Published: August 31st 2011August 13th 2011
At the bus station in Goroka I couldn’t find a PMV straight to Hagen so I took one to Kundiawa in the Simbu (pronounced Chimbu) province, and then took another PMV towards Hagen. The first PMV was uneventful. Halfway through the second one, we got stopped along the road near some construction by a group of young men. They went to the PMVs point man (for lack of a better term: the man who collelcts money along the ride) and asked for money. He started to give them 1 Kina, but they demanded for 5 Kina. They were of course raskols, although the amount they asked for was minor.
Just as they got their 5 Kina, a police car came from the other direction.
The men took off into the bush.
The driver yelled at the 2 construction workers nearby for being complicit with the raskols.
I got talking to a man on the bus who turned out to be the owner of this (and a few other) PMV(s). He was a former teacher who quit for better money elsewhere. I wanted to go to the Waighi valley which was about an hour out of Hagen, so the man helped me
find the junction to take and found a reliable (read: older) person, a woman who would take me to the guesthouse I wanted to go to. While we waited for her husband a large crowd of about 100 people circled around me while a couple of men who knew English asked me questions. I even got off a few non-verbal jokes that got the whole group laughing.
Shortly later the husband came and I went with him and his wife with a PMV into the highlands. It didn’t go very far before it dropped us off. We ended up walking for about 2 hours along the side road up and down hills with all my belongings with the husband and one other man. We passed along a group of young men (which were at risk to be raskol – why you need escorts here). About an hour in I found out why the PMV doesn’t go to the village anymore: the bridge was washed out and replaced by a log over the river. It was a bit of a challenge to cross although the men I was with walked across easily. The last part was a constant uphill, past
the Wamol village and then up a big hill to the guesthouse.
At the top there was an enormous crowd. Apparently it was the official Grand Opening of the guesthouse, only about 9 years after it started running. There were a few hundred people watching a few people dance. It ended up being a group of older Israelites and 2 Australian med students, along with the locals. I had gone expecting to be the only one when in fact I was the 16th guest, although this was by chance because of the large Israeli tour group.
I met the owner, Laurence, who also runs a luxurious lodge in Madang for the expensive TransNuguini tours (they charge about $500 per day for a tour). He was one of those rare owners that likes to involve himself in everything in the business (where possible) and really feels the importance of having satisfied customers. Him and Lorenso in Bunaken were by far the best owner/managers of guesthouses on my trip. He works in Madang but had come up for the Israeli and Australian groups.
I was planning to leave the next day, and by chance he had planned with the
Australians to leave early the next day(Aug12) to Hagen and had the Israelis and the Australian girl leaving the day after (Aug 13). I needed to go to Hagen to do some chores like pick up a ticket for the Hagen Show and to use the internet. So Laurence offered me a good deal for the room and the transport to and back from Hagen and then back to Hagen for the show. It was cheaper than walking/PMVing so I took it satisfied.
I stayed watching the celebration for a while. Apparently there were events for the whole day and I missed a few really amazing things such as the singsing (the Australian girl was dressed up and participated) and a local MP giving a speech. They were playing Israeli music while the Israeli couples danced in the middle (well mainly the women).
Later that night, Laurence organized his crew to boil water for hot bucket showers which was great. He cooked dinner which was a Mumu, where they cooked the pig in a pit dug in the group and covered. They only do this for special events and I was lucky enough to catch it. It was quite good.
The next morning I went with the Australians Sarah and Joe who I quickly found out were not a couple. There still was a road to Wamol, but it went a long way around – taking about 1.5 hours to get to the highway. We dropped Joe off at the airport who was flying out to Port Moresby and then back to Australia as he was done his practicum. Sarah and I went around and did some chores. The staff managed to get me into the Hagen Showgrounds and got me to the person to get a ticket. It would’ve been a major hassle to do it myself.
We headed back to Hagen, picking up a big case of SP on the way back. We got back to the guesthouse and it started to rain a bit. I wanted to see the area so I got one of the boys (later 2 more joined) to take me around. They look a lot older than they are. They were all under 18, but one looked about 30 and another looked about 22. We went along a ridge for a while, which was treacherously slippery in the clay. I would
have to straddle the sides in the brush to get traction. As a result I slipped less than the boys who were barefoot in the wet clay. A couple of them bailed completely. I got a few good views of the valley. I wanted to see some farms a bit more close up, but it started to pour and got foggy so couldn’t see anything, and it got even more slippery, so we headed back to the guesthouse.
We had dinner and then headed to bed for the early morning. Sarah and I got up early and headed down the hill. We got driven off for a bit and then got dropped off by a van which would not be able to handle the rough roads while the pickup we were in headed back to get the Israelis. We waited for some time, playing catch with a ball of Sarah’s. A couple of the locals were great at catching while one other couldn’t catch if his life depended on it.
There are more photos below