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Pictures of our Papua New Guinea trip
(Part 3: Lae – Madang – Goroka  - with our vehicle)
Part 1: Milne Bay – (Port Moresby) – Mount Hagen – Lae
Part 2: Mount Hagen Cultural Show August 13th, to 15th, 2010
Part 4: Goroka Cultural Show September 17th, to 19th, 2010
Part 5: Goroka – Mount Hagen – Kumul Pass – Mount Hagen – Goroka – Lae
Papua New Guinea Map
      Map of the Pacific
latest picture: September 16, 2010
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61  Leaving Lae for Madang, we
drive through the wide Ramu Valley
towards the strange mountain scenery
of the Finisterre Range, caught in
the soft morning light
 62  Not a single case: Again and again
people who read about us in the
newspaper “The National“ stop along
the road to shake enthusiastically hands
and give us a warm welcome
63  We cross wide, slow flowing
rivers – here the Leron River, a feeder
of the huge Markham River (PNG part 1- picture 51) – in an open landscape that
provokes the sensation of freedom.
Couldn’t it be also in Alaska?
The wonderful kindness of PNG’s people is one side, but unfortunately there is also a less pleasant side: The safety! It is not only a problem in cities like Lae or Port Moresby where everybody is discouraged to walk around. It concerns also driving overland where assaults on busses, trucks and cars by so called “raskols” (bandits) are common. We know and knew about this danger! But we also know that certain risks are part of our adventure. Nevertheless, we are a bit worried about the 200 miles of uncertainty lying in front of us until we reach Madang. The firsthand story of a young Polish couple arriving from Madang the day before our departure doesn’t help either to make us feel more relaxed: They tell us that there was a huge tree blocking the road at a narrow passage but that their driver managed to go around it and escape. Did the trunk just collapse or was it logged purposely? How should we behave in a similar situation?
64  Scattered modest hamlets appear
now and then in the beautiful mountain
scenery: In the upper Markham valley
 65  Adapted to the indigenous
construction style: A modest church
made of woven pit-pit grass
(miscanthus floridulus) in a tiny
village in the Ramu valley along
the route Lae-Madang …..
66  ….. and a bottle shop of the same
“architecture – a common sight in rural
areas. This one lies in the province of
Madang where all have been closed
down, while in the province of Morobe
they stay open for 7 days a week,
because the brewery is in Lae
It is Monday morning, August 30th, 2010, 7am – clear skies promise a beautiful day. We are ready for our next leg. There is just one last phone call we want to make: To the “Guard Dogs” – one of the many security companies – to ask if they know of any irregularity along the Ramu Highway. “Should be OK” – is their appeasing reply. At this early morning hour, Lae is crowded with people walking along the streets and accumulating at bus stops. Bicycles and motorbikes have not found their way yet into this “last frontier” country. When we leave the bustling city, the road becomes lonely – and with it more dangerous, at least the next 25 miles until the airport, which is a stretch famous for hold-ups. Therefore, we decide to drive with the grilles on, which is quite normal in PNG. Only when we leave the airport behind us, the stress drops off little by little, the window screens get removed and seeing the beauty of the landscape and the bizarre mountain scenery lying in front of us, the joy of traveling takes over.
67  In a mountain village of the
Finisterre Range where also the
busses stop for a short refreshment,
three girls are selling taro
 68  The carburetor gets too hot and
produces bubbles – the engine dies and
gives no sign of live anymore. The police
stops and tries to help us – unsuccessfully.
There is talk of towing us to Madang
when Emil spots the “corpus delicti”:
A control wire to the starter felt off coincidentally at the same time
69  Wherever we stop, curious
faces surround our LandCruiser
Herds of cows - called “Ramu Beef” - graze peacefully in the treeless Ramu Valley, single dome-shaped trees stick out majestically from the plain, birds of prey circle above our heads and the hills that frame the valley glow in green, brown and red colors in the softness of the morning sun. A long missed sense of openness takes over on the dead straight good tarmac road. Again and again we pass small colorful markets, clusters of simple thatched huts scattered in the plain. Women carrying heavy “Bilum” (string bags) walk along the street where there is not a single dwelling in sight far and wide.
70  The 100ft high Coastwatchers‘
Memorial at Kalibobo Point is
Madang’s landmark. It is said to be
visible as far as 15 miles from the sea
 71  View from the Madang Lodge
over the coast towards the Bil Bil Island
72  The huge Banyan tree along the
Coastwatchers’ Avenue provides
shade in the tropical heat
At some point, we shift from the Province of Morobe to the Province of Madang. It gets drier. Cacao fields with its yellow-brownish fruits appear, followed by widespread “Ramu Oil” palm oil plantations and “Ramu Sugar” sugar cane fields, which are partly harvested and newly planted. We make good progress and manage an average speed of 30 miles/h until the moment where the road branches off Eastwards and follows the “Ramu Nickel” wastewater pipeline towards the spectacular jungle that covers the Finisterre Range, which has to be crossed. From its very beginning the good road changes into a washed-out narrow gravel road with countless very steep ascents. At some stage, our heavily loaded LandCruiser manages the steepness only in low gear with the result that – due to the lack of cooling air – the carburetor overheats and produces air bubbles. We have only one option: To cool it slowly down with wet rags. When we want to re-start the engine, it remains silent.
73  Emil and our LandCruiser pose for
a picture at Madang’s Coronation Drive
that stretches beautifully for some miles
along the coast. Lined with wind curved
palm trees, it deserves its noble name
 74  Madang is also known as
“bat’s city”. They populate the
towering casuarinas trees
around the city. Apparently
7’000 are living here
75  Our LandCruiser is the star in
front of the supermarket in Madang.
People’s interest on our epic
journey is overwhelming
At this very moment a police vehicle from the opposite direction arrives and stops. That’s the last thing we need! Three men jump out of the car and walk straight away towards us. “What is the problem” we are asked. After we explain that the starter doesn’t work anymore, they simultaneously put their heads into the hood and debate for a while what to do. However, none of them finds a solution. Finally they decide that we have to be towed to Madang. “We don’t want to leave you behind with a breakdown in this infamous region” is their unanimous comment. They already stop the next truck. Emil with his head still deeply under the hood yells at the same time excitedly: “I possibly got it!” He discovered a small loose cable. “Let this be the cause”, I pray. And, thanks heaven, it is! Re-connected, the “sound of music” of our engine fills our ears again! The police share our joy. They didn’t ask for the papers that we don’t have! Their only concern was to help us.
76  At the “Jais Aben Resort”, situated
12 miles to the North of Madang, we find
a touch of South Pacific charm …..
 77  ..... watching a heavily
overloaded canoe heading to
the small offshore island …..
78  ..... and the sun rising beautifully
behind the tiny island
The following few remaining dusty ascents turn out to be an easy task for our car, and the only river that needs to be crossed before we reach the tarmac road doesn’t cause problems either, due to the low water level. Then we finally find ourselves rolling relaxed and happy through the coastal plain towards Madang. For the 210 miles from Lae to Madang that a minibus usually covers in 6 hours, we needed 8 hours net driving time. We stay also here at the Lutheran Guesthouse like in Lae and eat the untouched sandwiches that we prepared in the morning because we were too busy with driving to be hungry. Then we shower the dust from our bodies and at 8pm we already turn off the lights. Nervous tension, heat and dust took their toll!
79  In the well kept garden of the
“Jais Aben Resort” tropical flowers
grow in abundance, also the Heliconia,
one of our favorite flowers …..
 80  ….. and another flower
where its beauty lies in its simplicity
81  A young swallow is recovering
from its first (?) flight attempt on
shiny red blossoms
Madang, the city of the flying foxes, how it is also called, lives up to its name already the first morning. Shortly after 6am, huge swarms darken the sky. The birds arrive from every direction towards their roosting place. Much to our joy, some choose the tall casuarinas right besides our guesthouse, and immediately, the tree is full of those hanging and chattering fellows. It is said that there are around 7’000 populating this city.
82  A good reason for a smile: Liliana is
looking forward to enjoy the Jumbo Pizza
at the Coastwatchers’ Hotel in Madang
 83  The swimming pool of the “Jais
Aben Resort”, overlooking the lagoon
and the small offshore islands …..
84  ….. Emil is sitting at the restaurant, where
we take breakfast, lunch and a ‘sundowner’,
enjoying each time the atmosphere of the Pacific
According to Lonely Planet, Madang has the reputation to be called “the prettiest town in the Pacific” and the place in PNG where it is safe to walk around, what was not the case in our previous three city-destinations of Port Moresby, Mount Hagen and Lae. Is it not weird that our feelings are – as it often happens – exactly the contrary? The badly potholed streets in downtown and the little appealing buildings do not live up to this reputation. Neither does the fact that we have to be alert all the time of pickpockets who work in groups and chose us as target. Nor does the first-hand story from a German sailor who anchored near the Madang (Boat) Club since a couple of days and was robbed last night. “Madang is not anymore what it was two years ago”, confirm quite a few locals with whom we talk about it.
85  A peaceful small rural village in
a clearance along the road to Bogia
 86  Even the tiniest ‘shop’ is protected
with grills. Here on the access road
to the “Jais Aben Resort”
87  A woman carries the ripe Papayas to
our car, which we bought from her roadside
stall for 2 Kina each (=US$0.80)
But the tourist oases do exist within the city and the contrast could hardly be starker, be it the Madang Resort, the Madang Lodge or the Madang Club where we love to shuttle back and forth for a seaside lunch – be it an Asian or Western meal. If we need to access the internet, we drive to the Coastwatcher’s Hotel at Kalibobo-Point, where we are attracted especially by their mouthwatering jumbo pizza. Opposite sits the 90ft. high Coastwatcher’s Memorial – Madang s landmark – which is said to be visible as far as 15 miles offshore. What we however like the most is the Coronation Drive that runs along the coast for about two miles. With its wind bent palm trees, it lives up to its name.
88  A long drawn-out black sand beach
at the “Malolo Plantation Lodge”, about
26 miles North of Madang along
the road to Bogia
 89  Palm tree coves, which often are
used to produce copra, are in abundance
along the road to Bogia – together with
the mountain backdrop a scenic sight
90  A lagoon at Alexishafen, a
place that was badly
damaged during WWII …..
After six days we continue towards Bogia – a seaside village lying 125 miles Northwest of Madang, where the road ends shortly afterwards at the Ramu River. But we do not make it so far. After 9 miles the sign “Jais Aben Resort” arouses our interest. We branch off the main road and struggle for more than a mile through a badly potholed earth track and think already of turning round and going back when we spot another very promising sign: “This way to paradise”. Who can withstand the temptation? We end up at a lovely bungalow resort with a touch of South Pacific flair and decide to stay for a few days: Bogia doesn’t run away! No doubt our guardian angels were once more involved when we took that decision: Exactly the night we would have spent in Bogia, the village was ravaged by a gale-force storm, causing two deaths and 19 destroyed homes, among them also our booked guesthouse!
91  ….. a rusting reminder
of WWII at Alexishafen
 92  ..... a bomb that was found during
the construction of the “Jais Aben Resort”
93  Peaceful scenery at the
Alexishafen Catholic Mission
That we still get to see Bogia, though from the air, is another story: At the “Jais Aben Resort” we meet the captain of a US Army Team (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) that currently is searching for bones and sculls of missing people around the place of an American airplane wreck from World War II near Bogia. Their tent camp is in a bush clearing and once a week, a helicopter stationed at “Jais Aben Resort” is flying there with food supplies and other necessities. And we lucky people are invited to join one of those flights, one way taking 50 minutes. What a unique experience looking down to the rugged deeply forested mountains below us and the tiny bush settlements in the middle of nowhere. How do this people live, how do they survive? All too fast the blue canvas of the camp and the marked position of the airplane wreck come into view. We reach our destination and land near the camp.
94  At “Jais Aben Resort” we are invited
by the US Army to join a supply flight by
helicopter to a camp Northwest of Bogia,
where a team is searching for bones of
missing people at an American plane
wreck of World War II …..
95  ..... from the air we enjoy the
stunning view of the tiny offshore
islands near Jais Aben …..
96  ..... and fly towards white
clouds that are piling up
Mothers sitting around with partly naked children are greeting us a bit shyly. They are from a village about an hour’s walk away. After the supplies are unloaded, we are allowed to visit the wreck of the bomber and the “soil washing device” where indeed the “bonemen” found sculls from the crew of the crashed plane – tiny pieces we would not even recognize as such. They are recovered with the help of the villagers in a hard, time-consuming work by washing the soil through a grid with pumped-up river water (like gold panning). The bush mission of the 15-head team lasts 30 days. Then they will return to Hawaii, their current army base. After an hour, always followed by the eyes of the locals, we take off again and the friendly pilot of the US Air Force flies some extra circles for us: Over the small settlement of Bogia with the background of the stunning, perfectly formed volcano of the nearby island of Manam, to the palm fringed coast and the many offshore islands – a wonderful experience!
97  A cluster of huts in a forest
clearing situated in the “nowhere”.
How do the people survive? .....
98  ..... another settlement
surrounded by nothing
else than dense jungle …..
99  ..... the tent camp of the
“bone men“ near Bogia
“Riots close down Goroka town!“ and “The Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry has advised its members to exercise extreme caution when traveling along the highway” are the headlines in the “Post-Courier” of Friday, September 10th, 2010 – exactly three days before our planned departure to Goroka. At the same time there are reports of fierce fighting between two warring tribes that caused the temporary closure of the highway. What now? We decide to return to Madang on the following Sunday and investigate once more on Monday about the current security situation.
100  The remains of a wing at the
crash site of an American airplane
in World War II near Bogia …..
101  .…. Liliana stands in front of the
„soil washing installation“ in Bogia: It’s
hard work to recover remains of bones
in the soil by washing it with pumped-up
river water – analog gold panning …..
102  ….. a picture of remembrance
with some villagers at the camp. They
live about an hour walking distance
away and assist the “bone team”.
In the back is “our” chopper
The information is not bad. Therefore we start early morning to our second crossing of the Finisterre Range and its following Markham Valley, this time in opposite direction. In Watarais we branch off and the climb to the Eastern Highlands begins. Immediately the road starts to twist and turn to the Kassam Pass at an altitude of 5’250ft., revealing beautiful views back to the Markham Valley. Continuing through the rolling hills thatched round huts appear, recalling Africa. Everywhere vegetables grow, even on the steepest slopes.
103  On the return flight, the captain
makes some loops. Below us lies the palm
fringed Hansa Bay near Bogia …..
104  ..... and.the small coastal
village of Bogia, situated
115 miles Northwest of Madang
105  ..... in the East rises the 5’928ft.
high and beautifully formed volcano of
„Manam Island“, which erupted last time
in 2004 and displaced 6’000 people
We are about 130 miles from Madang when drivers coming from the other direction make “funny” hand gestures. Alarmed, we stop one of the vehicles to get some information. “There is looting going on in the next town of Kainantu”, we are warned and advised to inquire about the situation at the next police station in Yonki, about 16 miles before Kainantu. When we arrive there the officer tells us that they just received the all-clear message. With us is also a convoy of about 20 fuel tankers that had parked along the road. It just starts moving again. Also a convoy with heavy construction machinery gets on its way. This reassures us in some way. Nonetheless we are not very comfortable when we see the scary crowd of people hanging around, when we reach Kainantu.
106  A small settlement along the
Northwestern coast, nestling
between palm groves
107  Large parts of the highland
region are still covered
with impenetrable forest
108  Birdseye-view of the “Jais Aben
Resort” before landing. In one of the
bungalows, we spent a relaxing week
Luckily, in the middle of the town, the road branches off to Ukarumpa, the 5 miles away “Little America”, as the PNG headquarters of the American founded “Summer Institute of Linguistics” (SIL) is also called. There we booked two nights in their guesthouse, because the more than 200 miles long journey from Madang to Goroka is definitely too long for us to be driven the same day. Ukarumpa is a fenced-in Western-style village of a mission organization that set itself the goal to translate the bible in as many languages of the world as possible. Worldwide there are 6’912, and PNG alone has 820.
109  ‘Hitting the road’ again from
Madang to Goroka: Our Land-
Cruiser climbs towards the tropical
Finisterre Range – here still paved …..
110  ..... and constantly up and
down hill on a rough road through
lush vegetation …..
111  ..... towards the flat and wide
Ramu Valley with a good tarmac road
The missionaries, mostly a man-wife team, are flown to remote bush villages by helicopter or plane for three months in a row (the first time with an allowed weight limit of 725 pounds per person, including the own body weight!) – where, with interruptions, they learn the people’s language during the period of 15 to 20 years. In the course of this, they develop an alphabet and translate then the bible into a language not written before. Enjoying a strawberry (!)-pineapple fruit salad and a home baked banana cake at the home of the Swiss family Irene and Roland, we learn more about their pioneer life in the remotest bush. Looking at their pictures, we can nothing but admire them!
112  Where the Ramu Valley meets
the Markham Valley near Watarais,
the road to Goroka climbs steeply in
switchbacks towards the Kassam Pass
(3’480ft.) and the Eastern Highlands
113  Two highlander ladies
walking along the road with
their traditional “Bilum” –
strong and expandable string
bags – full of merchandise
114  Even from the water,
we are greeted enthusiastically
After two nights, we continue towards Goroka. Just outside Ukarumpa, we see a parked police car. Spontaneously we approach it and investigate about the security situation for the coming 55 miles to Goroka. What we hear is not really motivating. The tension for the next 25 miles from Kainantu to Henganofi is still very high after there has been more looting in Henganofi last night, we are told. “Do you want us to escort you?” the police ask. “Is it that bad?” Emil wants to know. When they relativize it we decide to continue on our own. It gets very quiet in our car, none of us feels like talking. Our senses are always on the alert. Who knows what is expecting us around the next corner.
Homes made of bush material have different sights, but all fit well into their surroundings
We are driving through a heavily populated region – through the notorious Kompri Valley. Along the road there is one thatched hut after the other and the street is crowded with people. Some wave friendly, others glare at us close-lipped or shout something after us. Our first feeling is that here in the highlands people are less friendly than in the lowlands (later on it shows that it is just the case in the trouble section of the Kompri Valley). With the exception of a few broken-up spots, the tarmac road is good – luckily. Thus we do not have to drive at snail’s pace through this conflict area. This probably safes us when, driving downhill, a group of youngsters, equipped with machetes and sticks, comes along in the middle of the street and wants to force us to stop. Too bad, here we are fast enough! Emil pushes the gas pedal, honks and they disperse in all directions.
118  A village of simple thatched huts
nestles along a hill between Henganofi
and Goroka in the Eastern Highlands
119  The landscape gets drier and the hills
are bare, as we drive towards Goroka, the
capital of the ‘Eastern Highlands’ province
(>20’000 people, 5’250ft. altitude)
120  Mother and child have a look
through the window into our car
Our tension is still high when we reach the troubled village of Henganofi. But surprisingly the situation seems now to be under control. “How safe is the continuation to Goroka?” we wonder. At the next one-lane bridge we ask a driver coming from the opposite direction. “If you made it up here, you are now safe!” he replies with a bright smile and we smile back at these good news. We have still 30 miles to go until Goroka, which is situated at an altitude of 5’250ft. and is the main city of the Eastern Highlands. And this stretch is now really craving for water: Yellow grass, dead pine trees – a barren landscape that inspires us little. When mid afternoon we arrive unharmed at our destination and check into the Lutheran Guesthouse, it takes a load off our mind. Immediately we feel comfortable in our room with own bathroom for K150 a night (= US$56), including breakfast. Slowly we begin to relax and the thrill of anticipation of the forthcoming Goroka Show takes over.
121  Trucks are a common mean
of public transport (PMV) and
always packed to the brim
122  A shopping street in Goroka.
Everywhere is a crowd of people. They
come from their villages and spend
mostly the whole day in the city while
shopping and “people watching”
123  The open air market under
colorful umbrellas in Goroka.
These markets are always
packed with people
More websites from Papua New Guinea:
Articles in newspapers about us in Papua New Guinea:
Article: "26-year journey around the world", Daily Newspaper "The National" - August 20, 2010
Article: "Travelling the world none-stop for 26 years", Daily Newspaper "The National" - October 21, 2010