for dinner. The other guests turn out to be one lone chap called Richard, a hospital worker from Australia in PNG on business. He is very odd, but fortunately he disappears straight after dinner. The food is very good indeed: more pumpkin soup, followed by Barramundi. Although I am not a great fish lover, I enjoy it very much. Dessert is fresh fruit salad and ice cream. As always when we go away, we are breaking many of the ‘rules’ set by the British Health Authority for travellers: Do not eat fruit you cannot peel, ice cream, ice in your drink, water from the tap etc… I live to regret it later, of course, spending most of the night running between the bed and the toilet. The night air is full of authentic jungle commotion: frogs clicking, cicadas screaming and other, bizarre and unrecognisable noises. What a wonderful place!

Posted by Grete Howard 05:20 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

Tari: waterfalls, war trenches, widows and wigmen

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

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View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After a restless night through coughing, we get up rather early and leave the lodge at 06:00 for a waterfall walk with Peter. The first part of the walk, as usual, is up the dreadfully steep drive way to the main road and further up the highway before turning off into the rainforest. I have a bad cough and my chest feels especially tight today, so I give up half way down to the waterfall. My reasoning is ‘what goes down must come up’! David carries on with Helen, Leone and the guide.

This is what I missed apparently:

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What the guide fails to tell me at the time, is that from the waterfall the path back to the lodge is almost flat, as we'd already climbed to the highest point before descending. In other words, they don't go back up the way we came and I ended up climbing the hill unnecessarily! Doh!

I take my time on the way back, stopping along the path to enjoy this feeling of serenity. I am all alone in a great expanse of ancient virgin rainforest. Just me, the trees and the sound of the birds. What a wonderful liberating feeling, a really humbling experience. The peace and tranquillity around me is interrupted by a nearby rumble which is somewhat disquieting until I realise it is my stomach. I join the road again and meet a couple of locals with the greeting ‘Monin’. At the lodge gates, a bilum (string bag) seller joins me, or rather, follows me, all down the track to the hotel. He doesn’t speak to me and persistently walks three steps behind. It is very unnerving and I tell myself that ‘if he was going to attack me, he would have done so as soon as we got round the first bend, out of sight of the road and the lodge.’ It doesn’t really convince me that he is harmless, but I get less and less nervous the nearer I get to the reception. In the car park he joins the lodge workers who are having a fag break and I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the bar. I feel rather silly now, as he was a hotel worker not some random robber!

The rumble in my stomach has become more urgent, but as David still has the key to the room, I have to get Mike to accompany me down to the chalet. Just in time! I pop a few Immodiums and hope for the best.

We have time for a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and scrumptiously crispy bacon before having to share a bus with the Americans to the starting point for today’s walk. Do all Americans have to be spoon fed? These certainly seem to be unable to think for themselves and their questions make me cringe.

Today’s walk is different from yesterday’s ramble. Now we are walking in deep war trenches indicating the demarcation between the various clans’ territories. Here and there are war graves, some very recent. I do hope we don’t get caught in the middle of one!

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Where there are no trenches, we amble along paths on meadows, through thick grass taller than us or giant bamboo. There is not much to see initially, but after a while we get out on more open land with wonderful views out over the valley. When Mary-Jane planned this walk with Harold (the guest relations officer), she took into consideration my bad chest and most of the walking is down-hill.

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The jungle is quite thick in places, but Mark tells us that not so long ago, this area was home to many villages that were burnt down during the clan wars. We stop for a while in a village, resting in the shade of a tree. The terrain becomes more challenging; this is sheer jungle with undulating land, streams to cross and very muddy paths. Erewan cuts a stick for me, which boosts my confidence no end.

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Note the beautifully decorated hat!

It isn’t me who falls, however; David takes two tumbles, once landing on his video camera. The camera is well protected by the waterproof housing and suffers no damage. There haven’t been too many log bridges to cross today, but the one we do encounter is particularly treacherous. It consists of just one thin log at an angle, a large expanse to traverse and a fair drop below. From nowhere a small child produces an extra log for our comfort, and his little hands help haul me up the incline.

As we near Mark’s village, he tells us about his two wives, one of whom works at the lodge; the other stays at home with the children. Rain stops play during our picnic, and we rush to shelter in Mark’s house.

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The door is low and the inside is dark and dingy. In the middle of the room the fire is burning fiercely, as before there is no chimney and the room is thick with smoke. I cannot help my persistent cough; I am embarrassed about my obvious discomfort from their hospitality. They notice my predicament and remove some logs from the fire, reducing the smoke considerably. 15 of us are crammed in to the small hut, all on benches around the walls, each one equally inquisitive about the others. The children sit there wide eyed and tongue tied, staring at the strange visitors in their midst.

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This is mostly Mark’s family and he laughingly tells us that the children will be the stars of the village for days on end after having had white men in their hut. It is such a magic moment that I will remember forever. The room is spartan, but by their standards, very up-market. Mark is a rich man, gauged by the fact that he has a separate building for his pigs, rather than them all living in with the family. Three small rooms are screened off behind the benches and act as the adults’ bedrooms. Mark is also a very modern man, preferring to live with his wives instead of sharing the men’s hut.

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Pigs are highly thought of in this society

At the village Mark takes us to visit the ‘widows’, young women whose husbands have been killed during clan warfare. For six months after their bereavement they live together for support, and then it’s time to look for a new husband. The family pay a lesser dowry for them the second time round, as they are now ‘second-hand’. Widows are fairly sought-after in the Huli society and they should have no trouble finding a new partner. The girls, who are both very young and carrying a small child in their arms, are wearing straw skirts, a scarf covering their heads and a top made from a loosely crocheted material.

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One of the reasons for us coming to Papua New Guinea is to see the Huli Wigmen, and today we have the opportunity. These are young men who have chosen to be removed from the normal society for a period of up to 18 months during which time they grow their hair into elaborate styles. The wigmen are accompanied by a guru whose purpose it is to ease the hair into the right shape as it grows, ensure only the right food is eaten and that the growing ‘wig’ is being raised from the mat at night so as not be ruined by the pressure. Once the hair has grown to the required length and has been shaped accordingly, it is carefully shaved off as one complete wig, and then either sold or hired out for special occasions.

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The wigmen live outside the main part of the village as it would be considered inauspicious for the growth of the hair for the men to be seen by the ladies of the village. As foreigners, Helen, Leoni and myself are considered honorary men, and therefore don’t count! Without telephones to contact the wigmen, Mark has to shout across the valley for them to meet us at an appropriate place. The Wigmen are very proud and keen to be photographed. We take their address to send the photos on.

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The walk from the village to reach the road is at best described as ‘interesting’. The 45° slope down to the river is mainly compacted mud, and even though Erewan tries to cut ‘steps’ in the mud with his machete, we slip and slide all over the place. It takes an absolute age to get us all down and then we have to cross a fast-flowing river by jumping from stone to stone. It’s a miracle that none of us ended up covered in mud or soaking wet. Mark has radioed ahead for the bus to pick us up; he has decided to cut our walk a little short today as the conditions are so treacherous.

We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the room, indulging ourselves in the glorious view through the picture windows. At the customary pre-dinner drinks in the lounge, Mary-Jane joins us, commenting on how easy going and laid back the four of us are compared with her other guests. Dinner is good, wholesome food. I thoroughly enjoy the pumpkin soup, and take a large helping of delicious-looking golden roast potatoes to accompany the roast beef. How disappointing to find that they are not potatoes at all, but taro. They taste like cardboard and I struggle to swallow the first – and only – mouthful. I chew and chew and it feels like the taro is growing in my mouth. The feeling makes me heave, but I can’t spit it out in the paper napkin as they are starched linen! Eventually I manage to get it down, breathe a huge sigh of relief and take a large gulp of the wine to make up for it. They are running out of wine in the lodge, but Mark saved us a second bottle, whilst some of those awful Americans had to go without. What a shame.

Usually by 20:30 or 21:00 the bar is thinning out and most guests have gone to bed. This is not a place for nightlife! On our way back to the room, I accidentally step on a frog, which screams and jumps off into the night. I don’t know who was most taken aback, me or the frog! It’s a night for wildlife, as in the bathroom, we have a cicada which David nearly steps on. It screams too, jumps high and lands in the bin where it continues screaming. You wouldn’t think a small insect like that could make so much noise. It’s air-piercingly loud and goes on for a very long time. Eventually we put the bin outside the front door, I don’t want it to fly off and land on my face in the night. We can hear it for ages, still screaming inside the bin.

Posted by Grete Howard 02:30 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

Tari: hiking, village visit, market and hot tub

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

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View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I slept like a baby last night – a silly comparison really, considering most babies are awake in the night crying. We miss the hot breakfast this morning as it only starts serving just as we leave at 07:00. Leonie and Helen have decided to accompany us on our trek today. Usually guests arrive at the lodge with a complete package of accommodation and activities, but the girls are on a room only basis. With all the guests coming and going today, Mary-Jane is very grateful that we are happy for the other two to join us, as she would find it difficult to acquire a guide or a vehicle for them to do their own thing.

Peter and Luke come with us, and the bus takes us half way down the track before dropping us off by a small path along the side of the road. We walk through cultivated areas, mostly skirting the villages along the way. Apparently most people are at the market today, hence we don’t see many workers in the fields, just the odd woman tending her pigs and a few small children playing.

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They seem to be as curious about us as we are about them, none of the commercialised “you give me pen” or “bonbon” requests here as are often found in third world countries. I hope it stays that way. I gave up bestowing small gifts to children many years ago for that reason.

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The terrain is mostly flat, but I suffer badly with my chest infection and have to stop at regular intervals to catch my breath. In places the tracks are muddy, and there are many slippery log bridges to cross. Some of them are easier than others, with two or three wider logs side by side. A couple even have cross bars on them.

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The guides are very thoughtful and caring when helping us across, but I do give up on one particularly precarious bridge consisting of just one, thin log at a 45° angle. I feel sure that it would not hold my weight, and decide to slide down the very steep and muddy bank on my bottom and wade across the stream. Others do the same. Little children run barefoot over the logs as if there is nothing to it. I do believe that it is easier barefoot than with clumsy walking boots, as the foot would mould itself around the log giving a better grip. I won’t try it though. My mud-slide causes great hilarity amongst the locals – I’m only too pleased to amuse the residents. The only wildlife we spot on our hike is a Brahmany Kite soaring above. What a beauty he is too.

Check out the crossings in this short video clip:

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The village we walk through is almost deserted, but we are free to wander around having a look. The men’s hut is dark and smoky; it must be very crowded and uncomfortable with ten people sleeping in there. The huts have no chimneys, but the fire is left burning all day and the smoke just filters through the straw. The women’s hut is cleaner and has that typical feminine touch with little decorations and knick-knacks.

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I consider this to be good time to answer the call of nature, and I am shown to the village loo. They certainly don’t believe in modesty: the 4” hole in the ground is located on the top of a mound, the highest point in the village, with very little foliage to shield your private moments. Unlike The Gambia, where the entire village came running to watch the white lady drop her knickers, I am pleased to find that the two people within sight, sound and smell of my deed are thoughtful enough to reposition themselves on the other side of the nearest hut. With such a small depository and uneven ground on which to balance on my haunches, a good aim helps. This is not the best instance to suffer from the runs, but timing was never my stomach’s strong point.

Between the village and the main road are many graves of men fallen in clan warfare. Those who die at the hands of the enemy and people who lose their lives in car accidents are given a posthumous hero status. With the speed kept so extraordinarily slow on these rutted ‘highways’, it really would be very bad luck indeed to be knocked down by a moving vehicle. Tribal disputes however, are still very much the norm here in Papua New Guinea, and many young men die that way.

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Graveyard

In another village we come across an inviting gazebo with benches suitable for eating the picnic Luke has been carrying for us. What a spread: boiled eggs, sandwiches, cakes, bananas and lemon squash.

A villager proudly shows off some photographs he has had taken with tourists, making me realise that most of the things we take for granted at home, they probably haven’t even heard of here. There is no post office in town and no bank – that closed a couple of years ago after being robbed too often. Highwaymen are common, so local companies have the wages flown in each week rather than risking hold-ups on the road. Most people are subsistence farmers, and goods are bartered in the local markets.

Near the market we see the one and only shop for many miles, but there are few commodities on sale. Home made cigarettes rolled in newspapers are traded on the ground in the shade outside. Peter plays darts with a few other men, and wins a can of Coke. The main attraction here at the market today is us. Wherever we walk we have our own entourage of giggling children and inquisitive adults. They are all happy, even proud, to be photographed, and do not expect a payment in return. We do not feel threatened in any way, and I am pleased to say that everybody I have encountered so far has been very friendly. A few of the people here are dressed in the customary straw skirts, but I can see no nose rings or painted faces.

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One jolly old man has his face painted like a clown with red cheeks and nose. He also wears a lot of feathers, and loves being photographed with Miles. The children do not understand that Miles is a toy; they have obviously never seen a teddy bear before. Wonder what they play with?

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Peter has radioed for the bus to arrive to pick us up again and while we wait David shows the video to the children. They find it irresistible to see themselves on the moving screen and much merriment and jumping up and down waving hands ensues.

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The bus arrives late due to a flat tyre; meanwhile the lodge has sent another one down to meet us. We also meet up with the bus carrying the Americans, and we travel in a convoy back to the lodge. There is much consternation in the bus when a fracas is spotted ahead. A man from Medang, driving a hire car has been robbed at knife-point. Unfortunately he fought with the robber and ended up badly injured. The locals love a drama and are revelling in this tale. The 'rascal' (as highway robbers are known here) has driven off in the hire car, and we make a road block with the three buses to try to catch him. Peter holds his machete tight and admits that “we are very scared”. Luckily (for us) the local inhabitants trap the gangster first, tie him to the bumper of the car and beat him senseless. They are now waiting to hand him over to the police, who will probably batter him further.

We gingerly move on, willing the throng of people to disperse so that we can get through. Peter is still scared and keeps sounding his horn to break up the crowd. Once out of the area, the excitement dies down and the mood in the bus lightens. Peter even feels comfortable enough to stop at another market further down the lane, where we take a walk amongst the fruit and vegetables on sale. There are no stalls or tables, just wares spread out on mats on the ground.

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At the arrival of a white jeep all the youngsters scarper in every direction, and I must admit it alarms me somewhat. Should I run too? As I look around like a startled rabbit, I am reassured that all is OK. The children believed it to be the police, of whom they are very scared. It wasn’t the police, and the market place returns to normal. Everybody here carries umbrellas and we soon realise why as we are caught in a torrential downpour. Such incredibly loud thunder and lightening complements the atmosphere following the two unsettling recent incidents.

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We spend the rest of the afternoon lazing in the spa with Leonie and Helen, surrounded by verdant vegetation and protected from the continuing rain by a straw roof, the thunder sounding awfully loud and very near. What a perfect place this is.

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Later we join the other guests for pre-dinner drinks in the bar, with some tasty snacks of home made sweet potato crisps. There are two very different groups of Americans here now, one 'stereotypical' group of loud-mouthed, complaining spoiled brats, and one group of ‘normal’ people. Most people arrived on a charter plane on the new air field, I wonder if they realised they were the inaugural passengers on this rather challenging up-hill landing strip? At dinner we are given a different table for the four of us, while the Americans are cramped 10 to a table. What a shame. While visiting the market today, our driver bought some watercress, which the cook has now transformed into a delicious soup. Main course is a buffet of chicken curry, roast lamb, rice, vegetables and salad, all very nice.

Posted by Grete Howard 02:29 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

Port Moresby - Tari. Waterfall walk

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

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View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I do not sleep well in the night. I am awake from 2am with a tight chest pain and a feeling that I can’t breath. I must admit I start to panic, worrying about having a chest infection at 7000ft in the Highlands when I struggle to catch my breath here at sea level. I take various tablets, but sleep still eludes me.

The breakfast by the pool is really good, but as I don’t feel well at all, I can’t do it justice. It doesn’t help that I am sitting in the sun and it is very hot and humid. I am dehydrated too, and down bottle after bottle of water.

Steven arrives just as I am in the shop buying post cards and stamps. My logic tells me to buy post cards when I see them as they might not have any where we are going. The lady in the shop carefully puts the stamps on the cards for me, three on each of the 16 cards. It takes along time and Steven has to wait for us. He is very patient and nothing seems too much trouble. At the airport Steven changes the incorrect return flight tickets from Mount Hagen to Port Moresby, and will contact the office to sort out the section between Tari and Mount Hagen. He will somehow get a message to us in Tari, where there are no telephones. He keeps assuring us that ‘all will be OK’. I have to believe him.

We have a baggage allowance of 10 kg each, but the hotel did not have any scales we could check out our bags on this morning. We needn’t have worried though; the bags only weigh 15 kg between them. We are certainly getting better at travelling light.

In the lounge we meet our fellow travellers, two English girls also going to Ambua Lodge. There is some confusion at the gate, as two flights are leaving at the same time from the same gate. They probably only have one door leading to the planes. Nobody is there to directs or greet us at the aircraft once we are out on the tarmac; we just have to guess that the plane with the door open is the one we are going on.

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It is a 40-seater Dash 8 and most of the passengers are locals. Personal hygiene seems to be rather lacking and a very unpleasant aroma is wafting through the aircraft. Still, it doesn’t stop me from sleeping.

The gravel airstrip and surrounding area at Tari is precisely how I expected Papua New Guinea to be. Just how it is in old films of the first missionaries arriving, the entire town have turned out to greet us. They must be a thousand strong thronging against the perimeter fence. It is positively intimidating, all the more so as we are surrounded by 30+ police in combat gear, supposedly looking after us and the luggage.

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We are met by Harold and Paul and the mini bus is inside the locked airfield compound. The policemen must have been drafted in from all around the area, as we give a lift to half a dozen of them. Or is it that they are still required to ‘look after’ us while we are driving through town? The crowds open up to let us through as we leave the landing field, and they are beginning to disperse now that the show is over. All through town we are surprised to find so may people still wearing the traditional garb with colourful wigs, painted faces and straws skirts. Many women have tattooed faces, and it is not just the older people who are dressed this way. Tradition is obviously still very much part of daily life here in rural PNG. I wonder for how long, once western influences have made their mark.

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The track can be charitably described as bumpy, it is in fact more akin to a dried-our river bed than a road. Large boulders with a little gravel between them make the two hour journey an endurance test. We barely travel 25km during that time, and en route we only see five other vehicles: one Jeep, one bus and three lorries. Only the sturdiest of vehicles will survive these conditions: our mini bus is basic, but robust, a proper little work-horse. As we move out of town, the people appear friendlier, especially the children; or is it that we have gained some confidence after the daunting start? I am delighted to see so many primitive outfits; the people are a photographer’s delight. I don’t feel confident enough to ask the driver to stop when we see two men walking along the road with their faces painted bright yellow. How I wish I had! This is just so amazing.

The bridges are an experience in themselves: a simple metal structure, covered with a few logs. There are more gaps than there are logs, and in some places a metal plate is covering the surface. Once or twice Harold gets out and moves the wood around a bit, making it less treacherous to cross. The bridges are vital to the survival of the local people, and are the first to be attacked during tribal disputes.

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Short video clip showing the airport and road to the lodge:

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We can see Ambua Lodge from a distance, perched high on a ridge above the valley floor. Outside, in the rudimentary car park, a yellow-painted man is being photographed by some tourists. After the incredible journey from the town, seeing other white people seems rather inappropriate. The lodge is rustic and beautiful, an incongruous opulence in the midst of all this pristine rainforest and the primitive villages.

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It is a modest luxury, with each room being a thatched rondavel balanced on the ridge leading down from the main building. We are met by Mike and Mary-Jane, the managers of this lovely place. They explain about the lodge and give us a choice of room: short walk but no view; or steep climb with a great outlook. We choose the latter, although at this altitude we may come to regret that. I still have a chest infection, and at 7000 ft, breathing may become laboured walking up the 71 steps to the restaurant and bar. Mike is right; the view from the chalet is stunning! We can see across the roofs of the other cottages, along through the valley and right down to the flat ground several thousand feet below.

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The room is furnished with all mod-cons: a comfortable double bed complete with electric blanket (the nights do get cold here at this altitude), seating to relax and admire the view, 180° panorama windows, an open-fronted wardrobe and a lavish hot shower. The water here is straight from a mountain stream, and with no habitation or grazing above us, it is safe to drink. There is no running water, sanitation, telephones or electricity in this area, the lodge has its own hydroelectric plant. The lights fade at regular intervals, adding to the charm of the surroundings. I am rapidly falling in love with this place.

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At lunch, we meet all the other guests, they are a mixed bunch: a large group of 17 Swedes, four Americans, two Cypriots and us four. All the others are leaving tomorrow, but then two large American groups are joining us. 50 of them are landing on the new airstrip built right next door to the lodge – the very first passenger plane to land there! What sissies, not suffering the appalling but fascinating journey from Tari airport.

We share a table with Leonie and Helen, who turn out to be great company. We are very much on the same wavelength, something that doesn’t happen very often. They are both laid back, easy going, well travelled and have a great sense of humour. The food is prepared in a ‘mumu’, a traditional earth oven often found in the Pacific. We have experienced similar affairs in Fiji where the name is Lovo and New Zealand who call it Hangi. There is chicken, vegetables, corn on the cob and fresh bread.

After lunch we take the Waterfall Walk with Peter Hobbs, one of the guides in the lodge. The start of the walk is tough, a steep ascent out of the hotel up to the main road. We then turn off the road into the forest where the walking becomes much easier and very pleasurable.

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Peter

The trails are super, and although I am told that all the paths and bridges are constructed by Ambua Lodge, I feel as if they have been there for centuries; they blend beautifully into the landscape.

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Peter makes me a walking stick which improves my feeling of safety as we amble down the track to the river through the gorgeous montane rain forest. The vine bridges are created using only natural materials, no nails or ropes here! They are tremendous, typical of this area, very enjoyable and not at all scary. With the call of the birds, the thick vegetation and the occasional waterfall, the trails are heavenly, a real paradise for nature lovers. We continue ever downwards to see the biggest waterfall, and it does occur to me that what comes down must go back up again. My throat hurts, my chest feels tight and I am losing my voice.

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Here you can see David's video of the bridges and waterfalls:

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We join the other guests for pre-dinner drinks and nibbles in the bar. One Swede claims to have contracted Malaria and asks if anyone has any medication. We do carry Quinine in our first aid kit, and if I thought for one moment that he is suffering from Malaria, I would gladly give it to him. Having seen people who really do have the disease, I don’t think that just because he “feels feverish in the afternoons” that he has Malaria. The people I have previously encountered have been seriously ill. He is probably just dehydrated! He takes four Larium and is happy with that. Later, chatting to the Americans, it transpires that one of them is a Norwegian called Grete! There is a roaring fire going in the restaurant / bar area, and the only time we need warmer clothes is to and from the room. Rain wear is probably more useful here! Back in the room, the bed is fantastically warm, so hot in fact that I end up turning the electric blanket down.

Posted by Grete Howard 14:10 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

Sydney - Brisbane - Port Moresby

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.


View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Last night I set the alarm for 4.30am, but find that I am awake from 4 o’clock worrying about not having enough time to get ready. We still have to pack, empty the safety deposit box and settle the bill. The laundry invoice comes to AUS$155 (ca. £67) – we could have bought a complete new wardrobe for that! A 40-seater bus comes to pick us up, and we are the only passengers. The female driver has not been informed about our change of itinerary and takes us to the International Terminal instead of the Domestic. Fortunately we notice when we get there and we have plenty of time to drive on to the correct one. We are able to check the luggage all the way to Port Moresby, but they can only furnish us with seat allocations to Brisbane. The girl on check-in suggests we catch an earlier flight to Brisbane giving us more time for the connection there, which is rather tight at the moment. The train transfer between Domestic and International terminal in Brisbane is very confusing, but quick and efficient once we have worked it all out. Although it was a very good idea to take an earlier flight, it was not really necessary as the flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby is delayed for two hours. We have plenty of time to explore the Duty Free area and end up buying a cuddly toy just so that we can have a pair of sunglasses for Miles. A couple of beers in the bar and a sandwich and it’s time to board the plane.

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Our entire World trip was built around the visit to Papua New Guinea – it has been on my travel wish-list for a number of years. I cannot explain what the principal attraction is; it merely has a draw to its primitiveness and remote setting. I regard it as the last bastion of tourism and I am intrigued by the various tribes and cultures. I feel so delighted to finally be here. Port Moresby airport is disappointingly modern, a large bill-board advertising the prevention of Aids is the only indication that we are in such an extraordinary location. We are met by Steven and Howard whose names do not match their looks. Although dressed in Western clothes, they are very tribal in looks and up against me appear remarkably short. We drive via a Chemist for some ointment for my ankles. The pharmacist speaks very good English, but has no idea what could have caused such a reaction and plays safe with an anti-inflammatory skin cream.

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After checking in to the hotel and re-packing the bare necessities into smaller bags for the flight to the Highlands, we inspect the travel document Steven gave us for the rest of the visit in PNG. The return ticket show the incorrect date and time, but there is no reply from the office telephone number Steven gave us. We also try his home number, only to be told that he is spending the night in the office. We keep trying right throughout the early evening, but to no avail. Dinner is a poolside buffet, but we settle on a choice from the menu. I did not expect great culinary delights in PNG, but the roast loin of pork with a ginger and sweet potato stuffing and crackling is really yummy. We are so glad we didn’t have the buffet as it is mainly fish and doesn’t look especially enticing. The wines are rather dear, all imported from Australia, so we merely have a couple of beers. Back in the room, we continue to try Steven’s office number, but we have no joy until David has the bright idea of double checking the number Steven wrote down against the one in the telephone directory. Steven had transposed two of the numbers, but when we do finally get through, all he says is “we’ll sort it out in the morning”.

Posted by Grete Howard 03:26 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

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